The rise of the so-called "No Depression" (named after the Carter Family song) alternative country movement in the 1990s coincided with commercial country's hard left turn into pop
ock territory. Less a reaction to the slick "hat acts" (Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, et al.) than an attempt to keep country's historical line pure and direct, the movement was invaluable in keeping traditional country music in the public consciousness at a time when radio simply wouldn't play it. A wonderful two-disc collection, Beyond Nashville charts the history of country from its varied roots in blues, folk, and gospel (Jimmie Rodgers, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie) through the golden era of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell and the outlaw years of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. The rock influx from the late '60s is represented by tracks from the Byrds, the Band, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. The second disc features young disciples like Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, and Lucinda Williams along with more experimental stuff from Sparklehorse, Lambchop, and Jim White, making Beyond Nashville an essential primer for a new/old and extremely vital genre.