Great country voices

Charley Pride (left), Vince Gill, and Jon Pardi are some of Ryan Turner’s top picks for male singers. Photos: Republic Country Club (Pride), Derek Russell (Gill).


Ryan Turner, top choral conductor and proud Texan, brings us his favorite male country singers in this episode of The Necessary Show

By David Brittan

I have listened to plenty of country singers in my time, but never really heard them until I sat down with a connoisseur. I was already a fan of Ryan Turner’s, having experienced his masterful presentation of the Bach Christmas Oratorio with Boston’s Emmanuel Music, which he leads. Our paths crossed again last year, when Ryan began directing a group I belong to, the Newburyport Choral Society. That’s when I learned about his Texas roots.

In El Paso, where Ryan spent his childhood, the sound of fiddles and steel guitars was in the air. He idolized country and bluegrass singers like George Strait and Vince Gill, and spent hours in his room trying to imitate them (“I sang everything up an octave,” he explains). By the age of ten, he was singing in bars, even opening for a well-known band called the Bellamy Brothers.

circular headshot of Ryan Turner
Ryan Turner (learn all about him here)

Lucky for Bach, Ryan’s classical interests won out. So today we have a highly regarded classical musician — tenor soloist, choral director, opera conductor, voice teacher (at Longy School of Music of Bard College) — who kicks back to Charley Pride. And he’s only too happy to talk with me about his favorite country vocalists, albeit with the occasional anatomical reference (“pharynx”) or nod to an operatic composer (“Rossini”).

“There are some country music singers who have these amazing voices, especially tenors that find this sweet sound,” Ryan tells me in the podcast. And durned if he ain’t right.

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Featured in this episode

Charley Pride “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?” (RCA/Legacy)

Kenny Chesney “Being Drunk’s a Lot Like Loving You” (BNA Records)

Jon Pardi “Heartache Medication” (Capitol Records Nashville)

Vince Gill “I Still Believe in You” (Geffen)

Jimmie Allen, Darius Rucker, Charley Pride “Why Things Happen” (Stoney Creek Records)

Cameo appearances

George Strait “Amarillo by Morning” (Geffen)

Roy Orbison “Crying” (Columbia Nashville Legacy)

Lawrence Brownlee “Ah Dov’è, Dov’è Il Cimento?” from Semiramide, by Gioachino Rossini (Delos)

Leif Aruhn-Solén “Domine, labia mea,” from Psalm 50, by Michel Richard de Lalande (SonoConsult)

DAVID BRITTAN is curator & editor of The NecessaryEmail • Bio


  1. Bravo. I must confess I never had a love of country music but this podcast provides me with a new appreciation. Really engaging piece!

    1. Interesting article, David, and helps the purists among us appreciate people like Ryan, who are open to all sorts of musical expression … even the nasal sing-song that is so much a part of country music. But for me, I still look forward to the next Pavarotti.

  2. Man, I loved that show. So beautifully put together, and pungent with insights from your man Ryan. Some of my favorite people in the world have been smart guys from Texas.

    I will listen to these singers with new appreciation.

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