Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
Following the success of his hit song “Folsom Prison Blues” and the numerous letters he had received from inmates, Cash had aspired to record a concert at a prison. Sadly his dream was put on hold. After many years of struggling to keep his career afloat due to his drug addiction he finally played his Folsom Prison concert which proved to be one of the most successful albums he ever produced. (I’m breaking my own rules by including a live album, but it is one of the most famous performances in history!)
Although her best-selling album is ‘Eagle When She Flies’, the album everyone needs is her 13th studio album, ‘Jolene’, one of her more traditional country albums released during her split from Porter Wagoner. With the exception of ‘It Must Be You’, the entire album was written by Dolly herself and includes two of her best hits, the catchy ‘Jolene’ and the beautiful ‘I Will Always Love You’ which topped the country charts twice making Dolly the first artist to earn a number 1 twice with the same song as a singer and three times as a writer following Whitney Houston’s cover.
Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind
Described as one of the finest country singer-songwriters, Nelson’s catalogue of 68 studio albums proves this. But the album to have is 1982’s ‘Always On My Mind’. Featuring the single ‘Always On My Mind’ which has been recorded by many artists both before and since Nelson’s version including Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley and which gave Nelson 3 wins at the 1983 Grammy’s and 4 CMA’s at the 1982 and 1983 CMA Awards. The album also includes a recording of Paul Simon’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ and Procul Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’.
Tammy Wynette – Stand By Your Man
The First Lady of Country Music. The title track ‘Stand By Your Man’ was the most successful song of Wynette’s career and the best-selling hit single of any woman in country music until Dolly Parton’s 9-5. Despite its success, the song was controversial, the lyrics suggesting that women stand by their men despite their faults, and was derided by the 1960s feminist movement in the US. The album however, went platinum and has been described as a classic country album.
The Carter Family – Wildwood Flower
Predating all country music charts, the Carter Family’s music has influenced bluegrass, southern gospel, pop, rock and country. They became the first country music stars and their album ‘Wildwood Flower’ includes many of their hits including the song ‘Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow Tree’ which has become a timeless country song.
(Contribution from guest author Ailish Barker-Brown)