17 Sep 5 Classic Country Music Albums You Should Hear
In a scene from the famed musical comedy movie, “The Blues Brothers”, the bartender informs Jake and Elwood (John Belushi and Dan Akroyd) that in that particular establishment, they have “both kinds of music…Country and Western!” And from the early days of American settlers from around the world singing songs of woe and documenting their lives, Country has continued its evolution by absorbing influences and crossing musical and cultural boundaries. All the while keeping alive the story-telling tradition, played with instruments that stay true to its roots – guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, lap steel.
For Country Music Day, we’re looking at five classic Country albums – all with something borrowed and often something blue.
Top 5 Country albums to listen to this Country Music Day
5. Keith Urban ‘Golden Road’ (2002)
It’s no surprise that as Country music extends its influence beyond the boundaries of the USA, there will be artists from other parts of the world making their mark. So it is with NZ born, Australian raised, Nashville resident and modern country legend Keith Urban. Of his 11 studio albums, 9 have gone platinum!
His style and songs have continued to grow with each recording, but the triple platinum, pop-rock infused, Golden Road stands as a testament to his consummate skills as a songwriter & guitarist, and Country music’s global reach.
4. Lucinda Williams ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’ (1998)
Lucinda Wiliam is a songwriting tour de force in country music, and her 1998 masterpiece embodies her extraordinary skills. “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” features songs of a hard-edged Southern life – abusive childhoods, bad marriages, and alcoholic poets – that were poetic, yet down-to-earth. William’s relentless Southern spirit is echoed in visceral lyrics and deft compositions as she recalls her tumultuous childhood.
It was the first album to win the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, earning her an additional nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single “Can’t Let Go.” The album also made Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of best albums of the 1990s.
3. The Chicks’ Fly’ (1999)
“Fly” is a feminist country-pop landmark that blends ferocious bluegrass with sparkling melodies that were much ahead of their time. The album’s second track, “Wide Open Spaces,” follows a young lady leaving home for the first time and getting ready to make her mark on the world—and it’s got just the right amount of twang.
The album reached #1 on the US Billboard 200 and was certified 8x platinum in the US. In addition, “Fly” won five Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Best Country Performance by Duo or Group with Vocals, and Record of the Year for “Fly Like an Eagle,” Best Country Song for “God Blessed Texas,” and Best Music Video – Long Form for “Goodbye Earl.”
2. Johnny Cash ‘At Folsom Prison’ (1968)
You can’t talk about Country music without The Man In Black – Johnny Cash. One of country music’s original outlaws, his seminal 1968 album “At Folsom Prison” helped to change how people viewed incarceration, and cemented his living-on-the-edge mystique. It featured the song “Folsom Prison Blues,” which Cash wrote while stationed in Germany with the US Air Force. At the time, the album revitalised Cash’s stalled career, and to-date has sold over 3 million copies.
Cash won several Grammys for this record—including Best Country & Western Recording and Best Male Country Vocal Performance—but it also earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.
1. Dolly Parton ‘Coat Of Many Colors’ (1971)
“Coat of Many Colors”, was the artistic pinnacle of Dolly Parton’s career. The album featured a blend of hard-hitting country, pop, gospel, country rock, and sorrowful folk. The title track was an autobiographical peek into Parton’s childhood—living in poverty in the Appalachian mountains, her perception of femininity, and familial love.
The album was nominated for Album of the Year at the 1972 Country Music Association Awards. It also appeared on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time and Rolling Stone’s 2020 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.