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Post Info TOPIC: Top 100 Country Albums of the Decade


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Top 100 Country Albums of the Decade


Top 100 Country Albums of the Decade

Jim Malec | December 2nd, 2009

The first decade of the 21st century was a tumultuous one for country music. Piracy exploded, iPods ascended, and within a few years the genre had bid adieu to three of its biggest stars–Garth Brooks, who retired after the release of 2001’s Scarecrow (his final studio album); Shania Twain, who retreated after 2002’s Up!; and the Dixie Chicks, who where removed from country radio playlists in the wake of lead singer Natalie Maines’ controversial anti-war comments, circa 2003 (aimed at then-President George W. Bush).

In the face of a devastated business model, labels and imprints folded, artist rosters and development expenditures shriveled, and the few survivors of Nashville’s tattered music industry contracted or banded together, trying to figure out just how to be profitable in a rapidly and dramatically transformed marketplace.

In this unstable and uncertain environment, and with few true superstars leading the way, country music’s artistic landscape was an open field just waiting to be defined: We witnessed the influx of patriotic and Christian themes that dominated the genre following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the bluegrass revival, the death and resurrection of Johnny Cash, the redneck pride movement, the melding of country and rap, the American Idol phenomenon and the pop invasion.

Each of these movements left recognizable footprints on the music that we loved, tolerated or hated (sometimes, and for some of us, all at once), but their strongest waves passed without truly capturing and transforming the genre. As such, none of them can wholly and sufficiently summarize the following question: What defined country music between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009?

To the ire of many, the answer to that question can best be found by turning to a little girl with a mediocre singing voice but a big heart full of stories and a natural talent for knowing just the right way to tell them. Country music was, as it always has been, about songs.

In the midst of a decade dominated by celebrity, during which many of a number of country music’s most successful newcomers entered the arena following stints on American idol (and with built-in fan bases), it should be taken as a heartening sign that the most dominating newcomer of all was elevated not by fame or monumental exposure, but by two collections of sincere stories, the first of which came in modest form from an upstart indie label.

Taylor Swift’s music does not reside at the top of our list of the decade’s best albums, and to be sure, there are many who will question whether that music should even be factored into a discussion related to the term “country.” As un-traditional as it may be, however, both in sound and in lyrical theme, the music of Taylor Swift shares a common bond with a substantial bulk of the great country music that came before it: Swift’s lyrics are honest stories about real people, or thoughtful lies about fictional people that are, nonetheless, relatable.

Whatever Taylor Swift becomes in the future, wherever her musical journey takes her, the books are closed on at least one thing: she began her career as a country artist. That’s how history will remember her, and that, too, is how history will remember the country music of the aughts. That’s a good thing, because it means that during this frenzied period, a span in which everything—even the term “country music” itself—was up for debate, the genre’s biggest star was built from the same material as the biggest stars before her. And it means that the power of great songs is still stronger than any other driving force.

Our list of the decade’s best albums is comprised of 100 examples that follow, to some extent, the Taylor Swift model. They are vastly different albums in style, sound, tone and audience. They flow from Mainstream, country radio fare to an Americana album so left-of-center that its inclusion on our country list was met with a fair bit of resistance from some members of our staff. But in each and every instance, the best country albums of the past ten years were built on the backs of songs. These are stories about you and me from birth to death and stories that paint landscapes rooted in every region of America and beyond. These are tales of the here and now, of what it means to be a freshman walking through the halls of a crowded high school, and these are tales of the past, the memoirs of a horse soldier riding into battle. These are tales of coal miners, of alright guys and of everbody’s brother. None of us can equivocally wrap-up what country is now, or has ever been, other than to say that it is these things.

To that end, this decade was a great decade for country music.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#100-#91)



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The second installment of our countdown of the decade’s top 100 albums is a male-dominated affair, save for a Georgia peach with big old voice and a young Aussie Sheila with a love for traditional country.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#90-#81)



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One of country music’s most beloved vocalists, the daughter of an icon, a 30-year mainstay of country radio and an unheralded young woman from Florida are among the artists to land in the third installment of our countdown of the decade’s top country albums. Mix in some family-band bluegrass, some honky-tonk, and a few surprises, and the result is 10 diverse albums from 10 unique artists that will still sound great in the next decade.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#80-#71)



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Taylor Swift’s first appearance on our list is balanced out by a heft of traditional country music, including two icons doing their best to pay tribute to each other. From Texas to Canada to a pickin’ shed in Georgia, these 10 country albums were among the best of the previous decade. 

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#70-#61)



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The “comeback” effort from three Chicks, as well as Taylor Swift’s debut album, land near the mid-section of our countdown of the decade’s best country albums but this 10-disc installment is best characterized by it’s Southwestern flair; Texans Kris Kristofferson, Amber Digby, Guy Clark and Dale Watson join the march across the halfway point as we work our way to #1.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#60-#51)



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Country music newcomer Ashley Monroe hasn’t even had a CD released yet, but that doesn’t stop her from appearing on our countdown of the decade’s best albums; Monroe’s 2006 digital-only release ranks alongside the debut efforts from left-of-center mainstreamers Miranda Lambert and Zac Brown Band while just plain “left” singer/songwriter Todd Snider lands his most revered album at #43. 50 albums and 50 to go; stay with us as we make our way to the decade’s best country album.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#50-#41)



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Gene Watson, Randy Travis, Pam Tillis, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price have all long been cast aside by country radio, but each of these incredible artists continued to produce great country music into the first decade of the 21st century…and each earned a place approaching the upper reaches of our countdown. Mixed in with all that star power is an alright guy, a trio of Americana landmarks and two of the decade’s most compelling debut efforts.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#40-#31)



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Miranda Lambert's best album, Vince Gill’s epic artistic endeavor and an Opry legend’s final turn in the spotlight all land on the third-to-last installment of our countdown of the decade’s top 100 country albums.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#30-#21)



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The penultimate installment of our countdown may be dominated by legends like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, The Louvin Brothers, Loretta Lynn and Johny Cash, but it’s a husband and wife duo from down under who come up at the top of this segment, just one notch shy of the Top 10.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#20-#11)



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Interesting. Up! isn't on the list.

It took three months, 10 voters and 300 nominated albums, but we’ve finally made it to the top of the mountain These are The 9513’s Top 10 Country Albums of the Decade.

From stark tales of life in the coal mine to slick-and-polished pop country to an outlaw savior,  these 10 diverse albums–put forth by legends and newcomers alike–represent the very finest that country music had to offer in the aughts.

Top Country Albums of the Decade (#10-#1)



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Up! is #13 on Country Universe's list.

13 Shania

#13
Shania Twain, Up!

As distinctive and boundary-pushing as they were, Shania Twain’s first two mega-albums were a bit restrained, as if there was a “let’s not push this too far” voice in the back of her head. With Up!, she fully lets loose her creativity, spinning the same nineteen tracks in three different styles over three discs, with the American release featuring the country and pop editions. Rather than split the difference to please both audiences, she shamelessly panders to each one instead, stacking on the fiddle and steel more so than she ever did before on one disc, while venturing into pure Europop on the other. The winner in all of this is the listener, particularly the one who has a taste for both banjo and synthesizer, as Twain’s relentless zest for lyrical escapism finally has the music to match her infectious positivity. – KC

Recommended Tracks: “Nah!”, “Ka-Ching!”, “What a Way to Wanna Be!”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Down”

http://www.countryuniverse.net/2009/12/09/the-100-greatest-albums-of-the-decade-part-9-20-11/



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