Gill country

I’ve seen country artist Vince Gill in concert three times at the Minnesota State Fair and been astounded each time. He is an awesomely talented singer, songwriter and guitarist who puts on a completely crowd-pleasing show. So it was especially gratifying to see that Gill places the recordings of artists whom I’ve written about here a time or ten — Emmylou Harris, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Buck Owens — among those responsible for five of his favorite country recordings. Here are the five, as reported by Lyneka Little in this past Saturday’s Wall Street Journal:

Emmylou Harris
‘Elite Hotel’
Reprise Records, 1975

On Ms. Harris’s second album, the singer performs songs by her longtime mentor, Gram Parsons, and other country greats. Mr. Gill was a teenager when he first heard it, and considers it one of “the benchmarks” of country music.

* * *

Buck Owens and His Buckaroos
‘The Carnegie Hall Concert’
Capitol, 1966

A performance of country music at Carnegie Hall was seen as landmark for the genre. This album features “honky-tonk music played live and better than it’s ever been played and sung,” Mr. Gill says. “It’s a testament to what a great songwriter Buck was.”

* * *

Ray Charles
‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’
ABC-Paramount, 1962

After a series of R&B hits in the 1950s, Mr. Charles shocked his fans with a country album. He “showed the world how soulful country music could be,” Mr. Gill says. This album “threw away all the stereotypes.”

* * *

Willie Nelson
‘Red Headed Stranger’
Columbia/Legacy, 1975

This album, with the hit “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” made Mr. Nelson a star. “It went back to such an amazingly simplistic approach,” Mr. Gill says of the album’s spare musical arrangements.

* * *

Hank Williams
‘The Ultimate Collection’
Mercury Nashville, 2002

Mr. Williams pioneered a new country sound in the 1940s. “The first guy to come along to really define what country music was and what it became,” Mr. Gill says. He describes Mr. Williams’s work as some of the “early blueprints” of country.

Emmylou sings harmony on several of Gill’s recordings, including the weeper “When I Call Your Name.” Gill returned the favor, playing mandolin and singing harmony on Emmylou’s gospel collection “Angel Band.”

UPDATE: Several readers (thanks to all) write to point out that Patty Loveless sings harmony on Gill’s “When I Call Your Name.” The recording I was listening to this morning (“Souvenirs”) unfortunately lacks credits; I stand corrected. Emmylou sings harmony on another of the songs on the original “When I Call Your Name” album, but I’m not sure which. She also joins Gill on his recent “Next Big Thing” release.

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