This list of the ten best Country albums of all time is a non-traditional group of favorites. What is country music? Like anything, it’s in the ears of the beholder. Modern pop-country stuff on the radio and TV sung by fake cowboys and good lookin’ gals invented in record company boardrooms might sell a lot of records and be considered “country,” but we doubt any of it would end up on most lists of the best country albums of all time. Listed below are all great records, and certainly deserving of being in any conversation about the best country albums. In no particular order, and this off-the-beaten-path list of the best country albums goes up to 11:
- Whiskeytown – “Strangers Almanac” (1997) Acclaimed forerunners of the alt-country movement probably peaked on this one.
- Gram Parsons – “G.P./Grievous Angel” (1973) Originally these were two albums but have been repackaged as one. Still, this is the country-rock blueprint, with a nice assist from Emmylou Harris.
- Neil Young – “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (1969) Not the most famous Neil Young album, but certainly among the best. Lots of rockin' country here, from weepers to rockers.
- Loretta Lynn – “Van Lear Rose” (2004) Veteran country music legend proves she can still write great country tunes and crank out the strong vocals. This set has the added value of Jack White's guitar and production.
- Johnny Cash – “The Legend of Johnny Cash” (2005) While this list might not be traditional, no list of the best country albums of all time would be complete without the man in black. This is the only compilation that includes both his old classics and the best of his latter-day comeback era.
- Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – “Jacksonville City Nights” (2005) Classic country sound from one of this generation's best singer/songwriters.
- Old Crow Medicine Show – “Big Iron World” (2006) Neo-traditional folk and uppity bluegrass jams will have you tappin' your toes to the twang.
- Old 97’s – “Too Far to Care” (1997) Dallas band stomps out their cow-punk country rock mixed with melodic power pop.
- Bob Dylan – “John Wesley Harding” (1967) and “Nashville Skyline”(1969) (tie) Legendary singer/songwriter took lots of left turns in his career that sometimes left fans and critics scratching their heads. Along the way, he managed to make two of the best country albums of all time.
- Drive-By Truckers – “Decoration Day” (2003) Southern rock bravado is toned down slightly on this album while song craft takes center stage.
- Grateful Dead – “Workingman’s Dead” (1970) A lot of people think the Grateful Dead only made psychedelic rock, and that they never made great studio albums despite their legendary live shows. This folky set of country rock proves them wrong.
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