Friday, October 11, 2019

Country Album Recommendations For The Uninitiated

Ken Burns' "Country Music" series has apparently sparked unprecedented interest among casual music dabblers. I don't picture regular PBS viewers as popular music connoisseurs; which is unfair, because I watch PBS. I will (with confidence), however, assume that the average public television watcher is unfamiliar with country music; or was, until Ken Burns came along.

I'd like to think this sudden interest isn't as fleeting as the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack fad was in 2000; when it was suddenly considered hip to embrace Appalachian music. I'm not optimistic.

But for those uninitiated curiosity-seekers who may actually want to click an album download or two on Amazon, welcome! My recommendations won't be too country, because I understand that country music is an acquired taste.

If you liked "O Brother, Where Art Thou", you'll like Marty Stuart's "The Pilgrim" even more. Today The Pilgrim is regarded as a classic, even though it performed poorly on the charts when it was released in 1999. A concept album, it features the likes of George Jones, Earl Scruggs, Johnny Cash, and Emmylou Harris, among others ~ all names familiar to Ken Burns' viewing audience. Marty will be reissuing the album this year on its twentieth anniversary.






 My favorite:



"Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room". Dwight Yoakam has released too many albums to count, and most of them offer delicacies. This album, though, is perhaps my favorite. This was Dwight's third release, and I was just getting to know him when it came out. For country, Yoakam was definitely unconventional ~ in a good way. At least eight of the eleven tracks on this LP are keepers. That so rarely happens.





Don't ever forget that Dwight can rock:



Folks who watched "Country Music" may think that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was only about the circle being unbroken. Au contraire! In the nineteen eighties, there was no better country band than NGDB. "More Great Dirt" is a so-called greatest hits album, but let's be frank: most of us had never heard these songs before the LP came along.





I'm happy to report that I got to see NGDB in concert in their heyday. What began as a country-rock outfit happily came to embrace country in its entirety. This is a band to get to know! The album, released in 1989, boasts, by my count, seven out of ten superb tracks.

I regret that I can't find any live performances of the songs I like best from the album, but please enjoy:





Yep, these are all male artists (shoot me). But remember, I devoted a whole post to Emmylou Harris.

I do have more recommendations, but be forewarned: they're country.

Those will wait until we meet again.


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