Thursday Open Thread: Best Album Opener

There are some albums that start off perfectly, either by beginning with the best song, or setting the perfect mood for the record.

You only need to hear that one synthesizer lick of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” to know that you're listening to Come On Over.

Those few o

minous guitar strings of “Time of the Preacher” set up Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger perfectly.

“Inside the pocket of a clown. Ooh waa. Ooh waa. Ooh waa. Ooh waa.” Dwight Yoakam's This Time.

My favorite opening track is tough to pick, but I'm going with Todd Snider's “Age Like Wine”, from his East Nashville Skyline album. “Old timer, old timer, too late to die young now.” In under two minutes, he says more than some singer-songwriters do on a whole album. Love it.

What do you think is the best album opener?



  1. The first one that jumped to mind was Big & Rich’s Rollin’ from Horse of a Different Color. You get the “Country Music without prejudice” and you know it’s not your typical country album. It’s interesting that it started out with that, and then two really cool country traditional songs came after: Holy Water and the one I wish came out to be a hit: Live This Life.

  2. I love that Ashton Shepherd kicks off Sounds So Good with “Takin’ Off This Pain.” She sings that first “I’ve got a” a cappella and it’s like she’s grabbing you by the face and saying, “listen. This album is about me and my big, huge voice, and you can take it or leave it.” Awesome.

    My other favorite opener would be Radney Foster’s “Real Fine Place to Start” off of Another Way to Go. Aside from being aptly titled, it just kicks off the album with such a tremendous burst of energy. It’s terribly infectious.

  3. I have to agree with “Welcome to the Jungle”, but as for country I’ll go with “Before She Does” from Eric Church’s “Sinners Like Me”. It perfectly captures the tone of the album and Church’s immense talent. And it’s got one of the best lines ever, “I believe that Jesus is coming back before she does.”

  4. I thought the opening music on LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” of her debut album was pretty memorable. So was Lila McCann’s opening music of “I Wanna Fall in Love” for her debut album.

  5. I know it’s not country but my favorite album opener has always been “Second Hand News” on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”.

    Country: “Settlin'” kicking off Sugarland’s “Enjoy The Ride”.

  6. I’m sure it’s not an original statement, but I remember an interview where Tracy Lawrence said that one of the most important things about assembling the tracks on an album is to figure out how the album will begin; the first couple of seconds the listener will here is vital. At the time, his Time Marches On album was out and he thought “Is That A Tear” was a good example. I don’t know if I agree, but his comment is something I’ve always remembered when I listen to an album for the first time.

    Now, I’m going to have to think about what my favorite album opener is. Sadly, I think my problem is that I tend to listen to an album in its entirety the first couple of times, but I then pretty much add specific songs to playlists and really never listen to that album again as a whole.

  7. steve earle’s “guitar town” opens up one of the essential albums in country music the best way i could think of.

    “brand new man” kicks off a terrific brooks & dunn album.

    joe diffie’s “home” is a heck of a debut on a debut.

  8. ….and i almost forgot “country club” heralded the arrival of a great new artist on the same titled travis tritt album.

  9. Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues” off the album of the same name does it for me every time.

    Well I wished I was in Austin mmhmm
    At the Chili Parlor Bar drinkin’ Mad Dod Margaritas
    And not carin’ where you are

  10. “Dreaming My Dreams”, Patty Loveless

    That twisty steel guitar intro and her mountain holler at the beginning of “Keep Your Distance” is some fine stuff.

  11. “Brand New Man” by Brooks and Dunn I second. It was their first major album together. Their first major single, and from the minute you heard those two singing together you thought, “They’ve got something here.”

  12. There are so many. One, “Tulsa” by Aaron Watson on “Angels & Outlaws” starts off and immediately lets the listener know the album is country.

    There is “Released” from Jamey Johnson that rolls into “High Cost Of Living” that’s like hearing Waylon again.

  13. I really liked “All I Want (Is a Life)” when I first got Tim McGraw’s CD when I was 11 or 12. I also second “Rollin'” from Big & Rich, even though I don’t like the song itself … it sets up the album well.

  14. Off hand, I think that “Love Travels” from Kathy Mattea is a pretty solid opener. The driving drums, followed by the crescendo verse to chorus sets a good tone.

  15. Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” is a great opener, but I have to give the edge to his own “Guitar Town” just for the opening lyric: Singing “Hey pretty baby, are you ready for me?” is a bold way to start your first album.

  16. I love those distinctive songs that you know from the very first musical notes, and they are great to start off an album. For that reason, I’ll second Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road.” The Dixie Chicks also started “Fly” with the great celtic fiddle riff on “Ready to Run” and “Home” with the banjo plucking on “Long Time Gone.” Each song set the tone for the albums perfectly.

    Loretta Lynn also started off “Van Lear Rose” with the song of that name, which is one of my favorites in recent years. I bought the entire album off that song alone. It made a statement. Same with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” on American IV, and Dolly with “Jolene” on the album of that name.

    (As for non-country, Petty’s “Free-Fallin”, Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” Favorite opening line ever: “The screen door slams, Marys dress sways, Like a vision she dances across the porch, As the radio plays, Roy orbison singing for the lonely, Hey thats me and I want you only.” I wish he wrote for country singers. Sigh…)

  17. Plenty of great choices here—especially “Rumours”, the Dixie Chicks records and, of course, the Boss. Actually, artists such as Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and Trisha Yearwood have all recorded his songs.

    Another one for the list: the title track of LeeAnn Womack’s “There’s More Where That Came From”. Those three sweet fiddle notes at the beginning show that, well, there’s more where that came from.

  18. Lynn, I completely agree with you on The Chicks and especially Johnn Cash’s American IV. I’ve always thought “When The Man Comes Around” was a great way to kick off an album. I love that song anyway though. I also think “Somebody Like You” was sonically a good way for Keith to begin his Golden Road album.

  19. Obviously not country, but the opening chords of the “Hard Day’s Night” album by the Beatles are some of the most easily recognized in music.

    As far as country goes, the first thing that came to mind was the first track of Dierk’s “Long Trip Alone” album, “Every Mile A Memory.”

  20. I second the Lee Ann Womack opener. What a great title for a country song in the first place …

    I also thought the simple first guitar strums of ‘On The Other Hand’ were the perfect way to begin a classic and traditional album like Storms Of Life. Similarly, Alan Jackson’s ‘Don’t Rock The Jukebox’ with its off-and-running start was a great album-opener. And I gotta add Rosanne Cash’s impeccable ‘Black Cadillac’ …

    … a special salute to Reba’s For My Broken Heart with its dismal instrumentation before the title track actually begins. I also loved the almost-techno sound of the harp (I’m pretty sure it was a harp) that began the song ‘Everything That You Want’ from Reba’s Read My Mind album too …

  21. I think that “The Long Way Around” from the Dixie Chicks Taking the Long Way was nice. It basically lined out the history of the group, and talks a little about the whole controversy thing, but not too much. It just shows where the album is going to go. And it’s one of my favorite songs too.

    Also the title track from Trisha Yearwood’s H,H,atPoL album was great too. It just blasts out of the gate with her first line and just is amazing to me.

  22. “Why Not Me” by the Judds on “Why Not Me”. I think they set the tone for their entire career with the first 30 seconds of this album.

    “Straight from the Factory” by Clint Black on “Killin’ Time”. This should have been a single. It wasn’t but it set the perfect tone for one of the best albums ever.

    “Where Will I Be” by Emmylou Harris on “Wrecking Ball”. You knew in seconds that this was a very different kind of album.

  23. Some of y’all know how much I adore Garth’s FRESH HORSES album…I think I’ve even called it “damn near perfect.” So, with that in mind…

    I think “The Old Stuff” is a great opener. It bridges a gap between Garth the recording artist and Garth the concert artist, right at a point in time when his live status was climaxing. You hear that song and you know that what comes next is going to be big. You hear that song and you know Garth’s not going to let you down. You hear that song and you know that album is going to be epic…

    …and it would have been…but it was just a little too smart to sell quite as many as some of his others.

    Sadly, the song also marks a transition in Garth’s career–after FRESH HORSES, the quality of his work would take a sharp downward turn. And it was with the words of that song that we realized the old stuff really was starting to get old.

  24. Wow, some great selections here that I totally concur with:

    Kathy Mattea, “Love Travels.” Perfect opening for the feel of that album.

    Patty Loveless, “Keep Your Distance.” I still crank that up whenever it pops up in my rotation! I’d add “A Handful of Dust” to the great Patty openers.

    All of Philly Jeff’s, but especially Emmy’s “Where Will I Be.”

    All the Dixie Chicks opening tracks (Well not “I Can Love You Better”, but “Ready to Run”, “Long Time Gone” and “The Long Way Around.”)

    Dierks’ “Every Mile a Memory.” Perfect for setting the tone of that album.

    Trisha. Well, she only records great songs, so no surprise that she has so many amazing album openers. “Who Invented the Wheel”, “Wrong Side of Memphis”, “Heaven Heartache…”. “Song Remembers When”, “There Goes My Baby”, “She’s in Love With the Boy” and of course, my fave, “Where Are You Now.”

    Brooks & Dunn: “Brand New Man.” Like a firecracker going off. Love it.

    I didn’t get my usual Pam plug in, so I’ll add some of her amazing album openers: “Mi Vida Loca”, “Deep Down”, “Burning Memories”, “Something Burning Out.”

    Gotta do the album closers next!

  25. One that I thought was at least an interesting, if not strange, album opener is the opening track of Carlene Carter’s Little Love Letters album. It’s just like, “Hmmm…what?”

  26. Ah, yes, now that this thread is old news, I’ve thought of another one: Vince Gill’s Next Big Thing, the title track. That funky guitar thing is a cool way to start an album.

  27. Trisha’s “Where Are You Now”…just listened to that last night. In total agreement, Kevin. I think it sets the tone beautifully for the rest of the album.

  28. I love that intro from Carlene, Lee Ann – sets up the wall-of-acoustics that comes in to kick off Every Little Thing

  29. Peter,

    Yes, that’s exactly what it does. “Every Little Thing” would have been a good opener too, but this was more unique.

  30. I would say that “For My Broken Heart” by Reba is the best album opener. “Where Are You Now” by Trisha is also a worthy choice.

  31. I third that “Every Mile A Memory” is a fantastic opener for Long Trip Alone by Dierks Bentley. It’s my favorite song by him, so I’m a little biased, but I think it’s great.

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