5 Essential Ray Price Songs

On Dec. 16, 2014, country legend Ray Price passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87 years old, and he left behind a huge catalog of recordings and a musical legacy that is among the most impressive in country music history.

Price was a contemporary (and friend) of Hank Williams, and his early recordings reflect that sharp-edged honky-tonk sound. As the 1950s progressed, though, Price found himself more and more attracted to smoother countrypolitan stylings. You can hear it working its way into songs like “City Lights” and especially on his album Night Life. And it finally comes to full fruition on Price’s 1960s songs such as “Danny Boy” and “For the Good Times” — the latter a Kris Kristofferson composition that Price turned into a signature song.

Price and his band the Cherokee Cowboys developed a dance-friendly rhythm that became known as the ‘Ray Price shuffle.’ The band was an early starting ground, too, for such later legends as Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Paycheck.

Price also co-owned Pamper Music, a publishing company that helped boost the careers of Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran, among others.

Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. And he continued performing up until very recently, when his health wouldn’t allow it.

Because it spans so many years and includes so many great songs, Price’s catalog is well worth exploring in depth. Below are five key tracks to help you dive in.

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With ‘Antiphon,’ Midlake Grows Up and Moves On

Like a lot of Midlake fans, when news broke that lead singer and longtime bandmember Tim Smith had left the band, I was worried that the group’s sound and songs wouldn’t hold up.

After listening to the new album Antiphon, though, any worries are laid to rest. It’s a fantastic album with strong songs and a sound that shifts the band back toward a psychedelic sound — yet still retains the wonderful melodic structures and vocal harmonies that have long been identified with the band.

Seeing Midlake live, too, only brings this experience home — this is still very much the same band.

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