Best country music albums of all time
If baseball is America’s favorite pastime, country music may well be America’s favorite music genre. Country music has deep roots in America, and different country artists have taken the genre to new stylistic directions.
Ray Price messed around with rhythm, Willie Nelson veered into jazzy realms, and modern country artists such as Eric Church and Sam Hunt meld rock and R&B with country flavors. The genre has continued to expand to feature new subgenres such as "country trap"—perhaps the most well-known song to fit into this genre is Lil Nas X's “Old Town Road." Country has gone by several different names. Country musician Harlan Howard pegged it as "three chords and the truth," while others have described it as the music of heartache or line dancing. Besides having various names, country music is also a genre that welcomes the reinventing of existing songs as much as it embraces the writing of new ones.
With the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards delayed until Sept. 16, 2020, Stacker has compiled a list of the best country albums of all time as per Billboard’s Greatest of All-Time Country Albums list. These ratings are based on albums’ weekly performance on the Top Country Albums chart from January 1996 to June 2016. The albums are ranked by an inverse point system, meaning those that placed higher on the charts and spent more weeks in the top spots received higher rankings.
Read on for the best country music albums of all time—and be sure to tune in to "ACM Presents: Our Country" from 8-10 p.m. Sunday, April 5, on CBS during the original time scheduled for the 55th ACM Awards.
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#50. 'The Outsiders' by Eric Church
Eric Church’s fourth studio effort clocked in as the best-selling album in the U.S. after it hit shelves in 2014. It boasts several noteworthy singles, including the title track “Give Me Back My Hometown” and “Cold One.” In an interview with Morning Call, Church discussed the multi-genre aspects of the album, citing his rock influences and love of The Beatles.
#49. 'A Lot About Livin' (And A Little 'Bout Love)' by Alan Jackson
Released in 1992, this collection of songs created a couple of hits on the Hot Country Songs Chart like “Chattahoochee” and “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues).” The former of these won a Country Music Award for single of the year in 1993. The album’s #1 ranking on the Top Country Albums chart made it Alan Jackson’s first country record to reach such a position.
#48. 'Everywhere' by Tim McGraw
Some of the hit singles on this 1997 album include "It's Your Love," featuring Tim McGraw’s wife, Faith Hill, on backup vocals, the title track, and “Just to See You Smile.” The music video for “It’s Your Love” prominently features Hill, who was noticeably pregnant at the time, and won Video of the Year at the 1997 Academy of Country Music Awards. The former pop trio She Moves recorded their own version of “It’s Your Love,” which made the Hot 100 chart.
#47. 'Old 8 X 10' by Randy Travis
Singles like “Honky Tonk Moon,” “Deeper than the Holler,” and “Is it Still Over” feature on this 1988 record, all of which made it to #1 on the Hot Country Songs charts. Some fans thought this third release wasn’t quite as good as Randy Travis’ previous records, but it still made lasting imprints. The album landed Travis three Country Music Awards in 1990, including Favorite Country Album and Favorite Country Single for “Deeper than the Holler.”
#46. 'Johnny Cash At San Quentin' by Johnny Cash
Recorded live at San Quentin State Prison in 1969, this was the second of Johnny Cash’s live prison albums, the first being the one he recorded at Folsom Prison the previous year. “I Walk the Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” and “Folsom Prison Blues” are some of the famous songs Cash performed on this record. The album was nominated for several Grammy awards, and won Best Male Vocal Performance for “A Boy Named Sue.” The record has been released several times with different songs, but the album cover shot by rock photographer Jim Marshall is largely thought of as an iconic photo of Cash.
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#45. 'Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits' by Kenny Rogers
This 1980 compilation album features three singles not found on any of Kenny Rogers’ previous records, including “Lady,” “Love the World Away,” which appeared on the “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack, and “Long Arm of the Law.” Lionel Richie wrote and produced "Lady" expressly for Rogers, and the song became a #1 hit single the year the album dropped. This song collection stands as the best-selling compilation record of all time, even topping Garth Brooks’ 1994 “The Hits.”
#44. 'Chief' by Eric Church
Released in 2011, this certified platinum record spawned five singles, including #1 hits “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen.” The latter of the two garnered critical acclaim and made it to #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the first of Eric Church’s songs to achieve a top 20 ranking. The music videos for both of these songs have garnered millions of views on YouTube.
#43. 'The Best Of Charley Pride' by Charley Pride
Charley Pride’s 1969 compilation record sold more than 1 million copies, and became certified gold in the U.S. Though it doesn’t contain many of Pride’s most famous songs, it does contain other well-known tunes like “All I have to Offer You (is Me)” and “Kaw-liga.”
#42. 'Up!' by Shania Twain
Released in 2002, this famous record came out as three versions with the same track listing: pop, country, and an international version rooted in Indian film music. Shania Twain toured this #1 record in North America and Europe. She also performed the album’s songs in several promotional settings like the 2003 Super Bowl halftime show and the 2003 Country Music Association Awards ceremony. “I’m Gonna Getcha Good,” “Ka-Ching,” and the title track are some of the singles from this album.
#41. 'Breathe' by Faith Hill
This Grammy-winning record from 1999 sports the balladic title single, which spent six weeks at the top of the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart. Its sultry music video clocked in at #4 on CMT’s 100 Greatest Videos. The record scored Faith Hill a Grammy in 2001 for Best Country Album. Other popular singles from the record include “The Way You Love Me” and “Let’s Make Love.” The year after the album’s release, Hill and husband Tim McGraw embarked on their Soul2Soul tour, during which they performed songs from the record. The song “Breathe” features on an episode of the TV show "The Sopranos."
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