Like I said in that last post, country day is so important to me. I want to get my answer just so. Ergo, I'm putting it in a separate post. But first let me get this out of the way - I don't talk about it much, but I'm a MASSIVE country music fan. I go through different phases (like my recent metal kick!), and of course I'm a rocker at heart. But country's a VERY close second...
SO...here goes nothing:
Old School Country:
- Buck Owens - He is not only the reason I got into country music, but a huge part of why I got into music, period. Seeing him play that red, white and blue acoustic on Hee Haw every Saturday night was like the coolest thing in the world when I was about five. Blame it on Buck and Ace Frehley, I guess...
- Hank Williams - You will detect a theme here, but I give massive extra props to the rare "singer/songwriters" in country music. Hank would've been among the first as far as country goes. And I don't know who played steel on those old records (I should!) but he's amazing. One of my very earliest memories in my life was my grandmother singing "Hey Good Lookin'" with me on her front porch.
- Johnny Cash - No explanation needed, but I'll throw in a little story. His road manager used to do shows with us from time to time. About a year before he died, those guys were on the phone right before we were taking the stage at a festival. Mac said "Tell Johnny we think he rules!" Word has it that Johnny turned to June and said "You hear that, June? Those boys think I rule!"
- Kenny Rogers - I'm seriously thinking about getting a WWKRD? bracelet. Of course, "what Kenny would do" would involve acting in some made-for-TV movies, a chicken restaurant, and doing design work with Donald Trump.
Others worth noting: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, The Oak Ridge Boys, Willie Nelson
- Clint Black - Like I said earlier, my fascination with country all started with Clint. I've seen him in concert about three times, and they're always awesome. He fits the singer/songwriter mold, and he's an amazing musician to boot. If you don't believe me, track down the footage of him playing drums with Eric Johnson on Austin City Limits! Clint had a black acoustic guitar, so I, up until a few years ago, always played black acoustic guitars...
- Alan Jackson - Another great country singer/songwriter. And he's from Georgia. AND the dude's got a MASSIVE string of hits! My personal favorite is the Talkin' Song Repair Blues. Remember When is a close second. And Chattahoochee ain't bad either.
- Travis Tritt - Another Georgia boy who rules. He puts on a great show, and he's a mean guitar player. And I'm Gonna Be Somebody is one of the best songs ever. And it sure doesn't hurt that old Travis throws in a heavy helpin' of Southern rock!
- Restless Heart - I had a chance to write a song with their singer Larry Stewart a few years back, and it was a huge honor. Actually the honor was when he played Why Does it Have to Be Wrong or Right? on MY GUITAR. It also kind of ruled when he sang on a demo for me! I think I'll Still Be Lovin' You is the best country love song ever. Side note: that song was written by Kennedy/Rose. Another country group that I LOVED during this era...
Others from this era worth a mention: Trisha Yearwood (Georgia gal!), Alabama, George Strait, Garth (of course), Steve Wariner (great guitars), Vince Gill (more great guitars)
- Phil Vassar - Phil's primary instrument is piano, which sets him apart from the pack. Plus he's a GREAT songwriter with a big string of hits both as an artist and as a writer. He came to a Third Day show a few weeks ago and I had to play it real cool so as not to freak him out!
- Jo Dee Messina - Phil Vassar actually wrote I'm Alright and Bye Bye, two of her big hits. She's one of those artists that you hear one of her songs and go "oh, I didn't know she sang that!"
- Martina McBride - I think Martina's probably got the best female voice in country music, perhaps of all time (although I also dig LeAnn Rimes).
- Little Big Town - They've just got a cool vibe about 'em. Sort of a country Fleetwood Mac.
- Jeffrey Steele - He is my songwriting hero, as far as country goes. If you follow the genre at all, you don't have to look far to find a song you love that Jeffrey wrote. Plus he's a great artist in his own right.
There are a bazillion other artists I could've mentioned: Luke Bryan (another Georgia boy!), Josh Turner, Sugarland, Montgomery Gentry. I hate to say it, but I even dig the new Jessica Simpson country song!