Let’s be honest, country music is outstanding, and it has certainly produced more than its fair share of megastars over the years. But honestly, it’s tough to narrow down the best, so let’s stick with just one decade. So, here is a list of the 41 best 90s country artists.
1. Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks is one of the best-selling artists of all time, and the 90s was a time when he dominated the airwaves. With record sales of more than 170 million worldwide, his influence on country music, and its general appeal is clear. He managed to bring aspects of pop and rock into his country music and continues to entertain his fans today.
2. Shania Twain
The 90s is when Shania Twain made her mark, and she has clearly gone on to be a massive star over the decades. With in excess of 100 million record sales, she was another star who managed to cross over between the country and the mainstream charts. Her big break was her 1995 album The Woman In Me, which sold more than 20 million worldwide. This was then surpassed by her next album in 1997, Come On Over, which sold 40 million copies. Her music and voice are astonishing, and even non-country fans could say so after listening to her.
3. Keith Urban
With multiple Grammy awards, Keith Urban remains a huge star. His first album was in 1991, but it wasn’t until he moved to the US from Australia that he made it big. This led to the hit album in 1999 called Keith Urban, which ultimately pushed him to absolute stardom. Known for his raw and honest lyrics, he shows a whole lot of emotion through his songs, helping people to feel as if they have connected to what he’s saying, and I think that’s a cool trait to have with your music.
4. LeAnn Rimes
LeAnn Rimes was another huge star to make her mark in the 90s, even though she was only 13 at the time. During that decade, she actually ranked in the top 20 for sales, which is an impressive feat considering we are only talking about a few years. The thing that stands out with her is the real powerhouse voice she has at her disposal. It’s going to blow your mind, and she knows how to put a track together as well. Once again, she made country music popular during the decade and remains one of the most famous country stars today.
5. Clint Black
With 30 singles hitting the country charts, Clint Black made his mark in the first half of the 90s before things started to decline a bit later. His debut album came out at the end of 1989, but it spawned for number one hits, which was an impressive feat. I love how he focused on producing more of a traditional country sound along with a bit of honky-tonk thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing fancy or elaborate about his sound, but that’s what’s so good about him.
6. Wynonna Judd
As one half of The Judds, Wynonna Judd already had a successful career before branching out on her own. Even in the 90s, she was releasing hit after hit, leading to her being one of the best-selling country artists of all time. She was a regular in the Top 10 of the charts throughout the 90s and sold millions of records in the process. Her vocals are out of this world, and she also manages to take you on a real musical journey through her songs, so it’s easy to see why she appealed to so many people.
7. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton has been huge for years, and the 90s were no different. With a continual stream of hits through the decade, she has always been a regular at the top of the charts. Her enthusiasm for the music industry has never waned, and she is the exact same in each decade she has performed. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate her and everything she has done for music in her career?
8. Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker actually had her first hit back in 1972 at the tender age of 13. By the time it got to the 90s, she was an established artist after making a stunning comeback in the late 80s when she suffered from some personal issues. Actually, she had eight singles in a row in the early 90s that all reached the Top 10. She had a real magnetism in both her vocals and performance, and I feel that’s what will continue to draw you in even when listening to her music today.
Founded by the Bryant brothers in 1993, Ricochet made a mark with their self-titled debut album in the mid-90s. This led to a string of hits, and they backed it up with their second album in 1997 called Blink Of An Eye, which also included even more stunning songs. Known primarily for their huge hit Daddy’s Money, which came out in 1996, they bring a bit more of a dance feel to their country music thanks to an upbeat tempo and some stunning harmonies. If you want to listen to something a bit different, then Ricochet could work for you.
10. Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is one of the most influential figures in country music, and he produced hit after hit throughout the 90s. A main figure in the outlaw country movement, his country style includes a blend of blues, folk, and jazz in his music. He has been viewed as influencing a long list of current country stars as well who look to him for his ability to put classic songs together and deliver them with absolute passion.
11. Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw exploded onto the scene in 1994 with his debut album Not A Moment Too Soon, which quickly became the best one of the year. With a long list of hits to his name, he has now sold in excess of 80 million records worldwide. Known for his melodies, he is married to another huge country star, Faith Hill. I also love the way he brings a whole lot of passion and emotion to his songs that will then manage to resonate with you.
12. Billy Ray Cyrus
Before Miley Cyrus, there was her father Billy Ray Cyrus, and he was a big deal in the 90s. His huge hit Achy Breaky Heart was even responsible for the explosion in popularity of line dancing around the world, and that’s an impressive feat. His debut album Some Gave All reached number one on the country charts, and it remains one of the best-selling country albums of all time. Known for more of a country pop sound, his tunes will catch you and get your foot tapping before you know what’s going on.
13. The Chicks
Formed in 1989, this country girl group blends bluegrass with folk and jazz influences in their country music, and I feel it’s something they absolutely excel at. However, it was their 1998 album Wide Open Spaces that really pushed them to new heights. I had to include them in the list because the influence they had on other all-female country groups that followed cannot be underestimated. Also, their music is fresh and free sounding while maintaining those original country roots, and I just love the blend they can achieve as a result.
14. Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire is rightfully viewed as a contender for the title of Queen of Country, and I think having more than 70 million record sales does help her claim. However, her best album For My Broken Heart came out of sadness after eight of her band members were killed in a plane crash. With her song roots in traditional country, she was not afraid to include some country pop into the mix as well just to spice things up a bit. I love the slight variation in her songs while still knowing exactly what to expect, which is a fantastic vocalist who knows how to punch out those notes.
15. Brooks & Dunn
This country duo was formed in 1990, and they have so far had 20 songs to make it to number one on the country charts. What stands out with their music is a love of honky-tonk along with having some rock thrown in for good measure. But don’t forget that overall country theme that penetrates through each song. Also, their singing voices come as a contrast, and that makes for an excellent mix that helps pull you into their tracks and appreciate their undoubted musical talents.
16. Faith Hill
As one of the best-selling female country artists of all time, Faith Hill initially made her mark on the industry in the 90s. It started with her debut album in 1993 called Take Me As I Am before following up her initial success with her second one It Matters To Me, which also led to a series of hits. A multiple-award winner, she is certainly far more country pop in her style rather than sticking to that traditional country sound. However, she undoubtedly had that strong Nashville sound through the 90s, and expect yourself to get that foot tapping should you dive into her older songs.
17. Vince Gill
Vince Gill has had success as both a solo artist and as a member of the band Pure Prairie League. He produced a series of highly successful albums during the 90s along with a series of hits in the country charts that helped to cement his place as one of the best artists of the decade. I enjoy how he brings aspects of bluegrass into his music while sticking to the more traditional country. It’s easy to listen to and always tells a story, and it will become immediately obvious why he has won so many awards in his career.
18. George Strait
George Strait can perhaps claim to be the King of Country, and he is certainly one of the leading lights for the neotraditional country music scene. He has sold more than 120 million records worldwide, but there’s no doubt the 90s were a key decade for him. Actually, he had four albums in the 90s that all reached number one in a row, and that was an impressive feat. But aside from his sales, I had to include him because he really pushed forward the idea of the cowboy country singer, and had the talent to back that up as well.
19. Diamond Rio
Formed in 1982, it was in the later part of the 80s and through the 90s that saw Diamond Rio achieve their main success. The single Meet In The Middle in 1991 was their debut single after signing to a record label in Nashville, and it went straight to number one in the country charts. That was the first in a series of hits to come from this group that included aspects of Christian music along with rock into their more traditional country sound. I love how there’s a sense of freedom and an upbeat feel about their music, and I’m sure those feelings will infect you at some point as well.
20. Sawyer Brown
This country band was formed in 1981, but it wasn’t until they signed to Curb Records in 1991 that they saw real success. Known for their country ballads, they had a number of hits through the 90s even though the band itself would chop and change members at different times. However, the quality of their sound would always shine through resulting in a country-pop sound that still sounds up to date even today.
21. Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell was a country legend, and for a good reason. Even though the 90s represented the later part of his career, he still knew how to put out amazing music and delighted audiences across the country. Known for helping various country artists to launch their careers, his ability to just pull together songs and melodies remained untouched throughout the decades. If you want to hear what good old country music should sound like, then he is the guy you need to check out.
Formed in 1969, Alabama was certainly bigger as a band in the 80s, but the influence they had on 90s country music is unmistakable. They have always managed to blend both country music along with southern rock giving them a pretty unique sound, which is still clearly country in origin. Their melodies and harmonies blend seamlessly together, and I appreciate the way they bring touches of bluegrass into the equation as well. No wonder they remain one of the best country bands of all time.
23. Martina McBride
Known for her country-pop sound, Martina McBride was one of the best neo-traditionalist country singers of the 90s. With a string of top hits to her name through the decade, including the single The Time Has Come, she has won countless awards throughout her career. However, it was the 90s that led to her making her biggest breakthrough thanks to her real crossover sound of country and pop. If you aren’t fully into your country music, then she could very well be a great introduction.
24. Wade Hayes
Wade Hayes made his debut in 1994 with his album Old Enough To Know Better, entering the country charts. The title track also gave him his first number-one hit, which was followed by a series of other hits throughout the decade. His skill is really in his songwriting abilities and the way he brings together heartfelt lyrics with tuneful melodies helped push him to stardom. There’s just something a bit old-school about him, and that’s why I think so many people enjoy listening to his music.
25. Brad Paisley
Even though he was only active from 1998 onward, Brad Paisley still deserves to make it into this list. His debut album Who Needs Pictures was a massive hit, and it became immediately clear that he would go on to have a stunning career. But it’s not just his talent as a singer that stands out, as he is an accomplished songwriter as well. That explains why his songs appear so well put together, and the flow of his music is outstanding.
26. Trace Adkins
Trace Adkins made his debut in 1996 with the album Dreamin’ Out Loud, and it didn’t take him long to make his mark in the world of country. He showcased more traditional country during the 90s when country-pop crossover was popular, and you can expect to hear more than your fair share of honky-tonk thrown in for good measure as well. That is something I appreciate about his music, and it’s the reason why I’ve included him in the list, along with the fact that he is just an amazing musician.
27. Kenny Chesney
This neotraditional country star started his career in 1988 when he was only 20, but his popularity grew throughout the 90s. In total, he released five studio albums during the decade, so he certainly kept himself busy. Known as a crossover country artist, he helped make country music even cooler than ever before in the 90s thanks to his own particular blend of country, rock, and pop genres. With a whole host of awards to his name, Kenny Chesney was known to every single country fan during the 90s, and when you listen to his music you will completely understand why that was the case.
28. Trisha Yearwood
Trisha Yearwood had a debut number-one hit with the single She’s In Love With the Boy in 1991, and that set the tone for a highly successful decade. She is known for her strong country-style vocals, and her ability to really sell the lyrics to you is something you cannot fail to miss. A multiple award winner, there’s no doubt she used the 90s to become one of the top country stars around with hit after hit across several highly successful albums.
29. Alan Jackson
This musician is one of the main guys when it comes to the movement known as neotraditional country. His way of blending honky-tonk with country pop sounds will blow your socks off. Seen as one of the top-selling country artists to have ever lived, the 90s included his Greatest Hits album even though he has gone on to have countless hits since then. If you want to hear a maestro at work with country music, then I suggest you put on some Alan Jackson and prepare to be amazed.
30. Travis Tritt
Releasing a staggering six albums through the 90s just lets you know how busy Travis Tritt was as a performer. A winner of a couple of Grammy awards, including one in 1992, he brings the traditional country sound together with some southern rock and even a bit of blues thrown in for good measure. That’s a great combination, and he still manages to balance everything out in his music. I think that balance aspect is the one thing that makes him stand out from the crowd, and it’s a key reason why I had to include him as one of the best country artists of the 90s.
This country band brings together classic country music alongside some gospel influences and some blues as well. That’s a great combination, and it does explain why they were so huge through the 90s. Formed in the 80s, Shenandoah was one of the key country bands of the decade, and their influence spread wide. With countless hits and albums behind them, I do love the variation they have in their music, thanks to those influences that they bring together in such a cool way. Seriously, I feel they should have been even bigger than they were, and I think you will agree when you listen to them.
32. Lisa Brokop
This Canadian country star appeared on the scene in 1990, and country music was in her blood. However, it wasn’t until she moved to Nashville in 1991 that she then started to make significant inroads in the industry. For me, it’s clearly her vocals that stand out, and she creates a slight mesmerizing effect with her voice that keeps you hooked to her performance.
33. John Berry
John Berry first appeared back in 1979, but it wasn’t until 1994 when he had his first number-one hit on the country charts with Your Love Amazes Me, which was then followed by even more success. Even though he knows how to deliver some amazing lyrics, it’s his soft voice that marks him out as different. It’s slightly soulful and yet powerful at the same time, and even though his voice throws you off track at first, he’s the kind of artist you can really grow to love. I’d give him some time to grow on you, and I promise that will be the case.
34. Toby Keith
Toby Keith was a busy guy in the 90s with four studio albums released in the span of ten years. Each one was a success, leading to a string of hits and pushing him out there into the world of country stardom. For me, the standout aspect of his is his clear ability to produce what I can only describe as anthemic songs. He has done this throughout his entire career, but I recommend his debut single Should’ve Been A Cowboy to get a sense of how he has developed over his career.
35. Little Texas
This country rock band was formed in 1988, but it took them a couple of years to really gain the recognition that their talent deserved. With a string of Top 10 hits through the 90s, these guys split up in 1997 only to come back together in 2004. However, those years in the 90s saw significant success for the group even though they were slightly more rock in style than most people would credit. So, if you want your country on more of the harder side of things, then Little Texas could be the perfect band. Seriously, they are fantastic to listen to.
36. Dan Seals
Dan Seals started off in a soft rock band with his brother before going off on his own and into the world of country. I’m glad he did because he was responsible for several classic country songs in his career. Songs such as Love On Arrival in 1990 act as a prime example of his talent as a country singer with his skills being opened up to a new audience in 1991 thanks to the release of his Greatest Hits album.
37. Patty Loveless
Patty Loveless is amazing. Even though she had success in the 70s and 80s, her move to Epic Records in 1993 saw her on a whole new level in her career. Her music includes a blend of neotraditional country music with some pop and bluegrass thrown in for good measure, but it’s her delivery as a vocalist that makes such an impact. It is mind-blowing what she does, and her songs still stand up to the test of time even long after the 90s have passed.
38. Dwight Yoakam
Starting in 1984, Dwight Yoakam is known for combining his country sound with rockabilly and bluegrass. This undoubtedly works well with his tenor-style voice, and when you mix that in with his ability to produce some catchy tunes, then you instantly see why he was such a success in the 90s. What I love about him is his willingness to incorporate different styles into his music, so you never know what he will come up with next, and that was apparent through the course of several albums during the 90s.
39. Randy Travis
Known for his more baritone-style voice, Randy Travis was already a huge star by the time we made it into the 90s. However, his level of fame certainly never dipped through the decade. I do admit he started to see a decline in the second half of the 90s, but let’s not forget the influence he had. His voice stood out from the crowd which is why I had to include him here on this list.
This country group formed in 1992, and their sound actually changed throughout the 90s. At first, they were full neotraditionalist blended with honky-tonk before moving to more country pop as the decade came to a close. Honestly, I do slightly prefer their earlier stuff, but any Lonestar album is certainly worth listening to. If you want to get a real sense of what they were like, then I’d listen to songs such as Amazed from 1999 and then compare it to what appears on their self-titled album from a few years earlier.
This country vocal group out of Utah was formed in 1989 and was originally known as the Osborn Sisters. They eventually changed their name to SHeDAISY in 1999, but their vocal talent is the reason why I’ve included them on my list. For me, their album The Whole SHeBANG is one of the best they have produced with stunning harmonies and a connection between the group that’s hard to beat. If you want to get some country-pop influences into your life, then this is one band I think you should add to your playlist.
Barry has worked as a freelance writer for over a decade and has developed an eye for detail when it comes to unearthing cool and interesting facts.
His love of music stems from his student days checking out up and coming bands playing in the darkest corners of bars and clubs in Edinburgh.
The love of uncovering something new also remains with him. With an appreciation for music that’s best described as eclectic, his musical tastes range from Eric Clapton to Eminem through to Snow Patrol and Incubus. The memories that music can bring back to the fore is something he tries to portray in his writing.
For him, the voyage of discovery and unearthing something new is what makes this task of writing for MusicGrotto.com so interesting.