Listening to the upcoming album by Lucinda Williams, Little Honey
, I was thrilled to come across the voice of Elvis Costello on a song called "Jailhouse Tears." Country/rock duets have a pretty long history and even some commercial success (see Jon Bon Jovi with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles). But recently, they've also gotten pretty damn cool. Here are the best country/rock duets of recent years (and a few don't even involve Emmylou Harris):
10. Johnny Cash + Bob Dylan - "Girl From the North Country"
Dylan stayed at Johnny Cash's house to record Nashville Skyline and the
pair re-recorded "Girl From the North Country" as the lead track.
9. George Jones + Elvis Costello - "Stranger in the House"
Costello has always been a big George Jones fan and Jones joined him onstage for an HBO special in 1981.
8. k.d. lang + Roy Orbison - "Crying"
Orbison re-recorded his 1961 hit with vocals from Canadian k.d. lang.
7. Emmylou Harris + Conor Oberst - "Landlocked Blues"
Oberst's first dip of a toe into a country pool he's been swimming in
comfortably for three albums now, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning had three
songs with Emmylou Harris. Even if he's not the easiest guy to
harmonize with, the combination somehow works.
6. Emmylou Harris + Mark Knopfler - "This Is Us"
"This Is Us" is the standout track, but there are several gems on All the Road Running, an album about love all grown up.
5. Lucinda Williams + Elvis Costello - "Jailhouse Tears"
is one of those classic Lucinda Williams swampy country songs about
missing a lover as he's gone off to jail that you don't think could get
any better—then Elvis' voice pops up unmistakably. Too cool. Here they are doing "I Changed the Locks" for CMT's Crossroads (pictured above)
4. Alison Krauss + Robert Plant - "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)"
Who knew that Krauss + Plant = The Beatles? This Everly Brothers song is swampy. It's country. It rocks.
3. Loretta Lynn + Jack White - "Portland Oregon"
is one of those examples where country and rock combine to create
something greater than the two. The whole album is great, but
"Portland" stands out.
2. Emmylou Harris + Gram Parsons - "Return of the Grievous Angel"
is probably a stretch to call it a country & rock duet, as Gram
fused both and Emmy wasn't yet what you'd call a country artist, but it
set the stage for most everything else on this list. Here they are singing "Big Mouth Blues":
1. Johnny Cash + Joe Strummer - "Redemption Song"
just after both icons died, this is a chillingly beautiful piece of
music that raises the hair on my arms every time I listen.
So, what'd I get right? What'd I miss?