Real. Country. Music. by Gene Watson

Real. Country. Music. Gene Watson ★★★★ A title like Real. Country. Music. can only mean you’re a ghost, and Watson leans into that with weeping lap steel and a beautiful record.       Real. Country. Music. begins with a little string intro, supplemented by a ghostly “ooo.” A brief pause and the opening track, “Enough for You,” launches. It’s a deeply sentimental way to start an album whose name could only be a dropping of the gauntlet. It also turns out wonderfully. That gauntlet’s a storied one; even a casual observer of country with some occasional experience of its history can tell. Almost every alternative movement in...
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The Ghosts of Highway 20 by Lucinda Williams

The Ghosts of Highway 20 Lucinda Williams ★★★★ The Ghosts of Highway 20 is a goddamn journey of an album.         The Ghosts of Highway 20 declares its intentions from the beginning, with guitars panned heavy left and right, trading on washy drive and harmonics before the brushed drums come in. The album’s about space and spacing, and the delicacy of the hook — “you couldn’t cry if you wanted to” — that precedes the elongated chorus, just “even your thoughts are dust” over and over again. And then, somehow, “Dust” bleeds into a solo that’s as delicate and high as you could imagine. If there’s...
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Editor’s Note: Ghosts of Country

For the release of the first issue of the Quarterly Review of Contemporary Country, the editor reflects on the major theme of the first quarter of 2016: ghosts. To download the issue in full, visit HERE.   They’re in the title of Lucinda Williams’ The Ghosts of Highway 20 and in Megan & Liz’ “That Ghost.” They’re present in the buried harmonies that abortively open Gene Watson’s Real. Country. Music. and in the obsession with legacy that drives Hank Williams Jr’s It’s About Time into a wall. That Malcolm Holcombe’s haunted seems a given, but the same could be said of Dianna...
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