Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now: Country Edition

Dust off your boots — we’re goin’ country for this week’s Five Albums.

By The Half-Hearted Dude

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: An all-country edition of Five Albums brought to us by The Half-Hearted Dude, from music blog Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.

1. Gillian Welch,  The Harrow And The Harvest

Gillian Welch’s first album in eight years is mesmerizing. It draws you into its world of mystery and melancholy with modern Americana production and old Appalachian sounds. Welch’s clear and expressive voice, supported by collaborator Dave Rawlings’ close harmonies, glides effortlessly over the sparse, lovely arrangements, which pay a respectful tribute to country music’s rich legacy. This album is a monument to the majesty of restraint and simplicity.

Listen: “The Way It Goes”


2. Josh T. Pearson, Last Of The Country Gentlemen

A man of gloomy outlook and plaintive voice, Josh T. Pearson is not likely to cheer you up. There’s so much sadness and anger here, Last Of The Country Gentlemen might well be Pearson’s “primal whisper” therapy. With four of the seven melancholy songs longer than ten minutes, this is an intimidating album. But if you immerse yourself in it, the genius of this exceptionally powerful album will reveal itself.

Listen: “Thou Art Loosed”


3. Tom Rhodes, Better Son

Screw old the system of musicians being at the arbitrary mercy of record companies: Tom Rhodes sells his self-financed albums on the internet and at live gigs. His sophomore album of alt-country should by rights sell enough to pay the singer’s bills and more. In sound and in merit, it recalls one of the best albums of 2010, Ryan Bingham’s Junky Star. It’s well worth attending one of his shows to buy one from the man himself.

Listen:“Better Son”


4. Over The Rhine, The Long Surrender

Understated, warm and gorgeously slow-burning, Over The Rhine’s The Long Surrender gets under your skin. Its raw, introspective lyrics delivered by Karen Bergquist in her plaintive, unadorned voice (from which the class of modern R&B over-singers could learn) and sensitive but textured production by Joe Henry combine with disparate elements (read: saxophone solos). Alt-country legend Lucinda Williams even pops in for two songs.

Listen: “All My Favorite People”


5. Ralph Stanley, A Mother’s Prayer

Some sixty-four years after making his first record, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley gives us this album of Christian music that would serve as a compelling argument against even the most hardened of atheists. His worn voice might betray the now-octegenarian-Stanley’s age, but he has the confidence (and ability) to rock a few of the fourteen tracks a capella style, including a rousing version of Blind Willie Johnson’s "John The Revelator."

Listen: "A Mother’s Prayer"


Commentarium (28 Comments)

Nov 09 11 - 9:49am

Lucero, Lucero, Lucero. That is all.

Nov 09 11 - 11:12am
Alex Heigl

I love Lucero, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by 1372 Overton Park's "Bruce Springsteen in Memphis" approach. Plus this was an all-2011 Five Albums.

Nov 09 11 - 11:03pm

Fine, then. William Elliot Whitmore, William Elliot Whitmore, William Elliot Whitmore. ;)

Yeah, 1372 OP is not my favorite of Lucero's but they do a live show that kicks the asses of most.

Nov 09 11 - 1:07pm

Any thing these people have put out you can go wrong with

Kasey Chambers
Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys
Cory Branan
Drag The River
Have Gun Will Travel
Austin Lucas
Whitey Morgan & The ’78′s
Scott H. Biram
Two Cow Garage
Tin Horn Prayer
Dale Watson
Larry And His Flask
Frank Turner
Lydia Loveless
Arliss Nancy
Tim Barry
Wayne Hancock
4H Royalty

Nov 09 11 - 2:04pm
Alex Heigl

Scott H. Biram ftw. And that's his second mention on Nerve in as many weeks!

Nov 09 11 - 1:16pm
mr. man

that welch track is real nice. will have to check out the rest of the disc. tom rhodes need to invest a little time in an actual studio recording. josh pearson sounds as pretentious as he looks.

Nov 09 11 - 2:06pm

If you find yourself liking Welch, check out her Time (the Relevator) album.

Nov 09 11 - 6:04pm

Yep, I agree. That's my favorite of her albums.

Nov 10 11 - 9:00am

Mr Man, the Tom Rhodes clip is not actually from the album, on which the production values are perfectly fine.

Nov 11 11 - 10:48am

Oh, my favorite Gillian Welch album is hands-down Hell Among the Yearlings. But they're all excellent. Catch her live, it's even more mesmerizing than her albums.

Nov 15 11 - 7:35pm

You got that right Kentucky!! Have LOVED that album since she put it out.

Nov 09 11 - 1:39pm

The Deep Dark Woods. Get on it.

Nov 09 11 - 1:54pm

These are great picks. Although, I would argue that only Gillian Welch and Ralph Stanley are in the "country" pocket.

Nov 09 11 - 4:37pm

Thanks, TWB. In my defence, the original brief was country/bluegrass/folk (I decided to make it all 2011)

And MSM is right: Welch's Time (the Relevator) is a great album.

Nov 09 11 - 3:01pm

Horrible Choices

Nov 09 11 - 8:04pm

Wow. Shit, man. You really have stunning insight. I mean... my God, I see it all differently now -- before, I thought these were good songs, and now, I see that they're not.


Nov 09 11 - 10:34pm

Excellent rejoinder! That'll learn 'im.

Nov 10 11 - 8:59am

Thanks, Mikeds. I'll be sure to reimburse your money if we should meet.

Nov 09 11 - 4:35pm

Folk > Country

Nov 09 11 - 5:34pm

The Tom Rhodes record is great. Thanks for the introduction.

Nov 09 11 - 5:36pm

Big thumbs up to Tom Rhodes! The man has talent.

Nov 09 11 - 5:41pm

Found a link for Tom Rhodes' actual music (not live cell phone recording) and it's awesome!

Nov 09 11 - 5:43pm

Wow, love the Tom Rhodes. Check him out on soundcloud though - better quality of songs than the one posted.

Nov 09 11 - 6:14pm

"Tennessee" from the GW/DR album is one of the best bits of songwriting I've come across in a long, long time.

Nov 10 11 - 12:53pm
PA voter

I have four Gillian Welch CDs and love every one of them. What a talent!

Nov 11 11 - 12:47am
Born & Raised in NYC

For me Country music falls into the same category as Salsa and Zydeco.... I can hear Country once and even like it but will never play it again. It's not that I don't appreciate the song or singer. I was born here in NYC, and it's just not my music. (HAVING SAID THAT... English rock blows American rock out of the water!!! Even though rock music is from the U.S. English rock is and since the 60's has been one zillion times better than anything that has come out of this country.)

Nov 11 11 - 4:53am

I already have the Gillian Welch's CD, but I picked up the Tom Rhodes "Better Son" off of his website... awesome stuff! Thank you for the recommendations.

Nov 18 11 - 8:43pm

The Tom Rhodes is the best thing I've heard in years- his previous two albums are equally impressive- so good to be in the midst of real live talent. his music is so universal though- don't brush it off because you swore off country- he's got it all except an annoying brittish accent.