Contemporary CountryThe earliest songs on this Grammy Collection cd – namely Vince Gill’s 1990 track “When I Call Your Name” and The Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge,” from the next year, stand in marked contrast to the final few pop-influenced tracks, including Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” and Carrie Underwood’s terribly overrated “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”

While there’s no doubt that the majority of songs on this compilation are deserving of their place in country music history, there’s still a clear falling off in quality right around the edge of the 21st century. This fact is implicitly noted in the clear lack of late ’90s and early 2000s tracks on the album. In fact, the two songs that are included from this time period (George Jones’ “Choices” and June Carter Cash’s “Keep On the Sunny Side”) are more traditional throwbacks to an older age of country than actual representations of the new generation of musicians.

The unabashed twang from Brooks & Dunn on “Hard Workin’ Man” and The Mavericks on “Here Comes the Rain” reminds listeners of a day when country music succeeded in updating itself while still maintaining the basic fundamental sound that qualified it as “country” to begin with. Along those lines, the heart-wrenching “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” from the dynamic Dwight Yoakam is arguably the best song on the album, though the smooth, melodic style of Asleep At the Wheel and Lyle Lovett on “Blues for Dixie” are hard to beat.

Overall, it’s clear that around 1997, after Trisha Yearwood’s superb (if a bit overdone) “How Do I Live,” country music started taking too many cues from pop music and suffered greatly for it. Though Tim McGraw mentions in another song how he’s currently “Reading Street Slang For Dummies, ’cause they put pop in my country,” it’s abundantly clear that he’s one of the chief contributors to this new era of country, even on his included 2004 tune “Live Like You Were Dying.”

The inclusion of “Blue,” as sung by LeAnn Rimes in 1996 at the top of her game, is the kind of reminder of how the future of country music was squandered. Watching the young diva struggle to find an identity in the current market of poppy Carrie Underwoods and Miranda Lamberts may be depressing, but at least with this album, Rimes – and the rest of the included artists – are captured at their Grammy-winning bests.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: A chronological look at the downward spiral of contemporary country music
Stay Away if: You’re looking for a collection of present-day country music

To purchase Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary Country, visit Amazon
For more information and a track lising, visit The Ultimate Grammy Collection’s homepage
For Zach’s review of Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary Pop, visit BloggerNews
For Zach’s review of Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary R&B, visit BloggerNews

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