Country music has long been defined by its monarchs (Hank Williams, George Strait) and queens (Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline). Additionally, other legendary artists like Conway Twitty — who made an unlikely transition from rock and roll to country with 55 number one hits in his lifetime — serve as proof that rural resilience remains alive today.
Alison Krauss and Union Station offer artists with distinct perspectives who craft songs of familial tradition that resonate with a wide audience.
Self-taught guitarist Loretta Lynn transformed Nashville in the 1960s and 1970s with her distinct sound. She broke taboos by writing openly about difficult issues such as being a woman and wife – particularly during marriage – which made her one of country music’s biggest stars as well as cultural icon. Lynn achieved 16 Top 10 country hits including Oscar-winning movie featuring Sissy Spacek called Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980).
After her success, Lynn worked diligently to balance both family and career. She became a beloved figure across America, earning President Barack Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 2013. Even after suffering both stroke and broken hip, Lynn remains active via social media engagement with fans while writing and releasing new music.
Lynn’s legacy will endure for generations. In 2021, she released her final album and collaborated with some of country music’s most revered women on it. Additionally, she wrote an autobiography entitled Coal Miner’s Daughter that chronicled her life journey.
Lynn has worked with numerous country artists over time – such as Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. Additionally, Lynn won two Grammy awards – including one with Jack White from The White Stripes!
Billy Joe Shaver
Texas songwriter who contributed earthy honky-tonk songs about sin and redemption that helped spark the outlaw country movement has passed away at age 81 following suffering a stroke, according to reports. He was honored as part of Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
Born in Corsicana, Shaver’s early life served as a precursor for the songs he later immortalized through song. At age 8, he dropped out of school to pick cotton. By 17, he had joined the Navy. Following discharge he went from job to job; becoming a rodeo clown, cowboy and sawmill worker before an accident severed many fingers on his right hand — though despite this setback he taught himself guitar regardless.
He earned an apprenticeship with Harlan Howard before moving to Nashville where he scored some modest hits. But in 1970, Bobby Bare heard one of his demo recordings and offered him a recording contract – giving him his true break.
Capitol Records issued Bare’s I’ve Been to Georgia on a Fast Train album that year, which became widely beloved thanks to its mesmerizing rhythm and emotive tales about hardship and loss that even his peers, such as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, covered it.
Though Shaver never reached the same levels as his outlaw country peers, his career spanned decades and produced quality albums throughout that time. Near the end of his life, his creative peak coincided with an increasing interest in Texas country music; in 1993 he collaborated with son Eddy on critically acclaimed release Tramp On Your Street which won widespread critical acclaim.
Jerry Jeff Walker
Jerry Jeff Walker was known as a self-described “Cosmic Cowboy.” Following a brief stint in the National Guard, he hitchhiked across America while performing for spare change; eventually, his travels brought him to Greenwich Village in New York City where he joined a flourishing folk scene that included performers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez; by mid ’60s, his name had changed to Jerry Jeff Walker.
In the 1970s, Walker moved to Austin, Texas and quickly found himself welcomed into a loose collective of musicians whose sound blended rootsy country with hippie sensibility. Walker quickly found his niche here; his style and persona proved perfectly suited to this new milieu – his debut album Driftin’ Way of Life helped build his songwriter credentials, while 1973’s Viva Terlingua displayed his evolving Texas sound.
Though he never achieved major stardom, Walker developed a significant following through his legendary live performances, playing shows for up to 100,000 fans at once. A pioneer of progressive and outlaw country genres alike, Walker earned himself a place among country music’s greats.
Walker preferred recording on the road over studio settings. He released 17 albums this way between independent label Rykodisc and his own Tried & True Music; 2009’s Moon Child saw Walker take a break from recording but returned in 2018 with It’s About Time featuring an image of Walker outside a roadhouse on an isolated highway with his collar turned up against the night air while carrying his guitar over his shoulder.
Born in Maud, Oklahoma and raised by her barber father who doubled as a country singer, Jackson’s creative ambitions were encouraged from an early age. By six she had already begun singing professionally on radio stations with songs she created herself; soon enough her ineffable rasp became one of her signature traits – leading many female country performers after her.
Jackson became known as the Queen of Rockabilly during her 50s recordings, blending rock and country seamlessly. She first gained attention through working with Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys; her duet with Billy Gray on “You Can’t Have My Love” became an early country hit. A year later she recorded several rockabilly singles for Decca Records that quickly rose up the charts–such as rock’n’ roll-inspired single “Fujiyama Mama.” Additionally, two moving ballads “Right or Wrong” and “In the Middle of a Heartache” charted early.
Jackson became a Christian in 1971, yet continued performing and touring country music well into the ’90s. She appeared as a guest performer on Rosie Flores’ 1995 album Rockabilly Filly as well as recording several albums such as 2011’s The Party Ain’t Over and 2012’s Unfinished Business.
Jackson and Jett share an affinity for pushing creative boundaries or subverting expectations, and have collaborated on two albums which demonstrate this shared strength: taking risks while making bold statements combined with natural talent that cannot be faked.
Bobby Bare was one of country music’s premier songwriters and performers, enjoying commercial and chart success from the late 1950s through to the mid-1980s with his emotive vocals and storytelling gift that revived its narrative tradition. Born in Ironton, Ohio but eventually moving to California to pursue his singing dream; after working nightclub gigs he met legendary country instrumentalists Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West who encouraged him to begin writing songs – he started while waiting to enter military service; recorded an EP called Fraternity Records which eventually led to commercial and chart success before recording another successful demo which also gained commercial success on Fraternity Records a great success before military induction began.
After leaving Mercury Records in Nashville for RCA Records, Bare quickly established himself as an important country artist. Producing his own recordings allowed him total control of the recording process; Constant Sorrow was his debut release under this label and featured several songs written by Shel Silverstein.
Although critically successful, this album wasn’t an overwhelming commercial success; but its reception paved the way for many future country songwriters such as Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson, and Billy Joe Shaver to change country music forever.
Back in Huntsville Again was his most successful concept album for RCA to date and perhaps his finest creation yet. Once more collaborating with Shel Silverstein, Bare expertly performed his songs while being enhanced by guitars (acoustic, Dobro and steel) and fiddles. Bare’s moving rendition of title track perfectly complimented its lyrics – it remains one of his finest country songs ever!