Your Take: Recommend An Artist

Karlie Justus Marlowe | May 29th, 2009

In Wednesday’s news, Brody covered hip-hop music critic Nathan Rabin’s latest installment of his weekly(ish) column Nashville or Bust. Before each of his weekly essays, a boilerplate-type paragraph explains this unlikely country music candidate’s mission. Starting back on March 3, Rabin decided to “spend a year immersing himself in the canon of country music, a genre he knew little about but was keen to explore.”

In his first log, Rabin wrote:

I am going into this project full of idealism and hope. I’ve devoted much of my life and career to writing about subjects dismissed, demonized, and/or reviled by big segments of the population: cinematic flops, direct-to-DVD movies, silly little show-biz books, gangsta rap, pop-rap, and now country music. I am fueled by curiosity and an utterly uncharacteristic sense of optimism. It remains to be seen how long that optimism will last.

It has long been my contention that hip-hop and country have more in common than partisans on either side like to admit. There’s a reason folks say they like every kind of music except for country and rap. They’re both genres with a deep reverence for mama and Jesus that inspire strong reactions from fans and detractors. Though there are plenty of wealthy hip-hop and country fans, those genres have historically been the voice of the black and white underclass, respectively. They’re also synonymous with lifestyles as much as music. Saying you’re country or hip-hop says a whole lot more about you than what’s in your iPod shuffle.

So far, Rabin has covered Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Dolly Parton and Hank Williams Sr., highlighting biographical information and important songs. What country artist, young or old, would you recommend to Rabin as a must-listen artist on his journey through country music, and what would your essential song picks be?

1 Ping

  1. [...] a Your Take post three weeks ago that asked you to name a can’t miss country legend for hip-hop music critic Nathan Rabin to [...]
  1. Occasional Hope
    May 30, 2009 at 7:36 am

    George Jones is a must. The song list should include, but not be limited to, He Stopped Loving Her Today, The Window Up Above, A Good Year For The Roses, A Picture Of Me (Without You), The Grand Tour, Walk Through This World With Me, at least one of the duets with Tammy (I’d go with Golden Ring).

  2. Razor X
    May 30, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Loretta Lynn is another must. If I had to pick just a few songs, I’d go with “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (of course), “One’s On The Way”, “Blue Kentucky Girl”, “The Pill”, and “Love Is The Foundation”.

  3. Clemson Brad
    May 30, 2009 at 10:49 am

    What better place then to start then with the King of Country himself? George Strait. I would tell him to listen to his old and new stuff. “Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” “The Chair” “Ocean Front Property” “She’ll Leave You With a Smile” and “Run” would be my initial choices.

  4. Rick
    May 30, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I’d recommend Nathan go back to the post WW-II 40’s and give Merle Travis a good examination as his music has a timeless quality lacking in most of his contemporaries at the time. Merle pioneered the guitar picking style that Chet Atkins copied and wrote the song “Sixteen Tons” that became a huge 50’s hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford. Its even reported that both Merle Haggard and Merle Watson were named after him because their parents were big fans of Merle Travis’ music. Essential songs would include “Kinfolk In Carolina”, “Fat Gal”, “Divorce Me C.O.D.”, “Three Times Seven”, and a duet with Frank Sinatra titled “Re-Enlistment Blues” from the film “From Here To Eternity”.

  5. Stormy
    May 30, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I would go with The Nitty Gritty Dirt band because not only are the one of the greatest country ands of all time, but they also are a microcosim of what country music is, at its heart, culturally speaking.

    1. Working Man (No Where to Go)
    2. Modern Dahy Romance
    3. Dance Little Jean
    4. Sharecropper’s Dream
    5. Mr. Bojangles.

  6. Dan Milliken
    May 30, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I gotta be typical and go with Roger Miller, who to me embodies many country music traditions at once, especially the art of addressing difficult personal issues in music by buffering them with a comedic/somewhat self-mocking approach.

    Essential tracks:
    1) King of the Road
    2) Dang Me
    3) Engine Engine #9
    4) The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me
    5) Husbands & Wives

  7. Bobby
    May 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    George Strait would be a good pick. I’m not as big on most of his 80s stuff, but I’d recommend:
    *Fool Hearted Memory
    *Amarillo by Morning
    *The Chair
    *Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye
    *Love Without End, Amen
    *So Much Like My Dad (might as well throw at least one obscurity in)
    *Adalida (need a good up tempo)
    *Blue Clear Sky
    *Carrying Your Love with Me
    *The Best Day
    *You’ll Be There (am I the only person who thought this song was just perfect?)
    *Give It Away

  8. Jesse Coyle
    May 30, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    The most obvious pick should be either George Jones or George Strait. I would recommend “The Grand Tour”, “A Picture of Me Without You”, and “She Thinks I Still Care” from Jones. From Strait, I would pick “The Chair”, “Amarillo By Morning”, “I Can Still Make Cheyenne”, “Fool Hearted Memory”, and “Let’s Fall To Pieces Together”.

  9. Nicolas
    May 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Sara Evans <3 Pretty much anything by her is country perfection – she’s what turned me into a country fan

  10. Michael
    May 30, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Nah Bobby, I’m with you on “You’ll Be There” too. I love the line “I ain’t never seen a hearse with a luggage rack.”

  11. Andrew Lacy
    May 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    “You’ll Be There” one of my favorite recent Strait songs.

    I would recommend looking at Conway Twitty. “Hello Darlin,'” “Slow Hand,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” “I’d Love To Lay You Down,” “Linda on My Mind” and “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” are a good start.

  12. Barry M
    May 30, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Possum. Until you get George Jones, you don’t get this. After Jones, he might get Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb. THEN it’s time to understand a George Strait–but in that order. It’s a syllabus. He probably needs to add Waylon to that list too.

    Oh, and he could read this book “Meeting Jmmie Rodgers.” Ties a lot of loose ends together, I hear

  13. Lazeras
    May 30, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Haywood Banks “Toast” “Fishing Worms” “Inches, Feet, Miles”

  14. merlefan49
    May 30, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    I recommend a guy by the name of Billy Don Burns
    Hands down one of the best indy artist I had the fortune of finding.

  15. Dustin D.
    May 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I’d have to go with mr. Travis Tritt. Country wouldn’t be able to put so much drive in it without him. as for songs of his some of the best would be “Tell me I was Dreaming” “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone who Cares)” “Foolish Pride” his cover of Steve Earle’s “Sometimes She Forgets” “Anymore” and pretty much any song he has done.

  16. Baron Lane
    May 30, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    The missing link between hip hop and country. Buck 65.

  17. Collin
    May 31, 2009 at 12:24 am

    “What it Takes” Adam Gregory. Duh.

  18. Blake Boldt
    May 31, 2009 at 10:05 am

    To bypass the obvious suspects (Cash, Lynn, Jones, Cline, etc.) and to prove that country music didn’t die in 1979, my pick would be Patty Loveless, the best country singer of her generation. I’d challenge anyone to name an artist with a stronger catalog in the last twenty years. My essentials would be Mountain Soul (the greatest album of the decade, IMO), and, for musical and chronological diversity, “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye,” “Here I Am,” “On Your Way Home,” “Timber, I’m Falling in Love” and “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me.”

  19. merlefan49
    May 31, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Here is a video of Billy don on you tube

  20. merlefan49
    May 31, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I agree Blake Patty is awesome. She is underrated in my opinion.

  21. Clemson Brad
    May 31, 2009 at 11:56 am

    “You’ll Be There” was beautiful. I wish it was still played or talked about more often.

  22. CJ
    May 31, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I agree with Travis Tritt. But I’d have to say Mark Chesnutt. He was always my favorite growing up. He’s got so many great songs that just tear me to pieces with emotion. And of course, the great upbeat honky tonk songs. Country radio has taken an obvious turn away from what country should be – and Mark got left in the dust. But many would be surprised to know that he is still out on the grind, touring, has a relatively new album….. and he damn sure is country. He’s still got it, and I love him for it.

    Recommended Songs:
    I’ll Think of Something
    Blame It On Texas
    Too Cold at Home
    Brother Jukebox
    Ol’ Country

  23. Lee S.
    May 31, 2009 at 3:52 pm


    “How ’bout you don’t?”

  24. solongsowrong
    May 31, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Since he mentioned that he seeks out that which is dismissed, demonized, and/or reviled by big segments of the population, I would recommend artists from a cross section of the Roots side of Country.

    Hank Williams III – “7 Month’s 39 Days”,
    The Waybacks – “Black Cat”
    Dale Watson – “Justice For All”
    Melonie Cannon – “Cactus In A Coffee Can”
    Hot Club of Cowtown – “One Step Closer”
    Billy Joe Shaver – “If You Don’t Love Jesus”
    Alison Krauss – “So Long So Wrong”
    Hayes Carll – “She Left Me For Jesus”
    and anyone harmonizing with Emmylou Harris- “The River’s Gonna Run” with Sam Bush

  25. dothanal
    June 1, 2009 at 9:03 am

    John Rich – for much of my life, country music was what my Daddy listened to when he was drinking, but i enjoyed the CMT program Crossroads. Pat Benatar and Martina McBride were kindred spirits and Bon Jovie and Sugarland had a spark, so it was only natural that i tune in when John Anderson and Big and Rich were together. What a musical odyssey i have been on ever since. while Kenny loves the people, John loves the music. if it has his name on it, i have sought it out – from Cowboy Troy’s “Take Your Best Shot Now”, to Gretchen Wilson’s “Come To Bed”, Jason Aldean’s “Amarillo Sky”, his input is a reason for me to check it out. differing results, but never disappointing or a waste of time. back when, i could appreciate Loretta Lynn’s soap operas and Dolly Parton’s bell like voice, but John Rich has been a bridge back to country music and a connection with my Dad that has surprised him.

  26. J.R. Journey
    June 1, 2009 at 11:44 am

    For someone just discovering the genre – and spending the time researching it – I would recommend 2 obvious artists: Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. When I discovered country music during the early 90s boom years, they were the ‘it’ artists of the time – and for good reason. Both Garth and Reba were at their creative peaks between 1990 and 1995, pumping out one contemporary classic after another.

  27. dothanal
    June 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    for jr journey: it is not that i was unaware of country music, but it was not my home base music until i heard Big and Rich sing “Seminole Wind” on Crossroads. it was like i had heard the siren’s song and it drew me in.

  28. ediggy
    June 2, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Ernest Tubb
    Gretchen Wilson
    and everyone else already listed by these fine folks

  29. Drew
    June 2, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    As far as country essentials, and trying to limit it to a top 5… I’d have to go with Hank, George Jones, Merle Haggard, George Strait, and Loretta Lynn.

  30. Ben Milam
    June 2, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Chris Wall. Chris wrote, to me, (I’ll debate this with anyone) the best “country” song ever written. “I feel like Hank Williams tonight” sums up loss, joy, self doubt, questions, alcoholism, love, memories and puts them all in a 4 minute box complete with a Charlie Parker and Chuck Berry reference. It’s not all about “trashy women” with Chris.

  31. Bob M.
    June 3, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Dale Watson, Jamie Richards, Justin Trevino, Vern Gosdin and Faron Young. These 5 artists will give you an idea of where country has been and where it is today (provided you take the time to look and don’t just listen to “Country” radio.

  32. Steve
    June 4, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Male: Marty Robbins, Roger Miller, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard, Eddie Rabbitt, Ronnie Milsap, Glen Campbell

    Female: Rosanne Cash, Tanya Tucker, Bobbie Gentry, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless

  33. Jay
    June 9, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    If you are looking for what real country music is about I say that you have to hear great songs from alot of its great artists, but especially King George Strait. Personally I would Recomend songs like:
    Amarillo by Morning
    Our Paths May Never Cross
    I Can Still Make Cheyenne
    Ocean Front Property
    I Can’t Go On Dying Like This
    Living for The Night
    Baby’s Gotten Good at Good Bye
    I Don’t Mind If I Do
    Steal of the Night
    You Can’t Buy Your Way Out of the Blues
    Second Chances
    That’s Where I Want to Take Our Love
    I’d Like to Have That One Back
    The Fireman
    Trains Make Me Lonesome
    Somewhere Down in Texas
    Living and Living Well
    High Tone Woman
    Honk If You Honky Tonk

    … To name a few, but If like I would also suggest Alan Jackson, Conway Twitty, and Why Not Josh Turner with Songs Like:

    Drive – AJ
    Livin on Love -AJ
    If I Had You – AJ
    Gone Country – AJ
    Don’t Rock the Juke Box – AJ
    Where I Come From – AJ
    Once You’ve Had the Best -AJ
    Here in the Real World – AJ
    Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow – AJ
    The Sounds -AJ
    Good Bye Time -CT
    Its Only Make Believe -CT
    Hello Darlin’ – CT
    Slow Hand – CT
    Rainy Night in Georgeia -CT
    Who Did They Think He Was – CT
    Crazy in Love – CT
    Long Black Train – JT
    In My Dreams – JT
    Angles Fall Sometimes -JT
    Backwoods Boy- JT
    Soulmate -JT
    The Way He Was Raised -JT
    South Carolina Low Country -JT
    Baby’s Gone Home to Mama -JT

    (P.S. Did anyone mention Keith Whitley and Patsy Clien, because they too were great country singers)

    In Short there are far to many songs worth listening to for me to list, and these are just a few of all the great songs available.
    Finally, if you only listen to one country CD in your life you should definitly listen to


    It is a great combination of music and personality, and it is the perfect definition of country.

  34. Lucas
    June 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    If I want them to become a superstar or if I don’t like them much? Ha.

    I’m going to make suggestions for a male artist.

    If I want them to be huge in today’s music and not just another passing fad I suggest the following:
    – Garth Brooks
    – George Strait
    – Alan Jackson
    – Keith Urban
    – Kenny Chesney
    – Brad Paisley
    – Tim McGraw
    – Toby Keith

    The old stuff they’ll have to find on their own, but Waylon, Merle, and George Jones are musts.

    I’d also be sure to mention that “Every male artist who has become a big stadium seller in recent history has a sound that’s a modified version of George Strait.”

  35. jeremey c
    June 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Hank williams sr and jr.david allen coe,hank the 3rd,jimmie rodgers,waylon,merle haggard.that is real country not pop country.The only thing country about the (country) music now is the hats!Hank williams sr is the best of all time.he is country music

  36. Brian Quinn
    July 30, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Elvis Presley is a must. He sang so many great country songs throughout his career. One should listen to such classics as ‘Make The World Go Away'; ‘Gentle On My Mind'; I Really Don’t Want To Know'; ‘Just Call Me Lonesome'; ‘From A Jack To A King';’I’m Movin’On';’You Asked Me To’ and countless others.

  37. Jim
    August 5, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Milton Brown – One of the founders of Wesern Swing. Many of the stars frrm the 50’s emulated his style..
    Listen and you will be surprised!!

  38. Jenn
    August 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Not many people these days know who he is, but John Prine is incredible.

    Definite listens are:
    Hello in There
    Illegal Smile
    Sam Stone
    Clay Pigeons
    Angel From Montgomery
    That’s The Way the World Goes ‘Round
    My Darlin’ Hometown

    People could learn a lot about livin, love, life, music, and songwriting from him!

  39. Jess Sue
    August 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Everyone already mentioned above and a few more like:
    KT Oslin
    Doug Stone
    Jamey Johnson
    Trace Adkins
    Confererate Railroad
    Lee Brice
    Chris Young
    Jarrod Neimann
    Charlie Daniels Band
    Martina McBride
    Zac Brown Band
    Eli Young Band
    Chris Ledoux
    Sammy Kershaw
    David Lee Murphy
    Jerry Reed
    Tracy Lawrence
    Charlie Pride
    Jeenie C Riley
    Eric Church
    Vince Gill
    Trisha Yearwood

    Just to name a few :)

  40. Justin
    September 25, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Cross Canaadian Ragweed
    Chris knight
    Geogre Strait
    Jamey Johnson
    Alan Jackson
    Eric Church
    Eli Young
    Gary Alan
    Steve Earl
    Hank 1,2,and 3
    Shooter and Waylon Jennings
    Johnny Cash
    David Allen Coe
    Johnny Paycheck
    John Rich

    ect… To anyone who is sick of the mainstream crap MTV and Pop radio pushes on you just turn it off country music is music that you will find sings to you and these are just some ones i like but theres so much great stuff coming outta nashville you cant go wrong but stay away from rascell flats lol there not country

  41. Thomas
    September 25, 2009 at 6:52 am

    ….40 comments and not one mentioning Dwight Yoakam. This is actually a good sign. if one of the arguably greatest artists of the genre can get overlooked in such a way – there must be quite a few other artists having done something right. Food for thought for the constant moaners.
    apart from that, listen to his 95 album “gone” – country music doesn’t come any more classic or more modern that what you’ll find in the 10 songs on that cd.

  42. Creek
    September 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Older- Waylon Jennings, George Jones

    New-Jamey Johnson

  43. Kevin
    October 8, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    George Strait probably because he has influenced so many artist like Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, John Rich, and etc. i like his new stuff like I Hate Everything, Blue Clear Sky, I Saw God Today, and Living for the Night. another artist would be Kenny Chesney, songs like “I Go Back”, “I’m Alive” and “Young” and even Dolly Parton. my fav song by her is “Better Get to Livin'”. o and look up Jeffrey Steele. he may not be the star of singing but of writing he is a hall of famer!

  44. 2112
    October 30, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Hank III
    Waylon Jennings
    David Allen Coe
    Merle Haggard
    Scott H. Birim
    Lucky Tubb
    George Jones
    Loretta Lynn
    Those Poor Bastards

  45. Pat
    November 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Hank III turned me into a country fanatic. I had no idea how cool music could be. He’s as good, if not better than his grandpappy. I recommend the album Straight to Hell, pretty much any song on there is a winner. Such heartwarming classics as I’m Going Straight to Hell, Must’ve Been them Pills I Took, and I’m here to put the Dick in Dixie. He’s certainly not a fan of mainstream country

Tagged In This Article

// // // // // // // // //

Current Discussion

  • Paige: Oh damn. :( I never commented here and I haven't been listening to any music at all since Thanksgiving (it …
  • Dave W.: Just read the news here. Will miss E145 very much - love this site. All the best to you Juli …
  • Leeann Ward: Oh, dang! This is real. Farewell to the most generous, informative, quality, intelligent, consistent, ethical country music blog! You …
  • bll: Thanks Juli for all the great articles and information; you'll be missed by me and I suss several others. Best …
  • Both Kinds of Music: I hope people appreciate the irony that one of the best "Americana" albums is titled Metamodern Sounds in COUNTRY Music.
  • Barry Mazor: I would not rule out that possibility..There's a different set of voters involved..
  • Dana M: Does anyone else think that Brandy Clark actually has a good chance of winning since this isn't a country awards …
  • Juli Thanki: UPDATE: Brandy Clark got a Best New Artist nom. BEST AMERICANA ALBUM: Rosanne Cash -- The River & The Thread John Hiatt -- Terms …
  • luckyoldsun: Glenn Campbell is great and I'd love to see him get an award, but the words of that song may …
  • Casey Penn: Juli, it was an honor to write for you here on You're good at what you do, and The …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • walkerandthetexasdangers3
  • deadmanstown
  • tom t hall storytellers
  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton