Great country recording

Hi all, I am looking for some great country recording albums by various artists. Really like the sound of steel guitar, acoustic guitar, fiddle, and of course vocals. Any recommendations? Thanks
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Clint Black, Dwight Yoakum, Merle Haggard.  Are you interested in specific recording recommendations beyond just artists?  Some of Willie's are also great, and of course Emmylou too.
Marty Stuart
Merle Haggard
Johnny Cash
Kris Kristofferson

Just to name a few
Merle Haggard "Serving 190 Proof"

Just got this in. What a great songwriter!
Allison Krauss is always a good bet and her later albums like "So Long So Wrong" are extremely well recorded with very well done arrangements. Agree with the recommendation of Dwight Yoakum, he manages to combine the core of country music's appeal with very sophisticated presentation and exceptional production.
Steve Earle, “The Mountain”
Emmylou Harris, “Wrecking Ball”
Kasey Chambers, “Wreck & Ruin”
Doc Watson, “Pickin’ the Blues”
Gillian Welch, “Soul Journey”
Bonnie Raitt,Charlie Daniels,Willie Nelson,Waylon Jennings,Reba McIntyre.

Yeah does it have to be country country or can it be "country" like Mark Knopfler/Chet Akins? Allison Krauss, New Favorite? Nancy Bryan, Lay Me Down? 

One good thing about country music it seems for whatever reason they kept up higher recording standards or at least didn't sink down the hole a lot of em like Santana have. New Favorite, Lay Me Down, Luck of the Draw and Nick of Time are awesome recordings, whatever genre you want to call em. 
Anything of Merle Haygard's but his last two I just can't get out of my rotation, Waylon Jennings ole 5 and dimer, most the songs on this one were written by Billy Joe Shaver, also go to Elusive Disc as they stock a lot of the New West label and their series of Live In Austin recordings of a lot of the greats such as Johnny Cash, D. Yokum, Merle Hagard, Buck Owens, Steve Earl and many more. Enjoy the music
Thanks for all the recommendations. I was looking for country music from Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash to Alan Jackson, Clint Black something in that era.
I forgot to add that I am also looking country music with dobro guitar. Thanks
Johnny Cash, I Walk the Line. As bare bones a production that has ever come down. Perhaps a hint of brightness and occasional microphone grit from Cash’s vocals, but my now 30 year old plus vinyl remains a treat to listen to.

Emmylou Harris’ Luxury Liner is a bit slickly produced, but it is utterly lovely in every respect. Her Roses in the Snow record, recorded live & un-overdubbed in a Nashville studio, is perhaps a bit dry but maybe it would come alive on a better system than I have.
You may enjoy some of the TN,NC,VA country music rooted in the moonshine mountain country. Wonderful Picking,vocals and fiddle.
Stanley Brothers
Bill Monroe
Earl Scruggs
Doc Watson

Iris Dement (Merle loved her, recording her "No Time To Cry"), Patty Loveless, Emmylou, Rosie Flores, Jann Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carlene Carter (June Carter’s daughter), Kasey Chambers (good Australian singer), Randy Travis, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Jim Lauderdale, Vince Gill, Albert Lee (guitarist in Emmylou’s band for years, also played for The Everly Brothers), Steve Wariner, Joe Nichols, Jerry Douglas (the greatest living dobro player, in Alison Krauss’ band), Rodney Crowell (one time member of Emmylou’s band), Marty Stuart (his band The Fabulous Superlatives are imo the best band in the world at the moment), David Ball (great true Honky Tonk singer), Buddy Miller (Emmylou’s longtime guitarist/bandleader/harmony singer, also a great solo artist and producer), Ricky Skaggs (on the Bluegrass side of Country as of late), Doug Seegers (a true Hillbilly, with the twang to prove it), Asleep At The Wheel (Western Swing), The Del McCoury Band (as Hillbilly as it gets. Start with the album they did with Steve Earle---it won’t sound so "foreign"), dozens of others, but that’s a start ;-) .

Unfortunately, the greats from the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s---Hank Williams, Hank Thompson, Lefty Frizzell, The Louvin Brothers, Webb Pierce, Bob Wills (Merle Haggard’s favorite musical artist---he recorded a tribute album to the man), Ray Price, Merle of course, Buck Owens (Dwight Yoakam’s stylistic model), George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn---were recorded in indifferent sound quality, not what I think you’re looking for. That, plus it was really, really Country, if you get my drift. Way more Hillbilly than you younger fellas can stomach.

But if you want some great pedal steel guitar, you gotta get a Speedy West collection. He was THE player in the 50’s/60’s, and is who all the young players study. Acoustic guitar, steel guitar, fiddles, and harmony singing is now heard in Bluegrass music, not what is being called Country. That is, mainstream Country. Americana is where real Country made by "artistic" practitioners (rather than mere entertainers) is heard (many of them listed above). Head over to the No Depression website to read all about it.

O Brother Where Art Thou and Raising Arizona and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs are soundtracks that come to mind.A favourite is Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby Cluck Ol' Hen
Mark Chesnut: “Tradition Lives“, “Savin’ the Honky Tonks”, “Rollin’ with the Flow”

Great contemporary honky tonk. Slim Yamagucihi is one of the world’s greatest peddle steel players, Chesnutt a phenomenal country vocalist.

Townes Van Zandt: Start with “Live at the Old Quarter” and “High, Low and In Between”

In college, I was fortunate to see him many times at the Outhouse in Austin, Tx. It was the mid to late 1980’s. Addiction had taken its toll but he was still magical on stage. Just him and his guitar. I still can’t believe I drank beers with him during his breaks. Crazy.
You may want to take a listen to the soundtrack for Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

It's a survey of pre-Nashville country music.


Regarding the comment that Nashville hasn't skimped on recording.- I popped a Tim McGraw CD in and was really disappointed in the SQ. I don't play a ton of country, but the comparison to James Taylor and Jackson Brown CDs was significant. When stacked against some of my acoustic guitar Cds it was downright stunning. I don't recall the McGraw album name, and maybe it is a bad example or a bad match to the Vandersteens I had hooked up, but truly surpirsed me. 

Tim McGraw is of the mainstream Country I mentioned above. For artistic integrity and stunning sound quality recordings, give a listen to Buddy Miller. He has turned the "front parlour" of his Nashville home into a recording studio. He produces recordings there, when he's off the road with Emmylou Harris, whose band he leads. He also leads the band at the annual Americana Music Awards Show, hosted by Jim Lauderdale, with whom he made a duet album. He is a major player in the Americana scene, where gen-u-wine Country music is being made.

The majority of the "Country" music coming out of the mainstream music factories owes more to The Eagles than to true Country/Hillbilly music: Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, George Jones (including his Rockabilly recordings under the name Thumper Jones!), Lefty Frizzell (The Band covered his "Long Black Veil" on their debut album), Ernest Tubb, Bob Wills, Moon Mullican (Nick Lowe has recorded his "7 Nights To Rock", Springsteen performs it live), Faron Young, early Johnny Horton, The Stanley Brothers, The Carter Family (Country royalty), Johnny Cash (my mom's favorite male singer), Patsy Cline, Wanda Jackson (she dated Elvis for awhile), Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt (Marty Stuart joined his band at age 14!), The Louvin Brothers (I hear them when The Everly Brothers are singing), Webb Pierce (John Fogerty included his "I Ain't Never" on his debut solo album, put out under the name The Blue Ridge Rangers! A great album of Country-inspired music), hundreds more.

I used Iris Dement's My Life album as source material at one CES Vegas. Sounded great on Crosby-modified QUAD 63's. Stuart Duncan, a great fiddle player, is one of the superb musicians on the album.

Chris Hillman's (The Byrds bassist) albums on Sugar Hill records possess great sound quality, and are musically great (a nice "bonus" ;-), His albums as a member of The Desert Rose Band as fantastic as well. His latest album was produced by Mike Campbell of Petty's Heartbreakers.

T Bone Burnett's (producer of the O' Brother soundtrack, as well as The New Basement Tapes) Truth Decay album (originally on Takoma, a label known for good sound and artists) sounds REALLY good.

I'll think of some more if you want.

Love this kind of music and have spent a great portion of my life enjoying it.  Great recommendations above from everyone so I'll toss a couple logs onto the fire...

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Will the Circle Be Unbroken albums volumes 2 & 3 (2 different albums) which feature all most of the greats mentioned above....enjoy!
A lot of what's been suggested above falls under what I'd consider more Americana than country but it's also what I happen to prefer.  Yes, much modern Americana is recorded well - especially folks like Rawlings and Welch and Jason Isbell.  From back in the 70s I felt that Gram Parsons's debut solo album GP was recorded very nicely not to mention it's brilliant.
You got me doing random needle drops.  Nothing, sorry to say, was of true audiophile quality.  The Will the Circle Be Unbroken LPs were particularly disappointing   First pressings.  Got 'em the week they came out.  Scratchy vocals.  Instrumental tonality could be good, but the overall sense was that the producers never quite found a magical microphone placement.  Ergo, soundstaging was never more than decent. 

Shockingly, probably my best-sounding record was Portrait of Patsy Cline, a greatest hits compilation on what is obviously an MCA reissue.  The backup instrumentals were largely locked either to the left or right but they had good tonality & reasonable dynamics.  Patsy, meantime, sounded clean and lovely at her solo mike.  I reiterate, too, that my Johnny Cash record sounds pretty good.

And oh yeah, I've probably mentioned this a dozen times here, but I play guitar, banjo, fiddle and piano.  My wife plays guitar & banjo, and does more than her share of vocalizing.
Put Ian Tyson's "Cowboyography" on your list. He originally released in western Caanada thinking maybe it wouldn't go much further. But it did!
give it a listen. Joe
bdp24, great list. You know your genre, All recommendable. Gotta put in Joe Henry as producer/ player also. Others but uh, maybe later
I have the johnny cash 16 biggest hits CD and to me it sounds wonderful....for being a CD...Marty Robbins is also great! "My woman, my woman, my wife"; "EL Paso"; "A white sport coat & a pink carnation" are just a few....oh and some early Glen Cambell! By the time I get to Phoenix, Wichita lineman, gentle on my mind....and anything by Bobbie Gentry!

Now that Gram Parsons has been mentioned, here's more:

Gram was brought into The Byrds by bassist Chris Hillman, to replace the recently-departed (from The Byrds, not Earth) David Crosby. Gram (real name Ingram Cecil Parsons III) was a student at Harvard, playing music in a Folk group. Chris, a former member of Bluegrass group The Hillmen (guess he was the leader ;-) knew of Gram, and between the two turned The Byrds from a Folk-Rock group to a pretty hardcore Country band with the Sweethearts Of The Rodeo album.

Chris and Gram then left The Byrds and started The Flying Burrito Brothers. After a coupla FBB albums, Gram left and started his solo career, bringing along Emmylou Harris, a singer he had heard at a Folk club in the Washington D.C. area. Gram was a huge George Jones and Merle Haggard fan, and the two albums he made before he overdosed in Joshua Tree are classics. Gram and Keith Richards became close friends, and Gram's influence on Keith can be heard on The Stones' "Country Honk" track on Let It Bleed.

Gram and Emmylou's recording of "Love Hurts" is well known, thought by many to be a Gram song. It is actually a song first recorded by The Everly Brothers, written by Felice & Boudleaux Bryant.

Dolly Parton: Little Sparrow

achingly beautiful lyrics and music that is perfectly recorded
And how about Trisha Yearwood: Every Girl or Hearts in Armour

family and friends starring Charlie Haden also features beautiful songs

230 posts
  Put Ian Tyson's "Cowboyography" on your list. He originally released in western Caanada thinking maybe it wouldn't go much further. But it did!
give it a listen. Joe

I second the above recommendation.  Lived in Calgary for 20 years and saw Tyson live numerous times.  Fine songwriter and excellent vocalist.
Go for LPs, Emmylou Harris. I test my carts and styli using Cimmaron. 

Emmylou Harris was the most sought after artist by all the great artists of her time! Many greats appear on her albums, playing instruments and as accompanying vocals and backups/duets. 

Instrumental quality and arrangements were the best in the business! 
Alison Krauss is a no brainer and she performs with Jerry Douglass on numerous albums 
To date she's won 27 Grammys which I think is the most for any performer. I consider her latest album " Windy City to be one of her best. I saw her in concert recently and it should be against the law for one person to have that much talent!
Not only does she have a amazing Anglic voice but shes also a master of the violin 
A close second would be Ronda Vincent 
Lots of fantastic music here. Just don't miss the great great Guy Clarke. I'm sure you'll find some dobro from Darrell Scott in his songs. Try finding Keepers (live recording).
Blue Country Heart, by Jorma Kaukonen. Some great contemporary acoustic players. Check it out. 
 Willie Nelson  Milk Cow Blues
Steve Earle  Train a Coming
 EmmyLou Harris  At the Ryman
I am an Emmylou Harris fan first and foremost. I have run into some gems from other artists though. Years ago I bought a Willie Nelson cd "Across The Boarderline". It was  produced by Don Was, Paul Simon, and Roy Halee. It includes songs written by Paul Simon (Graceland), Ry Cooder (Across The Boarderline), John Hiatt ( "Most Unoriginal Sin" ), Peter Gabriel (Don't Give Up), Bob Dylan, ("What Was It You Wanted")  Lyle Lovett "Farther Down the Line" ), and Willie. Decent recording and I think an overlooked cover album. Willie is a unique treasure. 
John Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves" Duet album of classic tunes with many of the greatest female stars

Some great additions above.

Rhonda Vincent is FANTASTIC! I saw her live at the Coachella Music Festival in 2014, I think it was. She’s a fantastic fiddler and singer, with a real fine band. She has albums going back decades, available for peanuts.

I saw Dolly backed by Alison Krauss and Union Station (I lived two blocks from the NBC studio in Burbank, and walked to the taping), so got to hear not only Dolly sing live, but also Alison and Jerry Douglas (her dobro player, and the father of a kid they made together) from only twenty feet away (I was in the balcony directly above the stage).

Alison’s guitarist/mandolin player/harmony singer Dan Tyminski (he sings "Man Of Constant Sorrow" in O Brother Where Art Thou) has a pair of good solo albums.

Wanda Jackson (mentioned in a post of mine above) has a pair of recent albums that may be of interest to you youngins, as they were produced and recorded by Jack White. He also produced a "comeback" album with Loretta Lynn, which I didn’t care for but you may.

Patty Loveless is right at the line where Country and Bluegrass meet. She has great taste in material, is a real good singer, and surrounds herself with the best musicians. Highly recommended!

Two legends and top-notch remastering:

- Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys: Legends of Country Music compilation 2006; Columbia/Legacy (Sony/BMG); magnificent 4 CD box or single disc The Best Of; Country Music AND Rock and Roll hall of fame inductee.

- Hank Williams: The Ultimate Collection 2002; Mercury Records, division of UMG; 2 CD compilation has all a casual listener would ever want. It's Hank....nuff said.

I've listened to a few releases by those artists and have yet to hear anything rivaling their sound quality.
Porter Wagner
Nancy sinatra "country my way"
Earl Scruggs
Conway twitty ( if not already mentioned, especially duets with Loretta Lynn)
Webb pierce
Stonewall jackson
Hank snow
Don gibson
Little Jimmy Dickens
Bill monroe
Jim reeves
Tanya Tucker
Jessie colter
Jodie Miller
Roy acuff
Dottie west