20 country albums that even haters of 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 nasal tunes at Grandma’s house growing up – or being completely turned off by the inanity of the bro-country era – the genre really has something for it. everybody.

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

1 in 20

Kacey Musgraves, “The Golden Hour”

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Texan Kacey Musgraves’ fourth full album, “Golden Hour” is a breezy country album with tons of electronic and pop influence. Start with the album’s laid-back, dreamy title track, then move on to the mellow vibes of “Slow Burn” and “Butterflies.”

2 out 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 the music business after singer Natalie Maines’ controversial remarks about President George W. Bush following the 2002 invasion of Iraq. It’s a classic country crossover record, steeped in pop influence that balances the Chicks’ traditional twangy sound. Songs like the powerful anthem “Not Ready To Make Nice” are also a pointed message to the band’s critics, who insisted they “shut up and sing along.”

3 out of 20

Eric Church, “The Strangers”

Eric Church, "The foreigners"

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As its title might suggest, this 2014 album from 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 swagger, it’s a perfect choice for Southern rock fans who don’t mind a little twang in their tunes.

4 out of 20

Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Returns

Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Returns

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

5 out of 20

Ray Charles, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western”

Ray Charles, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western"

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

6 out of 20

Margo Price, “That’s how the rumors start”

Margo Price, "This is how the rumors start"

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In 2020, neo-traditionalist 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, grungy arrangements paired with Price’s stunning vocals on tracks like “Twinkle Twinkle.”

7 out of 20

Willie Nelson, “The Red-Headed Stranger”

Willie Nelson, "red headed alien"

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Even the most vocal country hater can’t deny Willie Nelson’s universal appeal, which is evident in his most iconic work, “Red Headed Stranger.” It may still be typically country, but literally anyone can enjoy “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain” and “Can I Sleep In Your Arms.”

8 out of 20

Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”

Chris Stapleton, "Traveler"

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Thanks to his ridiculously powerful vocals and soul-soaked arrangements, Chris Stapleton’s debut solo album is a must-have for anyone who loves soulful tunes. Consider his cover of the classic country anthem “Tennessee Whiskey” and the stunning “Fire Away,” both of which are great showcases of Stapleton’s vocal prowess.

9 out of 20

Dolly Parton, “You Come Back Here”

Dolly Parton, "Here you are back"

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

10 out of 20

Hank Williams III, “Straight to Hell”

Hank Williams III, "straight to hell"

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The spitting image of his legendary grandfather, Hank Williams III didn’t find it necessary to stick to “family tradition”. His musical journey has skewed decidedly towards punk-hardcore, but 2006’s “Straight To Hell” brings together country and rock in a way unique to Hank III. This one’s not for kids, though – upon release, the album became the first country record to earn a parental advice sticker thanks to its salty language and decidedly adult content.

11 out of 20

Darius Rucker, “Learning to Live”

Darius Rucker, "learn to live"

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

12 out of 20

Sam Hunt, “Montevallo”

Sam Hunt, "Montevallo"

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Sam Hunt’s breakthrough 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 the top. chart rank. Still, its appeal was wide, thanks to Hunt’s strong voice and the ever-changing demographics of country fandom.

13 out of 20

Kelsea Ballerini, “Shameless”

Kelsea Ballerini,

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

14 out of 20

Sturgill Simpson, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”

Sturgil 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 trippy, psychedelic record with odes to psilocybin, LSD, and space turtles. The lyrics address much deeper questions of identity, love, and universal truths, all in expansive compositions. Still skeptical? Start with Simpson’s stellar cover of “The Promise” from When In Rome.

Keith Urban, "golden road"

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Absolutely filled with powerful pop ballads, Keith Urban’s 2002 album “Golden Road” showcases the Australian artist at his best. It runs the emotional gamut, from the thoughtful breakup track “You’ll Think of Me,” the smoldering love song “Raining on Sunday,” and the endlessly positive “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.”

16 out of 20

Maren Morris, “GIRL”

Maren Morris, "DAUGHTER"

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Released in 2019, Maren Morris’ “Girl” is a fun and empowering album full of catchy hits. Its title track is perfect for any woman having a bad day, while Morris’ crossover hit ‘The Bones’ is decidedly more upbeat.

17 out of 20

Jason Isbell, Southeast

Jason Isbell, Southeast

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

18 out of 20

Glen Campbell, “Wichita lineman”

Glen Campbell, "Wichita lineman"

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There is perhaps no album – or artist – that exemplifies 1960s country better than Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” A decidedly country-pop effort, it features the album’s iconic title track, plus 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 out 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 record with universal appeal that extends far beyond country music, thanks to songs like “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” And even though it’s not on this album—it came later, in 1971—’Kiss An Angel Good Mornin” is a must-have for anyone who loves good music.

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, "raise sand"

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

Toya J. Bell