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10 Country Albums Rolling Stone Loved in the 1970s You Never Heard

We praised them 40 years ago — and you should listen to them today!

Linda Ronstadt and Lee Clayton

Linda Ronstadt and Lee Clayton

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty

Rolling Stone didn't comprehensively cover Nashville in the Seventies, but the magazine loved country music enough to not just keep up-to-date on crossover hits but to alert readers to unknown favorites in the world of country, bluegrass, and country-rock. These 10 LPs basically remained undiscovered by everyone except hardcore fans — although some of their creators, such as Linda Ronstadt and Percy Sledge, would have fame at other stages of their careers.

percy sledge

Percy Sledge, ‘I’ll Be Your Everything’

Sledge, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soul singer, left Atlantic Records for Capricorn Records, and drawing on his rural Alabama roots, switched his musical emphasis from R&B to C&W. This album was mostly ignored by both soul and country fans, but it has the same virtues as most of his other music: a slow-burning passion via the miracle of his vocal upper register.

What We Said Then: "Percy Sledge revives on this finely crafted album the same solid country feeling that barely hid below the surface of 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' his astonishing hit of nine years ago. . .Most of the cuts are deliberately paced, classical country-soul of the old school. Sledge's unrestrained delivery and the record's simple but ample production strike a responsive chord. The album is old-fashioned in the best sense." — Mark Vining, RS 185 (April 24th, 1975)

bobby bare

Bobby Bare, ‘Cowboys and Daddys’

Bare had been making records since the Fifties, but fallen into a novelty-song shame spiral where most of his material was written by Shel Silverstein (a fine songwriter, but better in small doses). On this album, however, he staked his claim as one of country music's most natural singers, drawing from diverse sources to make a compelling concept album (dedicated to "the Ropers and the Dopers") about the life, death, and sexual dysfunction of the modern cowboy. In 2013, Bare was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

What We Said Then: "Cowboys and Daddys is a literary album. Its values are almost completely nonmusical. . .with its loping bass lines, strummed acoustic guitars and noodling instrumental passages. But the successful presentation of songs as powerful as Dave Hickey's 'Speckled Pony' or as droll as 'He's a Cowboy' allows for no distraction. Once they've got your attention, you don't miss the music. Bare's drawling, intimate singing is perfect for the material." — Ed Ward, RS 207 (February 26th, 1976)

steve young

Steve Young, ‘No Place to Fall’

In 1978, Steve Young, psychedelic cowboy and collaborator of Van Dyke Parks, had released four albums and written the song "Seven Bridges Road" (not yet a hit for the Eagles). On his "lovely and sleazy" fifth LP, however, he came into his own, singing about country-music staples (returning home, barroom romance, breakups) with passion and power. While Young ended up releasing over a dozen albums through his career, he became best-known as a songwriter; "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean" was a defining hit for Waylon Jennings.

What We Said Then: "Of all the aspiring singers who walk the streets of Nashville like characters scratched from the final draft of a bad beatnik novel, only a handful are capable of much more than rhyming 'feelin' free' with 'Tennessee' or sitting in the Gold Rush offering lines of thrice-cut cocaine to Vanderbilt girls. There are only a few I would ever pay to hear, and Steve Young is one of those. . .Like Hank Williams and William Faulkner, Young can transcend pathos with a majestic, drunken grin." — Nick Tosches, RS 261 (March 23rd, 1978)

johnny rivera

Johnny Rodriguez, ‘All I Ever Meant to Do Was Sing’

Rodriguez was the first major Latin-American country singer: born in Texas 90 miles from the Mexican border, he catapulted to fame in the band of singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall, and then surpassed his mentor with a string of major country hits in the Seventies and Eighties (although he never crossed over to the pop charts). His second album, All I Ever Meant to Do Was Sing, took the traditional Nashville sound and made it fresh with his Tex-Mex flourishes.

What We Said Then: "Additionally, the C&W fanzines are touting him as the 'new heartthrob' and that's not so hard to understand once you watch a gaggle of women rip his pants off onstage. Rodriguez is already a superb C&W stylist and one of the most promising country writers. His first two albums demonstrate that he's certainly studied his George Jones, Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride, but he's also moved beyond those influences to establish his own enclave of C&W." — Chet Flippo, RS 154 (February 14th, 1974)

kay moffatt

Katy Moffatt, ‘Katy Moffatt’

The Texan Katy Moffatt, the younger sister of singer-songwriter Hugh Moffatt, broke into the music business via a gig with a Denver radio station, and on this debut record, proved to have a classic country voice, reminiscent of Patsy Cline or Tammy Wynette. When this disc wasn't a hit, she became a backup singer for many years before going solo again — in 1985, she was nominated as Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.

What We Said Then: "Country music's left field seems to be growing larger and larger. Katy Moffatt has a big, powerful voice over which she exerts remarkable control. . .Hers is a voice with a natural country twang, but when the line calls for it she can sing just as smooth as you please; and when she reaches up for a high note, she grabs it and holds on." — John Morthland, RS 222 (September 23rd, 1976)


Redwing, ‘Redwing’

Sacramento, California, wasn't a hotbed of country music: it was over 200 miles distant from Bakersfield and over 2,000 miles away from Nashville. Nevertheless, it was home to Redwing, a country-rock band that evolved out of Glad after Timothy B. Schmit left to join Poco. This debut included 10 originals plus covers of country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers and Nashville "hippie-cowboy" Mickey Newbury. After this debut, Redwing recorded four more albums between 1972 and 1975, never breaking through.

What We Said Then: "[The] finest hard rock/country band in the business today, the finest since Moby Grape first commandeered the Fillmore stage back in '67. . .Licks that won't quit. Long lazy ones. Short hard ones. All perfect in both taste and execution, and vocals that will wrench out all the tightness in your throat after too much of shock rock. . .Redwing. . .seems to both understand and contain the mellowness of the country living with the overriding sound of the hard urbanity that now intrudes upon the farmer and his fields." — J. R. Young, RS 85 (June 24th, 1971)