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

Staff | December 7th, 2009


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

  • Everything Is Fine (2007)50. Everything Is Fine (2007) – Josh Turner

    Turner’s only album on the list takes his stellar ability to execute and interpret a country song and applies it to a diverse offering of sexual innuendo, smooth R&B harmonies and a classic country cover, proving the singer is capable of channeling his early radio success into a worthwhile career catalog. With that diversity, however, comes misses like “Trailerhood” and the title track, itself a symptom of Turner’s tendency to rely too much on his baritone and too little on consistent lyrical connections. — Karlie Justus

  • American Saturday Night (2009)49. American Saturday Night (2009) – Brad Paisley

    Though conservatism rules on Music Row, country king Brad Paisley’s goofball brand of music–part hillbilly satire, part romantic balladry–is a bipartisan pleasure. The release of this year’s American Saturday Night proved once again that his country radio reign–along with this year’s nifty White House invite–is well-earned. Paisley reflects on the ever-changing nature of our culture (the title track, “Welcome to the Future”), but the album remains a deeply-personal artifact with keen snapshots (“I Hope That’s Me,” “Anything Like Me”) drawn from his experience as a husband and father of two. — Blake Boldt

  • 12 Ounce World (2008)48. 12 Ounce World (2008) – Rodney Hayden

    Written, produced, recorded, and released by the artist and his band, Rodney Hayden’s homespun 12 Ounce World is a truly independent project in every sense of the word. And who needs a high-powered record label or a big recording budget when you can make music like this on your own? A brilliantly mixed album that is underlined throughout by the standout guitar work of bandmate Matt Slusher, Hayden’s 2008 disc is one of a rare breed, so good at certain points that it’s easy to forget you’re listening to the songs of a regionally successful Texas act and not a country music legend. “Huntsville” and “Lonesome, Heartbroke and Blue” are two of the decade’s best country songs. Now if there was only a way to fix that artwork… — Jim Malec

  • Kerosene (2005)47. Kerosene (2005) – Miranda Lambert

    Miranda Lambert’s debut album made one thing very clear–she would be no label-crafted, cookie-cutter Nashville Star also-Ran. Kerosene was open-throttle from the first notes of the disc’s explosive lead number, slowing down only for the occasional heart-wrencher (“There’s A Wall”), or for a romp through stark, Texas-flavored traditionalism (“I Can’t Be Bothered.”) But while Kerosene declared–and declared loudly– that Lambert would be her own artist, it was a two-pack of autobiographical vignettes (“New Strings” and “Mama, I’m Alright”), along with a hard dose of friend-to-friend honesty (“What About Georgia?”) which first hinted that Lambert’s greatest strength as a songwriter was not her sass but her sensitivity. — Jim Malec

  • It Just Comes Natural (2006)46. It Just Comes Natural (2006) – George Strait

    It Just Comes Natural is solid George Strait gold–and, at 15 songs deep, there’s plenty to enjoy. The album’s release in 2006 allowed Strait to pick up his fourth CMA Album of the year award a decade after winning his third, giving him at least one win in the category in three different decades and the first single, “Give It Away”–which helped propel Jamey Johnson to prominence–pushed him past Conway Twitty for the most Billboard #1s by a country artist. Mr. Reliable keeps on chuggin’. — Brady Vercher

  • The SteelDrivers (2008)45. The SteelDrivers (2008) – The SteelDrivers

    Bluegrass has long been known for its high and lonesome vocals, but The SteelDrivers’ debut changed the formula with great success. First-rate bluegrass vets fiddler Tammy Rogers and banjo-player Richard Bailey joined with honky-tonk rocker Mike Henderson on mandolin and a lead singer (Chris Stapleton) who’d be at home fronting a Southern rock band. The combination worked, as songs like “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey” and “Midnight Train To Memphis” are tailor-made for Stapleton’s gritty voice, and the band earned IBMA, AMA and GRAMMY Award nominations for its debut effort. — Sam Gazdziak

  • The Foundation (2008)44. The Foundation (2008) – Zac Brown Band

    Brown and band deliver best in the fact that they cover genres and styles fluidly, dynamically pulling together musical vibes that range from contemporary country to Americana, blues, island-country, gospel and very traditional country. On The Foundation, the band takes pieces of each of these and weaves them into a sound that’s unique on country radio today, entire culture of American country music squeezed into one outstanding record. — Ken Morton, Jr.

  • East Nashville Skyline (2004)43. East Nashville Skyline (2004) – Todd Snider

    Snider’s swan song for the Oh Boy label was the one where everything finally came together, with Snider writing and singing in a voice more incisive and acerbic than ever and the production no longer straining to gloss up his ragged charm. Edging toward his 40s, Snider reined in the sometimes scattered creative impulses of his youth and delivered this focused tour de force, an album mixing hard-luck tales of aging and addiction with sharp-tongued social commentary, always with a glimmer of hope and a good-natured wink. — CM Wilcox

  • Satisfied (2006)42. Satisfied (2006) – Ashley Monroe

    The sole digital-only release on our list belongs to young Ashley Monroe, who earns comparison to Dolly and Tammy with the lilting quality of her voice and the way it seems to issue from her so naturally, without a hint of strain or pretense. Released digitally in 2006 and again (by popular demand) in 2009, hers was undoubtedly one of the most arresting debuts of the decade, as that inimitable tear in her voice gave her largely self-penned ballads (plus a few rockers, including a duet with Dwight Yoakam) such heartbreaking force. — CM Wilcox

  • On Your Way Home (2003)41. On Your Way Home (2003) – Patty Loveless

    Fresh from the success of Mountain Soul, Loveless applied a modern sheen to her bluegrass leanings with On Your Way Home, a radio-friendly album that, sadly, country radio barely touched. The title track, a Matraca Berg/Ronnie Samoset cheating ballad, is a harsh rebuke to a lying beau. The old-fashioned “Last in a Long Lonesome Line,” mourns the loss of traditional country and the heart-wrenching “The Grandpa That I Know,” does the same for a deceased patriarch. Throughout, Loveless is like a sympathetic friend: her down-from-the-mountain voice is vibrant, matching these touching and true-to-life songs of solitude. — Blake Boldt

  1. Razor X
    December 7, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Some great choices here; I really like the Strait, SteelDrivers, Ashley Monroe and Patty Loveless albums.

  2. Truersound
    December 7, 2009 at 11:29 am

    That Todd Snider album would be in my Top 10

    Steeldrivers is damn good too, I’d say it’s about right.

  3. Rick
    December 7, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Its really nice to see Ashley Monroe’s “Satisfied” on this list. When I first purchased an advance copy of the CD it was still scheduled for commercial release at some point, but as mentioned no CD was ever offered. I’m just glad Ashley has become a successful songwriter in the Nashville Establishment and will soon be back on another label. Go Ashley!

    The only other album on this section I possess is the Rodney Hayden disc. There are very few current male artists based in Texas that I find interesting enough to listen to, but “12 Ounce World” is a fine traditional country album by any standard. Rodney just needs to tap into Daryle Singletary’s fan base! Maybe the two could tour together? Hmm…

  4. Truersound
    December 7, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Rick, you should really check out that Todd Snider album. It even has a song about you on it ;)

  5. Leeann Ward
    December 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I love this installment. I have and like every album on it with the Turner album feeling pretty weak compared to the others, however.

  6. Jon
    December 7, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    SteelDrivers…Mike Henderson was about as much of a “bluegrass vet” as Tammy Rogers was when the band got started, so why does she get the tag while he’s a “honky-tonk rocker?” Somebody didn’t bother reading (or remembering) the liner notes. And why no love for Mike Fleming?! Not only does he contribute substantially in the vocal department, but any serious bluegrass musician – including the rest of the SteelDrivers – will tell you that the bass is the most important instrument in the band!

  7. Jon G.
    December 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I love the Ashley Monroe album. It definitely deserves a spot in the top 50.

  8. Noeller
    December 7, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I definitely woulda had ZBB higher, but the 3 singles so far are probably the weakest songs on the disc, and those 3 hold them back, I suppose.

  9. Sheep
    December 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I’m predicting that (despite the list still being great) this won’t draw as many comments as 60 – 51 since there’s no Swift or Underwood involved.

  10. Rick
    December 7, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Truersound, the only Todd Snider CD I own is “New Connection” and I’m content with that as it is not overtly political and contains “Beer Run”! That’s more than enough Todd for me…

    Hey Leeann, I finally looked at the Top 100 list thus far at Country Universe and have concluded you are the only contributor there with really great taste in real country music! Congratulations! (lol) Kevin does earn a brownie point for including Kim Richey’s wacky “Rise” album though.

  11. Jim Malec
    December 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    any serious bluegrass musician – including the rest of the SteelDrivers – will tell you that the bass is the most important instrument in the band!

    …says a bassist ;-)

  12. Jon
    December 7, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Well, yeah, how do you think I know?! ;-)

  13. Truersound
    December 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm


    Appreciating Todd Snider only for Beer Run is like appreciating George Jones only for White Lighnin’

  14. Rick
    December 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Well Truer that is a good analogy as I’ve never been much of a George Jones fan either…

  15. Steve Harvey
    December 7, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Again, I don’t think any of these records deserve to be rated above THE HOUSTON KID, but I’d say they’re appropriately rated within a top 50. Good to see KEROSENE make an appearance – I’m assuming Lambert’s third and fourth albums will rate higher.

  16. Steve Harvey
    December 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    but it looks like you left that comment over here.
    Yes, Brady, I did. Sorry about the confusion.

  17. Brady Vercher
    December 7, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Haha, no problem, it’s not your fault. That one was on me.

  18. Razor X
    December 7, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Well Truer that is a good analogy as I’ve never been much of a George Jones fan either…

    Now, them’s fightin’ words! ;)

  19. Rick
    December 7, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    You think them is fighting words, I’ve never cared much for Willie Nelson’s singing voice either! (lol) (Or Guy Clark, or Rodney Crowell, or Kris Kristofferson, or even Conway Twitty for that matter.) George’s voice has always been a bit too thin to really grab me and there are no sacred cows in country music in my book. Well, except for maybe the Hag up until the mid 1980’s….

  20. Steve Harvey
    December 7, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    You think them is fighting words, I’ve never cared much for Willie Nelson’s singing voice either!
    Are you sure you like country music Rick?

  21. Razor X
    December 7, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Are you sure you like country music Rick?

    Doesn’t sound like he does to me.

  22. Blake Boldt
    December 7, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    As a resident of East Nashville, I’m pleased as punch that so many writers also dug the Snyder disc. Also happy to stand on the Ashley Monroe bandwagon. Patty Loveless is OK, too.

  23. Josh
    December 8, 2009 at 8:32 am

    After listening to Ashley Monroe’s single and several others I’ve found on Youtube that never were released, I’m wondering why her album had been dropped??? Her voice alone is instant classic instrumental all on it’s own (kind of like Vince Gill’s in this respect). :( I am dumbfounded that she’s not had a record deal yet. I hope she does soon because this is one talented vocalist who will smoke the hell outta water the current female chart-toppers…except for Reba, Yearwood, and McBride since I have too much respect for them now. I dig how Monroe’s voice can be twangy and then bluesy on the side…such a deadly combo if you ask me.

  24. Lisa
    December 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Thrilled to see Ashley made the list! “Satisfied” has been stuck in my CD player for months. Listening to her is like witnessing an historic event before it ever takes place. She’s a talent-filled-bomb that is waiting to explode and I’m just glad I can say I knew of her before she catapults to the upper tiers of superstardom. What a talent!

  25. Barry Mazor
    December 9, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Is anybody viewing Ashley’s digital album as a 2009 release? It IS also “best of the year” lists time..

  26. Kelly
    December 9, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Barry – while you here, I am really digging the Jimmie Rodgers book, great job :-)

  27. Barry Mazor
    December 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    That’s good to hear Kelly; thanks.

    Did you know the volume-length looks at Jimmie Rodgers’ influence and legacy make the best possible Christmas gifts? That’s what I heard, anyway,

  28. Jared
    December 22, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Dear 9513, thank you for getting me into Ashley Monroe. I never would have heard of her if not for this list.

  29. stars_gal
    December 31, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you so much for acknowledging Ashley Monroe’s work. It’s such a shame she doesn’t get more attention.

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