10 Classic Country Albums Turning 50 This Year

From Johnny Cash's 'At Folsom Prison' to Dolly Parton's 'Just Because I'm a Woman'

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Willie Nelson, 'Good Times'
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3/10

Willie Nelson, 'Good Times'

This is a somewhat odd Willie album, but also a strong one that illustrates how Nashville sometimes cobbled together albums for acts, particularly ones like Nelson who weren't yet hitmakers. Side One finds Willie backed by a hushed acoustic rhythm section; Nelson originals like "December Day" come off spare and haunting. Side Two, meanwhile, includes numbers cut a few years earlier with choir and strings by Anita Kerr, arrangement choices that Nelson has complained about in the years since. The final decisions had been made not by Willie but by label boss Chet Atkins, so fair enough. On the other hand, those still-hushed Side Two tracks, including Nelson originals like "Did I Ever Love You," come off as haunted, even a little surreal. The backing vocals talk back to Nelson (sometimes they downright mock him), and the results reinforce the self-awareness and irony that are keys both to Nelson's songs and his angular vocal attack. 

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