Country Music 70 80

Country music of the 1970s and 80s was the voice of American workers; its authentic songs preached freedom, happiness and patriotism to workers across America.

Country icon Trisha Yearwood sings about his heartache in this 1977 Jimmy Webb classic, while lang’s mezzo soprano voice perfectly complements them both for this Grammy winner duet with mesmerizing vocal harmony that leaves listeners spellbound.

1. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – ‘Islands In The Stream’

Love Canon adds some soulful jazz-influenced soundscape to their laid-back country ballad, ditching slick 1970s production and allowing their harmonies to flourish freely. Lauren Balthrop recalls Parton’s signature high harmonies while Bobby Read and John D’Earth bring some funky jazz on saxophone and trumpet respectively.

Haggard and Nelson were in their late fifties at the time they recorded this video, yet appear perfectly at ease playing their acoustic guitars against an ocean breeze. It successfully captures the hardened cowboy spirit without succumbing to modern country videos’ peepshow-esque approach.

After 10 years of success, The Red Headed Stranger continued pushing boundaries on his 1993 album Across the Borderline. His stripped-down style conjured images of desert highway vistas while simultaneously inviting intimate conversations – all while maintaining his signature conversant croon.

2. Reba McEntire – ‘Whoever’s In New England’

Whoever’s In New England was Reba McEntire’s tenth studio album released in February 1986 and her first to top country charts. Its title track quickly become one of her signature and breakthrough singles, reaching number one on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Directed by Schock/Small in Boston, its music video became one of Reba McEntire’s earliest “mini-movie” styled videos featuring Boston Public Garden, Trinity Church and John Hancock Tower landmarks as seen through footage captured during filming of her music video and single both earned her her first Grammy award!

What are your favourite country tracks from the 70s?

3. Garth Brooks – ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’

Brooks wrote his debut country love song with Kent Blazy and it became the number-one single on America. Additionally, it won Favorite Country Single at the American Music Awards of 1991. John Lloyd Miller directed its music video with Brooks singing alone near an oil lamp while flashes of flashes from a little girl (played by Steve Gatlin of Gatlin Brothers fame) flash onto an antique screen screen behind him. Irish singer Ronan Keating covered this track in 2002 for an UK #1 hit; other artists included Joose Westlife Renato Russso and Engelbert Humperdinck among many others.

This song has also been included on several country compilation albums and has become one of Brooks’ popular concert songs.

4. Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers – ‘Islands In The Stream’

Last night at The Cliffs Pavilion in Southend there were cowboy boots and stetsons aplenty as fans were treated to an incredible show from country music royalty, featuring solo hits as well as iconic duets including CMT’s Greatest Country Duet of All Time: Islands In The Stream by Eric Church & Alison Krauss.

Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees wrote the track for Kenny Rogers’ 1983 album Eyes That See In The Dark and intended it for Parton to record, but when she happened to be nearby they decided it would work better that way.

Their harmonies are stunning, and this song serves as a passionate declaration of two-way love. Since then, several artists have covered it, from Neko Case and My Morning Jacket to Nas’ 1998 hip-hop track Ghetto Supastar.

5. Elvis Costello & Marie Osmond – ‘Always On My Mind’

Garth Brooks’ 1983 album features one of the finest duets ever recorded in country music: this moving tearjerker by Garth and Tricia Brooks from their duet album is truly legendary. They create lyrics filled with such heartbreaking yearning that it becomes an irrevocable moment in country music history.

Lyle Loveless’s rendition of this country classic about her dream to become a cowgirl makes it timeless. Combining polished production with raw acoustics, it remains one of her signature songs to this day.

Tom Petty had earned himself an undeserved reputation as an irreverent rocker, yet was nonetheless capable of writing emotive ballads such as this Bobby Scott & Jimmy Webb classic. Tom’s take is sure to touch listeners emotionally!

6. Emmylou Harris & Dolly Parton – ‘Always On My Mind’

Dolly Parton estimates she has written nearly 3,000 songs throughout her illustrious career. Though she holds induction into several halls of Fame (Country Music, GRAMMYs, Gospel songwriters & Nashville Songwriters), fans most identifie with her voice more strongly.

Harris and Parton excel at crafting stunning vocal harmonies on this powerful ballad about a heartbroken woman, leaving listeners mesmerized by its beauty. It topped the charts in 1976 and appeared on her acclaimed 1977 album Quarter Moon In Cent Town.

Harris recorded it again for her 1984 holiday album Christmas of Many Colors and included it on Jennifer Nettles’ 2020 holiday album To Celebrate. Their rendition remains classic; with superb harmonies as emotive lyrics.

7. Dan Seals & Marie Osmond – ‘Smoky Mountain Rain’

As Marie was known as the ‘Country Osmond, her soft countrypolitan sound made an instantaneous impactful statement of love to charts; one such ballad being this sweetly yearning ballad that explored separation pains as well as hope of finding love again – it remains just as relevant today.

This 1980s hit was an all-around gem that captured both polish and twang perfectly, sparking national fascination for countrypolitan music. Boasting an unforgettable melody, acoustic guitar accompaniment and fiddle-driven backing vocals make this timeless classic.

Hiatt took twelve years to record this engrossing tale of cowboy heartache, yet its power stands the test of time. Additionally, Ry Cooder’s intricate slide licks add Memphis-influenced flavor that really give this track its distinctive quality.

8. Kris Kristofferson & K.T. Oslin – ‘Hold Me’

An emotive duet by two legendary country music singers. This track challenged stereotypes of country singers at the time and appealed to women of all ages, young and old alike.

Johnny Cash’s iconic country love song remains relevant today. Few can match its timeless relevance.

Kristofferson composed this timeless song, first recorded by Waylon Jennings and made famous by Johnny Cash. Subsequent versions from various artists — including Brice himself — soon followed suit, creating this stirring interpretation from Brice himself.

This collection from Austin City Limits showcases 164 performances dating from 1974-2018, featuring legends such as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson alongside modern stars Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw and Kacey Musgraves. A must-have for fans of country music! Available now on Amazon (follow this link), the 10-disc set contains over 150 songs across its eight discs. In anticipation of its release we have put together our list of 10 essential Austin City Limits Country releases from the 70s and 80s!

9. Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers – ‘9 To 5’

Dolly Parton’s most successful hit song was from the 1980 film 9 to 5; its title track became a six-season TV show and an Oscar-nominated Broadway play. This powerful statement about women in the workforce and working class concerns was combined with both seventies pop and country instrumentation to tell its tale of a working woman who cannot make ends meet yet still works hard to keep the family together.

Though Kelly Clarkson may be the sole one singing this classic country tune in the workplace, others have covered it too. The Osmonds have tried their luck with it as have Millencolin and high-pitched rodents The Chipmunks – as have other musicians like Millencolin. Kelly Clarkson even performed her first ever Kellyoke version to mark the launch of her daytime talk show in September 2019. Surely one of the greatest country songs of all time!

10. George Jones & Townes Van Zandt – ‘Searchin’ For The Heart’

Searchin’ For The Heart is an indelible testament to country music legend John Conlee’s emotive, acoustic heartbreak. From “Your Steppin’ Stone” all the way through “Searchin’ For The Heart”, its songs showcase his powerful vocal range and emotive lyrics; each has the potential to provoke tears or generate laughs from listeners everywhere.

Florida-reared honky-tonker Stewart scored numerous hits in Nashville, but at his core was an intense rocker with plenty of energy to unleash on this album. From loud piano-pumping at juke joints to poignant songs that break your heart – there is so much variety here!

Van Zandt’s death at 32 was an irreplaceable loss to music. Cowboy Jack Clement’s 1972 classic, Van Zandt: This Is My World (also released posthumously in 2007), offers an invaluable window into his world of tormented melancholy and whiskey-soaked beauty, featuring iconic songs like “Pancho and Lefty” and the unnervingly-titled “Tecumseh Valley”, that would later inspire writers such as Conor Oberst to explore its darker corners.