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

Staff | December 8th, 2009

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

  • Revolution (2009)30. Revolution (2009) – Miranda Lambert

    The wunderkind sheds some of the more outrageous elements of her previous album–the violence, the threats of violence, the aftermath of violence–for a more measured take on romances bad and good. The results are just as powerful: “Dead Flowers” (not about heroin) and “White Liar” are two of her best songs about emotional violence, revealing new, life-size facets of a familiar artist. — Stephen M. Deusner

  • Everybody's Brother (2007)29. Everybody’s Brother (2007) – Billy Joe Shaver

    Few could release a project like Everybody’s Brother, Billy Joe Shaver’s take on what he calls “Jesus songs.” It takes testicular fortitude to record a damning tune like “If You Don’t Love Jesus” and fervent conviction to write one as charismatic as “Get Thee Behind Me Satan,” but Shaver hasn’t ever been one to follow convention. Music deserves the kind of passion he brings to his craft and judging from the songs on Everybody’s Brother, Shaver’s passion is Jesus–not in a homo way of course. A superb release through and through. — Brady Vercher

  • Precious Memories (2006)28. Precious Memories (2006) – Alan Jackson

    The sturdy standard bearer for down-home traditionalism proved himself a surprisingly agile artist in the 2000s, earning entries in the top third of our list with three separate, and very different, projects. The first is this charming, stately collection of traditional gospel numbers, recorded as a private gift for his mother and subsequently made available to fans. Even without any singles released, it went soaring toward platinum status. Long known for his ability to imbue even average material with uncommon sincerity, Jackson seems right at home with these simple songs of devotion–songs which so richly deserve his talent. — CM Wilcox

  • Raising Sand (2007)27. Raising Sand (2007) – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

    The combination of Led Zeppelin’s front man with one of bluegrass’ most recognized names seemed strange, but Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, along with producer T-Bone Burnett, made it a GRAMMY-winning, platinum-selling success. The album, a collection of covers from the likes of Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Brothers and Gene Clark, featured minimal, moody instrumentation that took both artists out of their respective comfort zones. The album reached #2 on both the Billboard Country charts and the Top 200 charts. Along with its six GRAMMYs, Raising Sand made Plant one of the unlikeliest recipients of a CMA award. — Sam Gazdziak

  • Lonely Runs Both Ways (2004)26. Lonely Runs Both Ways (2004) – Alison Krauss and Union Station

    There’s an emotional and auditory intimacy with Krauss’s ethereal vocals that only meet their match with the incredible musicianship of Union Station–particularly the haunting Dobro playing of Jerry Douglas–“Unionhouse Branch” might be some of their best picking to date. The band covers Woodie Guthrie’s “Pastures Of Plenty” brilliantly as well as add to the long list of AK&US classics with “Rain Please Go Away” and “A Living Prayer.” It is contemporary bluegrass with tight heavenly harmonies–nearly perfect. — Ken Morton, Jr.

  • Trouble In Mind (2008)25. Trouble In Mind (2008) – Hayes Carll

    One of the best artists to emerge in this decade, Hayes Carll’s first two self-released albums showed his considerable songwriting talents. He came into his own in 2008 with the release of Trouble In Mind on Lost Highway Records, though. The sly sense of humor, the clever wordplay and a knack for detail show that Carll has studied his Guy Clark songs, but songs like “She Left Me For Jesus” and the autobiographical “I Got A Gig” put him above much of his Texas singer/songwriter competition. — Sam Gazdziak

  • Drive (2002)24. Drive (2002) – Alan Jackson

    If apples were Alan Jackson music, then Granny Smiths would be Drive. This album represents the quintessential consistency that has made Jackson a star; There’s tongue-in-cheek (“First Love”), nostalgia (“Drive”), and a rousing duet with George Strait (“Designated Drinker”). Oh yeah, and one of the most relevant songs of the decade in “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)?” — Pierce Greenberg

  • Mud On The Tires (2003)23. Mud On The Tires (2003) – Brad Paisley

    By the time Mud on the Tires was released, Paisley was already a radio mainstay, with eight straight singles from two albums reaching the top 20; however, it was his “Whiskey Lullaby” duet with critical darling Alison Krauss that put the country music community on permanent notice. As his first album to reach the top of the charts, it’s also his best mesh of swingy traditional tunes à la Buck Owens and his own unique, burgeoning style of social commentary cut with stinging guitar riffs. — Karlie Justus

  • Wagonmaster (2007)22. Wagonmaster (2007) – Porter Wagoner

    One of country’s preeminent artists largely forgotten by the non-Opry listening audience; the kinds of songs forgotten by the country industry at large; the highlight being a song about forgotten members of society, written by Johnny Cash and subsequently forgotten by the producer, Marty Stuart, when it was given to him to deliver to its intended singer (“Committed To Parkview”). It took a non-country indie label (Anti) to allow all these forgotten factors to coalesce and give Porter Wagoner his due opportunity to record and release Wagomaster, an album that ultimately became his last after he checked out from the rat race a short five months later. Wagoner left us with a bonafide classic and fine swan song indeed. — Brady Vercher

  • These Days (2006)21. These Days (2006) – Vince Gill

    These Days was a project recorded as four distinct albums: rock, ballads, vintage honky tonk, and acoustic. The 4-CD release, featuring an incredible 43 new songs, is an amazing artistic endeavor–one made all the more special by guests such as Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Rodney Crowell, Phil Everly, the Del McCoury Band, Emmylou Harris, John Anderson, Lee Ann Womack, (daughter) Jenny Gill, (wife) Amy Grant, LeAnn Rimes, Gretchen Wilson, Guy Clark, Trisha Yearwood, Michael McDonald and more. Yes, and more. — Ken Morton, Jr.

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  1. [...] to the ongoing Top 100 Albums of the Decade countdown (now entering the Top 20!) over at The 9513. It’s a great read overall, and there [...]
  1. Drew
    December 8, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Now we’re gettin into the thick of it… I’m really looking forward to the last two sets.

  2. Michael
    December 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I love Lonely Runs Both Ways so I’m happy, albeit surprised, to see it ranked this high. I never really hear much about it so it’s nice to see it gettin’ a little love. Great album.

  3. Josh
    December 8, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Glad to see this listing…all in all, I’m in agreement with this and completely forgotten about AJ’s Precious Memories project. Am now going to order it and remind myself of the good ol’ days when I was a child. I certainly hope Vince Gill gets a whole bunch of credits for his 4-CD project because that’s one helluva project to do in such a short time period. Wow…the man must’ve run out of ink and juice when he got done with it.

  4. Sheep
    December 8, 2009 at 11:57 am

    And the list gets even better… can’t wait for the Top 20!

  5. Noeller
    December 8, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Interesting stuff – I really dug Mud On The Tires, and have never really understood the negativity toward 5th Gear (which I always thought was similar to Mud) or the positivity toward “…Saturday Night”. Either way – great call on Mud.

    I really want to wrap my head around “Raising Sand” but I just don’t get it. That one single they had – can’t think of it off the top of my head – drove me bananas. God bless Alison Krauss and everything she stands for, but man, I just didn’t “get” the vibe on that disc.

  6. Thomas
    December 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    …i never understood the negativity toward “5th Gear” either. my best guess is: if you like “ticks”, which i really do, you’ll find it a fine album. if you don’t …who cares, anyway.

  7. Steve Harvey
    December 8, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Glad to see Mud make an appearance – it’s definietely Paisley’s best record, and his subsequent ones have been diminishing returns on that formula.
    I figured Wagonmaster would show up on here somewhere, and I’m pleased that my favourite Alan Jackson record has rated so highly.

  8. Rick
    December 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Wow, this list is really starting to derail big time! Alan Jackson’s “Drive” is one of his worst albums and if it makes the list and “When Somebody Loves You” ( a 2000 release) doesn’t, then that is just plain goofy!

    Brad Paisley does not have much of a singing voice, but you’d never guess that based upon this list either. Brad’s a great songwriter and guitar slinger, but his singing voice just ain’t much. Brad should have hired Josh Turner to be the lead singer in his band…

    I have the Hayes Carll album and although it has its moments its not all its been hyped up to be. I really don’t grasp why so many people feel this album is such a “triumph”? I saw Hayes live and he puts on a good show but I’d much rather see him in concert than listen to this CD as his storytelling is the best part of his show (just like with Fred Eaglesmith). Sheesh…

  9. Jon G.
    December 8, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I’m sorry, but These Days should at least be in the top twenty, if not #1. 40+ masterful songs–not a bad one in the bunch–in four distinct subgeneres is quite an incredible feat. I can’t imagine any other artist doing that; in fact, I can’t envision it being equalled. Ever.

    Mud on the Tires is probably Brad’s best album, so I won’t complain about it being so high.

    And though I think Revolution is very good, I think it’s definitely overrated. The production almost ruins the good vocals and great lyrics by Lambert. I don’t think that I would’ve included it on this list at all.

  10. Steve Harvey
    December 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    I find These Days to be a little overrated actually. I like when I listen to it, but I struggle to recall any of the songs even a couple of days afterwards.

  11. Razor X
    December 8, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    The first disc of These Days is my least favorite, but the other three are excellent.

  12. Jon G.
    December 9, 2009 at 12:40 am

    I guess not everyone likes it as much as I do.
    I have nearly every song on my MP3 player and listen to them fairly regularly.

  13. Leeann Ward
    December 9, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Steve,
    Clearly, you just need to listen to them more!:)

    Of course, I agree with John G, but that’s no surprise. I even like the first disc a lot, though I could live without a couple on the second disc that are a bit too boring.

  14. Steve Harvey
    December 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Steve,
    Clearly, you just need to listen to them more!:)

    I listen to them every now and then. It’s good background music – pleasant and mellow, without too much dynamics within or between the songs.

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