On par with their excellent jazz collection, Smithsonian's Classic Country Music series takes in the highlights from the early string band days of the Carter Family and the rise of honky tonk to the Nashville sound and the crossover sounds of the '80s. Spread over four discs with close to 25 tracks a disc, the series offers country newcomers an ideal place to start. The third installment takes up the story in the mid-'50s, as rock & roll was starting to make waves. The first half covers the latter days of honky tonk with hits by Ray Price and Johnny Horton, not to mention a few nods to theSun Records milieu by way of some Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. The disc proceeds to take in most of the '60s, including early country-pop (Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline), the Bakersfield sound (Buck Owens), mega hits (Bobbie Gentry and Roger Miller), and two of the music's strongest female voices (Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette). A fine taste of country before the producers really started jockeying for the crossover dollar and lost sight of those honky tonk roots.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook