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The Rolling Stones at 60: How the Stones shaped country music

BY Robert Deaton

21st Mar 2023 Music

The Rolling Stones at 60: How the Stones shaped country music

The Rolling Stones did more than play rock n' roll—they also wrote some of the best country songs of all time. A new album, Stoned Cold Country, pays tribute

The hardest part of any creative endeavour, for me, is the start. Staring at a blank piece of paper or the cursor waiting alone on a computer screen while I wait for inspiration is my first challenge. Once I have that first line, I’m off to the races.

The Stoned Cold Country album was no different. How do I pay tribute to the greatest rock band of all time? How do I condense hundreds of songs to 14 tracks? How do I choose the right artists to pay tribute to these mythic figures of music history

The answer, as always, came from the music. I decided the process had to start with spending time with those legendary albums. Slowly the combinations began to unlock.

I could hear Little Big Town singing their signature harmony on “Wild Horses.” I could imagine Eric Church, The Chief, growling through “Gimme Shelter.” Like a 45 RPM record dropping in a jukebox, the pairings fell into place.

Once all the decisions were made for which songs were going to be paired with which artists, the fun really began in the recording studio. 

The Rolling Stones: Masters of honky tonk

In order to understand why this idea was hanging around in my head, we have to go back to 1976.

Ronnie Milsap, now in the Country Music Hall of Fame, released Live, which was recorded at the Grand Ole Opry. As a kid, I was all about country music, and the album ended with a track called “Honky Tonk Women.”

"The Rolling Stones wrote some of the greatest country songs of all time"

Not only did it introduce me to what is one of the greatest country songs of all time, but it was also my first introduction to the Stones. 

All these years later, it still resonates with me that The Rolling Stones wrote some of the greatest country songs of all time. Their influence on country music and the artists who sing it is immense.

Eric Church told me that when he was playing dive bars for tips, if he threw in a Stones song, more jingle went in the jar. 

Recreating The Rolling Stones' magic ingredients

You could say we were past due to tribute the Stones, but celebrating 60 years of their music this year makes it the perfect time. Stoned Cold Country is Nashville’s love letter to The Rolling Stones. 

It was important that the artists and musicians on this record share the same spirit as The Rolling Stones, so I compiled a group of rule breakers and trailblazers.

I wanted artists that are making music because it’s in their DNA, fame or no fame. Ashley McBryde would be playing music even if she didn’t have a record deal, no doubt. This collection of artists represents all of that and more. 

"The Stones created their music together, and you can feel the intimacy and connection"

During the recording process, it was important to go old school and record all the tracks and vocals in the same room.

The Stones created their music together, and you can feel the intimacy and connection when it’s done that way. Singers, musicians, engineers and producers working fully together and feeding off their combined creative energy is like magic. 

We all felt a high responsibility to take care of these classic songs that mean so much to Mick, Keith and the band. We worked hard to make them proud of how we handled these classic musical treasures. 

Paying tribute to Nashville country

The album took one year to make. During the journey, I began to realize that not only was this a tribute to The Rolling Stones, but it was also a showcase and spotlight on the best country music has to offer as a genre.

From the honky tonk stylings of Brooks and Dunn, to the genius musicianship of the Zac Brown Band, country music can proudly state that it is second to none when it comes to artists of integrity and creativity. 

The same can be said of the Nashville session players that participated. From the harmonica stylings of Mickey Raphael on Jimmie Allen’s version of “Miss You,” to the fiddle work of Jenee Fleenor on Steve Earle's rendition of “Angie,” not to mention the steel guitar of Dan Dugmore on Lainey Wilson’s “You Can't Always Get What You Want.”

"They might not have thought their songs were Country, but it was Country to us"

Nashville can boast that the greatest musicians in the world reside in Music City. This is truly a tribute to these incredible musicians on the record. 

As I have stated before, this thank you seems way overdue. The influence that The Rolling Stones have on country music cannot be understated. Ronnie Dunn said it best with this line, “They might not have thought their songs were Country, but it was Country to us.”

From Nashville: Thank you to The Rolling Stones for 60 years of inspiration and providing the soundtrack of our lives. 

Stoned Cold Country: A 60th Anniversary Tribute To The Rolling Stones is available to stream/purchase worldwide now. Visit stonedcoldcountry.com for more information.

And to re-visit some of The Rolling Stones greatest hits, Forty Licks is available on Amazon.

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