Essential Listening

I’ve always been a huge fan of listening lists.  Again, my nerdy side coming out.  My list is based on the style of music I’m drawn to and write about.  It’s where all of the American music styles meet, from blues to jazz to country to roots.  This kind of list will obviously never actually be complete, and is going to be a work in progress.

The section called “Americana” is really a catch all.  There are rock records, folk records, and even some ‘world’-ish ones.

While these albums are all amazing in their own right, oness marked with an * are particularly important or inspiring.  Those would be the best to start with.


Buddy Miller The Majestic Silver Strings (Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot)
Crosby, Stills, & Nash Crosby, Stills, and Nash 
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young Deja Vu
Derek and the Dominos Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
The Grateful Dead American Beauty
Jim Campilongo Heaven is Creepy *
Little Feat Dixie Chicken 
Little Feat Little Feat
Little Feat Waiting for Columbus
Los Lobos Colossal Head 
Lucinda Williams Essence 
Marc Ribot Muy Divertido
Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone 
Neil Young Harvest 
Neil Young Comes a Time 
Ry Cooder Chicken Skin Music 
Steve Earle Guitar Town 
Steve Earle El Corazon 
Steve Earle Transcendental Blues
Elvis Presley Sun Records Recordings *
Elvis Presley Elvis Presley *
Gene Vincent Bluejean Bop 
Gene Vincent Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps 
The Band The Band 
The Band Music From Big Pink 
The Meters The Meters 
The Meters Look a Py Py 


Doc Watson Doc Watson *
Doc Watson Southbound 
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Will the Circle Be Unbroken 

Chicken Pickin’

Alan Jackson Lot About Livin
Alan Jackson What I Do
Alan Jackson Don’t Rock the Jukebox
Alan Jackson Who I Am
Alan Jackson 34 Number Ones 
Alan Jackson Drive
Brad Paisley Mud on the Tires 
Brad Paisley Time Well Wasted 
Brad Paisley Play 
Brad Paisley Fifth Gear
Brad Paisley American Saturday Night 
Emmylou Harris Luxury Liner
The Byrds Live at the Filmore 
Buck Owens The Ultimate Hits Collection*
Merle Haggard I’m a Lonsome Fugitive 
Merle Haggard Branded Man 
Merle Haggard Okie From Muskogee
Merle Haggard Swinging Doors and the Bottle Let Me Down 
Brent Mason Hot Wired 
Dwight Yoakam Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc Etc *
Johnny Hiland All Fired Up 
Danny Gatton Redneck Jazz Explosion 
Jerry Reed The Essential Jerry Reed 
Jerry Reed Me and Jerry (with Chet Atkins)
Jerry Reed Me and Chet
Ricky Skaggs Live in London


The Carter Family Can the Circle Be Unbroken *
Chet Atkins The Early Years * (5 disc box set)
Hank Garland And His Sugar Footers 
Jimmy Bryant Frettin’ Fingers (Check out another Jimmy Bryant album on iTunes)
Johnny Cash The Essential Johnny Cash
The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Keith Urban Get Closer 
Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger 
Willie Nelson Teatro
Willie Nelson You Don’t Know Me-the Songs of Cindy Walker


Wes Montgomery The Incredible Jazz Guitar 
Wes Montgomery Bags Meets Wes
Wes Montgomery Smokin’ at the Half Note 
Wes Montgomery Full House
Joe Pass Virtuoso
Joe Pass Joy Spring
Pat Martino El Hombre
Pat Martino Live at Yoshi’s
Grant Green Idle Moments
Grant Green Complete Sonny Clark Quartets
Grant Green Alive 
Grant Green Live at the Lighthouse
Jim Hall Concerto
Jim Hall Live! *
Jim Hall Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival 
Jim Hall and Ron Carter Alone Together
Jim Hall and Bill Evans Intermodulation
Jim Hall and Bill Evans Undercurrent
Pat Metheny Bright Size Life 
Pat Metheny Question and Answer
Pat Metheny New Chataqua
Pat Metheny Trio-Live 
Paul Motian Monk in Motian
Paul Motian I Have the Room Above Her
Paul Motian On Broadway 
Bill Frisell Nashville
Bill Frisell East/West 
Bill Frisell Blues Dream
Bill Frisell Disfarmer
Bill Frisell Good Dog Happy Man
Bill Frisell History Mystery 
Brian Blade Perceptual (Kurt Rosenwinkel) *
Charlie Christian The Genius of the Electric Guitar *
Kenny Burrell Midnight Blue 
Kenny Burrell Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane 
Kenny Garrett Pursuance (with Pat Metheny)
Kenny Wheeler Angel Song (with Bill Frisell)
Jimmy Raney A 
John Abercrombie Gateway 
John Scofield A Go Go
John Scofield Flat Out 
John Scofield What We Do 
Johnny Smith The Sound of Johnny Smith Guitar 
Johnny Smith Moonlight in Vermont  *
Mark Turner Dharma Days (with Kurt Rosenwinkel) *
Ted Greene Solo Guitar


Junior Wells Hoodoo Man Blues (with Buddy Guy)
BB King Live at the Regal
BB King Live at Cook County Jail
BB King Singing the Blues/The Blues
BB King Completely Well
Albert King  Years Gone By
Albert King Born Under a Bad Sign
Albert King King of the Blues Guitar *
Albert King Live Wire/Blues Power 
The Allman Brothers At Filmore East
The Allman Brothers Idlewild South
The Allman Brothers Eat a Peach
Elmore James The Best of (any compilation will do)*
Eric Clapton From the Cradle  *
John Mayall and Eric Clapton – Bluesbreakers with E.C.
Freddie King The Ultimate Collection  (any compilation will do)*
Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers 
Charly Patton Founder of the Delta Blues 
Roy Buchanan Roy Buchanan 
T-Bone Walker T-Bone Blues 
Albert Collins Truckin’ with Albert Collins 
Muddy Waters Folk Singer 
Muddy Waters At Newport 1960 

All links are to iTunes, and are affiliate links (which means I get a small commission at no extra charge to you).  Buying an album is a great way to support this website, especially if you were going to buy one anyway!

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