Thursday, October 10, 2019
A Country Album Primer
My advice: Start with 1975. Emmylou Harris's second album, Elite Hotel, was a revelation to a jaded country fan like me. There is little good to say about country music in the nineteen seventies ~ it had lackadaisically bumped up against the doldrums. However, every decade of music has at least one breakout star, and Emmylou Harris was that. I don't recall, but I think I first heard a single by Emmylou, "If I Could Only Win Your Love", on my car radio. I had no idea who the singer was, and if I didn't catch the DJ's patter at the right time, I wouldn't find out until the next time the track was played. She was definitely country, updated; with the voice of an angel. Elite Hotel, featuring songs written by the likes of Buck Owens, newcomer Rodney Crowell, Gram Parsons, Hank Williams, Don Gibson, and even Lennon/McCartney; the album combined old and new and still sounded "old". Or perhaps "classic" is a better term. Emmylou was a vocalist who didn't dismiss country or try to change it. She simply improved upon it.
For the country novice, what could be better? It combines Hank and Patsy and Buck; it introduces a soon-to-be classic songwriter; it harks back to the sixties country-rock sound of bands like The Byrds.
To wit, here is a country primer for the newly-converted:
"Amarillo" ~ co-written by Emmylou and Rodney Crowell:
"Together Again" ~ Buck Owens:
"Feelin' Single, Seein' Double" ~ the awesome Wayne Kemp:
"Sin City" ~ Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman:
"One Of These Days" ~ Earl Montgomery:
"Till I Gain Control Again" ~ Rodney Crowell (again):
"Here, There and Everywhere" ~ some guys named John and Paul:
"Ooh, Las Vegas" ~ Gram Parsons and Ric Grech:
"Sweet Dreams" ~ Don Gibson:
"Jambalaya" ~ Hank Williams:
"Satan's Jewel Crown" ~ Edgar L. Eden:
"Wheels" ~ Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons:
My favorite? For sheer beauty, it's "Together Again". For reminiscence, "One Of These Days". But I think I like "Wheels" the best.
Elite Hotel combines everything a country lover or country novice could ask for in a classic album. For a forty-four year-old album, that's damn good.
I would start here.