I should preface all of this by saying that I've typically had an aversion for country music, for about as long as I can remember (save for that year in high school when I played football and thought about buying a pickup truck). However, over the past six or seven years, I've been doing some dabbling, mostly as a result of some of Ryan Adams' albums, Gillian Welch, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, but could never put my finger on exactly what it was that I liked. Thank to Wikipedia I've finally come to realize that I actually like "outlaw country," and it is the poppy, over-produced Nashville stuff that I can't stand. Anyways, here are some thoughts on what I bought.
A few weeks ago, I finally got around to buying the first Whiskeytown album, Faithless Street. Seeing as how I own almost every other album that Ryan Adams has made, I somehow managed to save the best for last. If you're unfamiliar with Whiskeytown, they were Ryan Adams' band prior to going solo with his album Heartbreaker. They managed to release three albums before the band fell apart (mostly because Adams was out of control at the time), but they are great. This, however, is the best of them.
The version currently available on iTunes and Amazon.com (Amazon is where I buy basically all of my MP3s now), has several additional songs than were originally released, but that's hardly ever a bad thing. This album is basically Ryan Adams at his best, making country music, making heartbreaking songs, and making songs about drinking (in fact, 12 of the 21 tracks on the album making a reference to alcohol or drinking, really putting the "whiskey" in "Whiskeytown"). "Hard Luck Story" is really one of my favorite tracks on here, but the slower songs like "Faithless Street" and "Factory Girl" don't disappoint either. There really isn't much more to say about this album other than "go buy it."
I finally got around to seeing the movie Crazy Heart about a month ago, and while I enjoyed it and thought that Jeff Bridges did a great job, it didn't occur to me until about two weeks ago to listen to the soundtrack. I checked it out on Grooveshark (amazing website; you can basically stream any album for free) and knew I had to buy it. There are two versions available, the regular one, which has 16 tracks, and the "Deluxe Edition," which has 23 tracks. I opted for the latter and am glad I did. The best tracks on here are Jeff Bridges singing, though, believe it or not, I really dig Colin Farrell's songs. There are some other tracks, including one by Waylon Jennings and another by Lucinda Williams, which I guess were in the background of the movie, but do a good job of carrying the theme of the movie and album. I'd say the low points are Robert Duvall's a capella song from the movie, and some song by Lydia Mendoza (who?) that's in Spanish, but even those begin to grow on you after a few listens. All in all, this album is great, and if you liked the movie, I'm pretty sure you'd like the album just as much.
The Crazy Heart soundtrack is what lead me to Ryan Bingham. Seeing as how I've typically had an aversion to country music, I was unfamiliar with Ryan Bingham. However, he was not only in the movie as Bad's back-up band at the bar where he got too drunk to play, but he has two songs on the soundtrack. After hearing those two songs, I was sold, and quickly found the first of his three albums, Mescalito. This was one that I didn't even waver over purchasing; I listen to maybe two or three samples and downloaded the whole thing. It's awesome and definitely worth checking out.