Colin MacCleod’s 5 Favourite Country Songs

Colin MacCleod by Mike Guest

1. Hank Williams – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

“Any list involving country music has to start with Hank Williams. I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that Hank Williams is the source when it comes to modern country music. His gift for wrapping a story around a melody is unrivalled to this day, as is his ability to sing about some tough stuff with a glint in his eye. There’s so much to choose from, but this country standard for me epitomises Williams’ special gift as a songwriter. Often overlooked as quaint or yer Dad’s music, I’d urge anyone to listen to Hank Williams with a fresh pair of ears and  just appreciate the true genius of his work. The original country superstar”. 

More Hank here.

2. Johnny Cash – Cocaine Blues (Live from Folsom Prison)

“Choosing one Johnny Cash song is almost impossible. But if you’d twist my arm I’ll go for this from the San Quentin record. Johnny Cash’s live prison shows are some of the greatest gigs of all time. The energy, the excitement, the band tight as a rock, Johnny’s swagger and humour, his rapport with the crowd; you can still feel it all these years later coming through the speakers. Johnny Cash is one of country music’s heavyweights, and this is him at his absolute peak, a masterclass in performance.

Here the classic record here.

3. Dolly Parton – Jolene

“Another almost impossible choice. How do you choose one Dolly song?! The undisputed queen of country and, in my humble opinion, the greatest country songwriter since Hank Williams. Jolene is just a perfect love son:, subtly twisted and melancholy, but with a chorus to die for. Dolly’s link with the origins of country and the Appalachian mountains give her an enviable position and authority within country music that is rightly lauded. If you only listen to one song off this list, make it Dolly.”

More Dolly here.

4. Glen Campbell – Witchita Lineman

“Glen Campbell is my favourite country vocalist, and widely praised as one of the best country vocalists ever. But he’s also an incredible guitar player. As a member of The Wrecking Crew (Google it) he played guitar on some of the greatest songs of the 70s and 80s. Wichita Lineman is an undeniable classic. Often dismissed as MOR, it’s a truly breathtaking production of a beautiful song. Written by Jimmy Webb (another of country music’s great contributors), the strings were famously conducted to resemble the sound of the wind singing in the wires. Devastating.

More Glen here.

5. Gram Parsons – Return of the Grievous Angel

“Country music’s black sheep. Gram Parsons was a round peg in a square hole. Emerging from the same LA scene that gave rise to the Eagles and Jackson Browne, Parsons was a disciple of deeply uncool (and in some places downright racist) traditional country music. Whilst Merle Haggard was singing about ‘them damn hippies smoking that damn reefer’, Gram Parsons was sewing weed patches onto his Nudie suit and growing his hair long. He was shunned by the LA scene for being too country, and shunned by the country scene for being a hippy. In the midst of all this, he made two classic country albums before his untimely death and bizarre funeral. As if that wasn’t enough Gram also discovered a little known singer who went on to become one of the greatest female country vocalists of all time: Emmylou Harris”.

More Gram here.