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Country - Released November 9, 1999 | Warner Records

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"What's in It for Me," the first track on Breathe, Faith Hill's follow-up to her starmaking third album Faith, is livelier than anything on its predecessor, but that doesn't mean it's country, even if it kicks off with sawing fiddles. This builds upon the pop overtures of Faith and turns Hill into a full-fledged diva -- something that should be clear from the cover of Breathe, where she's moussed and styled like a supermodel. And Breathe is as bold and brassy as any big pop album, which only makes sense since this is a country album in marketing only: it's an adult contemporary album, as Faith was before it, but where that was a bit of a humble affair, Hill is perfectly comfortable with acting like a star here, belting out songs whether they're rockin' anthems like "I Got My Baby" (which could have been a big hit for Whitney Houston in 1985), effervescent pop like "The Way You Love Me" or a power ballad like "Breathe." She's still celebrating love instead of singing about heartbreak, and while this doesn't have the warm, cozy feel of Faith, it has a punchy, rousing feel that makes this an inspirational aspirational record -- something to push you forward instead of being happy of where you are. If Hill still doesn't have the gaudiness or hooks of Shania Twain, or the sense of fun, that's fine -- this isn't music for the weekend, it's for getting through the week, and it's as good in an office as it is at home, the defining moment of Faith Hill's superstardom. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released March 26, 2013 | Warner Records

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Country - Released April 10, 1992 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Country - Released March 6, 2020 | Warner Records

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Brandy Clark's third album opens with a stunner: "I'll Be the Sad Song," a ballad carried by sweeping strings and melancholy trumpet. It's a little bit country, a little bit Dusty in Memphis, and a whole new style of Americana. Credit goes not just to Clark, whose songwriting has long been smarter than most. Producer Jay Joyce layers on instrumentation, much of it courtesy of the Memphis Strings & Horns, that acts as Clark's equal. High-hat clicks and jaunty horns offer a sarcastically joyous counterpoint to the kiss-off lyrics of "Long Walk" ("Take a long walk off a real short pier, take a cinderblock with you as a souvenir"). Sad piano and buried-deep bass imbue the regrets of "Apologies." Flute, of all things, adds mischief to the delightful Randy Newman duet "Bigger Boat." There's plenty of dark humor as well as exceedingly human pain, as on "Pawn Shop"—starring an old guitar as metaphor for tarnished dreams—and the lush "Can We Be Strangers," with Clark sighing "I don't want to hate you or even care enough to." © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Country - Released April 20, 2018 | Warner Records

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Following her debut where she appeared as the new short-lived bimbo of country pop, Ashley Monroe quickly proved she had a strong personality, at times moving away from the path clearly marked out by Nashville. Indeed, the singer from Knoxville, Tennessee, ended up collaborating with Jack White and his Raconteurs, and even founded the Pistol Annies with Angaleena Presley and Miranda Lambert. With The Blade, her third album released in 2015, she confirmed her mastery over a large artistic vocabulary, both with her voice and the instruments chosen. Without revolutionising the genre, Monroe put out an album nicely packed up with contemporary country, filled with effective melodies, and most importantly featuring a voice of stunning purity, inspired by two great untouchables, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris… Three years later, Sparrow is the work of a more and more adventurous artist, who never compromises to aim for the top of the charts. Produced by brilliant Dave Cobb who worked with Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Shooter Jennings, Colter Wall, Zac Brown Band and Jason Isbell, this fourth opus takes country music down paths previously walked by the likes of Bobbie Gentry, Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Rick Hall, Shelby Lynne and even early Elton John. In that regard, Sparrow isn’t a current pop country album, but rather an old-style record. Timeless to be exact. Cobb’s work is in fact remarkable in its tendency to blur, even erase any sign of the current era… “To me this record is about acknowledging past hurt, forgiveness and freedom to move forward. The most terrible things that happen to you are the most beautiful songs. That's what I respect the most about music." Here, Ashley Monroe plays the therapy card. And while she does settle some scores with her mother and even herself, and dive back into her younger years, her album is both introspective and able to touch anyone. Because, much like Alison Krauss, Lee Ann Womack, or even closer, Kacey Musgraves, she is well aware of the emotional potential of this kind of pathos, while always remaining dignified, serene and very classy. This is the main strength of an album that at times doesn’t hold back on violins, but handles them like one would carry nitroglycerin. Highly recommended! © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Country - Released March 1, 1996 | Warner Records

Steve Earle quietly announced he was back in action and capable of making substantial, heartfelt music again with his 1994 acoustic album Train a Comin', but on 1995's I Feel Alright Earle showed he was truly back in fighting shape, and from the album's first moments he sounds ready to roar and holds nothing back. While Earle's battle with drug abuse and his brief stay in prison aren't explicitly addressed on this album (except on the harrowing "CCKMP," in which Earle confesses "cocaine cannot kill my pain" and "heroin is the only thing/the only gift the darkness brings"), the hurt brought to himself and others by his betrayals runs through many of these songs, sometimes with humor ("Hard Core Troubadour"), sometimes with regret ("Valentine's Day"), and sometimes with a painful self-awareness ("Hurtin' Me, Hurtin' You" and "The Unrepentant"). But I Feel Alright isn't about addiction and loss so much as recovery and starting over again, and if the songs often concern Earle's misdeeds, the strength of the music finds him confronting his demons without flinching and conjuring up some of the powerfully muscular rock and affecting country of his life. And like Train a Comin', I Feel Alright shows Earle finding the courage and confidence to make a record just the way he wants, and this may be Earle's finest hour in the studio -- the production is tough, resonant, and a perfect match for the material, the players bring their A game without showboating, and Earle's rough but passionate vocals are pure, honest, and direct on every cut. I Feel Alright affirmed that Steve Earle's brush with oblivion had not only failed to silence him, but he was a more courageous artist when he came out the other side, and no one who has heard this record is likely to argue that point. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released October 23, 2015 | Warner Records

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Country - Released January 10, 1997 | Warner Records

To say Steve Earle had career problems in 1994 when he recorded Train a Comin' is something more than an understatement. Earle's life went into a dramatic tailspin thanks to a voracious drug habit after he parted ways with MCA in 1991, and he ended up spending a few months in jail on drug and weapons charges in 1993. Earle thankfully got treatment for his addictions while behind bars, and was clean and sober for the first time in many years when he scored a deal with a tiny independent label, Winter Harvest Records, and cut an acoustic album called Train a Comin'. Considering how low Earle had sunk, it was a pleasant shock that Train a Comin' was not only good, it was one of the strongest albums of his career to date. Dominated by songs he's written years before along with a few new tunes and some well-chosen covers, Train a Comin' featured Earle with a small group of gifted acoustic pickers, including Norman Blake, Peter Rowan, and Roy Huskey, Jr., and the tone of these sessions is at once relaxed and committed, sounding like a back porch guitar pull with a seriously talented guy handling the lead vocals and calling out the tunes. Earle's experiences with the judicial system hadn't exactly improved his voice, but he's in far more potent form than he had been on 1991's live set Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator, and his control and command of his instrument is genuinely impressive. Earle's natural cockiness works in his favor on these tunes, especially "Tom Ames' Prayer," "Hometown Blues," and "Angel Is the Devil," and his gift for telling a story is plainly evident on "Ben McCulloch" and a moving cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley." Train a Comin' is not an album that asks the audience to forgive Steve Earle for his sins; it's a document of an artist who after a season in hell has reclaimed his gift and is determined to put it to use, and after years of fighting Nashville to do things his own way, Earle resumed his career by following his own muse with eloquent simplicity, and Train a Comin' shows his instincts were entirely correct. [Winter Harvest's original release of Train a Comin' featured a sequence not approved by Earle, who reissued the album on his E Squared label with a different running order; some pressings of the E Square version also delete his cover of the Beatles' "I'm Looking Through You."] © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released June 22, 2018 | Warner Records

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On their third album, Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney extend their contemporary poetry. Dan+Shay pays tribute to country pop thanks to the balance found by both men during their collaboration. Sensitive but in no way tedious, they launch Alone Together with a punchy drum intro. Perfectly balanced and catchy country rock music, softened by the two accomplices’ smooth and light vocals. An intimate and imaginary universe transpires from their compositions. Sincere and humble, their stories are those of daily lives anyone can relate to, like in the track Tequila. A Proust madeleine of sorts, in which tequila sneakily replaced the madeleine… Love, at the very least romance, are central themes for Smyers and Mooney. Keeping Score therefore comes as no surprise, halfway between Shay and Kelly Clarkson. A romantic ballad introduced by a piano solo and quickly caught up by the union of two voices that seem to be made for each other. But the duo also preserves the musical heritage of a more traditional country music, highlighted in My Side of the Fence intro with a mandolin and steel guitar. A pop country album that radiates youthful energy and preaches harmony among all beings. © Anna Coluthe/Qobuz
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Country - Released June 6, 2000 | Warner Records

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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Warner Records

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Country - Released October 8, 2013 | Warner Records

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Country - Released April 10, 2015 | Warner Records

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Country - Released November 5, 2014 | Warner Records

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Country - Released June 16, 2017 | Warner Records

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Country - Released November 5, 2014 | Warner Records

Prior to the 2013 release of 12 Stories, Brandy Clark was known primarily as a songwriter, and a good one too. She had hits with Miranda Lambert ("Mama's Broken Heart"), LeAnn Rimes ("Crazy Women"), the Band Perry ("Better Dig Two"), and Kacey Musgraves ("Follow Your Arrow"), and 12 Stories reflects some of the same skills that brought her to the upper reaches of the charts. In her songs, Clark is tuneful and defiant, happily celebrating the virtues of weed and rebellion, but Clark never comes across as a redneck. She's on the outside but she's an observer, not an outcast, noticing the quirks and eccentricities of her brethren instead of diving head-on into their madness. Perhaps some songwriters would permit themselves a certain measure of distance if they wrote in this fashion, never letting their hands get dirty, but Clark is empathetic in her heart, seeing the humanity in the divorcees, women dealing with hungover lovers, whoever needs to take a little pill just to get through the day. As a singer, she avoids full-throated showstoppers for something better: she's sly and strong, mining heartbreak and sneaking in punch lines at unexpected times. Her songs are constructed in a similar fashion, slowly gaining power as they unfold, sometimes seeming simple but revealing complexities upon a close listen. Similarly, 12 Stories doesn't hit hard musically: it creeps and insinuates, its hooks slowly, deeply settling in. No one song is a knockout but the cumulative effect is overpowering: as the album reaches its conclusion, the strength and clarity of Clark's voice becomes undeniable and, looking back, it's possible to hear her identity clearly within those hits she penned for superstars. Perhaps she's too subtle to be a stadium-filling superstar, but the superb 12 Stories showcases a unique artist who stands firmly, proudly on her own merits. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released September 10, 1993 | Warner Records

Twenty tracks from 1969-1973, the period of Tony Joe White's greatest success, including "Polk Salad Annie" and White's own version of his composition "Rainy Night in Georgia." Most of this is quality swamp rock with pop-soul-conscious production; on cuts like "High Sheriff of Calhoun Parrish," it sounds very much like he was trying to achieve a groove in the mold of Bobbie Joe Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe." Sometimes he gets real down-home in a stomping backwoods blues style that makes him sound a little like a White counterpart to John Lee Hooker, as on "Stockholm Blues." If there's any criticism to be levied against this music, it's in its occasional lack of variety, White mining staple swamp rock boogie riffs for all they're worth. However, few, if any, performers and writers were as skilled as White in doing so, and he has a fine knack for sharp storytelling lyrics. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Country - Released July 27, 2018 | Warner Records

Talk of This Town is the debut full-length effort from Northern Irish country singer/songwriter Catherine McGrath. Recorded in both Nashville and London, the release is composed of rich acoustic guitar and banjo, electronic pop-infused percussion, and bright vocal melodies. Produced with Steve Robson (One Direction, Olly Murs), the album was led by the single of the same name. © Rob Wacey /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

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Country - Released March 16, 2009 | Warner Records

Randy Travis was country music's first multi-platinum selling artist when the Storms of Life album arrived in 1985 and almost single-handedly put the term "New Traditionalist" on the country music map. In retrospect, that marketing label was tailor-made for Travis, whose calm, comfortable singing style and no cowboy circus frills belied the fact that his recordings were carefully done to stand outside the industry's passing fads, which makes this two-disc career overview seem both timely and sturdy. The essentials are here, including a quartet of hits from Storms of Life, "On the Other Hand," "1982," "Diggin' Up Bones," and "No Place Like Home," as well as later hits like 1994's "Whisper to Me," and it affords another look at Travis, whose unassuming, dignified and yes, traditional approach to country music makes him still seem relevant and current even after all these years. © Steve Leggett /TiVo

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