(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)
There are a handful of artists and acts that can claim credit for the laying the foundation for the alt. country/Americana scene that went mainstream during the early ‘90s, beginning with the most obvious: Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
Steve Earle is another.
Guitar Town, his 1986 debut, digs deep into the day-to-day life experienced by denizens of the forgotten America. By the mid-‘80s, factories were shutting down, farms going belly-up, and the dream of a better future seemed out of reach for many – as Earle articulates with journalistic precision on such songs as “Good Ol’ Boy (Gettin’ Tough),” “Someday” and “Hillbilly Highway.”
At the time, the music was deemed too country for rock and too rock for country; yet, despite that, the album made its way to No. 1 on the country charts. The title track made it to No. 7 and “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left” made it to No. 8.
In the years since its release, the album has been deemed one of the best of its time. Rolling Stone, for example, ranks it (too low) at No. 79 on its “Best Albums of the Eighties” list and at No. 482 on its Greatest Albums of All Time list.
Younger listeners may be shocked by the album’s relative brevity – it clocks in at just under 35 minutes. Make no mistake, however: There are no throwaways here.
- Guitar Town
- Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left
- Hillbilly Highway
- Good Ol’ Boy (Gettin’ Tough)
- My Old Friend The Blues
- Think It Over
- Fearless Heart
- Little Rock ‘N’ Roller
- Down The Road