The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5: #60-#51

    The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5

    bruce robison country sunshine

    Bruce Robison, Country Sunshine

    One of modern country’s little-known heroes, Robison has built a career on simple songs of unusually strong focus, voice and insight. His strongest collection from this decade mainly explores love at its point of disenchantment, with characters sitting at various fallouts pondering who’s to blame, who used who, or why the feelings aren’t requited. Not so much Sunshine, then, but quite a bit of Country. – Dan Milliken

    Recommended Tracks: “Friendless Marriage”, “What Would Willie Do”, “Tonight”

    59 Rascal

    Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today

    The group has yet to hit the nail on the “Rascal Flatts” head again like they did with this country-pop album – a collection of powerful, melody-driven songs on which Gary LeVox manages to tastefully reign in his tenor. When paired with the right material –particularly deep-rooted love songs like “Bless The Broken Road” –, the Flatts boys can emote like it’s nobody’s business, resulting in soaring, passionate performances. – Tara Seetharam

    Recommended Tracks: “Where You Are”, “Bless The Broken Road”, “Oklahoma-Texas Line”

    58 Keith

    Keith Urban, Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing

    Urban’s creativity peaked with this ambitious set, with arrangements as revelatory as his lyrics. As an album, it’s a cohesive work of art, yet it still managed to produce his strongest collection of singles that work just as well outside of their home. – Kevin Coyne

    Recommended Tracks: “I Told You So”, “Stupid Boy”, “Got it Right This Time”

    57 Willie

    Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel, Willie and The Wheel

    Willie Nelson teamed up with Western swing giants Asleep at the Wheal to create a project filled with warm treatments of Western swing standards. While Nelson sounds very much alive on this album, his trademark phrasing perfectly captures a relaxed, yet proficient, vibe. In order to be as prolific as Nelson tends to be, it’s common for him to minimally prepare for his recordings. It’s been reported that this was not the case for this album, however. Instead, he studied and practiced these songs until he felt comfortable enough to really do them justice. His extra effort is clearly evident as a result. – Leeann Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “Hesitation Blues”, “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None…”, “Right or Wrong”

    56 Brad

    Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night

    I’m drawn to albums that can flawlessly blend contemporary and traditional country music, and Paisley’s eighth album is a remarkable example in all senses. It’s a surprisingly revealing, carefully-written album that’s engaging yet lighthearted, and it embraces social consciousness as effectively as it does Paisley-seasoned humor. He’s not the first to do so, but Paisley certainly furthers the case that you can successfully look both forwards and backwards on the same album. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Welcome To The Future”, “Everybody’s Here”, “You Do The Math”

    ryan heartbreaker

    Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker

    Adams had already released some exemplary work with Whiskeytown by the time the Aughts rolled around, but it was his classic solo debut that cemented him as alt-country’s “It” Boy. With the aural looseness of folk and the shrewd scrutiny of classic country, Heartbreaker plays like the very encapsulation of despair, each track exposing a cathartic new layer of its creator’s weary, self-mocking psyche. It would all be insufferably bleak if it didn’t sound so strangely healing. – DM

    Recommended Tracks: “AMY”, “Oh My Sweet Carolina”, “Come Pick Me Up”

    54 Bruce

    Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

    Recorded in Springsteen’s living room, The Seeger Sessions is a project that celebrates the songs of activist and folk singer, Pete Seeger. For this unique recording, Springsteen temporarily breaks away from his rock E Street Band and forms the more organic, big band style Sessions Band, which includes horns, banjo, guitar, percussion, piano, B3 organ, Harmonica, violin and upright bass. The result is a delightful album that sounds like a well executed jam session rather than a stuffy studio affair. – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Old Dan Tucker”, “O Mary Don’t You Weep for Me”, “Pay Me My Money Down”

    53 Lady

    Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum

    There isn’t anyone in country music quite like this vibrant trio, whose debut is a heartfelt, organic mainstream country album with undertones of 70’s-esque R&B. There’s a beautiful imperfection to the pairing of Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott’s equally soulful voices, and they’ve got a particular knack for writing melodies that are as interesting as they are expressive. Lady Antebellum is both a skillful showcase of these strengths and an exciting glimpse at the group’s potential in country music. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “All We’d Ever Need”, “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You”, “I Run To You”

    52 Alan

    Alan Jackson, Like Red On a Rose

    Who would think that the combination of bluegrass legend Alison Krauss and traditional country legend Alan Jackson would result in an album like this? With Krauss as producer, Jackson became the consummate crooner, singing with such depth and nuance that it was like hearing a completely different singer. – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Like Red On a Rose”, “Nobody Said That it Would Be Easy”, “The Firefly’s Song”

    51 Brad

    Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted

    Brad Paisley’s fourth album continues the more aggressively muscular sound that its predecessor, Mud on the Tires had already wisely adopted. As is typical for a Paisley album his sharp wit shows up throughout the disc in the form of sly observations to which people can easily relate. However, he strays from the humor at times in order to deliver some of the most beloved songs of his career, including “Waitin’ on A Woman” and “When I Get Where I’m Going.” – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Rainin’ You”, “Easy Money”, “Time Well Wasted”

    – – –


    1. Halfway through and I have only 7 of the 50 albums on this interesting list. It includes about 10 artists I’ve never heard of before. I put on my Suzy Bogguss Christmas cd, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, to soothe my soul before looking at this fifth installment. Maybe it helped. Four of the 7 cds I have from your list are in this group. Maybe I should play Suzy tonight when I watch my New Jersey Nets attempt to break their 18 game losing streak.

    2. I have 8 out of these ten (26 of 50)

      The Springsteen album is an interesting outlier. I have the album and play it frequently. I have it filed among my miscellaneous albums (anything that isn’t country or jazz) although I can make a case for it as a country album, and an even stronger case for it being jazz (trad) or folk.

      I am not a big fan of Springsteen (and even less of Pete Seeger) but this is an album everyone should hear

      Willie and The Wheel is in my personal top ten picks for the decade

    3. My favorites from this batch are the Jackson and Urban sets. This is the only Keith Urban ALBUM that I actually listen to. The Paisley albums are decent and “Welcome to the Future” and “When I Get Where I’m Going” are among the strongest singles of the decade. I didn’t particularly care for Lady Antebellum’s debut but based on “Need You Now”, I’m looking forward to the follow up.

    4. Surprised to see Rascal Flatts on here!! That album contains some of their better tracks, but “What Hurts The Most” from Me and My Gang is my fav song of theirs.

      The Urban album is probably one of my favs of his.

      The Lady A album is a pretty good debut effort. Looking forward to their sophomore effort.

    5. I too am very surpprised to see Rascal Flatts included here. The set does include some of their strongest tracks (“Bless The Broken Road, “Skin,”)
      Overall though, I think “Me And My Gang” and “Melt” are the strongest of the bunch.

      I had the Womack album, but I ended up getting rid of it a few years ago- I didn’t think it was nearly as good as you all.

      Same story with Lambert- I enjoy the album, but I don’t think it’s great. I do want to pick up “Revolution” though- I’ve heard it, and I like a fair number of tracks.

      I’ll be curious to see if Kevin shows some love to “Some Hearts”- it has some gems on it, and I think it’s a glorius country-pop album.

      Very interesting diverse list so far- nice job guys!

    6. I’m a big Boss fan. Not sure if I’d count in country by my definition, but it’s a gray area. Good album, though. Nice catch. The Ryan Adams disc is also super stuff.

    7. As Paul said, it’s probably more of an outlier, but I don’t know that it’s wrong to categorize it as country in some way. I say that if the Urban disc is country, this Springsteen album can count too.:)

    8. K – I pray that SH doesn’t appear higher than some of these albums. To be completely honest, the only album I’d be willing to rank above these is Play On. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the first two to most (if not all) of these albums, but these albums are better efforts than what Carrie put forth in her first two sets.

    9. I never thought I’d see a Rascal Flatts album on a “Best Of” list.

      Speaking of RF, Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) includes a photo of herself with them on the red carpet at a CMA awards show in her new memoir. But she mangles and misspells their name as “The Rascal Flats.”

    10. I’m not a Rascal Flatts fan and don’t really consider them country, but I do think Feels Like Today is their best album. I admit to enjoying a number of songs from it when it first came out thanks to my sweet tooth. “Break Away” was to me then what Gloriana’s “How Far Do You Wanna Go” is to me now.

    11. Stephen,

      I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with your thoughts on “Some Hearts.” I think the album is enjoyable, and was put together very well considering it was made in six months. There are stronger songs on the first set I believe, including “Before He Cheats,” “Don’t Forget To Remember Me,” “Starts With Goodbye, “I Just Can’t Live A Lie” and “Wasted.”

      SH perfectly balances Carrie’s big notes with her softer, emotional songs; something that I don’t feel worked as well on her last two albums.

      My personal favorite Carrie album is “Carnival Ride, because I think her powerful voice is her biggest assest. CR only had two or three great songs though- even if the rest were throughly enjoyable.

      I do like “Play On,” especially because Carrie gets to show more of her songwriting and her growth as a vocalist. But in all honesty, I think there are only a few great songs, and her songwriting is a bit on the weak side, in my opinion (with exception of “Temporary Home.”)

    12. That’s fair, but I see why maybe you’d prefer SH and CR more without blaming it on the songwriting. I think it’s just that Carrie really holds back on the belting (which you claim to enjoy most) on PO after giving us beltfests. I guess I prefer this blend of vocal stylings and I think the songwriting is FAR superior on PO than CR considering The More Boys I Meet (just god-awful, everything about it), Crazy Dreams (cliche fest), and So Small (cliche fest’s older sister) are on CR. PO has a little lyrical cheese in Play On (song), but I think Hemby helped Carrie make the cliches sound a little less… well cliched.

      Anyways we’re veering far off-topic. I’m surprised Like Red on a Rose isn’t higher – I find it to be one of the best albums I’ve ever heard if only for the title track.

    13. I see what you’re saying; they’re all valid points as well. I do enjoy a fair number of tracks where she holds back the belting and in some cases, I think it works perfectly (“Mama’s Song, “Someday When I Stop Loving You,” and especially “Temporary Home”).

      “Change” is an example where the less-is-more approach didn’t work for me. Listening to the vocal, it sounds as if it’s difficult for her to hold back, but the producers asked her to.

      To be fair, the only great songs on CR were “I Told You So,” “I Know You Won’t” and “Just A Dream.” It’s a shame that she didn’t record better material, but I still love the record.

      What works for me is that even the chliche songs on CR work for Carrie; they all fit her life perfectly, and she believes in them. After all, she lived nothing but a “Crazy Dream” after winning American Idol. She is regularly photographed with her dog, she does tons of work for animal charities, and I don’t think she was in a relationship at the time when she recorded “The More Boys I Meet.” “So Small” may be cliche, but it’s no worse than anything by Martina.

    14. Normally I am a strong supporter of the countdowns on this site, but this countdown I cant really say I agree with, some of the weakest material in the past 10 years has a very strong showing on this list.

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