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Thread: 100 Greatest Albums in Modern Country Music

  1. #1
    Insane Carrie Fan twaintrain's Avatar
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    100 Greatest Albums in Modern Country Music

    100 Greatest Albums in Modern Country Music (1990-2015)
    This is a list I created because I needed a distraction (apparently a really big one). I used to want to be a music journalist so maybe this is my attempt. I rated over 130 albums on based on quality and impact on country music. I haven’t heard every single album ever made so I’m sure there are definitely great albums missing, but I think I covered all the albums that had a major impact on country music. I tried to be fairly impartial, but that’s not possible and these are just my opinions. I didn’t include any Greatest Hits albums. If anyone has become a country fan because of Carrie, these are some great albums you might want to check out. I’ve written a little description for the top 10.





    1. COME ON OVER – Shania Twain
    It’s no surprise my number one pick is the biggest-selling country album of all-time and the biggest-selling album by a female artist of any genre. Twenty times platinum in the U.S. and estimated world-wide sales of over 40 million copies is no small feat, but this is no small album. Slick, fun, and catchy from start to finish, there’s no questioning why this was a phenomenon. A lot of the material is cheeky, but that’s what Shania does best - making the everyday mundane into fun, female-empowerment anthems like “Honey, I’m Home!” and the album opener “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” Three quintessential Shania ballads are also in the mix here, the wedding song of all wedding songs, “From This Moment On,” “You’ve Got A Way,” and, the song that started her crossover domination, “You’re Still the One.” This album completely changed what we know as contemporary country music. Everything from breaking the norm of a 10 track album (there are 16 tracks here) to making videos MTV ready, such as “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” challenged what country music could be. The album boasts classic after classic, 12 of the tracks were released as singles in the U.S. and world-wide, and it changed what was possible with country music – though, let’s face it, it clearly stretched the boundaries of what is country music. Shania definitely paved the way for artists like Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood.
    Key Tracks: “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” “From This Moment On,” “You’re Still The One,” “Honey, I’m Home!”


    2. NO FENCES – Garth Brooks
    No Fences, Garth’s second album, managed to do the seemingly impossible, bring neo-traditional country music to the masses by blending it with the feel of arena rock. With the everyman anthem “Friends in Low Places,” Garth became a superstar and at the same time, gave country music a cool factor. The album opens with a cheating song which is a pretty standard topic for country music, however, this was not traditional country fare. “The Thunder Rolls” features electric guitars and a heavy rock influence, not to mention a video originally banned from CMT. On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Unanswered Prayers,” a brilliantly written song about seeing your high school love at a football game and realizing some things don’t work out because something better is in store. The album, now certified 17 X platinum, saw numbers never before seen in country music.
    Key Tracks: “The Thunder Rolls,” “Two Of A Kind (Workin’ On A Full House),” “Friends in Low Places,” “Unanswered Prayers”


    3. THE WOMAN IN ME – Shania Twain
    At the time of its release, The Woman in Me was considered too pop for country radio. It seems funny listening back because it would be too country to be played on today’s country radio. But a sexy, Nashville outsider performing country music produced by the guy who produced AC/DC was a hard pill for a lot of radio programmers to swallow. They had to beg to get the first single, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” played. It eventually became a hit but it was the second single, “Any Man of Mine,” that started the phenomenon that is Shania Twain. From crossover hit, “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!” to folksy “No One Needs To Know,” to the beautiful title track, there’s not a bad cut. The upbeats songs are playful and catchy, while the ballads are sensual and passionate. Shania’s voice is a sexy as her image. Although it didn’t have as many singles as its follow-up, it did spawn 7 (the most ever for a country album) plus a remix of the final track, “God Bless the Child.”
    Key Tracks: “Any Man of Mine,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!” “No One Needs To Know”


    4. ROPIN’ THE WIND – Garth Brooks
    Garth continued music domination with his third album, Ropin’ the Wind. The “arena country” sound foreshadowed on No Fences was brought to the forefront on Ropin’ the Wind. Songs like “Rodeo” and “Shameless,” the brilliant Billy Joel cover, were made for stadiums. The opening number, “Against the Grain,” pretty much describes what Garth did with his music and career. In the same vein, so does the album closer, “The River,” a universal anthem of not giving up. For all the electric guitars and power ballads, traditional country is still a key part of the record.
    Key Tracks: “Rodeo,” “Papa Loved Mama,” “Shameless,” “The River”


    5. FLY – Dixie Chicks
    The Dixie Chicks took the world by storm with their debut album Wide Open Spaces. The follow-up, Fly, proved to be just as successful and cemented the Chicks as the premiere group in music. They were making real music, real country music and having a lot of fun with it. The first single, “Ready to Run,” featured mean fiddles and everything that made the Chicks great. As with most great artists, controversy also came with the territory. “Goodbye Earl” was a song about murdering an abusive ex-husband, and in Dixie Chicks’ fashion, it was a lot of fun – as is “Sin Wagon,” a song that talks about the topics you would expect with such a title, but yet again, it’s a lot of fun. A pre-famous Keith Urban can be found on “Some Days You Gotta Dance,” a song originally recorded by his group The Ranch.
    Key Tracks: “Ready to Run,” “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Goodbye Earl,” “Without You”


    6. FOR MY BROKEN HEART – Reba McEntire
    This is probably the most emotional mainstream country album ever released. Recorded after members of Reba’s band were killed in a plane crash, it was an album dedicated to their memory and it’s beautiful from start to finish. Every song tells a story. “Is There Life Out There” is a classic about a wife and mother wanting something more out of her life and the video inspired many women to go back to college. “Bobby” is a touching song about a man that ends up in jail for ending his suffering wife’s life and his reconciliation with his son. Her cover of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” has become a country standard more popular than the original. The album also contains one of the most emotional, beautiful songs ever written, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” The album closes with a song especially recorded for the members of her band, the haunting “If I Had Only Known.”
    Key Tracks: “For My Broken Heart,” “Is There Life Out There,” “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”


    7. I STILL BELIEVE IN YOU – Vince Gill
    I Still Believe In You is a slick collection of songs sung by the smoothest voice in the business. The title track may be the best produced record ever. The vocal layering is brilliant, as is the perfection of Gill’s vocal. While there are a lot of ballads (Gill’s voice is made for them) there are also extremely fun numbers like the hits “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away” and “One More Last Chance.” The album was released in 1992 and the songs have definitely stood the test of time.
    Key Tracks: “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away,” “Tryin’ To Get Over You,” “One More Last Chance,” “I Still Believe in You”


    8. A LOT ABOUT LIVIN’ (AND A LITTLE ‘BOUT LOVE) – Alan Jackson
    The title of this record tells you all you need to know. It’s what country music is about, life and love. The title is of course taken from the song “Chattahoochee,” the song that made Jackson a superstar. As is most of his material, the song is about what he knows, his life experiences and home – he grew up near the Chattahoochee river. The album includes top notch heartbreak ballads like “Tonight I Climb the Wall” and “(Who Says) You Can’t Have It All,” the two-stepping “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues).” The album was a huge hit despite the fact that it never veered into any kind of crossover territory.
    Key Tracks: “Chattahoochee,” “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues),” “(Who Says) You Can’t Have It All,” “Mercury Blues”


    9. BRAND NEW MAN – Brooks & Dunn
    Although the first 3 singles from Brooks & Dunn’s debut album were all #1 hits, it was the fourth single, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” that took the country, and dancefloor, by storm. It was a huge part of line-dancing’s popularity in the early nineties. Barn burners are throughout this classic record that made Brooks & Dunn the worthy successor of The Judds as country music’s most popular duo.
    Key Tracks: “Brand New Man,” “My Next Broken Heart,” “Neon Moon,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”


    10. STORYTELLER – Carrie Underwood
    The premiere female vocalist of the past decade, Carrie Underwood took risks and charted new territory with her fifth studio album Storyteller. An album that delivers, for the most part, on the promise of its title. There are stories of cheating (“Dirty Laundry”), an abusive relationship (“Church Bells”), and possible murder (“Choctaw County Affair”). The latter, the swampy “Choctaw County Affair” is one of the greatest songs of Carrie’s career. Storyteller is the first record since Carrie became a mother and motherhood seems to have given Carrie even more confidence than before. This is brought to the forefront on the beautiful “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted” about her husband and child, as well as the heartstrings pulling “The Girl You Think I Am.”
    Key Tracks: “Dirty Laundry,” “Church Bells,” “Choctaw County Affair,” “Chaser”
    Last edited by twaintrain; 06-11-2016 at 09:23 PM.
    bluetb4, Curr, Mirasa45A and 5 others like this.

  • #2
    Insane Carrie Fan twaintrain's Avatar
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    11
    WYNONNA Wynonna Judd
    12
    BREATHE Faith Hill
    13
    HOME Dixie Chicks
    14
    PURE COUNTRY George Strait
    15
    FEARLESS Taylor Swift
    16
    WIDE OPEN SPACES Dixie Chicks
    17
    BLUE LeAnn Rimes
    18
    HEARTS IN ARMOR Trisha Yearwood
    19
    THIS TIME Dwight Yoakam
    20
    CARNIVAL RIDE Carrie Underwood
    21
    THERE'S MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM Lee Ann Womack
    22
    DID I SHAVE MY LEGS FOR THIS? Deana Carter
    23
    BE HERE Keith Urban
    24
    LOVE ON THE INSIDE Sugarland
    25
    READ MY MIND Reba McEntire
    26
    NEED YOU NOW Lady Antebellum
    27
    A PLACE IN THE SUN Tim McGraw
    28
    BLOWN AWAY Carrie Underwood
    29
    IN PIECES Garth Brooks
    30
    TRAVELLER Chris Stapleton
    31
    RUMOR HAS IT Reba McEntire
    32
    DON'T ROCK THE JUKEBOX Alan Jackson
    33
    WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN Kenny Chesney
    34
    WHEN LOVE FINDS YOU Vince Gill
    35
    HERE FOR THE PARTY Gretchen Wilson
    36
    DRIVE Alan Jackson
    37
    IT'S ALL ABOUT TO CHANGE Travis Tritt
    38
    SOME HEARTS Carrie Underwood
    39
    YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE Zac Brown Band
    40
    COME ON COME ON Mary Chapin Carpenter
    41
    LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING Tim McGraw
    42
    THE FOUNDATION Zac Brown Band
    43
    I HOPE YOU DANCE Lee Ann Womack
    44
    SPEAK NOW Taylor Swift
    45
    SEVENS Garth Brooks
    46
    TIME WELL WASTED Brad Paisley
    47
    TRISHA YEARWOOD Trisha Yearwood
    48
    CALL ME CRAZY Lee Ann Womack
    49
    LOVE, PAIN & THE WHOLE CRAZY THING Keith Urban
    50
    COUNTRY CLUB Travis Tritt
    51
    WHO I AM Alan Jackson
    52
    WILD ANGELS Martina McBride
    53
    I'M ALRIGHT JoDee Messina
    54
    MY KINDA PARTY Jason Aldean
    55
    CHIEF Eric Church
    56
    FAITH Faith Hill
    57
    EVERYWHERE Tim McGraw
    58
    UP! Shania Twain
    59
    TORNADO Little Big Town
    60
    EVOLUTION Martina McBride
    61
    O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? Soundtrack
    62
    TROUBADOUR George Strait
    63
    CLAY WALKER Clay Walker
    64
    LONELY RUNS BOTH WAYS Alison Krauss & Union Station
    65
    HEAVEN, HEARTACHE & THE POWER OF LOVE Trisha Yearwood
    66
    ONLY WHAT I FEEL Patty Loveless
    67
    MUD ON THE TIRES Brad Paisley
    68
    ALL I WANT Tim McGraw
    69
    SWEETHEARTS DANCE Pam Tillis
    70
    GOLDEN ROAD Keith Urban
    71
    ACES Suzy Bogguss
    72
    THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH Patty Loveless
    73
    FUSE Keith Urban
    74
    WATCH ME Lorrie Morgan
    75
    HARD WORKIN' MAN Brooks & Dunn
    76
    NO SHOES, NO SHIRT, NO PROBLEMS Kenny Chesney
    77
    THAT LONESOME SONG Jamey Johnson
    78
    TIME MARCHES ON Tracy Lawrence
    79
    CARRYING YOUR LOVE WITH ME George Strait
    80
    NO TIME TO KILL Clint Black
    81
    FEELS LIKE TODAY Rascal Flatts
    82
    FORGET ABOUT IT Alison Krauss
    83
    TIM MCGRAW AND THE DANCEHALL DOCTORS Tim McGraw
    84
    IT MATTERS TO ME Faith Hill
    85
    THE CHASE Garth Brooks
    86
    TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift
    87
    BLUE CLEAR SKY George Strait
    88
    THE BAND PERRY The Band Perry
    89
    LEE ANN WOMACK Lee Ann Womack
    90
    JEKYLL & HYDE Zac Brown Band
    91
    WHEN FALLEN ANGELS FLY Patty Loveless
    92
    CANT' RUN FROM YOURSELF Tanya Tucker
    93
    BORN TO FLY Sara Evans
    94
    ROOM TO BREATHE Reba McEntire
    95
    PART II Brad Paisley
    96
    PLAY ON Carrie Underwood
    97
    HAUNTED HEART Sammy Kershaw
    98
    PUT YOURSELF IN MY PLACE Pam Tillis
    99
    12 STORIES Brandy Clark
    100
    MONTEVALLO Sam Hunt

  • #3
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    Twaintrain, thanks for your input and all the hard work you did here....great job!! You would be a great music journalist!!

    I love your #1 pick (Shania Twain), #7 pick (Vince Gill), #9 pick (Brooks & Dunn) and of course the #10 pick.....the Queen, Carrie!!!
    rainbow1 and twaintrain like this.

  • #4
    Huge Carrie Follower CarrieUDomination's Avatar
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    Yes!!!!! This is a great list! You definitely would be a good music journalist! It's pretty safe to say Come on Over really is probably the best. I've loved that album and its international edition ever since I was, like, three and thought Shania was the most gorgeous creature alive, lol! It never gets old! And both of its covers are fairly iconic. And most everyone knows at least one song from it.
    twaintrain likes this.

  • #5
    Insane Carrie Fan twaintrain's Avatar
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    Thanks guys!

    I think of all the albums listed, the one I would recommend going right away to listen to if you haven't heard it is "For My Broken Heart" by Reba. (Guess I assume everyone has heard Shania and Garth) I would like to know if anyone can listen to that record without crying, especially knowing she's singing the last song about her band members that were killed. If you think Adele's music is emotional, you haven't heard anything - "Bobby," "All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go)," "The Greatest Man I Never Knew," and "If I Had Only Known," can't recommend enough.

  • #6
    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    Thanks, Twaintrain - that's a really impressive survey, that involves a lot of work - not least in keeping the comparisons and grades of discrimination in mind, as you move through a listing of 130 albums that vary temporally and stylistically to that extent.
    I agree with those who've said that you could indeed have been a strong music journalist - it's particularly evident in the explanatory summaries you give for your top ten.

    Speaking personally, as a longstanding Country Music fan, it's actually clear to me that our tastes and the music we're drawn to are, in large part, quite different. I know that your listing is taking into account the impact the albums had on the Music Row format - and that is certainly a valid position for a journalist's survey. However, purely from the point of view of personal preference, I would only relate strongly to one of your top five, and to about 20% of your full list. But I think that only confirms - on the one hand - the strength and variety that exists within the Country Music spectrum (and, incidentally, the personal talent and drawing power of Carrie, who can attract fans from a variety of backgrounds) - but also, on the other hand, the divisions that exist within the music, and which arguably became acerbated by the way much of the Music Row format went in the '90s.

    Although there are individuals that are harder to characterize, in general, the Mainstream format in the 25 year span of your coverage concentrated on two general styles - "Country Pop" and "Nashville Neo-traditionalism" - and, in my case, neither of those could be called a favourite. I generally find my tastes run more to the movements in Country Music that lie outside the Mainstream format. Some of those - such as the "Alt Country" movement (arguably launched by Uncle Tupelo's 1990 "No Depression" album, the title of which became a rallying cry), and the "Americana" movement (which went on to develop its own panoply of radio chart, award show and Grammy field) - also began in the '90s. Others, such as the "Outlaw" movement. "Red Dirt Music" and "Progressive Bluegrass" pre-dated the '90s - but arguably gained clearer identity and development, and crystallized their following, in the years your list covers. Although it is, of course, arguable that those parts of the spectrum had little quantifiable impact on the Music Row priorities and output - it's also true that they certainly had, and continue to have, a considerable impact on Country Music writers, critical appreciation, the festival scene, club performance, and the less solely mass market focused outlets like PBS, Sirius and the BBC.

    It's representatives of those wider wings of the spectrum that a Music Row-based survey tends to by-pass. For example, I miss the North Alabama artists - the Drive-by Truckers, Jason Isbell (and now the rising talent of Anderson East); I miss the Texas music scene - artists like Robert Earl Keen. James McMurtry, and Ray Wiley Hubbard; I miss the Oklahoma artists like the Turnpike Troubadours, John Fulbright, and Jimmy LaFave; and perhaps, above all, as someone with a special love for female artists, I miss a number of the "greats" - Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash, to name a few.

    The divisions in the genre (which can be strong on both sides) can make it difficult to arrive at inclusive comparisons. One recent example (for illustration) was the Queens of Country blog's listing of the best ten albums, just of last year, by female artists. It put "Storyteller" in tenth place, notwithstanding having given it a strongly positive review. I would have placed it higher - but I have no quarrel at all with the top two places (Ashley Monroe's "the Blade", and Gretchen Peters' "Blackbirds"), both of which I consider truly outstanding offerings of recent years. The difficulty comes with those in between. The individual critical reasoning for the albums in isolation is sound, in my opinion - but the comparison and ranking inevitably gives the list a motley and rather ill-assorted impression. I'm all for including a variety of styles, and showing welcome due appreciation for newcomers - but, in much of the list I find it hard to decide whether chalk is better than cheese. (One reason why I'm glad I'm not a music journalist!)
    Queens of Country's Best Albums of 2015 - Queens of Country

    One artist of the last fifteen years who I feel has excelled in bridging the gap between the different wings of Country Music has been Miranda Lambert. If you take her album "Four - the Record", it includes hit material relevant to the contemporary scene - but also includes a very Mainstream-unlikely club anthem from Country's "left field"; a song by Chris Stapleton (who is on your list for his current album, but was little known to Mainstream fans at that time); and songs by three of the leading women artists of Alt Country (Gillian Welch, Allison Moorer, and Brandi Carlile). I find this mingling of Country styles and influences very successful - but also disappointingly rare at that level.

    In this genre, though, things are seldom cut and dried. Gretchen Peters is an artist I can't praise highly enough - several of her eight or so albums would be among my favourites. I respect Shania Twain as an artist, but I have reservations about the "Slick, fun, and catchy" musical style you describe. Yet Shania herself recorded a Gretchen Peters song ("Dance With The One That Brought You"). It's Country Music that's important, and Country Music is bigger than any one style - thank Heavens it's big enough to include all of us!

  • #7
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    YAY -- "Carnival Ride" is # 20 -- I love that album.
    hjj likes this.


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