I've been thinking how much I love the soundtrack to Robert Altman's Nashville as well as Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats albums. Both utilize the great instrumentalists of country's golden period and yet the songwriting is done by people who obviously have an affection for country music but who are not necessarily "inside" the country music scene and who may hold themselves above it in some way. I like to call it fake country.
What other albums fit these dynamics? I'm sure they're out there.
I'm sure you could try "Greatest Palace Music" by Bonnie Prince Billy.
He's an indie/Americana guy who writes great songs but his vocals and ethos may not be for everyone. For that album though he went to Nashville and re-recorded some of his best songs with the top session musicians in the city. Great album.
Gillian Welch is from New York. Garth Brooks is from Oklahoma. I don't know what real or fake country music is, but I know the difference between good and bad country music. On the stereo right now: Hell Among the Yearlings.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo is a great album. I'll have to revisit Bo Diddley and listen with a new ear for the country influences. Good luck with your band.
Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) was in one of my favorite movies (Matewan). Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that he was a singer but had forgotten. Thanks for the reminder.
And obviously, Gillian and David Rawlings are great. Yes good and bad is most important, but what I'm after is good "fake" country, that is, country music by people who are decidedly not country musicians but who have done a good job faking it. It's an odd distinction I know.
Ray Charles' country album comes to mind, the title escapes me at not quite seven in the morning, but while Ray Charles is not a country artist per se any American music he performs ends up sounding both like Ray Charles and fits comfortably within the genre he's performing. "Seven Spanish Angels" is no less great Ray than "Hit The Road Jack." And it's great country that just happens to be Ray Charles as well.
In the spirit of the original query, I always thought that Lionel Richie penned some songs ("Easy", "Sail On" come to mind) that even though they were R&B/pop hits, were at their essence pretty much straight country ballads. I guess even Mr. Richie must have realized this as his latest effort is an album of duets of some of those songs w/ current country artists.
Lionel Richie also wrote and produced Kenny Rogers' country (and Hot 100) chart-topping "Lady."
That is a great album,however his 3 "sequels" to that are not as uniformly good. Another country covers by a non-country band I like is Southern Culture on the Skids "Countrypolitan Favorites".
Had that album 30+ years ago. Vinyl's long gone but I bought the CD a while back. Great stuff!
Has anyone ever heard the Loretta Haggard record? She was a character on the show, Mary Hartman, in the '70s that they put out what I guess could be considered a novelty record.. That would definitely fit the category. I'm guessing it would be horrible, but may be a fun listen.
Actress Mary Kay Place performing as Loretta Haggers. There's a two-fer CD of her albums, including the Grammy-nominated Tonite! At the Capri Lounge Loretta Haggers.
Rock band The Supersuckers put out a country album called Must've Been High in 1997.
Here is a link to a feature article that Grant Alden wrote about the band and the album in No Depression issue #8 March/April 1997. The title "The Supersuckers made a country record, because punk rock was too hard to sing" is a play off of Whiskeytown's song Faithless Street. Ween's country album is referenced in the article: "Must’ve Been High is not, incidentally, any kind of kin to Ween’s recent stab at country. Yes, the ‘Suckers brought in a few trained session players, but no, there is no smug smirking here like “Piss Up a Rope”, or the rest of Ween’s frat-boy foolishness."