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Country - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

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Country - Released November 11, 1981 | Warner Records

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Country - Released September 11, 1984 | Warner Records

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Country - Released January 14, 1985 | Warner Records

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Country - Released March 12, 1986 | Warner Records

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Country - Released January 1, 1987 | Warner Records

Angel Band is yet another fascinating left turn, an acoustic record comprised of country-gospel songs like "We Shall Rise, " "If I Be Lifted Up" and "Someday My Ship Will Sail, " performed with great subtlety and nuance. © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Country - Released April 1, 1987 | Warner Records

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Country - Released August 15, 1987 | Warner Records

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Country - Released March 8, 1988 | Warner Records

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Country - Released June 15, 1988 | Warner Records

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Country - Released January 6, 1989 | Warner Records

Tight harmonies and infectious arrangements are the staple of this compilation. "I've Been Lookin'," "Fishin' in the Dark," and "Baby's Got a Hold on Me" are the musical equivalent of a good book -- you can't put 'em down. © Tom Roland /TiVo
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Country - Released June 9, 1989 | Warner Records

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Country - Released August 4, 1989 | Warner Records

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Country - Released August 4, 1989 | Warner Records

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Country - Released August 4, 1989 | Warner Records

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Country - Released August 8, 1989 | Warner Records

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Country - Released September 22, 1989 | Warner Records

Released in 1989, No Holdin' Back was an anomaly for a record coming from Nash Vegas at the turn of the decade: It's a very traditional country album. Period. Travis is a honky tonk singer who uses the entire scope of the music's history as his playground. He doesn't take a lot of chances, as this record proves, but then he doesn't need to. It's not about ambition on No Holdin' Back. Kyle Lehning's production is flawless, in that he allows Travis' big voice to be buoyed by his accompaniment. He sounds like he's dead center in the mix. The album begins with the Matraca Berg nugget "Mining for Coal," an elegiac love song. That's typical enough, but on the very next track, his cover of Melvin Endsley's "Singing the Blues," there is a straight-up honky tonk song complete with male backing chorus -- à la the Jordanaires -- vocals, plinky upright piano, harmonica, and a barroom tempo. But that's not all: Travis lets out a long Hank Williams-style yodel that will make the listener feel the master's ghostly presence. The single "He Walked on Water" by Allen Shamblin was a bad choice, though it sold well. It's a syrupy ballad that is so overly sentimental that there is no place in the song for Travis to go. The most notable cut on the set is Brook Benton's "It's Just a Matter of Time," and it should have been picked as the album's first single to radio and retail. First, coming almost in the middle, it's the hinge for the entire album. Secondly, this is Travis at his best, stretching to get to the heart of a music that has so little to do with country; like Ray Charles on the other side, he has to make this soul song his own. And he does. It's a country song like it was written that way. The other standout is "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart," a modern country shuffle reworked though the tradition. Travis goes after it like Merle Haggard would, slipping in under those verses to max out the emotion from the melody, and then driving that refrain home with a hammer as the pedal steel whines and the crisp drums accent the end of each beat. This is solid Travis, and it proves that at the end of the 1980s he was really just getting started. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Country - Released September 22, 1989 | Warner Records

Released in 1989 just three years after his debut, Just Lookin' for a Hit may have been a bit premature for a greatest-hits album, but it did the trick and sold better than any album Dwight Yoakam had thus far issued. This set is chock-full of the definitive Dwight -- at the time -- from the opener, a hard rocking version of the Dave Alvin & the Blasters' "Long White Cadillac," to his self-penned honky tonk soul jam "Little Ways," before moving into hardcore barroom twang with Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man" and the rockabilly country kicker "I Got You." Just how closely Yoakam walked the line between hard country and soulful rockabilly is nowhere more evident than it is on his cover of Doc Pomus' "Little Sister." Thankfully his theme "Guitars, Cadillacs" is here as is his duet with k.d. lang on Gram Parsons' "Sin City." Add "I Sang Dixie," "Please, Please Baby," and his duet with Buck Owens on "Steets of Bakersfield." When one considers that these are merely highlights -- and some of them arguable choices -- from his first three records, the true value of Yoakam as a recording artist who single-handedly revitalized traditional country music becomes evident. This is a smoking hits collection but is only a taste of the treasures that lie within the individual albums themselves. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Country - Released August 17, 1990 | Warner Records

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Country - Released September 7, 1990 | Warner Records

Label

Warner Records in the magazine