We pick seven of our favourite best-sounding country albums.
Who says there aren’t any audiophile country music albums? We’re here to prove them wrong with seven albums from artists such as Johnny Cash, Kacey Musgraves and Lambchop that sound great on your system or headphones.
Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man
His 85th album, and arguably his best sounding, Johnny Cash confronts his health issues and newfound limited time on earth through a mixture of covers and original material. On the whole the production is simple: instruments consist mainly of bright guitars, dark and distant piano and the occasional sprinkle of accordion and strings, which complement the emotional depth of the lyrics for a reflective listen.
Standout track: Wayfaring Stranger
Wayne Hancock – Swing Time
We love the sound of this live album from Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. It’s traditional country music, fantastically elevated by its recording quality. There’s a lovely weight to the double bass sound, and when doubled with the guitar creates a lively momentum to the backbone of the songs. It’s a really fun listen, with Hancock’s impressive yodelling and guitar solos adding to the party.
Standout track: Big City Good Time Gal
Micah P. Hinson – Presents the Holy Strangers
Recorded using reel to reel tapes, analogue keyboards and old mixing desks, Presents the Holy Strangers is described as a “modern folk opera” by Hinson. One thing we’re sure of is that it sounds amazing. The album offers plenty of atmosphere: from timbre-filled singing to creaky fiddles, via beguiling instrumentation, its country music flipped on its head – utterly gothic and seriously gripping.
Standout track: Micah Book One
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Kentucky-born Sturgill Simpson brings a new energy to modern day country music. Released in 2016, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is as much a homage to the genre as it is forward thinking. With Simpson’s undeniably classic country vocal style also comes beautiful string arrangements, edgy brass and unadulterated jams – especially in the final track. But it’s in the slower songs where he gets our attention, thanks to the depth of sound we hear.
Standout track: Breaker’s Roar
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
We move to country pop with this album by Kacey Musgraves, who has been arguably enjoying her best year as a musician with the critically acclaimed Golden Hour. The production is super slick, with Musgraves’ voice cutting through the studio sheen of acoustic guitars and carefully compressed drums and bass. You would think this would leave the recording feeling flat in terms of dynamics, but there is enough punchiness to make it a delightful listen.
Standout track: High Horse
John Fahey – America
When listening to guitarist John Fahey, you often forget that only one instrument is being played. His signature sound consists of flawless technique combined with a serious talent for composition. The result? A hybrid of country, blues and folk that captivates and transports until the very last strum.
Standout track: Voice of the Turtle
Lambchop – What Another Man Spills
Alt-country outlet Lambchop bring sonic depth and soul to the genre with their excellently captured jams in this album. Beginning slowly, the mellow compositions feature dream-like guitars, relaxed drums and hushed vocals. This all changes with a stunning cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Give Me Your Love (Love Song)’, with an infectious groove – without loss of sound quality – driving the track. Their best album indeed.
Standout track: Shucks
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