We all probably have a list of albums that have either shaped us musically or moved us in our souls or set us dancing. Below is my list, which actually began life as a Facebook tag. If I get to running on TOO badly, somebody say ENOUGH, FAIR!!
My friend Lily had sent me a tape of Eithne ni Bhraoinin–in English, that’s Enya–whom, to that point, I’d never heard. I learned afterward that she’s the younger sister and niece of the Brennans and Duggans of Clannad. I bought Banba on CD shortly thereafter. If you’ve never heard it, you need to–if only for the haunting “I Will Find You” which made a brief appearance in the Daniel Day-Lewis movie The Last of the Mohicans.
The Wilburn Brothers, Take Up Thy Cross
An old (1964 or thereabout) gospel release from my beloved Teddy and Doyle. The title track comes from a very old hymnal; others are either traditional gospel or covers, all of them good.
Marty Stuart, Tempted
Marty Stuart was my heartthrob, way back in the early nineties. He made two albums back to back (see the other below) that were damned near perfect. This one has a title track that reminds me no end of the late great Buddy Holly, but there’s not actually a bad track on it.
Chris Isaak, Heart Shaped World
The sexiest pop/rock tenor, bar none, in the world. I’m especially partial to “Kings of the Highway” and “Nothing’s Changed”, but it’s all good.
The Eagles, Long Road Out of Eden
I’ve gone on about this 2007 release from the Eagles, their first of all new music since 1980, before. Suffice it to say I was intrigued by the cover art, enthralled by the opening a capella track “No More Walks in the Wood”, and completely captivated by Don Henley and Steuart Smith’s “Waiting in the Weeds”. Yes, it does show in places that it was six years in the making, and I must reluctantly agree with Henley that some of the song choices aren’t that good, but shoot, it’s still the Eagles, right? Can’t beat that with a stick.
Emmylou Harris, Roses in the Snow
First time I ever heard Miss Emmy. She’s been my absolute favorite female singer ever since.
Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Trio
Lush harmonies and killer arrangements from three of the best. Nuff said.
Loreena McKennitt, The Mask and Mirror
Loreena McKennitt, The Book of Secrets
I actually heard The Book of Secrets, which was released later than The Mask and Mirror, first. Nevertheless, they’re my favorite McKennitt CDs. Romantic, hypnotic–for the percussion alone–and exotic, not quite like any other music I had ever heard to that point in my life. I especially love “The Highwayman” from The Book of Secrets and “The Mystic’s Dream” from The Mask and Mirror.
Doc Watson, On Praying Ground
Great tracks throughout this 1990 (I think that’s right) CD, but it includes my alltime favorite Christmas song, “Christmas Lullaby”, words by the great English hymnwriter Isaac Watts set to an 1835 tune by the great singing-school master William (Singin’ Billy) Walker. I’d recommend it for that song alone.
Chet Atkins, Teen Scene
Mostly early rock ‘n roll type instrumentals, with some vocals from the Anita Kerr Singers, eminently danceable. I’m not sure when it came out, but I’m thinking possibly early 1960s.
Bill Monroe, Master of Bluegrass
An all instrumental album from Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, c. 1980. Tucked away on side two, at the very end of the album, was Monroe’s austere, heartbreaking masterpiece “My Last Days on Earth”, written when he was facing potentially deadly cancer surgery and treatment. Wow. It still, thirty years later, packs an enormous punch.
Johnny Cash, Unchained
This is one of Cash’s albums made with Rick Rubin on American Recordings, after he was dumped by Columbia. The morning word came that Cash had passed (God, is it really seven years ago?), I played this CD. Never really stopped crying, either.
Delia Bell, Delia Bell
A native of Texas and a great bluegrass and trad country performer, Delia Bell got a shot on a major label in the 1980s when Emmylou Harris persuaded her label, Warner Brothers, to sign Bell. She made this single eponymous album for WB, which Emmylou produced and sang harmony on; Warner Brothers, for Lord knows what reasons of their own, did not promote it on its release. It’s a rarity, but one worth seeking out.
Marty Stuart, This One’s Gonna Hurt You
Marty followed Tempted with a second brilliant album which took its name from a duet with Travis Tritt. The best track on this one, though, is a little thing called “The King of Dixie” which is about Elvis and Hank Williams, brilliantly capturing both their careers in a verse each.
And a bonus sixteenth:
Thomas Hampson, Christmas with Thomas Hampson
My first, and still my favorite, Hampson CD. I’ve been known to listen to this one in the middle of summer. 😀
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite albums. Carry on in the comments section.
Plus one I somehow missed: Tim O’Brien, Two Journeys (Deux Voyages)
The second of O’Brien’s “midlife crisis” CDs (hey, he called The Crossing and Two Journeys that, not me), it’s got a couple of real clunkers, but O’Brien more than made up for those with a surpassingly spectral and spare duet (with Karen Kasey) of Child Ballad 243 “The Demon Lover” and covers of Balfa Toujours’ “Two Journeys (Deux Voyages)” (featuring Courtney Granger) and the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”. That last is wonderfully quirky.