20 country albums even those who hate the genre will love

For some people, country music can be a bit … polarizing. While some may have bad memories of being forced to listen to twangy tunes in Grandma’s house while growing up – or were utterly disheartened by the inanity of the brother country era – the genre really has. something for everyone.

From classics that have fused genres since the 1960s to pop-country crossovers of Dolly Parton and Kelsea Ballerini, these 20 country albums can withstand even the biggest protests of country music enemies.

1 in 20

Kacey Musgraves, “The Golden Hour”

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Texan Kacey Musgraves’ fourth album, “Golden Hour” is a playful country album with tons of electronic and pop influences. Start with the relaxed, dreamy title track from the album, then move on to the mellow vibes of “Slow Burn” and “Butterflies”.

2 of 20

The chicks, “take the long way”

The chicks, "Take the long way"

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Released in 2006, “Taking The Long Way” marked the Chicks ‘return to music after singer Natalie Maines’ controversial remarks about President George W. Bush following the invasion of Iraq. in 2002. It’s a classic crossover country record, steeped in pop influence. that balances the traditionally nasal sound of the Chicks. Songs like the powerful anthem “Not Ready To Make Nice” are also a clear message to critics of the band, who insisted they “shut up and sing”.

3 of 20

Eric Church, “The Strangers”

Eric Church, "The foreigners"

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As the title might suggest, this 2014 album by country powerhouse Eric Church doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a traditional country record. Blending rock, blues and country with a healthy dose of Church’s signature bluster, this is a perfect choice for southern rock fans who don’t mind a little twist in their tunes.

4 of 20

Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Is Coming

Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Is Coming

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The latest album released by prolific country icon Johnny Cash during his lifetime, “American IV: The Man Comes Around” is a stunning showcase of Man in Black’s talent. Produced by Rick Rubin, known for his work with hip-hop giants like Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, the album features Cash in his most emotional and introspective form, and skillfully traverses the worlds of rock, folk, and music. the country. Nick Cave fans will enjoy his dismal duet with Cash on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and just about anyone can enjoy the heart-wrenching version of Cash on “Hurt” from Nine Inch Nails.

5 of 20

Ray Charles, “The Modern Sounds of Country and Western”

Ray Charles, "Modern country and western sounds"

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One of the defining works of the genre, the sonic fusion of blues, soul and country in “Modern Sounds In Country And Western” by Ray Charles was decidedly ahead of its time. And yet, even all these years later, it still seems quite appropriate to enjoy tracks like Charles’ riff on Hank Williams’ classic “Hey Good Lookin ‘” in 2021.

6 of 20

Margo Price, “This is how the rumors started”

Margo Prize, "This is how the rumors begin"

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In 2020, neotraditionalist Margo Price released “That’s How Rumors Get Started,” her most sonically adventurous record to date. Produced by Sturgill Simpson, the album is truly more of a classic rock record than a classic country effort, with swampy and grungy arrangements paired with Price’s breathtaking vocals on tracks like “Twinkle Twinkle”.

7 of 20

Willie Nelson, “red-headed alien”

Willie Nelson, "Red-headed alien"

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Even the most virulent of country haters can’t deny the universal appeal of Willie Nelson, which is evident in his most iconic work, “Red Headed Stranger”. It might still be quintessentially country, but literally everyone can enjoy “Blue Eyes Cryin ‘In The Rain” and “Can I Sleep In Your Arms”.

8 of 20

Chris Stapleton, “Traveler”

Chris Stapleton, "Traveler"

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With his ridiculously powerful voice and soul-infused arrangements, Chris Stapleton’s debut solo album is a must-have for anyone who loves a soulful tune. Consider his cover of the classic country anthem “Tennessee Whiskey” and the astonishing “Fire Away”, both of which are superb showcases of Stapleton’s vocal prowess.

9 of 20

Dolly Parton, “There you are again”

Dolly Parton, "Here you come back"

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A country-pop crossover released in 1977, “Here You Come Again” is packed with upbeat Parton classics. There’s the classic “Two Doors Down” and, of course, the album’s title track, which earned Parton his first top-five pop hit.

10 of 20

Hank Williams III, “Straight to Hell”

Hank Williams III, "Straight to hell"

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Spitting image of his legendary grandfather, Hank Williams III did not consider it necessary to stick to “family tradition”. His musical path has turned resolutely into punk-hardcore, but 2006’s “Straight To Hell” unites country and rock in a way unique to Hank III. This one isn’t for kids, however – upon its release, the album became the first country record to earn a parental warning sticker thanks to its salty language and decidedly grown-up content.

11 of 20

Darius Rucker, “Learn to Live”

Darius Rucker, "Learn to live"

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Non-country fans may recognize Darius Rucker when he was frontman of pop juggernaut Hootie and the Blowfish, but now he’s making music that’s decidedly a little more twangy. There is still a lot of pop influence to Rucker’s sound, and this is perhaps most evident on his groundbreaking 2008 album “Learn to Live”, which features the # 1 song “Don’t Think I Don” ‘t Think About It “.

12 of 20

Sam Hunt, “Montevallo”

Sam Hunt, "Montevallo"

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Sam Hunt’s groundbreaking 2014 album “Montevallo” blurs the line between country, R&B and pop so much that it sparked a bit of outrage among country music traditionalists who scoffed at its place in the world. number one on the charts. Still, his appeal was wide, thanks to Hunt’s strong voice and the ever-changing demographics of country fandom.

13 of 20

Kelsea Ballerini, “Without excuse”

Kelsea Ballerini,

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Pop country has flourished since the 1990s, and Kelsea Ballerini now carries the torch lit by artists like Faith Hill and Shania Twain. His 2018 second album “Unapologeically” is perhaps the most revealing of Ballerini’s pop-country prowess, with hits like “I Hate Love Songs” and “Legends,” both of which helped Ballerini rise to the top of the charts. after the album was released.

14 of 20

Sturgill Simpson, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”

Sturgill Simpson, "Metamodern sounds in country music"

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In 2015, Sturgill Simpson turned the indie country world upside down with “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”, a psychedelic, trippy record with odes to psilocybin, LSD and space turtles. The lyrics tackle much deeper questions of identity, love and universal truths, all set in expansive compositions. Still feeling skeptical? Start with Simpson’s stellar cover of “The Promise” by When In Rome.

Keith Urbain, "Golden route"

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Absolutely stacked with powerful pop ballads, Keith Urban’s 2002 album “Golden Road” features the Australian artist at his best. It spans the gamut of emotions, from the thoughtful breakup song “You’ll Think of Me”, to the steaming love song “Raining on Sunday” and the endlessly positive “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” .

16 of 20

Maren Morris, “GIRL”

Maren Morris, "GIRL"

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Released in 2019, “Girl” by Maren Morris is a fun and challenging album full of catchy hits. Her title song is perfect for any woman having a bad day, while Morris’ bestselling crossover “The Bones” is decidedly more upbeat.

17 of 20

Jason Isbell, South East

Jason Isbell, South East

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An emotionally powerful record from top to bottom, Jason Isbell’s critically acclaimed “Southeastern” is a must-see for anyone who enjoys writing strong songs – even if it’s not strictly a country record. Released in 2014, it explores Isbell’s regained sobriety (at the time), his relationship with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Shires, and other deeply personal subjects. Just start with “Cover Me Up,” a tearful for anyone who’s ever put someone they love in the wringer.

18 of 20

Glen Campbell, “Wichita Lineman”

Glen Campbell, "Lineman Wichita"

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There may not be an album – or artist – that better exemplifies 1960s country than Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman”. A decidedly country-pop effort, it features the album’s iconic title track, as well as Campbell’s cover of Otis Redding’s “Sittin ‘On The Dock of the Bay” and “Words,” written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb.

19 of 20

Charley Pride, “Country Charley Pride”

Charley Pride, "Country Charley Pride"

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A pioneering black artist in a predominantly white genre, Charley Pride broke barriers in 1966 with “Country Charley Pride”. It’s a universally appealing record that extends far beyond country music, thanks to songs like “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “Folsom Prison Blues”. And while it’s not on this album – it came later, in 1971 – “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin ‘” is a must-read for anyone who loves good music.

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, "Sand rising"

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Possessing an unearthly talent for bluegrass and one of music’s most iconic voices, Alison Krauss recently held the record for the most Grammy wins that Beyonce just broke. As such, it’s easy to see her broad appeal, especially when paired with legendary Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. On “Raising Sand”, released in 2008, Krauss and Plant share breathtaking harmonies that anyone who appreciates good vocals will love.

Toya J. Bell