Our two albums today were released just 17 years apart and both fit firmly within the country genre. But the wide gap in style between the two albums speaks to commercial country music's diversity.
Chuck's pick of Mary Chapin Carpenter showcases the contemporary folk style that allowed her to stand out even from her contemporaries in the early '90s. Similarly, Gary Stewart - Kendall's selection - was a hard-country honky-tonker who stood out from the crowd just as The Outlaws were taking over country music in the mid-'70s. It was just before country music entered another crossover craze in the late '70s that even included flirtation with disco heading into the Urban Cowboy years.
But even in those years, a handful of traditionalists managed to keep country music moored to its roots. Artists like George Strait, John Anderson and, especially, Ricky Skaggs paved the way for another new traditionalist boom in the late '80s that would come about just as Carpenter was getting started. Skaggs' major label debut album in 1981 titled Waitin' For The Sun To Shine remains one of the decade's greatest examples of tradition-based commercial country music. It's your bonus pick of the day.
- Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb
CHUCK'S ALBUM OF THE DAY
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Come On Come On (1992)
Why I Love It
After three quality albums helped Mary Chapin Carpenter launch her career, she cleared the bases with a grand slam of a fourth record. The album spawned a whopping seven hits on the country charts, including the crossover success "Passionate Kisses." The record includes a handful of tunes by other great songwriters combined with several great songs from MCC's own pen. For me, this is a benchmark album that is an important part of the revival of great country music — especially in the early 1990s. There was so much quality music coming out of Nashville back in those days, but this record easily stands out as one of the standard-bearers. Every song is flawless, as is the sequencing of the tracks. "The Hard Way" is a stellar opener, while the title track puts a sublime bow on the dozen-track gift of song. Mary Chapin Carpenter has continued to consistently release fantastic work, but this is the album that I always go back to first.
"The Hard Way," "I Feel Lucky" and "Only a Dream"
Kendall on Chuck's Album of the Day
This album was one of my final cuts when I came up with my own list. It's one of contemporary country's finest documents catching Carpenter in her prime at the height of her vocal and songwriting powers. It's worth your time, and a fine pick by Chuck.
KENDALL'S ALBUM OF THE DAY
Out Of Hand (1975)
Why I Love It
This is one of the all-time great honky-tonk albums in the history of one of country music's most important sub-genres.
The album is built upon the legacy constructed by Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, George Jones and other great honky-tonkers, but Stewart's unique vibrato would make you think he invented the style. Of course, a great vocalist can only carry an album so far, and it takes great songs to really make a great album. And this album's got 'em.
Every single track is a winner and a showcase for Stewart's unique talent, and it's a shame that he is sometimes overlooked when country music's greatest stylists are discussed.
"Drinkin' Thing," "I See The Want To In Your Eyes" and "Williamson County"
Chuck on Kendall's Album of the Day
I'm not sure why, but I sometimes forget about the great Gary Stewart. Shame on me. This is a fantastic honky-tonk album with some truly memorable country songs. His voice is so perfectly suited to the genre that it sounds like he could have invented it. Instead, he perfected it. Although Stewart only wrote a couple of songs on the record, he couldn't have chosen the other eight much better. Really nice choice, Kendall.