The Very Best Of Country

Artist: Various Artists
Format: 3CD
Bar-code: 5060342021021
Cat No: NOT3CD102


Country music is all about characters and the stories they tell. That, prior to the advent of the phonograph and, later, radio, was exactly how the songs were passed down through the generations. And the good news is we not only have some great songs here but we also have some very memorable characters telling them.

Some of those characters enjoyed long careers, like Tennessee Ernie Ford who began performing at the age of four in 1923 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, the year before his death. Others like Patsy Cline were taken from us all too soon, in her case in a 1963 plane crash.

Cline came to overnight fame on a TV talent contest and went on to become a classic country balladeer with some glossy, string-laden productions. ‘Crazy’, from 1961, was her greatest hit and has been covered in subsequent years by kd lang among others.

It was penned by Willie Nelson, who honed his act playing Texan bars so tough that band and audience were separated by a sheet of chicken wire to discourage bottle-throwers. In 1960, he decided to become a Nashville backroom boy, writing songs for others, but eventually returned to recording and performing; he is featured here singing the classic ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ plus two more.

Porter Wagoner is remembered for his long-time partnership with Dolly Parton, one of many successors to Patsy Cline as first lady of country. Porter’s early career from 1954 made a big impression on Gram Parsons of the Flying Burrito Brothers two decades later; Gram not only copped hid idol’s musical style but his extravagant Nudie-suited fashion sense. As for Dolly, she has combined the roles of celebrity, film star and all-round entertainer with that of a serious musician. ‘I can just be true to the art and make money out of other things,’ she explained when she returned to her country and bluegrass roots just after the millennium. The tracks here catch her on her way up.

Like Porter Wagoner, George Jones enjoyed solo success as well as a double act, in his case with his former wife Tammy Wynette. The Possum, as he’s affectionately known, needs little introduction to any country fan and has been credited with writing and performing some of the genre’s most affecting songs. The emotion of early work like the much-covered ‘She Thinks I Still Care’ remains unsurpassed.

Jones retired from touring in 2013, at around the same time Glen Campbell also bowed out. Born in Arkansas in 1936, Glen graduated from session musician – his guitar picking won him a role in the Beach Boys’ band – to superstar in 1967. ‘Turn Around, Look At Me’ was a small early-Sixties hit on the Crest label.

Conway Twitty was born plain Harold Jenkins before finding a new handle on fame and a transatlantic chart-topper with 1958’s ‘It’s Only Make Believe’. We feature ‘Portrait Of A Fool’ – which certainly doesn’t refer to him, as he founded a lucrative theme park in Tennessee called Twitty City! He occasionally duetted with Loretta Lynn, whom we also feature here. She was an influential woman in country music, fighting stereotypes and enabling others that followed like her sister Crystal Gayle to find success. She was the first female CMA Entertainer of the Year, the first woman country millionaire and told her story in the autobiography (later movie) Coalminer’s Daughter.

The musical revolution spearheaded by Elvis Presley took its cues from country, mixing it with black rhythms to create rock’n’roll. Hank Snow can claim to have given the King a helping hand to stardom, having formed a booking agency with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The wily Parker edged him out of the Presley picture, but slid the spotlight his way by having his charge cover Snow-related material such as ‘Old Shep’ and ‘A Fool Such As I’.

Johnny Cash passed through Sun Records just post-Presley and played an influential role in a number of genres, including country and gospel. From humble beginnings in Arkansas during the Great Depression, he forged a career that spanned nearly half a century and produced music right up until his death in 2003. Cash fought his demons daily in the form of drugs and alcohol, and his turbulent life would be immortalised on the silver screen as the 2005 motion picture Walk The Line.

Marty Robbins was another long-serving country legend. Just two months before his death in 1982, Tammy Wynette presented him with a plaque signifying his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame –, the final honour for a multi-faceted performer who was named Artist of the Decade for the Sixties by the Academy of Country Music. Our three selections include his signature song ‘El Paso’.

We don’t have the space to profile all our artists in detail, but mention must be made of a performer on disc three. Clint Eastwood is, of course, best known as an actor but also taught himself to play piano and compose, writing soundtracks for movies such as Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Hereafter and Changeling.
When a TV actor in Western series Raw Hide which ran from 1959 to 1965, he cut the ballad ‘Unknown Girl Of My Dreams’. He would go on to record several cowboy classics, but this first musical foray is a bonus for all movie buffs with a taste for country.

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CD 1

1. Crazy – Patsy Cline
2. Funny How Time Slips Away – Willie Nelson
3. Five Feet High And Rising – Johnny Cash
4. Sea Of Heartbreak – Don Gibson
5. Rowdy – Clint Eastwood
6. Success – Loretta Lynn
7. Heartaches By The Number – Ray Price
8. Truck Driving Man – Glen Campbell
9. I Should Start Running – Dottie West
10. Walk On By – Leroy Von Dyke
11. If You Don’t Know I Ain’t Gonna Tell You – George Hamilton IV
12. Hello Walls – Faron Young
13. Tennessee Flat-Top Box – Johnny Cash
14. A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation) – Marty Robbins
15. Big Bad John – Jimmy Dean
16. She Thinks I Still Care – George Jones
17. Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford
18. When It’s Springtime In Alaska – Johnny Horton
19. My Last Date (With You) – Skeeter Davis
20. The Comancheros – Claude King
21. Turn Around, Look At Me – Glen Campbell
22. I’ve Been Everywhere – Hank Snow
23. I Think I Know – Marion Worth
24. Delia’s Gone – Johnny Cash
25. The Love You Gave – Dolly Parton

CD 2

1. Aching, Breaking Heart – George Jones
2. The Blizzard – Jim Reeves
3. It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’ – Johnny Tillotson
4. I Fall To Pieces – Patsy Cline
5. Peace In the Valley – Johnny Cash
6. Crazy Arms – Ray Price
7. Unloved Unwanted – Kitty Wells
8. Singin’ The Blues – Marty Robbins
9. Long Black Limousine – Glen Campbell
10. Touch Me – Willie Nelson
11. A Wound Time Can’t Erase – Stonewall Jackson
12. A Satisfied Mind – Porter Wagoner
13. I’m A Honky Tonk Girl – Loretta Lynn
14. In Them Old Cottonfields Back Home – Johnny Cash
15. My Name Is Mud – James O’Gwynn
16. Half Breed – Ricky Nelson
17. The Best Dressed Beggar (In Town) – Carl Smith
18. Foolin’ Around – Buck Owens
19. Heartaches – Patsy Cline
20. North To Alaska – Johnny Horton
21. The Long Black Veil – Lefty Frizzell
22. Black Cloud – Leroy Van Dyke
23. I’m No Longer In Your Heart – Melba Montgomery
24. Oh Lonesome Me – Don Gibson
25. I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now – Johnny Cash

CD 3

1. It’s Sure Gonna Hurt – Dolly Parton
2. My Special Angel – Bobby Helms
3. Valley Of Death – Glen Campbell
4. Forty Shades of Green – Johnny Cash
5. She’s Got You – Patsy Cline
6. He’ll Have To Go – Jim Reeves
7. From A Jack To A King – Ned Miller
8. Backtrack – Faron Young
9. Under Your Spell Again – Buck Owens
10. El Paso – Marty Robbins
11. Lonesome Number One – Don Gibson
12. Second Choice – Stonewall Jackson
13. Angel On Paper (Original Nashville Recording) – Dottie West
14. Send Me The Pillow You Dream On – Johnny Tillotson
15. Busted – Johnny Cash
16. Unknown Girl Of My Dreams – Clint Eastwood
17. Willingly – Willie Nelson & Shirley Collie
18. Adios Amigo – Jim Reeves
19. The Burning Of Atlanta – Claude King
20. Battle Of New Orleans – Johnny Horton
21. Portrait Of A Fool – Conway Twitty
22. P.T. 109 – Jimmy Dean
23. Twenty Cigarettes – ‘Little’ Jimmy Dickens
24. In The Jailhouse Now – Johnny Cash
25. I Don’t Hurt Anymore – Hank Snow