The "I Hate Country" Guide to Country
"Anything but country."
I'm sure you've heard someone say that before as soon as the topic of music genres comes up. It might've been at a party, or you might've been eavesdropping on a conversation at a cafe. Who knows, you might've even said it yourself. I know I have.
Unfortunately, country music has gotten a bad rap over the years. Here's the truth: there IS a lot of bad country music out there.But that holds true for every music genre. Every genre has its highs and its lows. If you come in with an open mind and a fresh set of ears, you might just find something you like. It's not all songs about trucks and beer!
Okay, but where do I start?
Great Question! There are so many country artists and albums out there. It can be a little overwhelming if you're new to the genre. I've put some tried and true classics that are sure to win you over, or your money back. (disclaimer: This website is free).Afterwards, you can check out some modern country artists that I'd recommend. I've also curated a playlist with an embedded player if you have a Spotify account. Finally, you can learn more about me and find out where to send your hate mail. Enjoy!
5 Classic Country Albums
At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
In 1968, Johnny Cash went to Folsom Prison and played his heart out for the inmates there. The show was recorded and released about 4 months later, to wide critical acclaim. Songs are interspersed with Cash's charming banter with his band and the inmates. It's easy to see why he's considered such a legend. Particularly moving, is his duet with his wife, and fellow country artist, June Carter Cash. If you want something raw and in your face, this is the album for you.
Highlight: "Jackson" (with June Carter)
Red Headed Stranger - Wilie Nelson
Willie Nelson is the king of the country concept album. In Red Headed Stranger, he builds a world around love songs and murder ballads. Red Headed Stranger tells the story of a man searching for redemption, after murdering his wife and her lover. The story is dark and cinematic. The sounds are stripped down but incredibly rich. It's truly amazing what Nelson can do with just his guitar and his vocals.Do you love old westerns? If so, you won't be disappointed.
Highlight: "Hands on the Wheel"
Jolene - Dolly Parton
You've heard the title track, "Jolene." You've heard Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You." Those are just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to Dolly Parton. On this album, she pens perfect song after perfect song. Forget country music: Parton is one of the best songwriters in any genre. Her lyrics are stinging and her voice is unique. They come together to make Jolene a classic album. I dare you to listen to this album front-to-back and not shed a tear.
Honky Tonk Heroes - Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings teams up with songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, to create an ode to Honky Tonk bars across the country. The songs are rowdy and off-kilter, and it sounds great. Waylon's voice is warm, and his band compliments him perfectly. Honky Tonk Heroes makes you feel like you're sitting in the grungiest bar in Texas, witnessing a man fall apart. I mean that in the best possible way. If you're curious about outlaw country, look no further than Honky Tonk Heroes.
Highlight: "Low Down Freedom"
40 Greatest Hits - Hank Williams
Okay, this is cheating a little bit. 40 Greatest Hits was released 25 years after Hank William's death. It's a compilation of the singles he released during his short but groundbreaking career. Every song is a classic. There's no filler. His songs weren't flashy or over the top. They were sincere however, and have stood the test of time. There's a reason that he's considered the father of country music. If there's one name you associate with country, let it be Hank's.
Highlight: "Lovesick Blues"