Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Country Favorites

Norm Geras, a country music fan, points us to another blogger who’s asking for people’s 10 favorite country artists. I’m a big fan of a lot of country-inflected stuff, but I’ve left off my list anything that I consider more appropriately in the pop/rock category (Richard Buckner, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, The Jayhawks, The Be Good Tanyas, Ron Sexsmith, The Notorious B.I.G., etc.)

Here’s my final cut:

1. Lyle Lovett
2. Hank Williams
3. Kelly Willis
4. Alison Krauss
5. Iris DeMent
6. George Jones
7. Laura Cantrell
8. Johnny Cash
9. Dixie Chicks
10. Dolly Parton


Blogger Dezmond said...

If you like Alison Krauss, check out her latest duet record with Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin), RAISING SAND. Sounds like it wouldn't work, but it does, in large part due to T-Bone Burnett's distinctive production work. I read an interview with Burnett recently about the project, and what he said makes sense. He said that Plant wanted to learn some vocal restraint from Krauss and Krauss wanted to learn to let loose more like Plant. So they kind of trade places from what you might expect. Plant is very restrained (and effective)...this is a long way from "Whole Lotta Love".

Anyway, it is a lovely, moody record. It is clear Plant and Krauss have an affinity for eachother.

Interesting too is that the record is all covers, with only one tune appearing co-written by Plant and Jimmy Page (it also happens to be the best tune on the record, "Please Read the Letter"). Also of note, they do two Gene Clark covers.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

I'll play. Like you, I will not include those that stand astride the rock/country boundary (Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, etc.) Those are really rock acts with lots of country influence.

But, do you include bluegrass acts? Is bluegrass a subgenre of country or is it its own deal? I will include bluegrass acts in my list.

10. Sam Bush
9. Robert Earl Keen
8. Dwight Yoakum
7. Johnny Cash
6. Flying Burrito Brothers, The (when Gram Parsons was with them)
5. Jerry Douglas
4. Bela Fleck (pre-Flecktones, obviously)
3. Dillard & Clark
2. Lyle Lovett
1. Willie Nelson

Bush, Douglas and Fleck are all bluegrass (progressive bluegrass, "newgrass", whatever the hell you want to call it).

Some might argue that Dillard & Clark and Flying Burrito Brothers would fall in that rock/country category, but they would be wrong. Both of those are stone cold country acts. Just because Gene Clark started in The Byrds, does not mean that his subsequent projects are also rock. Those two Dillard & Clark albums (now available on a single CD, one of the best buys ever) are pure country, and some of the prettiest country I've ever heard. Ditto on Flying Burrito Brothers. Why do people try and claim that Gram Parsons is "country-rock"? I don't hear rock in Parsons' music at all. Even the one record he made as a Byrd was pure country. Perhaps his fast lifestyles and the comapny that he kept (drug buddy with Keith Richards, etc.) is why people try and categorize him as rock. The Flying Burrito Bros. were exciting and groundbreaking country. Period.

4:05 PM  

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