Our next three Country Records of the Month — which you’ll receive if you sign up for VMP Country in January, February and March 2022 — feature a country legend and two definitive albums from ’90s alt-country upstarts.
Our Country Record of the Month in January is Iris DeMent’s debut LP, Infamous Angel, an instant classic from the singer-songwriter. Immediately co-signed by the likes of John Prine, and featuring contributions from Emmylou Harris, Infamous Angel was a complete 180 from the country music on the charts at the time of its 1992 release, as its raw, direct songs were as different as could be from the glossy, pop country of Garth Brooks.
Infamous Angel has been on vinyl only once before, and our new reissue was supervised by DeMent herself. The artist approved the color of the vinyl — Cloudy Blue, to match the cover — the mastering for vinyl by Mike Westbrook, and she chose the writer David Cantwell to write the Listening Notes booklet for this reissue. Our edition comes on 180g vinyl in a gatefold jacket, with the new Listening Notes. Here’s an excerpt from the booklet:
“Iris DeMent released Infamous Angel in 1992. Nearly 30 years later, the album remains among the most singular and fully realized singer-songwriter debuts since the invention of that category in the early ’70s. The abiding strengths of the album are especially impressive — even a bit startling — because 1992 is not a moment usually associated with her intimate brand of acoustic country music. In country history, the year 1992 is most immediately affiliated with Garth Brooks, whose album, The Chase, topped both the country and pop album charts that year, and with Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart,’ which fueled a line dance craze. Squeezed into a playlist alongside such hits, DeMent’s doleful, hushed ‘Our Town’ would’ve sounded as if it were being broadcast from another planet. ‘People call me country,’ she told journalist Ben Thompson while on tour in Britain a couple years later. ‘But country doesn’t call me country.’”
In February, our Country Record of the Month is Loretta Lynn’s Back to the Country, a landmark album from the country music icon. Released in 1975, and not reissued on vinyl since 1980, the album is infamous for including Lynn’s radio-banned single “The Pill,” a radical song about the right to take birth control, which was as big a lightning rod that could exist in country music circles at the time. It climbed the Billboard charts despite the ban. The album also features the fan-favorite “Paper Roses.”
Our new edition of Back to the Country comes on 180g “Denim on Denim” colored vinyl, and was remastered AAA with lacquers cut from the original master tapes by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. It also features a new Listening Notes booklet from Marissa Moss.
“This is the second time we’ve done a Record of the Month with Loretta Lynn, along with our VMP Essentials release of Coal Miner’s Daughter a few years ago,” said VMP Classics & Country Director Andrew Winistorfer. “It was only a matter of time, once we launched VMP Country, that we’d get back to Loretta, and this album was the perfect fit: Radical in Loretta’s own, quiet and fiery way, and full of her trademark voice and attitude. That she would stand for what’s right in 1975 — at a time when very few other performers would stick their neck out like she did on “The Pill” — is what made her a legend.”
Back to the Country will be available for signups on January 20.
And finally, our March Country Record of the Month is Lyle Lovett’s quiet, stunning fourth LP, Joshua Judges Ruth. Featuring beloved songs like “Church” and “Family Reserve,” the album has been released on vinyl only once before, and then only in the U.K. on 1LP. Our new edition is on 2LP Black Ice vinyl, and was mastered for vinyl by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. It comes with a new Listening Notes booklet by Andrew Dansby.
“Back in early 2020, when VMP Country was just an idea living on a whiteboard in my basement, Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth was on the list; it’s an alt-country classic that showcases Lovett’s songwriting hitting a refined new peak, and it’s only ever been on vinyl in the U.K., impossible to find stateside,” said VMP Classics & Country Director Andrew Winistorfer. “This album is spiritual, sad, funny, catchy; everything you want good country music to be, and it boggled my mind that it wasn’t as available as some of Lovett’s earlier albums. Getting to partner with Curb and Lovett on this album is a dream come true, and the kind of album I hope we get to do many more of in VMP Country as time goes on.”
Joshua Judges Ruth will be available for signups on February 17.