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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Honky Tonk Masquerade

Joe Ely

1978

Buy At Rough Trade
Honky Tonk Masquerade
Album Summary

Honky Tonk Masquerade is the second album by country singer-songwriter Joe Ely, released in 1978. Ely's second album has been highly regarded by critics around the world. It was included in the 2005 book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Writer Steve Pond places the album at number 40 on Rolling Stone's list of "50 Essential Albums of the 70s", calling it "the decade's most sure-footed country-rock collaboration". Pond places the album in the same class as such 1970s "country landmarks" as Guy Clark's Old No. 1, Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, and Terry Allen's Lubbock (On Everything). In addition, New Zealand critic Fred Muller places the album on his list of the top ten "best albums of the rock era".

Wikipedia

Rating

2.71

Votes

10491

Genres

  • Country

Reviews

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Wed Mar 15 2023
4

Score: 70 Album art: 50 Dirty dirty fingernails Why does this guy want to hear his nails clacking on piano? It's very strange. Anyway, the first song is really fantastic. After hearing it I asked myself, is this really going to be an amazing country album?? Sadly the answer is no, but it is definitely good! I listened to the 2022 remaster and I don't know how much of this is the remaster but this thing is produced and mixed immaculately. Sure the mixing is flat but it's by no means bad. It's corny and cheesy but I was never groaning or upset with what I was hearing. Compared to modern country music that alone is an insane compliment. Also I could be wrong but I don't think there was a single mention of a truck so props for that. My personal enjoyment of this album is around a 3 as I'm not a huge country fan, but it's clear to me this is a cut above the rest so I'm giving it a 4

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Wed Mar 15 2023
3

Joe be looking pretty fly on the cover and Cornbread Moon is a great song title. A mix of honky tonk, and classic Texas country, it can be a little corny, but I think it's easy to listen to. Great voice, with nice clear production. If you are not a country fan, I don't think you'd hate this but it probably won't change your mind about it. It is definitely way better than whatever the hell they're making now. Some of the slower songs sound samey but Boxcars is an absolute standout.

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Fri Sep 01 2023
2

Honky Tonk is the worst combination of words known to man

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Mon Mar 13 2023
4

Late 70's country...you can hear the 80's on the horizon. Nasty slide and electric tones throughout. Some corny bits here and there but some bangers too. At its best when the West Texas vibes come through.

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Fri Mar 24 2023
3

I've never heard of Joe Ely before, but this was a decently fun album to listen to. It definitely oozes the feeling of Texas country from that time period, with sounds of rock and rockabilly mixed in. "Cornbread Moon," "Fingernails," and the title track are the standout songs here, but everything else feels a bit like filler. It's not bad filler, but it definitely pales in comparison to the rest of the album in my opinion. Even though I wasn't blown away by this, I'd still give Joe Ely another listen.

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Wed Mar 15 2023
4

So this thing was just added to the list for some reason, no? Slip past the censors or something? I'm glad someone threw it a life preserver, because this baby slaps and slaps hard. It walks a fine line of suggesting what country rock would become, all the while remaining both timeless and of it's time. Ely's vocals at times remind me of everyone from Poco, Randy Meisner (himself a founding member of both Poco and the Eagles), Jeff Freaking Lynne, Townes Van Zandt, and Gram Parsons. And you can also hear how future country greats like George Strait and Dwight Yoakam were influenced by this. Anyone who suggests this album to be in the running for consideration as one of the greatest country music albums ever will get no argument from yours truly. No wonder The Clash loved this dude. I thought this was my first exposure to Joe Ely, but it turns out I've been listening to him for years: Ely provided backing vocals on "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" with the aforementioned Clash.

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Sat Apr 15 2023
4

Ok this was cool - a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll ha ha! I'll never listen to it again but it's an easy 4/5.

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Fri Apr 21 2023
4

Crisp, killer country. A strong, nearly suite-like set of songs. In the modern tradition, there's some knowing humor to the songs but also moments of real pathos. Editors are right: this man should be much better known.

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Mon Mar 27 2023
3

I had heard the name but wasn’t familiar with his work but I ended up really liking parts of this album. A few songs were a lot of fun and I can definitely see the appeal.

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Thu Jun 22 2023
3

Not bad for a country album - some really nice instrumentation and the lyrics were fairly interesting/clever.

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Tue Mar 14 2023
2

As far as country goes it's not bad. Not my style and probably won't get any future plays but wasn't terrible.

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Sun Nov 19 2023
2

What in the west Texas hell is this

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Mon Apr 10 2023
1

On the cover he has his capo on his guitar strap. So cool. I will definitely copy that.

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Wed Jul 19 2023
1

Might as well just be one big song about whatever the fuck a honky tonk is

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Wed Jun 07 2023
5

Loved it! Old school country with a gentle rock edge - with catchy tunes and engaging lyrics.

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Thu Jun 15 2023
5

Brilliant vernacular folk music

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Thu Jun 29 2023
5

I would generally say I hate country, but listening to something like this makes me appreciate that what I hate is modern arena country, because this rules. I loved the rockabilly cuts the most, but even the slower and twangier tracks were enjoyable.

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Fri Jul 07 2023
5

Really loving this album. This is an outlandish statement but I'm going to make it anyway: this album is to country as Kind of Blue is to jazz - as in, it's a genre defining, exemplary and well executed example (I'll stop the analogy there). Apparently this was too outside for country radio at the time, but clearly its DNA has found its way into country music that's followed it. Baffling that he opened for The Clash, and suffered abuse from their audience - but perhaps is illustrative of how this music didn't initially find its way with a mass audience (i.e. not country enough for country, not rock enough for rock). The band is tight, the songwriting solid, and his voice strikes me as an authoritative storytelling voice that is commanding and believable.

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Fri Jul 14 2023
5

Really catches the heart of Texas country. A great listen with clever lyrics and good dance songs.

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Mon Oct 23 2023
5

Very good. I’ll need to explore some more of his work

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Wed Nov 15 2023
5

Didn’t think I would enjoy this but it’s awesome!

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Wed Nov 29 2023
5

All those times I said I liked "anything but country and rap", turns out I was lying.

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Fri Dec 29 2023
5

Joe's vocals are great-very much enjoyed this album. Nothing like today's generic, bro country, this is the real deal if you're looking for some country music to enjoy.

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Wed Jan 24 2024
5

Favourite songs: Fingernails, West Texas Waltz, Cornbread Moon, Boxcars, Honky Tonkin', Jericho (Your Walls Must Come Tumbling Down), Because of the Wind, Honky Tonk Masquerade Least favourite songs: I'll Be Your Fool 5/5

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Fri Mar 08 2024
5

man I've never listened to a Joe Ely song before but this was such a good experience. he straddles that line between country and blues and rock and introduces some interesting ideas. from bluegrassy sounds in Because of the Wind and West Texas Waltz, or more country rock/blues of Honky Tonkin' or Cornbread Moon, or the ballad stuff like I Thinl I'm Gonna Go Downtown. also he sure says Honky Tonk a lot!

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Mon Apr 15 2024
5

Who knew Honky Tonk could be so good.

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Mon Apr 03 2023
4

Solid country album but a bit lacking in the low end on the production

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Fri May 12 2023
4

I don't usually listen to very much country music, so it's good for me to sit through a country album like this when one shows up in the rotation. I'm really glad I did as this one is particularly good. There are definitely some heavier rock music elements in the album than most country music I've heard, yet it's still very much country. The tracks are on solid footing. Not sure why that specific image comes to mind, but that's how I'm hearing these songs. There's an interesting balance between firm footing and light fun. I don't hear that so often, and this album definitely caught my ear and kept it engaged. Excellent music, very well composed and performed -- nicely done!

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Wed May 31 2023
4

Een lekker potje country, met jankende gitaren en zo te horen de geijkte plattelandsonderwerpen. Perfect voor de langere autorit, arm uit het raam, de maat meetikken op het stuur en jezelf even een cowboy wanen.

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Fri Jun 02 2023
4

Honky Toni certainly grew on me due to this challenge haha Saved tracks: Boxcars, I’ll Be Your Fool, Honky Tonkin’

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Sun Jun 18 2023
4

Had no expectations for this. This is a really intriguing and crazy album. The electric vibe punctuated by the Moog synth gives it an alien feeling in the context of what I usually associate with Texad Honky Tonk Country. Really solid album and enjoyed listening to it immensely. Reading more about Joe Ely, he seems pretty sweet.

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Tue Jun 20 2023
4

8/10. Good lyrics, and had a great sound to it. There were definitely some weaker songs scattered in, but the album was short enough that it never dragged on

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Sat Jun 24 2023
4

Vrolijke country mag er ook zijn, 't is niet altijd weemoed

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Tue Jul 04 2023
4

How can you hate classic honky tonk music like this? It’s just a great listen in every way and never fails to be a fun time. It’s not quite a 5 but I know I’ll still be listening to west texas waltz and cornbread moon all of tomorrow.

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Thu Jul 20 2023
4

Steel's an evergreen favorite, and the playing on this record stands up to plenty of instrumental uses of the instrument without taking over the sound. It's this pop side of outlaw country, understated enough to get lost. I'm glad the list helps fix that.

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Sat Jul 29 2023
4

Kudos for being the boppiest and most interesting country album I have ever heard since "Honky Tonk Heroes".

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Fri Aug 18 2023
4

I’m not a country fan, but this album slaps. I could definitely see myself listening to more from this artist. 4/5

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Sat Aug 19 2023
4

This album had shades of what would become progressive/alt-country within a honky tonk framework. This album is so strikingly different from its contemporaries that I’m finding myself wanting to dig into Joe Ely more.

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Fri Aug 25 2023
4

A well produced album with a blend of americana and a lot more depth than a typical country album.

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Sun Sep 03 2023
4

Positively surprised by this one for sure. My main issues with old country music in general would be weak musicianship and uninteresting songwriting. On this album, musicianship is actually quite impressive. Joe Ely's vocals are solid and the guitar-playing is fantastic throughout. Songwriting does remain uninteresting - but still good enough to make this a very enjoyable album.

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Mon Sep 04 2023
4

Liked it! Just the right rythm for a Sunday morning 🥰

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Sun Sep 17 2023
4

4 Man honky-tonk just got something

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Thu Oct 05 2023
4

This is actually a really great country album - especially for 1978. It seems a little ahead of it's time in some ways. Obviously, there were other country icons at the time, but this has some mid-80s, early-90s country vibes as well. Plus, the horns on Cornbread Moon, that lead guitar tone on Boxcars, and the general "groove" of Jericho were really unique for this genre. Joe Ely gets a bump.

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Sat Oct 14 2023
4

Love me some good old fashioned country.

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Thu Oct 19 2023
4

Nice songs, but nothing out there. I couldn't be caught dead listening to this album lmao

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Wed Oct 25 2023
4

This was super fun, wish it had a few more moments like the opening of the first track, but because it’s such a tight, manageable length—about 33 minutes—it will be easy to revisit. I might even do it today! I am of course biased because country rock and honky tonk are more in my wheelhouse than boomer rock, which is the majority of what I’ve gotten so far. That being said, I am unfamiliar with Mr Ely and will have to explore more. A breath of fresh air. Great lyrics, right band. Good album.

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Mon Oct 30 2023
4

Who would have thought honky tonk would benefit so much from a moog?

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Thu Dec 07 2023
4

this album is easy to listen, very country-like. Would listen to it again!

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Fri Dec 08 2023
4

"Honky Tonk Masquerade" is the second album by American country singer-songwriter Joe Ely. The genre listed is country rock. Yeah, but there's a lot more going on as well. Ely sings and plays acoustic guitar. There's also slide guitar, electronic guitar, piano, synths and an accordion. Commercially, this did not do very well but was, critically, highly regarded. "Cornbread Moon" opens things up with an acoustic guitar, slide guitar, drums and an accordion. This is bouncey. Ely has got a little twang. This actually sound like zydeco. I'm on board. "Boxcars" takes it in rock direction. Hey, an electric guitar and accordion solo. And, the songs ends with a searing guitar solo. We need more songs about trains especially if they sound like this. "Honky Tonk Masquerade" has a slide guitar and piano. Backing vocals. This is country and a very nice sounding song. The first single "Fingernails" sounds like a 50/60's pop song. A jump-jiven piano. A sax added. It's peppy. Alright. We couldn't have a country album without a waltz? Could we? No! "West Texas Waltz" takes us there. More slide guitar and accordion. And it rocks out at the end. This is a very enjoyable album. It's got a lot of variety with zydeco, country, rock and pop. The musicianship especially the guitarists is great. It is absolutely in the alt-country genre ten years before the genre. A solid recommendation.

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Thu Dec 14 2023
4

Great Country!!! Impressive.

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Sun Dec 17 2023
4

I had never heard this album, or even heard OF this album, before this. Its pretty good! It certainly makes a good primer for the sounds of country music and has some nice country-to-rock bridges, along with some southern zydeco sounds. Not a perfect album or anything, but definitely worth a listen. 4/5

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Mon Dec 18 2023
4

Not a traditional country guy but this one was better than the "new country" for sure.

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Tue Dec 26 2023
4

Oh! The Honky Tonky Tonky, Oh! The Honky Tonky Tonky, Oh! The Honky Tonky Tonky, Honkey Tonkey, Hon-ky Tonk. Rating: 3.5/5 Playlist track: Honky Tonk Masquerade Date listened: 25/12/23

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Wed Dec 27 2023
4

Its bit similar to Nick Drake

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Tue Jan 02 2024
4

I like it! Haven't really heard this before, but the music is distinctive and engaging. Will listen to this again at some point.

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Wed Jan 03 2024
4

Surprisingly, this is a good Country album, going more for Rock than pure Old Country. If I have to listen to this genre, I much prefer this approach. 3.5/5

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Fri Jan 05 2024
4

I wasn’t expecting a lot. When most of these tracks started, I was like “oh yeah, a country song”, and then the instrumental mid-section hit. And hit it did. I can see why The Clash loved this guy and wanted to work with him.

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Sun Jan 07 2024
4

Unerwartet cool, abwechslungreich und kurzweilig

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Wed Jan 10 2024
4

Nice country twang. Good vocals.

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Sun Jan 14 2024
4

Sounds like good classic country.

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Tue Jan 16 2024
4

it ain't country rock if the album doesn't begin with a song titled "cornbread moon" i guess. joe ely crafted some soothing country rock on honky tonk masquerade. he also created some really corny songs, but i find myself not caring? he did a great job making those corny songs easy as pie to listen to. not to mention, this album does not sound like it's from 1978. i'm reminded of the pleasant country sound that leans toward modernity in dwight yoakam's "buenas noches from a lonely room," also on this project, but came out in 1985. ely, in comparison, was light years ahead. btw, ely on this album cover looks like elon musk. dearest joe, i am so sorry.

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Thu Jan 25 2024
4

I never thought I liked country music, and then we moved to Austin. This was 15 years ago, but I never realized that what is sold to the masses as country is a far cry from where the genre started and where so many great artists remain. Joe Ely is a great example. Enjoyed the album as well as the related songs that Spotify started playing after it was finished. Fits very well into my vibe.

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Mon Feb 05 2024
4

four stars, great stuff, good country songs performed very well.

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Sun Feb 11 2024
4

Really good rebel country. Got two country in a row and this was a nice change of pace from the previous. Lively, fun, and twangy...what you want from country

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Wed Feb 14 2024
4

Joe Ely's songs are country rock, rockabilly, and ballads - he's a singer/songwriter that spent his life as a touring musician. Ely's a great story teller, and his songs reflect his skill in that role and present the lessons he acquired as a road-weary musician. Honky Tonk Masquerade was widely critically acclaimed, but not very commercially successful. It includes a collection of interesting country rock songs, showing Ely's skill as a story teller and the work of a polished, practiced band.

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Thu Feb 15 2024
4

I apologize honky tonk, I was not familiar with your game

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Fri Feb 16 2024
4

This album made me smile- especially the last couple of songs

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Wed Feb 21 2024
4

Album # 29 Fingernails gave made me think..EWWW but then I thought of Dolly and how she tells the story of when she was recording 9-5 she used her nails throughout the song. She did it, she didn't write a song about it. It's funny the only 2 songs on this album that made me think "that's a pretty good tune" were two JE did not write., West Texas Waltz" & "Honky Tonkin'"

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Fri Feb 23 2024
4

Joe Ely is the 2nd wave of great Americana artists. (Cash and Jennings). I love when the country haters loose their mind...... Good album. A ton of good songs.

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Wed Feb 28 2024
4

The accordion gives it a Mexican feel. I really enjoyed “Jericho.”

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Wed Feb 28 2024
4

I can't believe I've never heard of this album. Although I've never been much of a country fan, this album is top shelf. Thanks for "broadening" me.

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Fri Mar 08 2024
4

I really like this album. West Texas Waltz and Honky Tonkin were my favorites. Plus there’s synth on this album?!?!? In 1978?!?! On a country album?!?!? Loved it

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Tue Mar 12 2024
4

Pleasant, strong start to the album but gets a little samey

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Fri Mar 15 2024
4

I rarely listen to country music, but this is was pretty great.

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Fri Mar 15 2024
4

Surprised by how much I enjoyed it. A couple bops I listened to multiple times

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Sat Mar 16 2024
4

4/5. A solid mix of calming country and heavy blues, with soft yet powerful vocals. The production quality also elevates this one above other country albums. There are some sweet lyrics along with some heavy lower class struggles. Some super generic country songs does prevent it from being a 5 but they were enjoyable nonetheless.

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Mon Mar 18 2024
4

I'm not 100% sure why this is on the list, but I like it! Reminds me of Byrds country era, and kinda a forerunner to Dwight Yoakam. I've been eBaying "Lot of 30 country tapes. $14!" for the past year or so, and this seems like one of the tapes I'd keep.

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Mon Mar 25 2024
4

Surprised by this, it's pushing country about as far as it'll go.

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Sat Mar 30 2024
4

A well executed country rock album. This is the sound that a lot of current country musicians are trying and failing to emulate.

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Wed Apr 03 2024
4

I may be a honky who doesn't often tonk but this was fine. Maybe it's because I can't stand modern country that seems so intentional with the twangy accent or whatever and also how it's formulaic garbage. This is much more enjoyable and I liked it more as it went on

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Wed May 15 2024
4

Kinda folky and also swing. I liked it. Made me listen to some Johnny cash

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Tue May 21 2024
4

Country in general isn't really my genre, and this end of country particularly isn't, but I actually enjoyed this a surprising amount! I coulda done without the slower more maudlin numbers, but the upbeat tracks were quite a bop. I can see myself getting into this under cold fluorescent lighting, buzzed on cheap, nasty American beer, and surrounded by people in stetsons, and beyond them the huge skies and distant horizons of Texas... 🤠 Fave tracks - "Cornbread Moon" for sure - did a great job of winning me over straight out the gate. "Boxcars" was good too...

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Sun May 26 2024
4

Seriously man what happened to country music? Why did we stray from this? Shit sucks now

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Thu May 30 2024
4

I’m glad to get some more country on this list, although I have to say this didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had after reading the wikipedia article. It was good but I think there are a lot of albums I’d put ahead of this that I fear won’t make this list.

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Thu May 30 2024
4

Why have I never heard this? Very fun!

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