Country Music was pretty good in the ’00s.
Looking back on the decade’s top albums it’s easy to see how the landscape of country music change. Nearly every year albums were released that introduced new stars to the country audience. Established artists also reinvented themselves with important albums during this period.
I tried to narrow things down to 25. Some big cuts had to be made. It was tough to compile. I had it down to about 30 or so and it was getting tough…
Let’s look back on the 25 most important country albums of the ‘000s…
Top Country Albums 2000-2009
Doin’ My Thing – Luke Bryan (2009)
Little Bit of Everything – Billy Currington (2008)
The Man I Want to Be – Chris Young (2009)
Phil Vassar – Phil Vassar (2000)
Scarecrow – Garth Brooks (2001)
25) Learn to Live – Darius Rucker (2008)
In 1994 Hootie & The Blowfish became just about the biggest band in the world. During their run in the ’90s they defined the era of garage band rock. Lead singer Darius Rucker was the face of the band. His raspy voice and knack for approachable melodies and lyrics made the band’s music special (all four members contributed to songwriting and lyrics).
Flash forward to 2008… Hootie was still on the road each year playing shows. They were releasing albums on a fairly regular basis, but were not selling as much as during their big days when their debut shipped over 16 million copies.
Darius took some time away from Hootie and worked his way into a deal at Capital Nashville. He and producer Frank Rogers created a collection of songs that was both pop and country. The result was 2008’s Learn To Live and it proved more successful than anyone could imagine.
The album yielded 3 number one hits right out of the gate and a fourth made it to the top 3. If anyone tells you they knew Darius Rucker would have that kind of success in country music they’d be lying to you. He overcame the biggest odds in Nashville and succeeded.
Darius took his approachable style and made millions of country fans believers. In fact, Darius changed the country landscape in a way with his debut country release. Learn To Live showed others that it’s ok to make music targeted at radio. It works. It’s what fans want.
Darius Rucker was one of the biggest and most unlikely success stories in country music in the 2000s.
24) Tough All Over – Gary Allan (2005)
Gary Allan stumbled along in the late ’90s as he and his label worked to define the artist. It was tricky. Gary’s style is vastly different than other country artists. He’s got a little edge to him. His voice is raspy with plenty of soul and definition. And from his appearance you might think Gary is the former lead singer of Extreme or something.
As the decade turned to the ’00s, Gary figured things out. He ran off album and album in the early ’00s with hit after hit. His fanbase was growing and things were looking up.
Then in 2004 tragedy struck Gary. His wife committed suicide after a battle with depression. Gary was left to figure his life out and provide for his kids – 3 his own and 3 step kids from his wife. It’s unimaginable for most just how painful this time in Gary’s life must have been. Many would not be able to continue with something like work after an event like this, but Gary took to his music for the grieving process and the result was 2005’s Tough All Over and it became perhaps his signature album.
The album featured two singles lead off by Gary’s cover of Best I Ever Had previously written and recorded by alt-rock band Vertical Horizon. Gary’s version was somber and sad. The emotion bled through his pores as he poured his heart and soul out on the track. Fans connected with the sadness and made the song Gary’s first to achieve gold status.
The album saw one more single, another sad tune about life and how things are not always happy and cheery.
Tough All Over caught people’s attention in 2005. It was nothing like the happy music most artists put out. This album was drenched in difficult emotions and tough situations. The album proved a winner as fans connected to the music. It turns out music can help people through life even when things are tough all over.
23) Your Man – Josh Turner (2006)
He was the second coming of Randy Travis.
In 2002, Josh Turner released his first single. The song cracked the top 50 on the charts and didn’t make much noise. Josh kept his head down and in 2003 things changed with his first top fifteen single. The soft spoken kid soon had a huge hit on his hands and was drawing comparisons to the great Randy Travis for his deep, traditional country voice.
One more single was released from Josh’s debut album and it didn’t make a huge impact. Things were at a bit of a crossroads for the new country star. Would he become the superstar like his idol, Randy Travis, or would he disappear?
Then in 2005 Josh released his sophomore record and it turned things way around. The first two singles reached the top spot on the charts. Josh came into his own and really found his place in country music with the record Your Man. The album was packed with sexy, romantic tunes about love and life. People ate it up by the millions and Josh became a huge star.
The 2000s in country music will probably be remembered for the pop leaning country songs released to radio. Josh Turner was a traditionalist right from the get go and he changed the type of music people were listening to. Country fans now have traditional country to listen to again on radio with Josh Turner.
Your Man was a game changing type of album and Josh Turner is still going strong even today. There is no slowing this traditional country singer down.
22) License to Chill – Jimmy Buffett (2004)
Jimmy Buffett, country star?
In 2003, Alan Jackson recorded a new track for his second greatest hits collection. The song, It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere, had a summertime feel and Alan knew he had to get the king of summertime on the horn to line up a duet.
Jimmy Buffett came in and did his verse on the track with Alan and the song took off. I remember hearing for the song for the first time and thinking it was something special. It was catchy. It seemed like such a clever hook for a song and to add in Jimmy Buffett made it an over the top smash success.
Jimmy, always one to take advantage of good fortune, set in the studio to record a country-leaning album. The result was License to Chill and it sold nearly a quarter million records on its opening week of release in 2004. The album had Jimmy originals and even a cover of the countriest of all country songs Hey Good Lookin’, which went to the top ten on the country singles charts.
Jimmy was once again on the top of the charts and radio for the first time in three decades and this time he was doing it on the country charts. Everybody owned a copy of License to Chill it seemed. Classic Jimmy fans may have been a little caught off guard by the slight change in approach from Jimmy, but they still bought the set. My mom even had a copy in her car throughout the year.
It was a great album from a legend in music and it really stands out as one of the best albums of the 2000s.
21) Horse of a Different Color – Big & Rich (2004)
Now here was a game changing album.
In early 2004 a song started making the rounds at country radio. The song wasn’t just any song. It was Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy and it really caught country fans off guard. Some really hated it. Others absolutely loved it. And at the center of the attention was John Rich and Big Kenny – Big & Rich.
In the mid ’90s John Rich got his start as the bassist and occasional singer for the successful band Lonestar. Big Kenny started out as a struggling wannabe pop star. The two eventually found each other somewhere in Nashville and they got to jamming. They eventually created a devoted following and took other artists under their musical wing.
What started out as a simple saying in a bar one night turned into a career changing song for the duo. Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy became an anthem for the country party crowd. Big & Rich played loud and they played in your face.
The entire album the guys released in 2004, Horse of a Different Color, was full of fresh sounding music. Nobody had ever played like this in country music before and if they had it hadn’t been on radio for quite some time.
The album sold millions of copies and made the guys superstars.
People really hated this album while others couldn’t get enough. It seems that’s not a bad way to go about it. If you piss off half the people and make the other half love you you’re probably doing something right.
Horse of a Different Color changed country music. It was a huge album.
20) If You’re Going Through Hell – Rodney Atkins (2006)
If you look up persistent in the country music dictionary you’ll seen an entry describing Rodney Atkins. Starting back in 1997 Rodney released his first single. The track didn’t make much noise on the charts. One more single was released that year before things got quiet for a time.
In 2002 a few more singles followed. These two tracks cracked the top 40 on the charts, but there was no sign of stardom in the future for the persistent country singer.
Then, finally, in 2003 some luck struck. Rodney released the single Honesty and it cracked the top five on the charts. The song became the lone hit single from Rodney’s first album release. The album didn’t sell terribly well, but everything is relative. It looked as if this would be the only shot for Rodney on the charts – those that knew him better would probably say otherwise, though.
In 2006 something strange happened. Rodney released the single If You’re Going Through Hell. The song shot up the charts straight to number one. The track went gold and became a smash hit. People loved it. They loved the good old boy personality of Rodney and how he seemed to understand what good country folk were going through.
Three more hit singles followed and pretty soon Rodney’s album If You’re Going Through Hell had four number one singles and soon sold well over a million copies. The album was just the break Rodney had been working toward for a decade. A little tip of the hat goes to the team over at Curb Records for sticking with Rodney through all the years.
Everything paid off in 2006 with the success of If You’re Going Through Hell.
19) Mud On The Tires – Brad Paisley (2003)
In the last decade Brad Paisley seemed to quickly become a country superstar. Somewhere around the time his third album was released it seemed like Paisley had all the talent and the drive to be the best.
With his third album Mud on the Tires Brad started really finding his groove. The first three tracks all reached the top three on the country charts with the fourth single and title track reached number one on the charts. It was the start of a huge string of top tracks for the soft spoken country funny man.
Mud on the Tires became Brad’s first album to reach multi-platinum status. Fans couldn’t get enough of the charm and wit from Brad. He had a way of crafting crazy story songs with extremely catchy guitar melodies. It was a formula for success and to this point in his career Brad has kept the string of hits coming so much so that he’s become one of country’s biggest stars ever. He’s been on an incredible run the last decade and things all seemed to really get started with Mud on the Tires.
18) Set This Circus Down – Tim McGraw (2001)
It was hard to choose just one album from country legend Tim McGraw for this list. Starting back in the ’90s Tim has been one of country’s biggest stars. He’s racked up hit after hit with consistency rarely seen in this industry.
Tim’s first album of the ’00s was the set Set This Circus Down. It was an important moment in Tim’s career. He was coming off a Greatest Hits release that always kind of marks the end of a first phase in artists’ careers. For Tim it had been a hugely successful first phase. Everybody was kind of wondering if he’d be able to keep the success going.
Tim delivered with an album of four straight number one singles. It was a huge album. It sold in excess of three million copies in the US alone. The singles were huge especially The Cowboy In Me, which seemed to connect Tim with the older guys in the country audience – typically a difficult sect of the country audience.
Looking back it’s hard to think there would be any doubt in Tim’s career. I’m sure he never wavered in his expectations for himself. The doubt was there with those in the industry and even a few fans. It seems like it’s always difficult to come off a Greatest Hits package with a fresh set of new songs.
Set This Circus Down was a big album for Tim. It kept the momentum of his career going strong into the ’00s. The album showed a little change in musical direction for Tim. The album saw all four singles reach the top spot on the charts. It was a huge album for Tim and one of the biggest albums in the ’00s…period.
17) Lady Antebellum – Lady Antebellum (2008)
Seemingly out of nowhere, Lady Antebellum took over country music. In 2008, the band released their first album and it really did change the way country music was going at the time. It’s only been a few years since the album was released, but the guys in Lady A brought a unique dynamic to country music.
When the first single was released people were taking second looks. The band features duel lead singers with Charles and Hillary. The male and female leads allowed Lady A to sing songs most other country acts couldn’t pull off. The band is able to put a true duets album together while remaining their own band. It’s not a new thought in country music, but Lady A is able to make it really work for them and fans love it.
Also unique about the band is the fact they write just about all their own material. And while that can sometimes be tricky the band also proves to be really good songwriters. The songs and singles on Lady Antebellum are really good. The songs are about love, pain, and all the things in life that make you feel certain emotions.
It’s a fun album. It’s a unique album. And the album is something special in country music history.
16) Wide Open – Jason Aldean (2009)
Jason Aldean got off to a promising start with his first album in 2005. The set saw three major hit singles released to radio. Soon a second album followed with a few more hits singles, but there wasn’t really a major impact on the second album. It seemed like Aldean was heading sideways with his career rather than forging ahead.
By the time 2009 rolled around it was a make or break period for Jason Aldean. He took the opportunity and decided to make the most of it. Jason turned on the heavy metal power chords and paired it with some true country stories. The result was the album Wide Open and it changed the way people perceived Aldean and the way country music could be played.
The first single from the set was She’s Country – a big, heavy rocking country track about the attitude of country women. The song became a major hit for Aldean and country and rock fans singing along together. It was a breakthrough for Aldean and a bit of a breakthrough for country as well.
Beyond the heavy rocking tracks there was also a little bit of romance from Aldean. Big Green Tractor was the second single from the album and it became just as big if not bigger than any other Aldean single up to that point in his career. The rollicking song about a country boy falling for a city girl had all the makings of being just another country love song, but for some reason this song stood out and sounded completely unique. People couldn’t get enough and the song soon took the album to platinum status. Two more huge singles followed and Aldean seemingly went to a headliner overnight.
Wide Open changed the way people thought about country music. Aldean made it ok for hard rock and country fans to co-exist. It was a beautiful marriage made possible by one of today’s biggest country stars.
15) Shock’n Y’all – Toby Keith (2003)
In the 2000s Toby Keith experienced a second coming. His career had gotten off to a fast start in the ’90s. He was selling millions of records. Seemingly all of his singles were hits. After about a five year grind on various labels under the same umbrella Toby got tired.
By the time the ’00s hit he was back in the groove on a new label. Toby was releasing songs that were becoming the biggest hits of his career and he was taking on the superstar status he had worked so hard to attain.
Toby’s career seemed to come to the biggest fruition with 2003’s Shock’n Y’all. Toby was coming off an album that included the war-revenge song Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue. People love that song or hate that song. For Toby it was just an expression of an emotion he was feeling at the time. It was a little tip of his hat to his own dad. The song seemed to take on a life of its own, however, and people made it into multiple interpretations. His previous album also featured the multi-week number one Beer For My Horses.
Toby didn’t slow down when the new album came out. He released the multi-week number one lead off single I Love This Bar. The song was another monster smash hit for an artist that seemed to release huge songs every time out.
The album featured two other number one hits with all three singles reaching gold status. Shock’n Y’all went on to sell over four million copies in the US alone. It was a huge time for Toby as his fanbase was growing with each passing day.
For an artist that helped define the decade in country music this was perhaps Toby Keith’s biggest album.
14) O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Various Artists (2000)
I’ll never forgot the time I realized O Brother, Where Art Thou? was a huge album. I was working at this country club in the bag room. I cleaned members clubs and kind of payed valet for the golfers that stored their clubs there.
One day this middle aged guy pulled up in his SUV. He was blasting the soundtrack and he looked over at a few other guys and told them how cool the album was. I had heard a few of the songs including the big hit I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow before, but I hadn’t realized just how far the album had reached.
Here was a guy I would have never guessed was a bluegrass fan blasting the album in the parking lot of a country club. It was crazy to me, but it was at that point I realized it was possible to expand the audience of country and bluegrass.
The soundtrack had been part of a fairly popular movie, but the soundtrack is really what people remember. Various bluegrass artists contributed to the set and they all made it a smash hit. The album sold over 7 million copies in the US. How does a bluegrass album even come close to those numbers?
It was crazy, but this album is constantly ranked as one of the most important albums of any genre for the decade.
13) Golden Road – Keith Urban (2002)
By mid-2002 most people in the country world knew who Keith Urban was. He was the Aussie guy with a few hits from his first major label country debut. He had a number one hit under his belt and it had only been a few months since his last single had reached the country top three.
Things reached a new level of success for Keith Urban, though, in 2002 when the single Somebody Like You reached the top of the country charts and stayed there for six weeks there. It was a crazy successful song. The melody was ultra catchy. Keith ripped through the guitar and ganjo (guitar-banjo) parts. It was basically a simple love song with simple lyrics, but the song snowballed through the country world and made huge gains in the pop world as well.
The album Golden Road soon followed with three more hit singles including two more number one hits. There was also an album cut on the record Keith fans remember from later on in his career – You Look Good In My Shirt. The song wasn’t released as a single off Golden Road, but was later released as a re-recorded single on Keith’s Greatest Hits records.
Golden Road was huge. It took Keith from a pretty successful country artist to a multi-genre superstar. He kept the momentum going on subsequent albums and remains one of the biggest stars in country music today.
12) Here For The Party – Gretchen Wilson (2004)
Every country fan remembers the image. You have this country chick riding an ATV through the mud not far from the trailer park in the video. The chick was Gretchen Wilson and the video was for her debut song Redneck Woman. Gretchen and the song changed things in country music during the ’00s.
With the help of her buddies John Rich and Big Kenny, Gretchen wrote a collection of songs that would become her first album – Here for the Party. The debut single and subsequent singles were all major hits for Gretchen. Party would go on to sell over 5 million records in the US.
It was the unofficial Redneck Era in country music and Gretchen was the leader for the women. The song glorified the life of all the amazing country and redneck women in the world. Gretchen let everyone know it was ok to wear your Walmart clothes around and still look sexy. She let everyone know it was alright to love your babies and still have time for a little mudding and shooting.
The song and the album caught everyone off guard in 2004. They made country fans rethink what country was all about. Gretchen provided a voice for millions of country fans out there that had been ignored for a few years. It was a moment in country music that shouldn’t be forgotten brought about by one of the most talented singers and writers country has ever seen.
11) Some Hearts – Carrie Underwood (2005)
Carrie is kind of opposite of Gretchen Wilson…at least on the surface. Both women have attitude and drive, but their styles come off as a bit different.
Shortly after winning American Idol Carrie took to the studio to record her debut. She made sure to keep things true to her country roots. The album featured three number one hits and a fourth single that reached number two. The collection was heavy leaning on the country with a few pop tracks for the fans Carrie had gained on the popular music competition.
Carrie’s debut Some Hearts is one of the best selling debut albums for a country artist ever. It may in fact be the best selling debut for a female artist…ever. That includes some pretty good competition too. The album could have been just another debut had it not been for the third country single, Before He Cheats.
Some Hearts had been selling well up to that point, but it was Before He Cheats that really shot this record into the stratosphere. The song was huge. Women everywhere were requesting this track about cheating men. The song had attitude. The song had grit. It was an anthem for women as it gave them power to stand up to their wrongdoing men.
Carrie hasn’t looked back from her debut. She continues climbing to the top of the country music world with each release. She’ll be around for a good long while.
10) I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack (2000)
By 2000 Lee Ann Womack was already a country success. She had a platinum and gold album and her singles were regularly making the top ten if not the top five on the country singles charts.
Things went to a whole new level, though, in 2000.
Lee Ann released her biggest success of an album with I Hope You Dance that year. The title track of the song took on its own life. Women everywhere couldn’t hear the song enough. It was about having hope for your kids to succeed. Women and even men loved it. The song was the perfect way to capture the emotions parents feel for their kids. And the beautiful arrangement and vocals of the song made it probably one of the best country songs of all time.
The album featured four big hit singles and eventually sold over three million copies in the US. I knew the entire album was a big hit when my mom purchased it for herself. She has a long commute each day to work and she would play this album over and over every day as she drove back and forth.
It takes something special to hold someone’s attention for long car rides and that’s just what I Hope You Dance was able to do.
Lee Ann Womack is still one of my favorite artists and including her biggest album on the list was a no brainer.
9) Twice The Speed of Life – Sugarland (2004)
The year 2004 was a good one for country music. As I look at this list I realize the number of huge albums released during this year.
One of those albums was the debut – Twice the Speed of Life– from a little band you might recognize – Sugarland. I remember when Baby Girl first came on the radio. It was this catchy song about coming of age and understanding life as a young adult. The lead singer had this incredible, unique voice. There was really nothing like this song on the radio at the time.
Soon the band – then a trio – was releasing hit after hit. They racked up four four big hits from their debut album with three of the songs reaching gold status. The songs were catchy, infectious and the entire country world seemed to be paying attention to everything Sugarland was doing.
Looking back on Sugarland’s career now it’s hard to believe how far they’ve come. It’s difficult to break out in the music business. Every year there are tons of new artists just looking for that first hit single and big hit album. Most never find their breakthrough yet for some reason a quirky band like Sugarland was able to find their own success while making music they seem to really love.
After releasing some great albums I still look back on their first release and think it was just a collection of great pop-country tunes. It has all the melodies and all the energy of a major release. It’s one of the best of the decade.
8) Drive – Alan Jackson (2002)
Everybody remembers Alan Jackson’s Drive for the emotional song Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning), but even beyond that song there were big hits on the album.
The album was released in early 2002 just as the title track was making its way up the charts. The title song is about Alan and how his father would let him drive around the lakes and the backroads as a kid. Eventually Alan talks about how he loves doing the same with his young daughters. There is something about the feeling of driving that gets people, especially young people, excited about life. There is a freedom, an independence that comes from driving.
Drive included two more top three singles and the album went on to sell over 4 million copies in the US – one of Alan’s best studio sets. It was a great success for the established country singer. The album was actually kind of a revival for Alan. He had seemed to stumble as things turned more pop-oriented at the turn of the century in country music. Drive seemed to be Alan’s way of getting people’s attention once again and showing them it was still cool to be traditional in the pop world.
Alan is one of my favorite artists and it’s always great when he releases new music. I remember having Drive in my truck CD player. It was a great album during its release and it’s still enjoyable today.
7) The Foundation – Zac Brown Band (2008)
In late 2008 a song was making its way up the country charts. It was getting people’s attention for being this ultra-catchy tune about chicken or something.
The song turned out to be Chicken Fried and the band behind the infectious tune was the Zac Brown Band. Soon the song was getting so much play at radio it was in the top ten…and then the top five…and soon it had become the number one country song in the world even reaching the top 20 on the all encompassing Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The album – The Foundation – was released soon after and the Zac Brown Band became household names. The guys followed up their debut smash hit single with a number two hit followed by three more number ones. It’s really an incredible feat for a relatively new artist to shoot off 4 number one hits from their debut album. I’m actually not sure if it’s ever been done before in country music. And to even say you had an additional number two hit single from the release is even more incredible.
It’s hard to think there was a time when Zac Brown and his band were not part of country music. The guys are so talented with their instruments, their vocals, their live show, and at songwriting it seems like they would have been famous from an early age.
However Zac Brown came about there is no denying their impact in country music over the past few years. They changed the face of country a bit with their brand of music and it was a change for the better.
6) 50 Number Ones – George Strait (2004)
I went back and forth trying to decide if I should include greatest hits collections on this list. I finally broke down for 50 Number Ones from George Strait. Let’s be honest – 50 Number Ones! The man has so many number one hits it’d be enough for 10 country artists.
I’m not the kind of guy to request anything for birthdays, but when I was pressed in 2004 I mentioned this album and I’m still listening to it all the time seven years later. The set was the perfect look back on the career of George Strait. At the time of this album release George had been providing hits for radio fans for over two decades. In that time he’d been probably the most successful artist of all time.
For the casual George Strait fan you’ll probably be surprised how many songs you rediscover on this album. Songs like Easy Come, Easy Go or even The Chill Of An Early Fall. They were all number ones for George Strait over his career and they’re all found on this two-disc set.
George didn’t slow down after this album came out. In fact, there were fan favorites left off this set – because they didn’t reach the number one spot – and George had to release a collection of his non-number ones.
I think today George has added about 8 or so more number ones to his collection. I’m not sure how he does it when it comes to choosing songs for his shows. He could change things up every night and still put on a great show.
George is the best and I feel this is the perfect album of George Strait songs.
5) American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash (2002)
I was sitting in the living room at my parents house one morning when a video came on CMT. It caught me off guard. There was the image of an old man and he was singing with this sorrow and sad emotion. It captivated my attention and it was all I could think about for the entire day.
Who was this?
It turned out the artist was the legendary Johnny Cash and the song was his version of Hurt. The video and the song were so powerful. As the song continued its run on the charts it gained widespread popularity and proved to be a bit of a resurgence for Johnny Cash.
Johnny had started his American Recordings collection back in the mid-90s, but it was the fourth set – American IV: The Man Comes Around – that propelled him back in the mainstream. The album sold over a million copies in the US. The songs were full of heartache and pain. They were full of life lessons Johnny had learned.
A few years after the album’s release the biopicture Walk the Line (Widescreen Edition) was released. The film documented the life of Johnny Cash and June Carter. It was a tremendous hit and further spurred interest in the legendary country singer.
Looking back on the decade it would be hard to pass up American IV on the list of the most important and influential albums of the 2000s.
4) No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems – Kenny Chesney (2002)
I’ll just come out and say it – Kenny Chesney was the biggest country star of the ’00s.
All of Kenny’s albums during the decade sold millions. Kenny went out on the biggest headlining tours even achieving the rare stadium status. He actually continues the stadium shows even today well into his run at the top of the music world.
Looking back on where things all started for this level of Kenny’s career you have to look at the No Shoes No Shirt No Problemsalbum from back in 2002. That was the year Kenny went from a supporting touring star with a Greatest Hits collection of good songs to a superstar.
The songs on No Shoeschanged the perception of Kenny. He became the modern day Jimmy Buffett in country music even though Buffett was still as big as ever. Kenny had his own love for the islands and he brought the laid back party to the country audience…and it worked like a charm.
For a career that was huge in the ’00s and remains huge, No Shoeswas the album to get it all started and it’s definitely one of the most important records of the decade.
3) Me and My Gang – Rascal Flatts – (2006)
If there is one country act that best defines the 2000s in country music it would be Rascal Flatts.
The trio of guys seem to come right out of the pop world. They brought their unique melodies and harmonies to country in the early 2000s with their first record. As the hits came the guys found themselves soon headlining their own tours and selling more records than any other country act. Some resented their pop sounding brand of country, but even more loved them for making great music.
By the time 2006 came around Rascal Flatts was one of the biggest acts in country music and perhaps all of music. The year brought the release of the album Me & My Gang. The first single from the set was truly a remarkable track. What Hurts The Most became an international hit reaching the top of the charts on multiple genres in multiple countries. The song was one that had been recorded by other artists, but it was Rascal Flatts’ version that captured the attention of music fans.
More singles were released from the album and all were hugely successful. Me & My Gang became perhaps the best selling album for the group and marked one of the peaks of their career. It was a milestone album and an album that has the sound that could define country music in the 2000s.
2) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Miranda Lambert (2007)
The first single wasn’t a huge hit, but as the hits and awards piled up it became apparent just how good Miranda Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend album was.
The title track was released as a kind of first single in late 2006. It only charted at the top 50 on the charts. It turned out to be more of a sneak peek single to give fans a taste of the evolution of Miranda Lambert. Up until this point most people knew Miranda as the talented singer and songwriter from the country singing show Nashville Star. On her first album, Miranda had shown her charm along with a little taste of her attitude.
By the time Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was released it was apparent just how much attitude Miranda had. The third single Gunpowder & Lead became her first top ten single and it propelled the record to elite status.
The album won Album of the Year award at the ACMs. It was a huge achievement for the girl from Texas. People were recognizing her talents and loving what she had to share with them.
With the album Miranda showed women they too can be strong and even have a little country attitude. It was an important album from one of country’s biggest stars.
1) Fearless – Taylor Swift (2008)
In 2006 a young, really young, voice slowly came on the country scene. Taylor Swift was only 16 when her self-titled debut album was starting to climb the charts. As the singles from that album continued climbing the charts something crazy happened – Taylor became a country star.
Soon the momentum behind Taylor had built so high and so fast she seemed to be the biggest thing in country music. By 2008 everybody in the country world was discussing Taylor and what her next move would be. She had sold millions of records the first time out. Her first few singles were all major hits. Everybody was wondering how she’d fair on her second album.
Taylor’s sophomore release – Fearless – was released in November of 2008. The collection sold over a half million copies in the first week alone. The singles on the album reached the top spots on the country charts and even climbed to the highest reaches of the pop charts. Taylor became perhaps the most successful country artist of the latter half of the decade while also gaining a large general audience.
Her second album proved to be one of the highlights of the decade for the music business. The hard working teenager took over the country world showing seasoned vets how to bring an energy and authenticity to a record and live show.
It was hard choosing the most important album of the 2000s in country music, but I had to go with Fearless from Taylor Swift. The album was so big and the way everybody was discussing the songs, discussing Taylor, and discussing the album made me realize Fearless was the most important album of the decade.