One of the more interesting albums during the 1980’s was Dan Fogelberg‘s High Country Snows. Dan was a staple of Top 40 and adult contemporary radio, during the early 1980’s. so it may seem a bit unusual to consider one of his works on a classic country blog. But one listen to this album and you’ll see how well it fits.
High Country Snows falls into the “newgrass”, sound of the 1980’s. It was a unique blend of bluegrass, country, and pop. The players include some of the top musicians of the 1980’s. Notable names like Herb Pederson, Charlie McCoy, Chris Hillman, Vince Gill, Doc Watson, Jerry Douglas, David Grisman, and Ricky Skaggs.
Released in 1985, this album reached gold status for sales of 500,000. The album was Dan’s only appearance on the country album charts, where it came close to the top 20.
The album opens with a few lines from an old Flatt and Scruggs song, “Down the Road”. It then morphs into a rousing Fogelberg composition, “Mountain Pass”. “Go Down Easy”, and “The Higher You Climb” are more pop-oriented. Both songs, though, still have strong bluegrass and country influences. “Sutter’s Mill”, is the story of John Sutter. His discovery of gold began the California Gold Rush, and makes a classic story song. Though long (6 minutes), it’s so good, you don’t even realize the length.
“Wolf Creek”, a smoking’ instrumental, featuring the legendary Doc Watson joining with Fogelberg. Plus, they’re joined by Herb Pederson, Emory Gordy Jr., and Jerry Douglas.
“High Country Snows”, not so much a bluegrass number, it’s more traditional country. In fact, much more country than most of what was on country radio in the mid 1980’s.
“Wolf Creek” and “Down the Road/Mountain Pass” aren’t the only selections that are in high gear. “Shallow Rivers” and the Carter Stanley classic “Think of What You’ve Done” are toe tappers. Dan Fogelberg does an especially good job with the Stanley classic.
“Wandering Shepherd” is the most stripped down selection on the album. It features Dan Fogelberg on guitar, Herb Pederson on bass, and both, along with Vince Gill on vocals.
I have always liked this album, since it’s 1985 release. Dan Fogelberg was a great singer who could handle many genres. Many pop artists who try country or bluegrass, don’t do well. But he succeeded because the arrangements are country and bluegrass. Plus, his voice was a perfect vehicle for acoustical music. The selections are all strong, no weak tunes or album fillers on this release. I rate it five out of five.
If you like traditional country and bluegrass, you’ll like this album. It was one of the best releases of the 1980’s.
About Thy Author
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He actually convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig. He hosts the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. You can listen Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LPFM/AshevilleFM, at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, and online at ashevillefm.org. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.