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

Staff | December 10th, 2009


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.

  • Willie And The Wheel (2009)10. Willie And The Wheel (2009) – Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel

    It took 30 years from conception to completion, but Willie and the Wheel was worth the wait. The album finds Willie doing his best Bob Wills impersonation, supported by Western Swing’s Asleep at the Wheel. The songs on the album were handpicked by Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler in the 70s; in addition to the requisite Wills songs “Right or Wrong” and “Corrine, Corrina,” there are tracks from Spade Cooley (“Shame on You”) and jazzman Bennie Moten (“South,” an instrumental on which Willie and the Wheel get some support from Vince Gill and Paul Schaffer). The gang truly shines on traditional tune “Hesitation Blues,” with a sound straight out of some 40s Texas dancehall. Luckily, Wexler, who died in 2008, got to hear the album before he passed. Chances are he was pretty damn proud. — Juli Thanki

  • Coal (2008)9. Coal (2008) – Kathy Mattea

    Two significant moments this decade led to the creation of Coal: Al Gore’s presentation on global warming and subsequent film An Inconvenient Truth, and the Sago Mine Disaster. Mattea, also paying tribute to her own West Virginia roots (both grandfathers were miners), creates a window into a world and a way of life that’s all too often ignored through her interpretations of songs by luminaries such as Merle Travis, Hazel Dickens, and Billy Edd Wheeler. Backed by sparse arrangements courtesy of Marty Stuart, Stuart Duncan, Bill Cooley, and just a handful of others, Mattea’s never sounded better; her version of Darrell Scott’s modern classic “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is simply breathtaking, and “Green Rolling Hills,” where she’s joined by Tim and Mollie O’Brien, is enough to make a listener homesick for West Virginia no matter his or her home state. Produced by Stuart, Coal is bleak, but it’s also as beautiful and timeless as the mountains themselves. — Juli Thanki

  • Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love (2007)8. Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love (2007) – Trisha Yearwood

    So-called ‘traditional’ country music has not been the only casualty of country radio’s shrinking playlists and attempts to court an ever-younger demographic; a great deal of smart, soulful pop-country has been similarly cast aside. Least deserving of that fate was Yearwood’s first post-MCA album, which failed to drum up much interest despite the Big Machine-ry working behind it. A standout effort in a catalog already overstuffed with excellence, HHatPoL is the gold standard by which future pop-country albums (Yearwood’s own included) should be judged. If they’re not aspiring to the strength and elegance of “This Is Me You’re Talking To” and “The Dreaming Fields,” they’re selling themselves and the format short. This whole album is a breathtaking example of what’s possible when a great voice finds all the right songs. — CM Wilcox

  • Tough All Over (2005)7. Tough All Over (2005) – Gary Allan

    Before Rodney Atkins stormed country radio by sneaking through hell, Gary Allan crawled through the fire and lived to tell the tale. Just a year after Allan’s wife committed suicide, he released Tough All Over, an album laced with pain and disillusionment that was so personal it would have been a joyous example of country music at its finest had it not been so completely heartbreaking. The album’s only hit single was a deeply intimate cover of rock band Vertical Horizon’s “Best I Ever Had,” but “I Just Got Back From Hell” is one of country music’s bravest confessions; when Allan sings, “I’ve been mad at everyone, including God and you,” it’s a dose of truth that’s a hard pill to swallow. Allan pours his battered spirit into Tough All Over, and while it’s far from an uplifting listening experience it’s one that is fully worth the emotional wear. — Jim Malec

  • Mountain Soul (2001)6. Mountain Soul (2001) – Patty Loveless

    If the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack inspired and paved the way for a roots revival, then one of its first offshoots was Patty Loveless’ Mountain Soul, released a year after the eponymous soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ 2000 feature film. A collection of re-worked standards among a spattering of originals, Mountain Soul was more an exploration of Appalachian life and music than a full-on bluegrass project; Loveless goes high lonesome on a pair of spirituals (“Daniel Prayed” and “Rise Up Lazarus”), but her down-tempo takes on “Constant Sorrow” and Darrel Scott’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” are pure country soul. There are a few cheery moments here, notably the riotous “Pretty Little Miss,” but the bulk of Mountain Soul deals (often indirectly) with the desolation, poverty and loneliness of mountain life. Hard times have seldom sounded so beautiful. — Jim Malec

  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)5. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) – Various Artists

    At the turn of the century, bluegrass got hip, as the Coen Brothers movie, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? arrived with a companion compilation, filled to the brim with Americana, bluegrass and country music which hearkened to another, much-simpler age. Producer T-Bone Burnett married this old-timey music to an all-star cast including Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley, and O’ Brother reinvigorated the trad-country keepers who’d seen the ‘90s slide into a glossy pop oblivion. Seven million albums later, the album had flooded the mainstream, winning a GRAMMY for Album of the Year and introducing the world to such hidden talents as Gillian Welch and Dan Tyminski, the singing voice for George Clooney in the movie and performer of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” 2001’s CMA Awards Single of the Year. — Blake Boldt

  • Home (2003)4. Home (2003) – Dixie Chicks

    This is the best album to ever be flattened by a steamroller while an angry mob cheered on. Up until the 2003 London concert where Natalie Maines uttered her infamous anti-Bush comments, Home was a crowning moment in the Chicks’ career and put the band in a stratosphere that only a select few in country music have ever reached. It won multiple GRAMMYs and sold more than six million copies–more importantly, it was an artistic triumph. After two albums that included a wealth of radio-friendly material (cheery murder songs aside), Home went acoustic, with the focus on Maines’ powerhouse vocals and the instrumental prowess of Martie Maguire and Emily Robison. The songs the Chicks didn’t write were picked from the best songwriters around, including Patty Griffin, Bruce Robison and Darrell Scott. This decidedly non-commercial affair still spawned three hit singles before the Dixie Chicks were kicked out of country music. — Sam Gazdziak

    One of the injustices of the Dixie Chicks’ controversy (besides the obvious) was that it overshadowed their brave, beautiful, and best album. Trading in the pop-driven arrangements that made them famous for a more traditional and austerely acoustic sound, Dixie Chicks reject quaint versions of country music on the very first song (“Long Time Gone”) and then seek out viable alternatives: a Fleetwood Mac cover, a couple of runaway bluegrass numbers, a tangle of Celtic influences, and the decade’s best song about war–“Travelin’ Soldier”–which manages to be neither pro nor anti but genuinely moving. Home sounds both lovingly traditional and thoroughly modern, suggesting that the trio’s true intent was to be musical–not political–activists. — Stephen M. Deusner

  • The Man Comes Around (2002)3. The Man Comes Around (2002) – Johnny Cash

    By 2002, Johnny Cash’s booming voice was a shadow of its former self, and he only had about a year to live. While Cash the human weakened, Cash the artist still had plenty to say. American IV is a brooding album; it’s difficult to hear Cash singing about mortality considering how close he was to his own passing, but his versions of “We’ll Meet Again,” “In My Life” and “Streets of Laredo” are moving, worthy covers. The original “The Man Comes Around” is filled with creepy Revelations-esque vengeance, and “Sam Hall” proves that Cash kept his irreverent side to the very last. Than there’s “Hurt,” the Nine Inch Nails song that Cash claimed as his own. Not only has it set the gold standard by which all other cover songs are judged, it made a generation or two of MTV viewers realize that Johnny Cash was cool. — Sam Gazdziak

    As with the other American recordings, Cash’s fourth volume finds him covering standards along with a few choice contemporary songs, all stripped down courtesy of Rick Rubin. The song that garnered the most attention was Cash’s incredible version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” (don’t forget the subsequent music video that caused more than a few viewers to burst into tears), but there were several other gems on the album, from the Revelation-themed title track to “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” on which Cash is joined by Nick Cave. Sting’s “I Hung My Head” here sounds as though it’s a classic country murder ballad, and “Personal Jesus” gets a badass, gritty blues treatment. Cash also chooses to rerecord a few of his own songs with the benefit of a few extra decades of livin’ under his belt, sounding full of life on deliciously spiteful kiss-off “Tear Stained Letter.” American IV was the final album Cash released during his life; it’s also one of the most beautiful. — Juli Thanki

  • There's More Where That Came From (2005)2. There’s More Where That Came From (2005) – Lee Ann Womack

    It was such a screwy decade for country music that going traditional was a risky career move. That Lee Ann Womack’s 2005 album got airplay at all seems a minor miracle, proof either that good songs are undeniable or, more likely, singing a graduation theme song like “I Hope You Dance” gives you license to wander a bit. Thankfully, Womack rose to the occasion, crafting an exquisite set of tough-love songs that dealt with country’s perennial themes of impossible loves and cold romantic comforts, in a style that sounded timeless in an industry that typically emphasizes timely. — Stephen M. Deusner

    After the unholy success of “I Hope You Dance,” Lee Ann Womack suffered from a bit of a career slump, releasing the lukewarm Something Worth Leaving Behind in 2002. But three years later, she was back with a vengeance. There’s More Where That Came From is a record meant to recall the halcyon days of ’60s and early ’70s country music, right down to the compact disc and liner notes designed to resemble a vinyl album (it was also released as an LP for vinylthusiasts). This CMA Album of the Year (it edged out releases from Keith, Tim, and George) is chock full of excellent drinking and cheating songs, bolstered by pedal steel and fiddle and Womack’s rich, expressive voice. Lead single, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” was her highest charting song since “Ashes By Now,” five years earlier. Womack, joined by Dean Dillon and Dale Dobson, stretches her writing muscles on the best-titled song of the decade, “Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago,” about a woman longing for the days when she “had it all, just too young to know.” Ending with a hidden solo cover of the Porter and Dolly classic “Just Someone I Used to Know,” There’s More Where That Came From is both a throwback to one of country music’s finest eras, and the beginning of Womack’s return to her traditionalist roots. — Juli Thanki

  • That Lonesome Song (2008)1. That Lonesome Song (2008) – Jamey Johnson

    It would be easy to name Johnson the savior of country music, sent to rid the genre of all its wicked ways, crown him with a halo of thorny guitar picks and call it a day. After all, critics salivated over his second album’s release in a way usually reserved for retrospectives on country legends, and it even garnered mainstream recognition on radio and award shows with the expertly crafted single “In Color.” However, underneath all the hype about cocaine, whores, neo-Outlaw Movements or any of his somewhat scary grooming habits, stands a collection of songs so steeped in hurt, lyricism, grit and honesty that it’s impossible to deny their lasting impact on the shiny, polished products that dominated this decade’s country music landscape. — Karlie Justus

    The hype surrounding Johnson’s sophomore effort–and the skepticism with which that level of acclaim naturally meets–could kill a lesser album. But once all the superlatives have been slung and the dust has settled on the critical sock-hop, this spiritual successor to Waylon’s Dreaming My Dreams is still more than capable of standing on its own merits as the finest album of the decade. In country music, absolution often comes in a bottle, a Bible, or the love of a good woman. Here, it comes in the slow Alabama drawl of a man with nothing left to lose–out of a record deal, out of a house, out of a wife, he wrote and sang his way back into the game. That’s the story that lives and breathes in every syllable of That Lonesome Song. Track for weary track, this is the best the decade had to offer. — CM Wilcox

4 Pings

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  1. Janelle
    December 10, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Couldn’t agree more with your #1 album of the DECADE! Jamey Johnson’s music is just pure country and his songwriting is outstanding! He really makes you feel the songs with his delivery with a voice is so expressive!

  2. Andrew
    December 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I strongly approve of this choice for number one.

  3. Aimz
    December 10, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Interesting/Awesome how many of the top 10 are women. Can we call the first decade of the 2000s the year that women were finally recognized as a major force in country music?

  4. Chris D.
    December 10, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Wow, killer top 10! So many of my favorites are here! I’ve never really connected with Johnson’s album, but I see it’s worth and that it deserves to be #1.

  5. Wevo
    December 10, 2009 at 10:41 am

    The Man Comes Around. Spot on.

  6. Razor X
    December 10, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Good, solid list. Well done!

  7. Sheldon
    December 10, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Great list- but no Taylor or miley in the top 10? (heh heh)… LeeAnn and Jamey get plenty of play on my CD player – so glad they got the top 2 spots. Wouldn’t a hard-country duet album by these two be a great idea?!

  8. Truersound
    December 10, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I knew American IV would be in the top 5, I called it yesterday!

    Not a bad list overall, good that you guys balanced the popular with the not so popular, a little something for everyone. Though leaving Ray Wylie Hubbard out was just unacceptable ;-P

  9. Bob
    December 10, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I’m more of a pop-country fan so I’m very happy to see Trisha’s HHPL, although I would have had it even a bit higher. Love the Chicks too but JJ at #1 makes me cringe. The man flat out can’t sing. Vocally, he’s another Kristofferson or Dylan. Frankly, even from a songwriting perspective, I think “In Color” is vastly overrated.

  10. David S
    December 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I don’t understand this site’s constant unwavering obsession with Gary Allan, and after being dumbfounded by it time and time again and not ever saying anything, the #7 pick was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I just don’t get it, because he is 100% rock star and nothing about his music is country, but he somehow gets a pass from all the criticism that artists similar to him seem to get here. It’s such a double standard.

  11. Jon
    December 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    “If the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack inspired and paved the way for a roots revival, then one of its first offshoots was Patty Loveless’ Mountain Soul…”

    FWIW, the album was under way before the O Brother soundtrack was released (which was before the film itself was).

    And on a slightly different subject, how does an album that sold six million copies qualify as “decidedly non-commercial?”

    Note to Juli: Bob Wills recorded “South” at least once.

  12. Brady Vercher
    December 10, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I don’t understand this site’s constant unwavering obsession with Gary Allan

    Living Hard didn’t make the list and leaned rock in some parts, but there are some straight up country songs on that album. Go back and listen to Allan’s first few albums, especially Smoke Rings In the Dark if you think there’s “nothing” country about Gary Allan.

  13. Lep
    December 10, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Excellent list, and I applaud the #1 pick.

  14. Dr. No
    December 10, 2009 at 11:25 am


    Jamey Johnson was the only person to sing 99% on-key at the CMAs this year (Oops I forgot about Martina). Yes, Kristofferson and Dylan can’t carry tune, but to say that Jamey Johnson can’t sing is flat out ludicrous.

  15. Dr. No
    December 10, 2009 at 11:25 am


    Jamey Johnson was the only person to sing 99% on-key at the CMAs this year (Oops I forgot about Martina). Yes, Kristofferson and Dylan can’t carry tune, but to say that Jamey Johnson can’t sing is flat out ludicrous.

  16. Blake Boldt
    December 10, 2009 at 11:31 am

    @Jon: Would you care to share your top ten list, or possibly just your first choice? I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

    I love Lee Ann Womack. In fact, three of her albums landed in my top 40. I think There’s More Where That Came From, though, had a couple clunky spots on it. That being said, the whole concept of the record is great and deserving of praise. The trifecta at the beginning is 2000s country music at its best.

  17. Leeann Ward
    December 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Awesome job, Everyone! I thoroughly enjoyed this list.

  18. Jon
    December 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    @Blake One of the plusses in moving writing from main dish to side dish for me has been not having to think about making up these kinds of lists, even unranked “best of”s. But that being said, and since you asked, the Louvin Brothers tribute, the Dixie Chicks’ Home, Blue Highway’s Still Climbing Mountains, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time’s Songs From The Workbench, Patty Loveless’ Dreaming My Dreams, Joe Nichols’ Revelation, Alison Krauss & Union Station’s Live, Del’n’em’s 50 Years boxed set, Sara Evans’ Born To Fly and the John Prine/Mac Wiseman duets would probably wind up in any top 10 I put together – but see, I’m already thinking of a lot of other deserving candidates ;-), like Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance, or BlueRidge’s Side By Side. There’s a lot of good music out there.

  19. Blake Boldt
    December 10, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    @Jon: That’s a mighty fine list. I’m happy I asked. Thanks for sharing. I’m kicking myself for forgetting the Nichols record completely, but I’m sure any writer compiling a best-of list has some minor regrets after all’s said and done. No list is going to be agreeable to everyone, but the countdowns here and at Country Universe really demonstrate that, despite all the troubles facing the country format today, the bottom line is: There’s a lot of good music out there.

  20. Michael
    December 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Gosh. It’s really hard to argue with any of these albums. I personally wouldn’t have ranked the Johnson album as my #1, but I’m very happy to see all of these albums in the Top 10. Thank you again for compiling this list. It has been great fun checking in every day to see each batch revealed.

  21. Razor X
    December 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Go back and listen to Allan’s first few albums, especially Smoke Rings In the Dark if you think there’s “nothing” country about Gary Allan.

    Better yet, go back and listen to his first album, Used Heart for Sale.

  22. Route66News
    December 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Saying there’s “nothing” country about Gary Allan is like saying there’s nothing country about Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings.

    And to say that Jamey Johnson can’t sing hasn’t tried to sing “In Color.” It’s deceptively hard to sing without messing it up.

  23. Leeann Ward
    December 10, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Amen to Blake. As hard as I tried to think of every album to at least consider, I kicked myself for not thinking of some that I saw on this list, even the obvious Notorious Cherry Bombs album. What kind of a Vince Gill fan am I to totally forget about that album for consideration?

  24. Lucas
    December 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Excellent compilation and narratives, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading every bit of it! I love this site and the values of great music; I was able to guess 3 of the top 10 (Gary, LeeAnn and Jamey) and I own about 6 of them.

    My heart was racing, reading line by line towards the end; I almost thought that you all forgot about Jamey, rightfully he is #1!!

    The only one that I would add, perhaps I missed it, is Martina’s “Timeless” which was an amazing piece of art, much like LeeAnns.

  25. Gavin
    December 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    That Lonesome Song #1 over Home, Mountain Soul, Coal, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? I don’t get it. Was this a consensus pick?

  26. Ron
    December 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    So glad that Jamey is getting the recognition he deserves. Every single song on “That Lonesome Song” is an “A” side cut. One of the very few CD’s that you play and enjoy from beginning to end. Great job and so glad you recognize his talent.

  27. merlefan49
    December 10, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    the Man comes around was my number on pick. Oh Brother was also in my top 10.

  28. Mayor JoBob
    December 10, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Gary Allan. I knew It!!

  29. Noeller
    December 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I’m 29, and I fully believe that “That Lonesome Song” is the best album of my generation. I’ve been floored since first listening to it and can’t get enough. Great call for #1!!

    Thanks to everyone who put so much effort into the writing and voting for this list – it’s an under appreciated task and y’all did a hell of a job!

  30. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Good set of albums – I have different albums in my top two (including one that does not show up in the 9513’s top 100) but these are all worthy albums and the group did a heck of a job in compiling the list

  31. Steve Harvey
    December 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    HHATPOL is the 8th best record of the entire past ten years? Seriously? It’s a pretty good album, and her vocals are excellent, but I find its ranking within this set a little bizarre. Somewhere in the high 40s I could understand, but number 8?

    Great to see truly stellar albums like THE MAN COMES AROUND and TOUGH ALL OVER make the top ten. As much as I love it, I don’t think THAT LONESOME SONG deserves to be number 1 – it’s great, but inferior to the four immediately above it (and TOUGH ALL OVER for that matter).

  32. Rick
    December 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Wow, I actually own four of the Top 10! That’s better than any of the other 10 album segments thus far for me. I’ve never cared for Gary Allan’s sandpaper voice or Trisha Yearwood’s pop-diva vocal style, but a lot of folks obviously do.

    Gosh, Juli mentioned Al Gourdhead and his propaganda piece de resistance “An Idiotic Lie” in her description of “Coal”! And during the Copenhagen Climate Treaty Summit no less. That’s just awesome…

    Call me a nitpicker but the noodling at the end of most songs on That Lonesome Song are totally annoying after the first listen. Sometimes a little Nashville big label style editing is not a bad thing…

  33. Steve Harvey
    December 10, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I’ve never cared for Gary Allan’s sandpaper voice
    So you don’t like George Jones or Willie Nelson, and now Gary Allan too?!

  34. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    There seems to be evidence that Mars and Venus are also undergoing global warning. No doubt that is the fault of the United States, too.

    I don’t doubt that global warming exists – I heavily doubt that it isn’t a naturally occuring phenomenum since Earth has undergone many prior cycles of warming and cooling

    Regardless, Coal is a magnificent album, especially the songs authored by Billy Edd Wheeler

  35. Steve M.
    December 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I have to admit-I own all these albums. I complained about earlier selections, but well done. These were magnificent choices.

  36. Jon G.
    December 10, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I wouldn’t have placed O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Dixi Chicks on the list, but I really like the rest of the picks. Heaven, Heart Ache, and the Power of Love is a criminally underrated album, and though I don’t own it, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I’ve managed to listen to it many times. I’m not sure if Tough All Over is my favorite Gary Allan CD, but I do like several of the tracks (and have them on my MP3 player).

    Like I hinted earlier, I probably would’ve placed Vince Gill’s These Days at #1, but I’m glad that Jamey Johnson is in the top ten. I was actually scared there for a while that you guys had forgotten him! It took me a couple of listens to really embrace That Lonesome Song, mainly because of the monochronastic deep-rooted hurt in each song that you guys mentioned, but it’s grown on me over time (and many of the tracks have likewise earned their comfortable place on my MP3 player). Maybe I missed it and it’s on the list somewhere, but I would’ve also definitely ranked The Dollar in the Top 100.

    P.S. I know I’m going to get some heat for this, but I would have put at least one Toby Keith CD SOMEWHERE amongst the 99 others…I know, that’s probably just me again.

  37. Bill Smith
    December 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Very terrible choices

  38. Matt C.
    December 10, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Jamey Johnson #1? Really, The 9513? I love me some Jamey Johnson, but That Lonesome Song is not a credible choice for the best album of the decade. I view Jamey Johnson, and That Lonesome Song, as good, but only great by comparison to the dismal state of affairs.

    Besides that, my only objection to this list it was very amnesic. It’s very heavy in albums from 2007-present, but I regard that period as far inferior to the 7 years that succeeded it. I saw many 2008 and 2009 releases that I suspect would be entirely forgotten if the list were to be repeated 2-3 years from now.

    I’m guessing that Paul’s #1 or 2 album was Ray Price’s Time, a good album that should have made it onto the list somewhere.

  39. Rose
    December 10, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Well, you know I’m happy with Jamey at #1. I might have put him 2nd to Johnny Cash, just for the impact that album had on pop culture (my best friend hates country but loves that album), but really, no complaints here!

  40. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2009 at 7:20 pm


    Bingo !!

  41. Dan E.
    December 10, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Well luckily this is just a list and only that. The albums that Carrie Underwood will put out next decade will be just as amazing as the three she put out this decade. SOME HEARTS, CARNIVAL RIDE, and PLAY ON started out strong, are continuing to make an impact, and are by far some of the best country albums out there.

  42. Jim Malec
    December 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    @Matt: I just want to point out that the majority of albums on this list come from the period prior to 2007. Maybe not enough of a majority for your taste, but I think the suggestion that we have a short memory is a little short sighted.

  43. Razor X
    December 10, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    HHATPOL is the 8th best record of the entire past ten years? Seriously? It’s a pretty good album, and her vocals are excellent, but I find its ranking within this set a little bizarre. Somewhere in the high 40s I could understand, but number 8?

    I would have ranked it higher.

  44. Bill Smith
    December 10, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Where is Dierks at on the list? Why all of the Gary Allens? The new millenium brought along alot of great new artists. Some stole the “Country Identity” as what country legend George Jones has said. It may have been a bit soon but it would not be such a surprise to see Chris Young up on the list with the talent that he has that some of the new “country” singers are missing.

  45. Jon G.
    December 10, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I do love me some Chris Young…

    But I don’t know about Top 100 albums of the past ten years. I see his CDs as a combination of several excellent tracks and a handful of throwaways. That said, I was surprised that he wasn’t listed and Lambert’s Revolution was.

    P.S. Dan E., I’m so glad that Underwood was not on this list. Of course, I would be happier if she wasn’t played on country radio. It’s not even that I wish she didn’t record music–that would be spiteful; I just wish that people called it what it is: pop. I know that she has this thing where she’s not “country pop” and prefers “contemporary country.” I, however, disagree. Chris Young is contemporary country; Underwood is just contemporary.
    (Also, I don’t know why she takes offense at the term “country pop.” If we define country music as music played on “country” radio, then she’s it. If we a define pop song as “a song that is currently popular and/or has a musical style similar to other currently popular songs, then her songs are it. If we define a pop country artist as “an artists whose songs are played on country radio AND are popular, having a style that is similar to other popular songs,” then she is precisely that. If she doesn’t want the success of being a popular artist, then she can give me some of said success ’cause I’d like a new car for Christmas.)
    Basically, if the music isn’t country and the vocal isn’t country and the lyrics aren’t particularly country, then what is it that makes the song/artist country?

  46. Jon G.
    December 10, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I would’ve also liked some Dierks, Toby, and/or Brooks & Dunn. Maybe I just missed B&D, which I hope is true, because (in my opinion, of course) they released some very solid albums this millenium.

  47. Walter
    December 10, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Congratulations to Jamey Johnson! I love “That Lonesome Song” and have been pushing JJ on my friends for a while – but I’ve probably listened to his first album “The Dollar” 100 X more, if only because it came out a couple years before.

    With Lonesome Song at #1, The Dollar should’ve made into the Top 100… You can’t beat The Dollar, Flying Silver Eagle, Redneck Side of Me, Ray Ray’s Juke Joint, Keepin’ Up With The Jonesin’, It Was Me, … OK how did this album not make into the Top 20? ;-)

  48. Jon G.
    December 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    My thoughts exactly, Walter.

  49. Erin
    December 10, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    No Toby in this list?? Really??????????? Or Martina? Waking Up Laughing had some great cuts! And finally, I really liked LeAnn Rimes’ Family. Not top 10, but top 100. Definitly.
    But am glad to see Miranda get respect!

  50. Dan E.
    December 10, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Jon G.: I would much rather have Carrie on country radio than be on any list. It’s better hearing her voice than just reading her name. She’s on plenty of other lists anyway. It really wasn’t a shock that she was left out on this one anyway. I would have been pleasantly surprised if she had been included, but I was never holding my breath.

    Erin: You’re right. Martina McBride had some great albums that should have made this top 100.

  51. Josh
    December 10, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Nice compilation here and an overall surprising finish. Gotta say that this series of countdown lead me to new adventures of musichood and yet, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it all. I might have changed my mind on some of the choices that were made here with a second listen and, likewise, I’ve held fast to my original opinion of what the album meant to me overall. So there was definitely a nice blend of yea and nay from me. :) Thanks to all who contributed their hard work and I probably would’ve become sick with the H1N1/flu/ebola viruses all combined over the holidays after a 300 album selectee process. ;P Good thing there are experts for these. Regards…

  52. Steve Harvey
    December 10, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Maybe I just missed B&D, which I hope is true, because (in my opinion, of course) they released some very solid albums this millenium.
    I’m not surprised at their last few albums being missed out, but I’m surprised that Steers & Stripes didn’t rate the Top 100. That’s a excellent record – it was when they started coasting on the formula that it gave them the decline began.

  53. Jon G.
    December 10, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    I thought that Steers & Stripes, Red Dirt Road, and Hillbilly Deluxe were all fairly good and held their own against many of the albums on this list–especially the ones early on.

    I could definitely see that Steers & Stripes kind of set a musical trend on their subsequent albums, albeit, and Cowboy Town did come off as formulaic.

  54. Jon G.
    December 10, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Dan E.
    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Whether or not some people like particular artists can come down to personal taste, like how Bob doesn’t like Jamey Johnson (that he claimed that Johnson couldn’t sing before comparing him to Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan made me smile on the inside). Personally, I’d take reading her name over hearing her voice any day. There really isn’t much of anything that I like about Carrie Underwood musically. Not all of her songs are bad (I’ll even admit to liking a few of them), but I overall, I don’t like her vocals, production, writing, or song choice. She’s a good singer, mind you, if you’re looking at it from a purely technical viewpoint, but I don’t. I think one of the critics on this site said it pretty well when he said that Underwood was a good singer but Kristofferson was a great one.

    You pretty much summed up my feelings about this list.

  55. Bert
    December 11, 2009 at 12:50 am

    I must be going nuts. When I first saw the Top 10 list, “Home” was #1, and the Author’s comment was “by a wide margin”. I know I am not crazy, so it makes me wonder!

  56. Brady Vercher
    December 11, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Let the conspiracy theories commence! I’m sure someone will be along to explain the confusion shortly.

  57. Steve from Boston
    December 11, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Great job everyone, I’m thrilled that Mountain Soul, Coal, Heaven Heartache…, That Lonesome Song and The Oh Brother soundtrack made the top 10..and working strictly within this framework, my choices would have been:

    5)That Lonesome Sound
    4)Heaven Heartache and the Power of Love
    2)Oh Brother Where Art Thou
    1)Mountain Soul

    Having five of my favorites in the top ten is more than I expected, and is a wonderful surprise.

  58. Steve Harvey
    December 11, 2009 at 5:35 am

    It’s interesting to note that three of the top ten albums are covers albums.

  59. Vicki
    December 11, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Did I miss Carrie somewhere? Maybe I glanced too quickly in the bottom numbers. I did notice both of Taylor Swift albums were there but didn’t “Some Hearts” deserve some notice? Or did I miss it?

  60. Thomas
    December 11, 2009 at 6:49 am

    …”some hearts” definitly would have deserved some notice – just not among the top 100.

  61. waynoe
    December 11, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Though I am a critic here of those who self-appoint themselves to critique music, especially since most do not know the difference between a G or a C chord, nonetheless this list of the top ten is not bad at all.

    Of course, Johnson is the right #1, but Womack at #2 is as well a good choice. The Chicks deserve the idiot of the decade award. Even right-leaning folks like me who knew their leftist views enjoyed and appreciated their talents, Maines’ mouth notwithstanding. What they failed to calculate is many of us turned them off when the lines was crossed. And yes, it hurt them. By the way, Earl is just such a great song – and I really do mean that.

    Way to go on the #1 album. You got it right this time.

  62. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 9:33 am


    Thanks for the compliment.

  63. Jake
    December 11, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Completely agree with the number 1 pick. The steel guitar on the album is one of the most melancholy things I’ve ever heard. Gives me goosebumps every time.

  64. waynoe
    December 11, 2009 at 10:29 am


    Thanks for the reply. I know I sound sharp at times. I usually take a “critique the critics” approach. I think a list would be good for the blog here and for all to see.

    By comparison, and I do not know the background of writes here, it’s like a sportswriter who critiques basketball yet has never played it nor sat through practice sessions as a player nor been in the war room at halftime.

    When I have looked at the background of various writes (not those on this blog), I see that for the most part they do not have a musical background. They are experienced writers, but not experienced at what they are writing. Again, I cannot make that comment here in general as I am not knowledgeable about the background, but I can make that comment about some of Nashville’s prominent critics.

    This is why most performers and sports’ players, etc. have a disdain for critics.

    In my field, which is financial/investment arena, it’s the same thing. One tires of listening to economists that have little work experience. Or another who purports to be a business writer and has never managed a company. I mean, even in the political world, a community organizer gets your the presidency?

    So I will listen to a critic who knows music, understands techniques, has a basic knowledge of chord progressions, and can actually play an instrument. If a writer is only experienced in the art of writing and not the art of the craft of which they are writing about, it will be tough to convince me – though not impossible.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours and all who read here.

  65. Sue
    December 11, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I agree completely with #1. Too bad most award shows don’t.

  66. TexasVet
    December 11, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Vickie & Dan E.

    Some Hearts is #1 on Billboards best of the decade list:

    So it didn’t make the 9513’s list…who cares?

  67. Kelly
    December 11, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Waynoe – are you a successful, widely read blogger or jhournalist (I’m not, mind you but the writers here are)? If not, maybe you should ditch the “critique the critics” angle you are so proud of.

  68. Andrew
    December 11, 2009 at 10:55 am

    @Texasvet It should be noted Billboard’s list is based solely on sales, while The 9513’s list is based on quality as perceived by the staff. Apples and oranges.

  69. Jeff Dykhuis
    December 11, 2009 at 10:56 am

    There is so much to take in here with this exhaustive list, lots of surprises except in the top ten, most of those were predictable and while Jamey Johnson’s album is somewhat recent i agree with it being number one. There hasn’t been as much talk generated by one country music CD like this one in at least a decade. Lets hope Nashville keeps that thought stuck in their hard heads. Congrats to LeeAnn and Jamey, two of the most pure voices in country music.

  70. TexasVet
    December 11, 2009 at 10:58 am

    @Texasvet It should be noted Billboard’s list is based solely on sales, while The 9513’s list is based on quality as perceived by the staff. Apples and oranges.

    I noticed that after I posted but I still like their list better…LOL!

  71. Jon G.
    December 11, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Technically, everyone has a right to express their opinion. I know, I hate it too, but I’m an American and that’s what I believe. Now, whether that opinion is credible and whether they are able to convince you of their point of view is entirely up to you, as that is your right.

    Furthermore, it is also your right to express a certain distaste with any critic you like.

    I, however, do not share your critical of the critics approach. Part of this is because most of my favorite artists are singer/songwriters first and musicians second, and consequently I consider the actual music to be the least important part of a song. I don’t care how well the musicians are at their craft if their song sucks. Good production will rarely, if ever, change my mind about a song’s quality. Maybe it’s also that I usually enjoy a “stripped down” approach more than a full band. Maybe that I have (a little) singing experience and always enjoyed hearing/performing a cappella most also factors into it.

    That said, I can definitely see where you’re coming from, and your view is understandable.

  72. Jon G.
    December 11, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Apparently you care.
    Why else would you read it and post in the first place?

  73. Jon G.
    December 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Billboard’s list, apart from the inclusion of Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, a couple too many Lonestar albums, and too many releases from undeserving newer acts, was not that hard to swallow.

    At least it has Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith. :)

  74. Brady Vercher
    December 11, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Toby Keith was probably two months away from a Top 50 album, at least in my opinion. He’s been pumping out way too much material without any sort of quality control to really qualify otherwise,

  75. waynoe
    December 11, 2009 at 11:36 am

    John G.,

    I actually share in your preference for music that is more stripped as compared to a full band and, sadly in most cases toady with current music, overproduced. I think this is why Jamey’s album caught on to many of us that appreciate that approach.

  76. Route66News
    December 11, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Waynoe, I think it’s awfully presumptuous to assume that the 9513 writers aren’t experienced in some way in music. Just sayin’.

  77. Pierce
    December 11, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    So, just a question for Waynoe–you don’t take musical suggestions from friends who aren’t professional musicians?

    I mean, that’s kind of what it boils down to.

    This was actually discussed at the Americana Music Festival in September in a forum on the future of music journalism.

    The majority of people these days will learn about music based on their friends’ suggestions on myspace or facebook or twitter or a blog such as this one rather than a newspaper or publication. People don’t want an end-all-be-all superior self-righteous critic. They want a friend to tell them what sucks and what doesn’t. A friend with similar taste in music, of course.

    If you’re a loyal reader here at The 9513, chances are that your tastes match up with some of our “collective” tastes.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hear about music from a friend who shares my taste in music, rather than a “professional” who has been in the industry but doesn’t know a thing about me.

  78. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    While what Pierce says may partially or wholly true, I still take offense to the marginalization of online publications as somehow less professional than print publications. At The 9513, we have put together a staff of very qualified writers.

    I don’t consider what we do here peer blogging, and I wholeheartedly believe our criticism is more fair minded, inclusive and on-point than the majority of what I read in print.

    Also, I personally take offense to the implication that I don’t know anything about music–I may not have a hit song under my belt yet, but I bet there’s a whole lot of “critics of critics” out there who would like to have my consistent BMI royalty check.

  79. Pierce
    December 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm


    I didn’t mean to paint us in an unqualified light.

    But I think what makes The 9513 successful is that important mix between “authority” and “friend.” That’s what I was getting at.

  80. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Pierce. I just think that it’s a slippery slope when we start talking about blogs as peers. The most successful blogs across topics are published by insiders or people with intimate and detailed knowledge of their subject matter.

  81. Jon
    December 11, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Hmm. Clearly a lot of journalism is migrating or has migrated to the web, and trying to make a professional distinction based on medium is less productive than it’s ever been, but that doesn’t mean that comparisons with respect to professionalism can’t be made at all. I enjoy reading The9513 and some of the other country music blogs, but the level of writing ability and expertise – by which I mean breadth and depth of relevant knowledge – varies quite a bit, and it’s pretty hard to justify assigning the same legitimacy to opinions about what constitutes country music that come from someone who has a command of the music’s history and someone who’s just stumbled upon it – to take a purely hypothetical instance ;-).

    The cost of starting and running a physical print publication set a bar that usually (though not always) could only be surmounted by demonstrating some degree of professionalism and ability. That bar doesn’t really exist with the internet, and there are plusses and minuses to that change – but seeing only one set or the other isn’t seeing clearly. The same is true, by the way, with respect to music production; as a lot of folks have said over the past few years, the good news is that anyone can make a recording now, and the bad news is that anyone can make a recording. Seems to me the same holds true for publishing.

    On a related subject, and speaking as someone who, to use Waynoe’s words, “knows music, understands techniques, has a basic knowledge of chord progressions, and can actually play an instrument,” I think his theory about who’s competent to write about music is pretty much completely wrong, at least in the way he’s deployed it here. Because criticism – good criticism, anyhow – doesn’t relate to *making* music so much as it does to *listening* to it.

    BTW, since you brought up your BMI royalty checks (again), Jim, I’m interested to know which songs you’ve had cut by whom.

  82. Sheep
    December 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    What, no Rascal Flatts on this countdown? :)

  83. bigdan071288
    December 11, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Where is Reba???

  84. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    but the level of writing ability and expertise – by which I mean breadth and depth of relevant knowledge – varies quite a bit

    I would generally agree with that statement.

    and it’s pretty hard to justify assigning the same legitimacy to opinions about what constitutes country music that come from someone who has a command of the music’s history and someone who’s just stumbled upon it – to take a purely hypothetical instance ;-)

    There are so many insinuations stitched into this “purely hypothetical instance” that I’m not sure if I should be offended or delighted to have been privy to such a subtle series of jabs.

    Anyway, the problem with this whole “purely hypothetical scenario” is the assumption that people who primarily write for online publications have less command of the music’s history than people who primarily write for print publications. That’s an absurd generalization, especially considering that many, many people who review country music for print magazines are rock and pop critics.

    Aside from that, do you really want to imply that myself, Juli, Stephen, et al have “just stumbled upon” the music (and it’s history)? I don’t think that a very strong position to take.

    The cost of starting and running a physical print publication set a bar that usually (though not always) could only be surmounted by demonstrating some degree of professionalism and ability. That bar doesn’t really exist with the internet…

    A bar exists–it’s just a different bar. While Joe Nobody may be able to start a blog and publish articles to his heart’s content, he will find it difficult to transform that blog into a highly respected and influential destination.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    no old crow medicine show none of the albums 1 justin townes earle but you still have the nerve to call taylor swift country music and call real country music americana you had albums by alan jackson that sucked i don’t think you guys really know your country music because johnny cash should have been number 1

  86. Razor X
    December 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Where is Reba???

    Reba was MIA for most of the decade.

  87. Jon
    December 11, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Anyway, the problem with this whole “purely hypothetical scenario” is the assumption that people who primarily write for online publications have less command of the music’s history than people who primarily write for print publications.

    No such assumption underlies what I wrote, and that should have been especially evident since it came right after I said that making distinctions based on medium – that is, online vs. print – is “less productive than it’s ever been.”

    A bar exists–it’s just a different bar. While Joe Nobody may be able to start a blog and publish articles to his heart’s content, he will find it difficult to transform that blog into a highly respected and influential destination.

    Maybe. But the question arises, how do you measure respect and influence in this environment?

    And BTW, since you brought up your BMI royalty checks, I’m interested to know which songs you’ve had cut by whom.

  88. Razor X
    December 11, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    no old crow medicine show none of the albums 1 justin townes earle but you still have the nerve to call taylor swift country music and call real country music americana you had albums by alan jackson that sucked i don’t think you guys really know your country music because johnny cash should have been number 1

    Got something against punctuation, Brett?

  89. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    And BTW, since you brought up your BMI royalty checks, I’m interested to know which songs you’ve had cut by whom.

    I write under a pen name for obvious reasons, and would prefer not to get into specifics about my own catalog. I have a job that requires me to, at times, criticize songwriters and artists and because of that I’d like to keep my own songwriting as independent as possible.

    I mentioned the checks as a humorous way of pointing out that despite the assumptions of many, I have actually been on the field, in the game, and know what it’s like to go through the songwriting process. My cuts are small potatoes at this point, but small potatoes is better than no potatoes.

  90. Truersound
    December 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    mmmmm potatos

  91. Jon
    December 11, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    You mean to say that the Jim Malec who’s in the BMI database isn’t you? I guess you better tell that guy to start using a pen name, because there’s going to be some confusion otherwise.

    And trying to hide your involvement in the industry – if that’s actually what’s going on – is less, not more ethical than being up-front about it; ever heard the phrase “full disclosure?” Especially when you can’t resist alluding to it as a credential anyway. It winds up just looking fishy.

  92. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    The songs credited to Jim Malec are from when I was 15. My writing has evolved quite a bit since “DONKEY SONG,” although I’d be happy to send you a demo of that one, if you’d like.

    How can I be trying to hide my involvement in the industry while, at the same time, “alluding to it as a credential?” You make no sense, Jon. And why are you so obsessed with me anyway? Don’t you have a job to do or something? It seems like all this time you spend trying to point out all the ways in which I’m wrong could be better spent practicing your instrument or something. Maybe you should start your own blog if you have so much free time on your hands.

    Your obsession with my methods, background, ethics and statements borders on creepy.

    Then again, I guess I’m not doing so bad for a mere blogger.

  93. Casey
    December 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the #1 pick. Jamey Johnson doesnt have to “sell” people a country song like all the pop country artists. He writes his own songs, sings with a lot of heart and soul, and respects all the legends that paved the way for country music such as Waylon, Jones, Cash, Haggard, and Vern Gosdin. Jamey is well deserving and I hope he keeps traditional country going.

  94. Jon
    December 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    How can I be trying to hide my involvement in the industry while, at the same time, “alluding to it as a credential?”

    It’s easy to see. You want to defend yourself from arguments like Waynoe’s by telling us that you *do* know something about songwriting, and you’ve got the checks to prove it – but then you turn around and say that you’ve got to keep your songwriting hidden behind a pen name because you “have a job that requires me to, at times, criticize songwriters and artists,” and so you won’t tell us what you’ve written. That’s a kind of petty way of having your cake and eating it, too; you claim your songwriting royalties as a credential of creative involvement and expertise, but won’t let anyone check out the songs for themselves to see whether, in their opinion, they actually show creativity and expertise.

    But more seriously, you’re sidestepping norms of ethical behavior when it comes to both working within the industry on the creative side and also acting as a professional critic. The normal presumption is that critics have neither a direct nor indirect interest in what they’re covering, and to the extent that they do have such an interest, it’s disclosed up front. You want us to believe that there’s a real possibility that such an interest exists – you’re getting cuts and making money from writing songs – but at the same time tell us that you’re avoiding disclosure through the use of a pseudonym. It shouldn’t be hard to see why that’s problematic.

  95. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Well Jon, if it makes you feel better I’ll show you the check. Hell, I’ll even buy you a beer.

    Wait, I’m confused now–am I a professional critic who is sidestepping ethics standards or am I a blogger who never adhered to ethics standards in the first place? And where does Holly Gleason/Lady Goodman fit into this standard of never using a pen name? And also, are comments posted on this blog to be taken as official statements for the record? Do these comments comprise my body of critical work, or do they equate to a conversation you and I might have on the street? There are just so many questions…

  96. Sam G.
    December 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    If you want to look up Jim’s songs, his pen name is “Jamey Johnson.”

    And now you know how we got our #1 pick for this list.

  97. Jon
    December 11, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks, Jim, but I don’t drink much beer. Now, if it’s a whiskey you’re talking about, that’s another story.

    As for the stuff about being a blogger, I don’t know where that’s coming from; it seems like the only parts of my posts you read are the ones that are right around your name. But the point with respect to this issue is that if you want to have The9513 stand as a highly respected and influential publication, then it ought to keep standards that merit respect and enhance influence – and fudging potential conflict of interest issues doesn’t do that. As for the notion that a writer who’s posting “official” material should be held to a different standard when he or she comments on that material or on responses to it, well, I’m not sure I buy that; you’re the same guy, ain’tcha? It seems a bit much to ask folks to make a strong distinction between “Jim Malec, Critic” and “Jim Malec, Commentator” on the same site, much less in the same discussion. Maybe that’s one of the downsides of migration of journalism to the web – the blurring of the distinction between “official” and “unofficial” writing.

    As far as Holly Gleason/Lady Goodman goes, I’d say that’s something of a different situation, though it certainly has some relevance. Holly used a pseudonym when writing a song to be pitched to a sort-of-former employer and friend so that she might be confident that, if he chose to cut the song, it was because he saw merit in it rather than because he was wanting to accomodate a sort-of-former employee and friend. What’s relevant is that she didn’t write a review of the album on which it appeared without disclosing that she’d written the song, and indeed, to my knowledge, she’s never written as a critic or journalist about Chesney without disclosing the nature of their relationship – most importantly, that she has worked (and may still occasionally work) as a publicist for him. And you know about her having used a pseudonym for the song because she didn’t keep it a secret – while you have yet to give a sign that you’re going to ‘fess up.

    If you’re really getting cuts and can therefore credibly say that you’ve “been on the field,” then you ought to be open about it, so that readers can 1) have some confidence that you’re not reviewing your own work (or at least the ability to plainly see when you are, although that’s an inferior alternative) and 2) have the opportunity to evaluate for themselves your performance on the field. And if you’re not, well then, don’t say you are. But trying to have it both ways sends you down a dead-end road.

  98. Rick
    December 11, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    As good as “That Lonesome Song” is I think its what the album champions and represents that elevates people’s perceptions of its significance. The fact Jamey produced a completely authentic “outlaw country” indie album that was picked up by a major Nashville label, and had Top 40 mainstream country radio success, was a minor miracle! Its an anachronism within an otherwise predictable commercial country scene that favors pop-rock crap from pretty young people over anything with true country roots.

    Now that Jamey is no longer engulfed in suffering from the deep depression over his divorce that fueled his songwriting on “Song”, and is working with a major label, his next release will be very intriguing. Will this new outlaw country idol be able to maintain the momentum he’s generated? Time will tell…

    PS – It sounds to me that Jon W. perceives a bubble of arrogance surrounding Jim Malec that he is determined to burst at all costs! How long will this verbal jousting match go on? Crikey! (lol)

  99. Razor X
    December 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    If you want to look up Jim’s songs, his pen name is “Jamey Johnson.”

    Jim is responsible for “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”?!? Wow, you think you know someone …

  100. Jim Malec
    December 11, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    @Razor: Well, as pointed out earlier, I do have a credit on “Donkey Song.”


    Holly was, I assume, still writing and critiquing music in the time between the song being written and the song being cut and/or achieving hit status. That is exactly the same situation as what we have here–no song I’ve written has achieved hit status, or any particular notoriety for that matter. If and when a song of mine does, I will certainly disclose my involvement with it. For the time being, I don’t feel the need to disclose a handful of tiny cuts that would never appear on this site, nor would I like to disclose an ongoing series of demo records that may or may not be cut at all–especially when the royalties mentioned are fully derived from live performances, not radio airplay. (I’ve never had a song commercially released as a single.)

    The reasons why I choose not to disclose those songs are irrelevant, but there is no ethical issue here; you’re concerned about a potential conflict of interest and while I am sensitive to that, the only thing I can do to address that concern is to assure you–and everyone else–that no song I’ve ever been involved with has ever appeared in this publication in any form. Having me release details about what I’ve written and/or had cut would not address your concerns, as any such list could be a partial or incomplete list, or as I could have other songs under more than one pseudonym, or any one of a thousand other scenarios.

    Still, I suppose there is some truth to your accusation that I’m “hiding” behind a pseudonym. Frankly, I don’t want people looking at the name on a demo and thinking about some harsh critique or comparing my song to songs I’ve critiqued. I think it is absolutely fair (read: ethical) to want the music that I write to be judged on its own merits. I have made this choice as much to protect my co-writers as to protect myself; I do not want my creative partners to lose an opportunity because someone has a prejudice against, or ill will towards, me.

    Jon, while you (as always) have had a lot of thoughtful things to say, I do feel like you’re blowing my initial comments–which were not directed at you–way out of proportion. My citing of royalty earnings was made only to point out the fact that I do regularly receive a check for work that I’ve done as a songwriter. There’s no “fudging” or misrepresentation involved in that. You’ve outlined the premise that I should make my creative work available for others to examine, but I’ve never cited my creative work as a credential for creative authority or expertise. The reason–and I do think this is clear–that I made that very brief citation was simply to illustrate that I do understand the process from conception to completion. Quality, or lack thereof, is independent of that illustration. If there is any doubt about the accuracy of my comments, I would be more than happy to prove that what I said is true by providing copies of royalty statements.

    “If you’re really getting cuts and can therefore credibly say that you’ve “been on the field,” then you ought to be open about it,”

    The whole idea of “getting cuts” was constructed by you. Re-read the comments. I said I had earned royalties, and, as you know, those don’t have to come from cuts. In fact, as you know, BMI pays for performance royalties. Yes, after that fact I revealed that I’ve had some “small potato” cuts, but I certainly didn’t try to represent myself as a songwriter who is out there “getting cuts.”

    As for being “on the field,” that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting the ball as often as you’d like. But at least you understand what it’s like to be in the thick of things.

    “And if you’re not, well then, don’t say you are. But trying to have it both ways sends you down a dead-end road.”

    I didn’t say that I was. Anyway, this is where you and I start running into issues. I can go along with you on every single point preceding this one. But the implication that I would say I’m doing something that I’m not–at best, exaggerating the facts and more precisely, lying–amounts to a personal jab at my character. I don’t take kindly to that.

    One of the consequences of the migration of journalism is that a medium like this expects its authors to engage with readers. I haven’t always handled that relationship in the best way when it comes to you and I, and I certainly take responsibility for that. I am a writer who firmly believes in letting the work stand for itself, and frankly I would prefer it if the temptation to defend that work had no outlet such as this comment section. That said, I think we’ve had enough of the personal back and forth to last us (and the readers) a lifetime.

    I was being very literal when I offered to buy you a drink, Jon. I think if we could sit down and talk to each other eye to eye, we might walk away with a different perspective. That said, I’m finished with this ongoing dialogue, and look forward to engaging with you in respectful conversations in the future. You’ve made me a better writer over these last couple of years and I appreciate that. But I’ve said everything I have to say about this issue.

  101. Chris N.
    December 12, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I’d just like to note that practically everybody in every aspect of the Nashville music business also considers him- or herself a songwriter. Go pick on Gerry House.

  102. Emgee
    December 12, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Jamey Johnson #1? Are you f…ing nuts?

  103. Sheep
    December 12, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    I’d like to see a Top 100 Songs of the Decade List. I think it’d be very interesting…

  104. Cory DeStein
    December 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Loved your countdown, but am I the only one expecting to see Trisha Yearwood’s “Real Live Woman” in the top 100 somewhere? Its one of my favorite albums in the past 2 deacades!

  105. Steve Harvey
    December 13, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I’m curious to find out whether any of the contributors here nominated Keith Urban’s Golden Road for the list.

  106. waynoe
    December 14, 2009 at 11:52 am


    He should have been nominated – on the pop list that is.

  107. merlefan49
    December 15, 2009 at 9:31 am


    Just curious what would have picked as number one ?

    I picked Johnny Cash American IV The Man Comes Around as my personal choice.

  108. MKCS Creations
    December 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you to the 10 who voted on these albums for looking at artistic value instead of just sales–how refreshing. For me, the fact that Gary Allan ranked so well on the list gives the list an instant level of credability. I could quivel over the exact ranking (no doubt that Gary would be my choice for #1 over Johnson, and I’d have more Womack, George Strait, and Eric Church in the higher reaches) but really-who cares what each of us would do exactly? Its the overall quality of this list that I celebrate and commend.

    P.S. for those who think Gary is not country enough, I think you’re listening only to what has been released to radio of late and not the whole album; try listening to “Yesterday’s Rain” off Living Hard and tell me that’s not country. Yes, his music has picked up more rock overtones over the years, but he certainly isn’t in the same class of acts who are so un-country that it’s farcical for them to continue to be called country (Brooks and Dunn on this year’s CMA Awards pops into my mind 1st thing.)

  109. Mark
    December 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    This is a horrible list. All you need to know about it is that Keith Urban is not on it. Golden Road is easily a top ten album and Be Here is top 50. Probably top 25. Rediculous.

  110. Steve Harvey
    December 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm


    He should have been nominated – on the pop list that is.

    If Taylor Swift was country enough to make the list, then Urban should have been also.
    But I agree that GOLDEN ROAD is a pop record.

  111. Derrick
    December 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Very solid list. I don’t really have any arguments except that I’m SHOCKED that Brad Paisley’s album “Time Well Wasted” got left out. I feel like “Mud on the Tires” raised his profile significantly while TWW took him to superstar level. His two albums since have just reinforced that image. Thoughts?

    Also, great job putting Gary Allan in the Top 10. That was one hell of an honest, emotional album. It wasn’t made under the whim of commercial appeal. It was made to relieve his heartache, and truly honest songwriting results in the best songwriting.

  112. Derrick
    December 17, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Oh yeah, I’m surprised Dierks Bentley’s “Long Trip Alone” didn’t make the list. His other albums are poop. But that one is an experience…

  113. Cynthia Allgood
    December 18, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    For those of you who agree with Gary Allan being on the list, thank you for sharing inthe same mindset as myself. I’ve been a Gary Allan fan for almost 10 years now. With the release of Tough All Over, Gary was more true to himself and his music than he had ever been, and his fans appreciate it. We like how Gary stands up for himself and refuses to be a commerical sell-out. He may not sound like what some people consider to be country music, but I think it goes without saying there are a lot of great “country” artists out there who aren’t considered “country” either. By the way, can anyone give me a true definition of “Country Music”?

  114. Mike S
    December 19, 2009 at 1:36 am

    I pretty much like the top 10 here. “Home” is one of the greatest CD’s ever recorded. I love it. It’s time for country music to welcome back Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks because, without them, country radio sure is suffering. It’s not about politics, and they surely had a right to Freedom of Speech, so let’s just try to focus on what it’s about. It’s about the music. And The Dixie Chicks make great music.

  115. RMC
    December 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I am shocked! Dierks Bentley had 4 CD’s in the last decade and NOT ONE of them made your list? I thought for sure the Grammy-nominated Long Trip Alone would have made it–at least! What were you thinking?

  116. Scott
    December 28, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Nothing by Steve Earle? WTF!

  117. Cindy F
    January 7, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Have you even listened to any of Gary Allans music? I think maybe not?

  118. Cindy F
    January 7, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Gary is as country as you can get just because he doesn’t fit your mold, there is absolutely no choice without Garys name in it now is there?

  119. Emgee
    January 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Jamey Johnson at #1 is a LAUGH RIOT! Utterly unbelievable.

  120. Emgee
    January 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    The Top 10 list should have looked a lot different. “Tough All Over” should have been at LEAST Top 3.

  121. Emgee
    January 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    And Me & My Gang by Rascal Flatts should be Top 3 as well.

  122. sam (sam)
    January 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Personally, I don’t like Jamey Johnson’s singing. I do like some of his songs, as recorded by others. But I have very hard time listening to his music because I just find his vocals so unpleasant. Other people like him, though.

  123. merlefan49
    January 10, 2010 at 10:42 am


    Just curious what would have picked as number one ?

  124. merlefan49
    January 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I think their top to is fairly solid. There is only 3 of the cds I don’t have and the others with the exception of two all made my top 75 list at some point.

  125. Emgee
    January 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Either “Me & My Gang” by Rascal Flatts or “Tough All Over” by Gary Allan should have been #1, with the other at #2.

  126. merlefan49
    January 11, 2010 at 11:52 am


    Thanks here is my top 10

    10.Dirt Farmer Levon Helm
    9.Volatile Baby Traveling light
    8.Oh Brother were art thou various artists
    7.The Last Of The Breed. Willie Nelson, Ray Price Merle Haggard.
    6.Snake Farm Ray Wylie Hubbard
    5.Van Lear Rose Lottera Lynn.
    4.Press On June Carter Cash.
    3.Fair & Square John Prine
    2.Wagonmaster Porter Wagoner
    1.American IV: The Man Comes Around Johnny Cash

  127. Tyler
    February 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

    WHERE IS JASON ALDEAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My top 10
    10. Eric Church “Carolina”
    9. Josh Turner “Long Black Train”
    8. Miranda Lambert “Kerosene”
    7. Tim McGraw “Greatest Hits”
    6. Tracy Lawrence “The Very Best of Tracy Lawrence
    5. Brad Paisley “5th Gear”
    4. Jason Aldean “Wide Open”
    3. Dean Brody “Dean Brody”
    2. Billy Currington “Billy Currington”
    1. Jason Aldean “Jason Aldean”

  128. Tyler
    February 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    My top 10 Songs
    20. Dean Brody “Brothers and Lazy Days”
    19. Tim McGraw “Down on the Farm”
    18. Rodney Atkins “About the South”
    17. Jamey Johnson “High Cost of Living”
    16. Craig Morgan “Redneck Yacht Club”
    15. Miranda Lambert “Famous in a Small Town”
    14. Jason Aldean “Wide Open”
    13. Dierks Bentley “Every Mile A Memory”
    12. George Strait “Write This Down”
    11. Josh Turner “Would You Go With Me”
    10. Jason Aldean “Hicktown”
    9. Kenny Chesney “Don’t Blink”
    8. Randy Travis “Three Wooden Crosses”
    7. Tim McGraw “Southern Voice”
    6. Lynyrd Skynrd “Sweet Home Alabama”
    5. Josh Turner “Long Black Train”
    4. Jason Aldean “This I Gotta See”
    3. Craig Morgan “That’s What I Love About Sunday”
    2. Tracy Lawrence “Find Out Who Your Friends Are”
    1. Jason Aldean “Amarillo Sky”

  129. ccdixon
    February 7, 2010 at 4:32 am

    The O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack can be downloaded for only $2.99 today at Amazon.

  130. richard
    February 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I very much agree this list. Not just the top 10 but mostly all of it. Jamey Johnson has a great album. It’s good to see Miranda Lambert on the list for 3 albums. Thumps up to the 9513 for working and reviewing these carefully.

  131. Lissa
    February 17, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    While you picked some very good albums, I am STRONGLY disappointed you didn’t have a single album from Keith Urban, one of the best guitarists in music today.

  132. Trish
    February 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    How in the world can you not have the Carrie Underwood album “Some Hearts” in the top ten? It only went 7 times platinum which is almost unheard of in recent times but it also had five #1 singles on country radio which is incredible. On top of that it won Billboard Magazine’s album of the year!

    I also agree that you really slighted Keith Urban!

    Having Jamey Johnson as the best album in the history of country music might be the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen! I think even Jamey had a cold one while laughing at this selection. Johnny Cash must be rolling around in his grave!

  133. Jim Malec
    February 22, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I was unaware that the history of country music began in the year 2000.

  134. merlefan49
    February 22, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Platinum sales doesn’t always equal great music.

  135. Creek
    February 24, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Jamey Johnson is hands down number 1, he created a masterpiece and did it all with out a label.Every song on the CD is powerfull and deep..IN COLOR is not just one of the best songs of the decade, it is one of the best COUNTRY SONGS OF ALL TIME… anyone who doesnt understand this, really has no clue what country music is….. Some of Jamey Johnsons biggest supporters are George Jones, Hank JR, Haggard, and numerous other legends and writters, That is saying something.

  136. Trish
    April 23, 2010 at 9:08 pm


    Platinum sales don’t alone make a great album but when you combine it with multiple #1 singles that is a pretty incredible combination. As a matter of fact the Carnival Ride album of Carrie Underwood’s also should have been in the top ten. It not only went three times platinum but also had an incredible 5#1 singles on country radio. When you combine massive sales and industry recognition from country radio that is tough to argue against unless you have other motives.

  137. Blockbuster
    April 29, 2010 at 10:02 am

    This ranking is really interesting and reliable.(to me)
    I’m a huge country music fan but from Japan, so I can hardly hear it or get information about it in my life, sadly because country music is underappreciated here.
    So this ranking is somehow useful for me to pick some great country albums from stores.

    Anyway, here are my top 10 albums..

    1.Dixie Chicks – Home
    2.Shania Twain – Up!
    3.Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way
    4.Alan Jackson – Freight Train
    5.Dean Brody – Dean Brody
    6.George Strait – Troubadour
    7.Taylor Swift – Fearless
    8.Gary Allan – See If I Care
    9.Trisha Yearwood – Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love
    10.Zac Brown Band – The Foundation

    Dixie Chicks’ ‘Home’ stands firm on the top.
    It is really the ultimate album, not only amoung country music but all kinds.
    That chicks invited me to listen country music.
    I can’t wait to see them together again with new album!

  138. Jim
    May 4, 2010 at 12:04 pm


    You lose all credibility when you put Fearless in your top 10! That wouldn’t even be in the top 10 in the month it was released. You must be 13 to come up with that. Also, give me a break with the Dixie Chicks at #1 and #3 on your list. That is a joke! The Dixie Chicks are a bunch of washed up anti- American has beens!

    I do agree with Trish in that it seems like Carrie Underwood was really slighted. The woman has been the biggest thing in country music in the last decade, won every major industry award, and was one of youngest females ever to be inducted into the Grand Old Opry!

    Those stats have nothing to do with the little fact that she has sold over 11 million albums over the last 5 years!

  139. Steve Keith
    May 5, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I am astonished that a Toby Keith album isn’t in the top 100. We clearly have a group of writers who can’t put their feminist Dixie Chick sweatin’ aside. This list loses all it’s credibility and should not be taken serious, because they are taking into account beefs that shouldn’t even be relevant.

  140. Mojo Bone
    May 8, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Great list; lots of lesser-known gems to check out.There’s only one change I’d make; The Dixie Chicks’ Home would be my number one. It’s the most deeply affecting country record I’ve heard in twenty years, let alone ten.

  141. Trish
    May 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

    The Dixie Chicks are garbage the home album was awful.

    I agree with a couple recent comments that both Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood got screwed on this list.

    It seems like these voters are the anti establishment types that want to be different. They like to go the total opposite as to what is popular and actually selling in the real world.

  142. OneHotTamale25
    May 13, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Let me first say I am a fan and a listener of current-day, mainstream country music. Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood are among my favorite artists.

    *Don’t stone me yet.*

    That said, I also appreciate and enjoy the value of traditional country music. Because of my youth combined with my choice of radio stations, I am not often exposed to some of the artists on the list. (E.g. Prior to reading this list I had never heard of Levon Helm or Hayes Carll.) In the same token though, I actually do know quite a few of the artists and at least are familiar with some of their tracks — lesser known or not. It seems to me the list is fine. I don’t own many of the albums listed and cannot speak authoritatively on them. I can say the list clearly gives tribute to country in its purest and most original form. If you wanted to make a list of great pop-country artists, I’m sure you would have, and I’m sure the likes of Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, and Shania Twain would have made the list. This list is not that list, and that is okay. I look forward to listening to and discovering more of the traditional talents highlighted by this collection.

    On the flip side, as a listener of contemporary country (if you will), I too am surprised to see the absence of some artists who have recently rose to stardom who do have a more traditional air about them. I suspect their absence may have more to do with the instrumentation linked to their art and less to do with their storytelling ability or vocal craft. I mean, though I credit her songwriting abilities even I was astound to see BOTH of Swift’s albums listed without even a mention of Katrina Elam or Julie Roberts… Or (once again) a ton of Gary Allan with no Joe Nichols.

    By the way, my disdain for the Dixie Chicks was not born of their political “commentary” but of their attempt to abandon the very genre they called home when they first burst onto the music scene. I went digging for an article to substantiate my claim but could not recover it. Anyhow, in the article Natalie made a statement about how they never considered themselves country music artists. I thought that was a fine comment coming from the lead of a group which I considered to be the epitome of roots country at the time. Yes, ME, a contemporary country fan! I was appalled by that comment to say the least. Even in my contempt I recognize good music, though. They are definitely OUTSTANDING country musicians even if they say they are not. :)

    Thanks to the contributors who labored over the lists. I look forward to perusing the site to learn more about 9513 and its contributions to independent *and the occasional celebration of mainstream* country music.

  143. justin
    June 5, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Im not suprised carried underwood did not make the list you look at the 9513 REVIEWS of MOST of her songs and albums ect. they are not very good. CAome on Taylor swift? maybe the top 200 at places 199 and 200 but she does not have a place on the country charts. If she remixes one more song i swear….

  144. justin
    June 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    o and btw billboard got it right with the end of the decade contry charts, (some hearts at number 1) end og the decade overall genre charts ( some hearts number 14 and carnival ride 63) and end of the decade top 20 country singles (before he cheats number 8 , the only female contry singer in the top 20) Then you had VH1 diva thingy where carrie was voted the the top diva beating out madonna, whitney houston shania twain(who btw i love to death(: dolly parton ect ect) and before he cheats was voted best song ever and last name was a nomination 2. List goes on and on. Yes I am a huge carrie underwood fan lol

  145. tristian
    July 13, 2010 at 10:01 am

    nice job giving credibility to david ball!! people really overlook his music and he’s as country as there is! but why isnt clay walker’s “a few questions” or rick trevino’s “in my dreams” or rhett akins’ “friday night in dixie” on this list??

  146. tristian
    July 13, 2010 at 10:06 am

    also, why not include any albums by tracy byrd, and the debut album from Trent Summar and the New Rowmob?

  147. Brandon
    November 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Album sales and singles have nothing to do with how good an album is. As a matter of fact, it seems to be the most popular music that is the worst in recent years. You have to draw a line somewhere on what’s country and what isn’t. We can’t just have this wide open genre that any sort of music can fit in. Jamey Johnson easily put out one of the greatest country albums of all time, you are clueless if you can’t realize how amazing that album actually was, and how it wasn’t just some pop music that got labeled as country.

  148. James
    June 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    The foundation should have been at least top 5 if not number 1 or 2. It had 5 number 1 tracks and not only saved country radio but transcended through all genres of music. They are the most talented group in country music today, and that album proves it.

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