("Exploring the Classics" (ETC) is an ongoing series in which I highlight and discuss an album from country music's past that is of particular noteworthiness due to general acclaim, influence, historical import, commercial success, or some combination thereof. While in many instances I'll be revisiting albums with which I've long been familiar, in others I'll be experiencing these works for the first time. What albums count as "noteworthy" is obviously highly subjective and determined at my discretion, but I'm not too strict about it. I do, however, feel that these are the works that tell the story of country music.)
While the mid-'80s through the early '90s are a period associated with neotraditional country music, it was also a time when a generation of highly literate singer-songwriters with folk leanings began to emerge, making excellent music that was inspired by Americana and alt-country forebears like Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and Guy Clark. While their commercial success was often limited, they made some of the most essential music of that era.