12 Classic Country Albums Turning 50 in 2020
From classics by Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson to overlooked gems by Lawrence Reynolds and Linda Martell
1970 was a for-the-ages year in country music, generating a ridiculously long list of radio singles that continue to define the genre half a century later. Most obviously, 1970 was when that quartet of Kris Kristofferson-written standards — “For the Good Times,” “Help Me Make It through the Night,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and “The Taker” — were released by Ray Price, Sammi Smith, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, respectively. Other 1970 country hits that still resonate widely: Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” Anne Murray’s “Snowbird,” Dolly Parton’s “Muleskinner Blues” and Charley Pride’s “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.”
But while these singles have all long been accepted as part of the country canon and repeatedly anthologized as you’d predict, the albums that first included them were typically less impressive. Many of the very best country albums of 1970 weren’t all that popular upon release and remain, so far at least, non-canonical — a couple aren’t even in print or available now on the major streaming services but are more than worth tracking down. 1970, in other words, was an even richer year for country music than our collective memory tends to allow.