Country music has come a long way from its roots in traditional American folk songs. These best country albums of all time range from the classic to the modern and everything in between.
1. Coat of Many Colors — Dolly Parton
It’s hard not to be instantly charmed by Dolly Parton’s 1971 album Coat Of Many Colors thanks to her sweet vocals and personal lyrics of stories from her impoverished childhood.
2. Showcase — Patsy Cline
Showcase was Patsy Cline’s big break, featuring two singles that became wildly popular. I Fall To Pieces and Crazy remained her signature songs for the rest of her career.
3. Why Not Me — The Judds
Mother-daughter duo The Judds released their debut album, Why Not Me, in 1984. It was a wild success, spawning three hit singles: Mama He’s Crazy, Girls’ Night Out, and Love Is Alive.
4. The Gambler — Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers was one of the biggest names in country music in the 1970s and 1980s, and it was The Gambler that fixed him at the top, spreading his popularity beyond country music.
5. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems — Kenny Chesney
Country music in the 2000s loved the easygoing, summer party vibes. Kenny Chesney perfectly nailed the attitude with his 2002 album No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.
6. Pieces Of The Sky — Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris released Pieces Of The Sky in 1975, the first album to win acclaim. It won attention not just for her musical talent, but also for its various musical styles.
7. Another Place, Another Time — Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis’ career was flagging when he released Another Place Another Time in 1968. The album helped revitalize his name in country music, featuring two top-charting singles.
8. I’m a Lonesome Fugitive — Merle Haggard And The Strangers
The year 1967’s I’m A Lonesome Fugitive made Merle Haggard a star. The titular song wasn’t written by him but has become an essential part of his legacy.
9. Charley Pride’s 10th Album — Charley Pride
Charley Pride was a successful black country musician in the 1970s, a feat unto itself. His 1970 album propelled him to stardom, staying on the charts for an astonishing 49 weeks.
10. This Time — Dwight Yoakam
The year 1993’s This Time marked a transition in style for Dwight Yoakam, embracing pure country and leaving behind honky tonk. The album is widely considered one of his best.
11. Red Headed Stranger — Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson’s 1975 album told the story of a fugitive running from the law after committing a double homicide. It featured his first major hit, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.
12. At Folsom Prison — Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s 1968 album At Folsom Prison is on another level from his previous work. It was recorded at Folsom Prison and helped bring him back from a career slump.
13. Every Time You Say Goodbye — Alison Krauss And Union Station
Alison Krauss And Union Station were undoubtedly pioneers on the modern folk scene. Their 1992 release Ever Time You Say Goodbye won Best Bluegrass Album at the Grammy Awards.
14. Ghost On The Canvas — Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell intended 2010’s Ghost On The Canvas to be his farewell album after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, he ended up releasing several more, the last one just two months before his death.
15. Here You Come Again — Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton was already a country superstar when she released her 1977 album. However, critics credit Here You Come Again for helping her cross to mainstream music.
16. Moanin’ The Blues — Hank Williams
Moanin’ The Blues was Hank Williams’ second album, but it achieved what his first could not—making him a country star. It included three top hits.
17. Trio — Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, And Emmylou Harris
Three queens of country music came together for 1987’s Trio. The collaboration was considered a masterpiece.
18. Will The Circle Be Unbroken — Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
This 1972 album was a masterpiece of country collaboration; it featured a variety of old and new country songs in an attempt to bridge two generations of musical stylings.
19. Traveller — Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton is one of the biggest names in modern country. His 2015 album Traveller swept the board at the Country Music Awards.
20. Storms Of Life — Randy Travis
Most artists aren’t lucky enough to make it big with their debut album. Randy Travis was an exception; his first one was a wild success.
21. Dreaming My Dreams — Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings reached the peak of his career after leaving his recording contract; Dreaming My Dreams was proof that creative freedom was exactly what he needed.
22. Serving 190 Proof — Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard’s 1979 album stood on its own for its honest look at midlife crises, depression, and addiction. It was a musical experiment and career comeback for him.
23. Foggy Mountain Jamboree — Flatt & Scruggs
Flatt & Scruggs were at the forefront of country music in the late 1950s. Their 1957 album was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
24. Faith — Faith Hill
Faith Hill’s third album, including the single This Kiss, is one of the most successful modern country albums. It has received six Platinum certifications.
25. Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) — Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley didn’t usually stray into country music, but his 1971 album showed him reaching back to his roots. It was an experiment in country rock, featuring two successful singles.
26. Coal Miner’s Daughter — Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn had had a long career before her 1971 album Coal Miner’s Daughter. But the title track became her signature performance for the rest of her career.
27. Home — The Chicks
The Chicks’ 2002 album Home may be their most iconic. The award-winning work features some of the group’s most famous songs, including Landslide and Travelin’ Soldier.
28. Unchained — Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was still recording music up until mere months before his death in 2003. His 1996 release Unchained, also called America II: Unchained, won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album.
29. Self-Titled Album — John Prine
John Prine skillfully straddled the line between country and folk music, as exemplified in his debut album of 1971. It has been called one of the greatest ones of all time.
30. Golden Road — Keith Urban
Keith Urban is a rare non-American country singer, one of the greatest of all time. His third album, Golden Road, is considered one of his best.
31. Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music — Ray Charles
Ray Charles is largely associated with jazz and blues, but he was also hugely influential in the development of modern country music. His 1962 album set the stage for the rest of the century.
32. Come On Over — Shania Twain
Shania Twain has a talent for making country music accessible to everyone. Her 1997 album featured some of her most iconic songs, including Man! I Feel Like a Woman!
33. Ode To Billie Joe — Bobbie Gentry
Bobbie Gentry’s debut album, released in 1967, was an artistic blend of blues and country. She was one of the first female musicians to compose and produce the music she performed.
34. American Saturday Night — Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley is modern country royalty, and his 2009 release American Saturday Night earned him his 14th number-one single. It was nominated for Country Music Album of The Year.
35. Rumor Has It — Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire’s 1990 album has been praised for almost every angle, from singles to lyrics to music videos. The track Fancy has become one of her signature songs.
36. Strait From The Heart — George Strait
Classic country, honky tonk, swing—George Strait’s 1982 album had it all. Strait From The Heart has been counted as one of the greatest albums of his career containing some all-time great George Strait songs.
37. I Hope You Dance — Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack set the stage for the crossover from country music into pop with her 2000 album I Hope You Dance. The title song peaked at number one on the country charts.
38. Take This Job And Shove It — Johnny Paycheck
Johnny Paycheck didn’t compose the title song, but his 1977 album was responsible for popularizing the phrase “Take this job and shove it”— according to urban legend.
39. When Love Finds You — Vince Gill
Vince Gill’s 1994 album was a treasure trove of popular singles, including Go Rest High On That Mountain and When Love Finds You.
40. A Six Pack To Go — Hank Thompson
Hank Thompson’s 1966 release could be called a concept album—at least, in the sense that all 12 tracks were about imbibing.
41. Fly — The Chicks
The Chicks moved country music into the mainstream with their 1999 album Fly. It featured the dramatic ballad Cowboy Take Me Away and the black-humored Goodbye, Earl.
42. I Am What I Am — George Jones
George Jones’ 1980 album helped revitalize his career after a slump, particularly due to the single He Stopped Loving Her Today.
43. Mama Tried — Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard’s album Mama Tried was one of the most successful of his career. The eponymous song was later awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
44. Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound — Hank Williams Jr.
The album Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound was one of Hank Williams Jr.’s most successful ones, released in 1979. It received a Platinum certification and included the iconic Woman I’ve Never Had.
45. Hell On Heels — Pistol Annies
The Pistol Annies’ first release, Hell On Heels, was released in 2011. Though the band hadn’t promoted the upcoming album, it was a wild success, hitting number one on the Country charts.
46. Seven Year Ache — Rosanne Cash
Rosanne Cash might be the daughter of a country music icon, but her 1981 album Seven Year Ache stood on its own merit. It reached number one on the Country charts.
47. Stardust — Willie Nelson
Country music covers of pop songs? Willie Nelson’s 1978 album might not be country in the strictest sense, but the Red-Haired Stranger’s perfect country adaptation is impossible to resist.
48. The Ernest Tubb Story — Ernest Tubb
The Ernest Tubb Story is the perfect sampling of classic country-western and honky tonk. It is widely considered to be one of his best vocal performances.
49. Don’t Rock The Jukebox — Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson’s 1991 album was popular on both the Country and Billboard 200 charts. Five of its singles topped the charts, including Midnight In Montgomery, a tribute to country music legend Hank Williams.
50. Color Me Country — Linda Martell
Color Me Country was remarkable not just for its musical qualities, but also for Linda Martell’s inroads as the first widely-successful black female musician in the country genre. The album was the only release of her career.
51. Car Wheels On a Gravel Road — Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams’ 1998 release Car Wheels On A Gravel Road was a skilled work of alternative country music, fusing folk music and other genres in an album that was truly unique. He won Best Contemporary Folk Album the following year.
52. Fearless — Taylor Swift
One of Taylor Swift’s last true country albums before her move to mainstream pop music, 2008’s Fearless was a wild success. It won multiple Grammy Awards and featured some of her most iconic songs.
53. Golden Ring — George Jones And Tammy Wynette
George Jones and Tammy Wynette were country music’s king and queen in the 1970s. Their 1975 album Golden Ring was one of their best, topping the Country charts with singles such as Golden Ring and Near You.
54. Come On Come On — Mary Chapin Carpenter
Come On Come On seemed to set the theme for 1990s country; the album included seven singles that topped the country charts throughout the decade. Among these were I Feel Lucky, He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, and I Take My Chances.
55. Phases And Stages — Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson’s 1974 release Phases And Stages is a concept album following a couple’s divorce. The first part follows the wife’s version of events, and the second part, the husband’s. It was praised for its universal appeal, bringing together his fans from all backgrounds.
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