Gene Watson, 'Reflections' (MCA)
Alongside George Jones and Merle Haggard, it was the unsung Gene Watson who helped make sure old-school country still had a voice in the radio conversation in the late 1970s – and then kept that part of the tradition alive on the charts until the arrival of New Traditionalists like Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam. On Reflections, probably his best album in an ongoing career, "old school" points to Watson's twangy croon and to loads of pedal steel, but also to a preference for songs about life's losses, those of the marital variety most of all. On "One Sided Conversation," for example, one of the album's trio of Top 10 singles, Watson mourns a dying relationship ("If I must live alone, I'd rather do it by myself"), and on "Farewell Party," his signature performance and one of the genre's greatest-ever sad ballads, he imagines his own funeral: "Oh you'll be glad when I'm gone,” Watson accuses his wife at the record's crescendo. Even heaven-bound, he sounds as if he'll never get over the hurt.