Rating: **** 4/5 Stars
The sound of classic country music is not to everyone’s taste, but artists such as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Travis and Patsy Cline have sold a heck of a lot of records and this style of ’50s/’60s country has also found its way into countless film and TV soundtracks. If you want that sound, Big Fish Audio — in collaboration with Funk Soul Productions — have just the thing with their Kontakt‑based Vintage Country, a collection of both playable instruments and performance loops designed to capture the authentic sound used in, well, vintage country recordings.
The 5GB of samples provide an interesting combination of elements. First, the playable instruments include various acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, dobro, pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin, upright piano, two drum kits (brushes and sticks) and bass guitar options. These are available as single instruments as well as full band ensembles (Kontakt multis) ready to compose with. None of these individual instruments might perhaps be considered ‘comprehensive’, but the selection of articulations is well thought out. For example, the Fender Telecaster instrument provides a compact choice of keyswitchable sustain, staccato and mute articulations, while the fiddle offers slides, staccato and sustain; it’s enough to get the job done but also not overwhelming (which is a good thing). The retro‑styled UI includes EQ, reverb, tape saturation and delay. These are all configured to add to the vintage vibe, but the highlight is the amp‑style tremolo, which works brilliantly with all the electric guitar sounds.
The second element is the various performance tools. These include genre‑accurate drum loops (in 4/4 and 3/4), guitar, banjo and fiddle. For the pitched instruments, these are implemented in quite a neat way, with banks of loops suitable for the I, IV and V chords of your chosen key and mapped in colour‑coded zones across the MIDI keyboard; providing you are happy to stick to some tried and trusted vintage country chord sequences, creating some melodic lines to follow the changes is an absolute breeze. All the loops will follow your host tempo. However, you do also get some chordal choice; there are a number of chord‑based options for the guitars that provide full strummed major, minor, augmented, diminished, 7th and 6th chords from single‑note triggers.
What’s really impressive, however, is just how genuinely the sound and sonic character of all the instruments has been captured. Put two or three of these instruments together in a simple arrangement and you get a very believable classic country sound. While the price tag might be a barrier to some, sonically, it’s right on the money. Providing you have the musical chops, just add a suitably vintage country vocal, and you can easily craft your own ’50s/’60s‑style country hit right here in 2023. No, this might not be for everyone, but if you need that classic country sound, Vintage Country delivers it with ease.