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A History of Country Vol. 19: 1996-99

August 8th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

The invention of country-pop, as spearheaded by the likes of Shania Twain, has proven to be a sustainable commercial, though artistically not harmless, proposition. Bland eye-candy singers, their vocals auto-tuned, guitar strapped on and sold as country. The inarguably talented Taylor Swift reportedly asked to be marketed as a country singer not because her music has its roots embedded firmly in that genre, but because such a claim would deliver an audience. Many teenagers today may describe themselves as country fans, but they don’t mean any of the many Hanks or George Jones, but Swift and Carrie Underwood.

While the wildly successful diluted country with their commercialism, the genre’s integrity was maintained by several strands. Bluegrass had been kept alive since its 1940s heyday with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs by the likes of Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, Del McCoury, Jimmy Martin, Ricky Skaggs and in the 1990s by acts like the angel-voiced Alison Krauss and her band, the Union Station, the Soggy Bottom Boys, and Rhonda Vincent. Bluegrass festivals began to spring up in the 1970s, the International Bluegrass Music Association was founded in 1985, and the Grammys instituted a bluegrass award in 1988. Bluegrass crossed over into the public consciousness with the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou, which won a Grammy and was led by Stanley, the Union Station and the Soggy Bottom Boys.

Serving as an antidote to the smooth pop puppetry, some female singers made an impression with a “don’t-fuck-with-with-me-mister” attitude. Though Gretchen Wilson had a hit with Redneck Woman, these barroom chicks aren’t going to threaten the autotuned country-pop brigade, but singers like Wilson and Miranda Lambert help ensure that their genre will survive the inevitable collapse of corporate country and help rebuild it — much as the Outlaws did in the 1970s and Strait and Skragg in the 1980s.

Another antidote to the bland commercialism was administered by Johnny Cash and erstwhile rap svengali Rick Rubin. Cash had sunk into musical irrelevance in the 1970s and did not emerge from it until Rubin approached him to record an album of acoustic country. Backed only by his guitar, Cash recorded a few demo songs in his lounge. It sounded so soulfully raw that Rubin used that approach for a series of critically acclaimed albums, still releasing material after Cash’s death in 2004.

TRACKLISTING:
1. David Lee Murphy – Dust On The Bottle
2. Garth Brooks – The Beaches of Cheyenne
3. Jo Dee Messina – Heads Carolina, Tails California
4. George Strait – Blue Clear Sky
5. Wilco – Forget The Flowers
6. Townes Van Zandt – For The Sake Of The Song
7. Alison Krauss & Union Station – So Long, So Wrong
8. Anita Cochran & Steve Wariner – What If I Said
9. Martina McBride – A Broken Wing
10. Kathy Mattea – 455 Rocket
11. Alan Jackson – Gone Crazy
12. Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces
13. Randy Travis – Spirit Of A Boy, Wisdom Of A Man
14. Lyle Lovett – Step Inside This House
15. Ralph Stanley & Patty Loveless – Pretty Polly
16. Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band – I’m Still In Love With You
17. John Prine – So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
18. Mary Chapin Carpenter – Almost Home
19. Chely Wright – Single White Female
20. Mickey Gilley – Make The World Go Away
21. Tim McGraw – Please Remember Me

(includes front and back covers. PW here)

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  1. Trod
    August 9th, 2012 at 22:56 | #1

    Link removed.

  2. halfhearteddude
    August 10th, 2012 at 09:10 | #2

    New one is up.

  3. lugworm
    August 12th, 2012 at 10:39 | #3

    As usual, a fantastic mix of great artists. Thanks so much for compiling this share.

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