Top Country Tribute Albums

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Tulare Dust: A Songwriters' Tribute to Merle Haggard

Photo of Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Merle Haggard gets the red carpet treatment with this collection of covers from roots songwriters including Billy Joe Shaver, Lucinda Williams, and Dwight Yoakam. They each make the tunes their own, although Iris DeMent deserves special attention for her crackling version of "Big City." If you weren't a Haggard fan before, you will be.

Listen to Iris DeMent's "Big City"

Track List for Tulare Dust: A Songwriters' Tribute To Merle Haggard

  1. Tom Russell - "Tulare Dust/ They're Tearing the Labor Camps Down" 
  2. Iris DeMent - "Big City"                                 
  3. Peter Case - "A Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today"                                          
  4. Dwight Yoakam - "Holding Things Together"                                       
  5. Robert Earl Keen and the Sunshine Boys - "Daddy Frank"                             
  6. Joe Ely - "White Line Fever"                       
  7. Rosie Flores - "My Own Kind of Hat"                                      
  8. Steve Young - "Shopping for Dresses"                                   
  9. Marshall Crenshaw - "Silver Wings"                                        
  10. Barrence Whitfield - "Irma Jackson"                                       
  11. Lucinda Williams - "You Don't Have Very Far to Go"                         
  12. Billy Joe Shaver - "Ramblin' Fever"                                          
  13. Katy Moffatt - "I Can't Be Myself"                           
  14. John Doe - "I Can't Hold Myself In Line"                                
  15. Dave Alvin - "Kern River"
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Lowe Country: A Tribute to Nick Lowe

Nick Lowe might not ring a bell with a lot of country listeners, but the English singer's songwriting shines in this batch of country(ish) covers. Robert Ellis' "All Men Are Liars" is killer. As is the slow burn of Amanda Shires's "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass."

Watch Caitlin Rose perform "Lately I've Let Things Slide"

Track List for Lowe Country: A Tribute to Nick Lowe

  1. Caitlin Rose - "Lately I've Let Things Slide"                                            
  2. The Parson Red Heads - "Don't Lose Your Grip on Love"                                
  3. Robert Ellis - "All Men are Liars"                                                
  4. Amanda Shires - "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass"                                   
  5. JEFF the Brotherhood - "Marie Provost"                                               
  6. Hayes Carll - "(I'm Gonna Start) Living Again If It Kills Me"             
  7. Erin Enderlin - "Lover Don't Go"                                                
  8. The Unsinkable Boxer - "When I Write the Book"                                             
  9. Colin Gilmore - "You Make Me"                                                
  10. Chatham County Line - "Heart of the City"
  11. Lori McKenna - "What's Shakin' on the Hill"                                         
  12. Griffin House - "Cracking Up"                                    
  13. Ron Sexsmith - "Where's My Everything?"
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Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute

Bob Dylan breaks open the barn doors of this eclectic Hank Williams tribute album with the zydeco explosion "I Can't Get You Off My Mind." Ryan Adams delivers a raw, caterwauling "Lovesick Blues." Beck dishes out a deconstructed "Your Cheatin' Heart." And a country music tribute record just wouldn't be complete without Emmylou Harris.

Listen to Bob Dylan sing "I Can't Get You Off of My Mind"

Track List for Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute

  1. Bob Dylan - "I Can't Get You Off of My Mind"                                     
  2. Sheryl Crow - "Long Gone Lonesome Blues"                                       
  3. Keb' Mo' - "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"                                            
  4. Beck - "Your Cheatin' Heart"                                      
  5. Mark Knopfler (feat. Emmylou Harris) - "Lost on the River"                                         
  6. Tom Petty - "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)"                                        
  7. Keith Richards - "You Win Again"                                              
  8. Emmylou Harris (feat. Mark Knopfler) - "Alone and Forsaken"                                   
  9. Hank Williams III - "I'm a Long Gone Daddy"                                        
  10. Ryan Adams - "Lovesick Blues"                                 
  11. Lucinda Williams - "Cold, Cold Heart"                                      
  12. Johnny Cash - "I Dreamed About Mama Last Night"
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Merle Haggard: A Tribute to Bob Wills

Merle Haggard recruited some of Bob Wills's old band members from the Texas Playboys in this lively tribute to the Western Swing legend. It doesn't seem retro one bit. Hagg sings "Brain Cloudy" like he means it (and he probably has on certain mornings). In fact, the album helped revive and reinvigorate Western Swing.

Listen to Merle Haggard sing "Brain Cloudy Blues"

Track List for A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills)

  1. "Brown Skin Gal"                                             
  2. "Right or Wrong"                                             
  3. "Brain Cloudy Blues"                                      
  4. "Stay a Little Longer"                                     
  5. "Misery"                                             
  6. "Time Changes Everything"                                        
  7. "San Antonio Rose"                                       
  8. "I Knew the Moment I Lost You"                                              
  9. "Roly Poly"                                         
  10. "Old Fashioned Love"                   
  11. "Corrine Corrina"                                            
  12. "Take Me Back to Tulsa"
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Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons was an inspirational figure in the alt-country movement. Associates Wilco, Whiskeytown, and Lucinda Williams come out for this stellar tribute album. Emmylou Harris sings backup on a stomping female take on "She." The Mavericks give "Hot Burrito" #1 the South of the Border treatment.

Listen to Lucinda Williams sing "Return of the Grievous Angel"

Track List of Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons

  1. The Pretenders - "She"                                                
  2. Cowboy Junkies - "Ooh Las Vegas"                                         
  3. Beck and Emmylou Harris - "Sin City"                                               
  4. Evan Dando - "$1,000 Wedding"               
  5. The Mavericks - "Hot Burrito #1"                              
  6. Chris Hillman - "High Fashion Queen"                                     
  7. Sheryl Crow - "Juanita"                 
  8. Elvis Costello - "Sleepless Nights"                                            
  9. Lucinda Williams - "Return of the Grievous Angel"                           
  10. Wilco - "One Hundred Years from Now"                               
  11. Whiskeytown - "A Song for You"                              
  12. Gillian Welch - "Hickory Wind"                                   
  13. The Rolling Creekdippers - "In My Hour of Darkness"
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The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute

This ranging collection gives props to the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers's songs may be the bedrock of country music, but his songbook proves infinitely interpretable by the assembled cast of stars. Take in Bono's restrained, piano-clad "Dreaming with Tears in My Eyes." Bob Dylan fashions a reverberating, plangent "My Blue Eyed Jane." Dwight Yoakam declares "T for Texas" with appropriate gusto. Meanwhile, falsetto-voice Aaron Neville remains true to the spirit of "Why Should I Be Lonely," and even delivers a credible yodel! Irish troubadour Van Morrison wrangles "Mule Skinner Blues" into a blue-eyed soul workout.

Track List for The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute

  1. Bono - "Dreaming With Tears in My Eyes"                                            
  2. Alison Krauss & Union Station - "Any Old Time"                                 
  3. Dickey Betts - "Waiting for a Train"                                          
  4. Mary Chapin Carpenter - "Somewhere Down Below the Mason Dixon Line"             
  5. David - "Miss the Mississippi and You"                                   
  6. Bob Dylan - "My Blue Eyed Jane"                                             
  7. Willie Nelson - "Peach Pickin' Time Down in Georgia"                                     
  8. Steve Earle and The V-Roys - "In the Jailhouse Now"                                      
  9. Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and John Kahn - "Blue Yodel #9 (Standin' on the Corner)"                   
  10. Iris DeMent - "Hobo Bill's Last Ride"                                        
  11. John Mellencamp - "Gambling Bar Room Blues"                                               
  12. Van Morrison - "Mule Skinner Blues"                                     
  13. Aaron Neville - "Why Should I Be Lonely"                             
  14. Dwight Yoakam - "T for Texas"
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Willie Nelson: To Lefty From Willie

The voices of Lefty Frizzell and Willie Nelson couldn't be more different. Frizzell's marble became the template for every future honky-tonker, including Merle Haggard and Randy Travis. But strangely enough, Nelson's jazzy, behind-the-beat delivery vocals offers a new window into old standards like "Look What Thoughts Can Do" and "I Want to Be With You Always."

Listen to Willie Nelson sing "Mom and Dad's Waltz"

Track List for To Lefty From Willie

  1. "Mom and Dad's Waltz"
  2. "Look What Thoughts Will Do"
  3. "I Love You a Thousand Ways"
  4. "Always Late (With Your Kisses)"
  5. "I Want to Be With You Always"
  6. "She's Gone, Gone, Gone"
  7. "A Little Unfair"
  8. "I Never Go Around Mirrors (I've Got a Heartache to Hide)"
  9. "That's the Way Love Goes"
  10. "Railroad Lady"
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Lonesome, On'ry & Mean: Tribute to Waylon Jennings

It's hard to know where to begin with this Waylon Jennings tribute album that's leaps and bounds above the same year's I've Always Been Crazy: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings, which featured predictable versions of Hoss standards from Nashville A-listers. What it's missing, for the most part, are unique, deeply felt interpretations like Norah Jones's "Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want to Get Over You)," Nancy Griffith's stunning "You Asked Me To," and Kris Kristofferson's graceful handling of the deep cut "I Do Believe."

Track List for Lonesome, On'ry & Mean: Tribute to Waylon Jennings

  1. Guy Clark - "Good Hearted Woman"
  2. Nancy Griffith - "You Asked Me To"
  3. Dave Alvin - "Amanda"
  4. Norah Jones - "Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want to Get Over You)"
  5. Jack Clement and Pam Tillis - "Let's All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues)"
  6. John Doe - "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line"
  7. Junior Brown - "Nashville Rebel"
  8. Robert Earl Keen, Jr. - "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way"
  9. Carlene Carter - "I've Always Been Crazy"
  10. Radney Foster - "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)"
  11. Allison Moorer - "Storms Never Last"
  12. Kris Kristofferson - "I Do Believe"
  13. Alejandro Escovedo - "Lock, Stock and Teardrops"
  14. "Waymore's Blues"
  15. Henry Rollins - "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean"
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'Til Things Are Brighter: A Tribute to Johnny Cash

Like British post-punk? Like Johnny Cash? You're in for a treat with this dyspeptic collection of covers from artists including Michelle Shocked, The Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley... and the Mekons. Marc Almond ends the album with a jangly, Sun Records-ish "Man in Black."

Listen to Marc Almond's "Man in Black"

Track List for 'Til Things Are Brighter: A Tribute to Johnny Cash

  1. Michelle Shocked - "One Piece at a Time" 
  2. Stephen Mallinder - "I Walk the Line"  
  3. Steve Mack - "Rosanna's Goin' Wild" 
  4. Sally Timms - "Cry, Cry, Cry"  
  5. David McComb - "Country Boy" 
  6. Marc Riley - "Wanted Man"  
  7. Pete Shelley - "Straight A's in Love"  
  8. Cathal Coughlan - "Ring of Fire"  
  9. Tracey + Melissa Beehive - "5 Feet High and Risin'"
  10. Brendan Croker - "Home of the Blues"    
  11. Mary Mary - "Boy Named Sue"  
  12. Mekons - "Folsom Prison Blues"  
  13. Marc Almond - "Man in Black"  
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The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage Of The Carter Family

The First Family of Country Music gets honored by their antecedents in this great tribute record. Invited to the party are direct relatives such as June Carter Cash and in-laws like Johnny Cash. Speaking of which, the Man in Black's gravelly voice does lovely work on the train-wreck tragic "Engine One-Forty-Three." George Jones's "Worried Man Blues" is essential, electric.

Listen to Johnny Cash sing "Engine One-Forty-Three"

Track List for The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage Of The Carter Family

  1. George Jones - "Worried Man Blues"
  2. Sheryl Crow - "No Depression in Heaven"
  3. Emmylou Harris with the Peasall Sisters - "On the Sea of Galilee"
  4. Johnny Cash - "Engine One-Forty-Three"
  5. Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives - "Never Let the Devil Get the Upper Hand of You"
  6. Joe and Janette Carter - "Little Moses"
  7. Norman and Nancy Blake with Tim O'Brien - "Black Jack David"
  8. John Prine - "Bear Creek Blues"
  9. Willie Nelson - "You Are My Flower"
  10. Shawn Colvin with Earl and Randy Scruggs - "Single Girl, Married Girl"
  11. The Whites with Ricky Skaggs - "Will My Mother Know Me There?"
  12. Rosanne Cash - "The Winding Stream"
  13. The Del McCoury Band - "Rambling Boy"
  14. June Carter Cash - "Hold Fast to the Right"
  15. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Kris Kristofferson - "Gold Watch & Chain"