Saturday, December 20, 2008

20 Essential "Alt" Country Albums of the 1970s, Part 2 of 2

STWOF Mix #2:
01. Gene Clark – Silver Raven (0:00)
02. John Hartford - Back In The Goodle Days (4:44)
03. Paul Siebel – Pinto Pony (7:56)
04. Willis Alan Ramsey– Northeast Texas Women (10:14)
05. Tom T. Hall - Tulsa Telephone Book (14:58)
06. Steve Young – Lonesome On'ry And Mean (17:16)
07. Kris Kristofferson – The Best Of All Possible Worlds (20:50)
08. John Prine – Spanish Pipedream (23:27)
09. Townes Van Zandt – Tecumseh Valley (26:02)
10. Gram Parsons – Return Of The Grievous Angel (30:13)

This is the second part of a two-part series. Read about the series (and see part 1) here.

Without further ado, here are my picks for the remaining ten of the 20 essential "alt" country albums of the 1970s:

Gene Clark – No Other (1974)

I sense that appreciation for Gene Clark's excellent body of work is on the upswing, much like appreciation for Gram Parsons' work increased considerably in the 1990s. This founding member of the Byrds recorded a number of great albums in the 1960s and 1970s, both on his own and as half of Dillard & Clark.

AMG Review
Featured Song: Silver Raven
(buy album)

John Hartford – Aereo-Plain (1971)

Just listen to the featured song and you will understand.

Rising Storm Review
Stylus Magazine Review
AMG Review
Featured Song: Back In The Goodle Days
(out of print)

Paul Siebel – Jack-Knife Gypsy (1971)

This is the less celebrated of Paul Siebel's two stellar albums, but it is my favorite (probably because of Clarence White's contributions on guitar). Read about Siebel's other great album at The Rising Storm.

AMG Review
Featured Song: Pinto Pony
(buy albums)

Willis Alan Ramsey – Willis Alan Ramsey (1972)

Here is the one and only legendary album from this artist.

Rising Storm Review
AMG Review
Featured Song: Northeast Texas Women
(buy album)

Tom T. Hall – In Search Of A Song (1971)

Longtime readers of this blog know that Tom T. stands right up there with Hank, Merle and Gram in my pantheon of greats. This album is his best and most consistent.

AMG Review
Featured Song: Tulsa Telephone Book
(buy album)

Steve Young - Seven Bridges Road (1972)

Steve Young is an unsung musical genius with an uncanny knack for avoiding the spotlight.

AMG Review
Featured Song: Lonesome, On'ry & Mean
(out of print)

Kris Kristofferson – Kristofferson (1970)

Thanks in large part to the songs on this album, Kristofferson was a major player in country music scene in the 1970's. The featured song is an instant classic with several great lines: "Well, I woke up next mornin' feelin' like my head was gone, and like my thick old tongue was lickin' something sick and wrong." (Apparently, Kris was often inspired by hangovers--see also Sunday Morning Coming Down). My favorite line from Kristofferson is the refrain: "There's still alot of drinks that I ain't drunk, and lots of pretty thoughts that I ain't thunk. . . ."

AMG Review
Featured Song: The Best Of All Possible Worlds
(buy album)

John Prine – John Prine (1971)

Check out my review at The Rising Storm

AMG Review
Featured Song: Spanish Pipedream
(buy album)

Townes Van Zandt – Live At The Old Quarter (1973)

You couldn't go wrong with any of Townes' 1970s albums, but this live recording from 1973 (released in 1977) is probably the best place to start.

Rolling Stone Review
Featured Song: Tecumseh Valley
(buy album)

Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel (1974)

"Pick it for me James..."

AMG Review
Featured Song: Return Of The Grievous Angel
(buy albums)

Here is the full list in rough chronological order:

Kris Kristofferson – Kristofferson

John Prine – John Prine
John Hartford – Aereo-Plain
Paul Siebel – Jack-Knife Gypsy
Tom T. Hall – In Search Of A Song

Steve Young - Seven Bridges Road
Willis Alan Ramsey – Willis Alan Ramsey
The Flatlanders – More A Legend Than A Band

Billy Joe Shaver – Old Five And Dimers Like Me
Waylon Jennings – Honky Tonk Heroes
Doug Sahm – Doug Sahm and Band
Jerry Jeff Walker – Viva Terlingua
Willie Nelson – Shotgun Willie
Townes Van Zandt – Live At The Old Quarter

Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel
Gene Clark – No Other

Guy Clark – Old No. 1

Butch Hancock - West Texas Waltzes & Dust-Blown Tractor Tunes
Joe Ely – Honky Tonk Masquerade

Terry Allen – Lubbock (On Everything)
I'm sorry if I left off your favorite (i.e., Emmylou, Ray Wylie, Commander Cody, Mickey Newbury, Kinky, Bob Martin) If I did, please let me know. This easily could have been a three-part series. Maybe it will be...

(Tip: This podcast together with Part 1 make a really nice CD when burned together on a disc.)


Vaughn said...

Excellent choices Paul and a great addition to my iPod. Thanks!
Now, your job gets a little the same thing for the 80's! Good luck, and just remember, Rank & File really kinda sucked ('cept for "Coyote").

Paul said...

Thanks Vaughn,

I agree that the 1970s was the stronger decade, especially for albums, but I think I could make a pretty good list of "alt" country songs from the 1980s, starting with tunes from Jason & The Scorchers and The Beat Farmers.

brendan said...

I disagree that Rank & File sucked. It's not easy to make music as good as what's on Sundown.

Ace list Paul. 73 was a strong year huh? Double shot of Shaver. Plus, Sahm & Band is so good. All of these are essentials. I need to get some like the ones from 1978.

Here's a link to a bunch of good of 80s alt country:

Anonymous said...

Great choices and pleasing to see Steve Young's 'Seven Bridges Road' getting a much deserved mention though his knack for avoiding the spotlight might go some way to explaining why he often doesn't get the credit his great records deserve.
I recently got hold of a copy of 'Long Time Rider' an album only ever given a limited release in the late 80's and it took my breath away. 'War Of Ancient Days' is one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard and hardly anyone knows it. I think it was recently given a low key re-release and would certainly be a contender for an 80's list if more people knew it. I'd have added 'S.F Mabel Joy' Mickey Newbury, 'Magnetic South' and Great Speckled Bird's self titled(and as far as I know) only record to the list along with Hank Williams Jr.and Friends which is a
great album sometimes forgotten due
to Hank Jr going on to become a bloated parody of himself. Anyway, I'm pretty sure you could scrape enough together for a third installment.

kreutzman said...

Nice list...I've been looking forward to checking out your choices for some time.

Dave D. said...

Nice list, Paul. My only quibble, save for the [egregious, I tell you ;-)] exclusion of Commander Cody, would be including Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall under the heading of Alt. If 'For the Good Times', 'Help Me Make It Through the Night', 'The Year Clayton Delaney Died', etc. aren't mainstream country, then what is?

Anonymous said...

Fine list. Townes Van Zandt's Live At The Old Quarter is, in my humble opinion, the greatest live album ever cut. W.

Paul said...

Dave D - Fair points. Commander Cody's ommission is due to my own "blind" spot. I haven't put as much time into listening to him as I have to the artists on my list, but that can be fixed.

I think the "alt" thing is a bit amorphous. During the 1970's, Tom T. Hall was considered mainstream, but anybody making music like that NOW would definitely be "alt." And I can never miss a chance to promote Tom T.

Conversely, Kristofferson the hippie/redneck was definitely "alt" in 1970, but might not be so much so now. (Same could be said for Willie and Waylon, I think).

godoggo said...

Granted, those Rank & File songs haven't aged as well as "Class War"...

godoggo said...

...which you can hear here (hear, hear!), if you like.

BigSteve said...

Good call putting Terry Allen's Lubbock (On Everything) on the list. It's different from a lot of the other stuff there, kind of sui generis, but more people should know about it.

sal said...

On the podcast, is Best of All Possible Worlds sped up? Kris sounds like a chipmunk.

Paul said...


Thanks for pointing that out. I will look into it. I should be OK, unless I pushed the wrong button or something. I copied the track off my own CD.


Hank said...

I just played it off i-tunes. Sounds right. Kris is just using a slightly chipmunky tone on this one.

Anonymous said...

Steve Young's 'Seven Bridges Road' such a great version.... wish I could find that album thank you for the post... jaci from imperial mo

tek said...

what a great list you have here- just add my two cents to the chitchat... as far as country insider/outsider - i think blaze foley belongs on this list. its true the label that produced his 70's vinyl folded before it ever got distributed, but he was a genius and had a number of his songs covered by a number of people on your list... and for what its worth really no one was as outsider country as blaze. i'd love to see him get the recognition he so richly deserves.

Anonymous said...

I’ve never heard of a couple of those acts. I’m gonna go check them out on iTunes. Thanks for sharing the list. Here's my list of Christmas country albums