The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 9: #20-#11

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 9

20 Nickel

Nickel Creek, This Side

With Alison Krauss still in the producer’s chair, This Side begins to drift away from the more pure bluegrass feel of Nickel Creek’s debut album. Containing deliciously funky grooves and even tighter musicianship among the trio, Nickel Creek further proves their inimitable creativity and talent on their sophomore project that ultimately secures their popularity among progressive bluegrass fans and perhaps a few unsuspecting traditionalists along the way as well. – Leeann Ward

Recommended Tracks: “Spit on A Stranger”, “I Should’ve Known Better”, “This Side”, “Sabra Girl”

19 Leeann

Lee Ann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From

It wasn’t quite the radical return to traditional country music that the album cover and subsequent marketing implied, but There’s More Where That Came From had more going for it than twin fiddles and steel, anyway: the strongest collection of songs that Womack had ever assembled. For those who went beyond the album’s one hit and two subsequent singles, the treasures were bountiful, including a cover of “Just Someone I Used to Know” hidden at the end of the disc. – Kevin Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “One’s a Couple”, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”, “The Last Time”, “Stubborn (Psalm 151)”

18 Bill

Bill Chambers, Sleeping With the Blues

Kasey Chambers’ father, Bill Chambers, shows that the talented apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree. Chambers’ well worn gravel voice sounds as though he is personally all too familiar with the blues, which appropriately helps in service of the album’s general tone. Sleeping with the Blues is wonderfully produced with pure acoustic country instrumentation, which nicely supports this set of songs that contain straight up country music themes with a sly mix of wit and doom. – LW

Recommended Tracks: “I Drink”, “”Sleeping with the Blues”, “Big A** Garage Sale”, “Hold You in My Heart”

17 Caitlin

Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell, Begonias

George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway, Dolly and Porter, Caitlin and Thad. Heresy? Perhaps. However, when Begonias was released in 2005, duet albums seemed like a thing of the past in country music. Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, once neighbors in North Carolina, succeed in questioning that perception with their harmonies, songwriting, and natural chemistry by producing a timeless folk-country album that reminds us that great duets are not something that only exist as part of country music history. – William Ward

Recommended Tracks: “Something Less than Something More”, “Second Option”, “Conversations About a Friend”, “Waiting on June”


Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways

But just what are the two ways that lonely runs? Through the leaver (“Goodbye Is All We Have”) and the left (“Wouldn’t Be So Bad”)? Through the lovestruck (“If I Didn’t Know Any Better”) and the loved (“Crazy As Me”)? Or just through haunting traditional bluegrass (everything the fellas sing lead on here) as well as haunting grass-pop (everything with Krauss)? I say all of the above – and if Krauss and company are the ones running lonely around, I’ll follow them whichever way they decide to take it. – Dan Milliken

Recommended Tracks: “Restless”, “Crazy As Me”, “If I Didn’t Know Any Better”, “A Living Prayer”

15 Be Good

The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse

It is true that The Be Good Tanyas are in the periphery of country music’s big tent, but their mellow sound is refreshingly organic. Their unconventional vocal style, delightful harmonies and accessible melodic hooks make this album a joy to hear. Particularly interesting is their meandering interpretation of “Oh Suzanna.” – LW

Recommended Tracks: “The Littlest Birds”, “Dog Song aka. Sleep Dog Lullaby”, “Oh Suzanna”, “Light Enough to Travel”

14 Dwight

Dwight Yoakam, Blame the Vain

Fully self-producing for the first time, Yoakam returned to what he’s always does best: smart, simple heartbreak songs with no-frills production and minimal BS. Except on “She’ll Remember,” where the frills and BS are badly British-accented, bizarrely futuristic and fully awesome. He’s the kind of artist so consistent that it’s easy to take him for granted, but here he tried to one-up himself and damn near succeeded. – DM

Recommended Tracks: “Blame The Vain”, “Just Passin’ Time”, “She’ll Remember”, “The Last Heart In Line”

13 Shania

Shania Twain, Up!

As distinctive and boundary-pushing as they were, Shania Twain’s first two mega-albums were a bit restrained, as if there was a “let’s not push this too far” voice in the back of her head. With Up!, she fully lets loose her creativity, spinning the same nineteen tracks in three different styles over three discs, with the American release featuring the country and pop editions. Rather than split the difference to please both audiences, she shamelessly panders to each one instead, stacking on the fiddle and steel more so than she ever did before on one disc, while venturing into pure Europop on the other. The winner in all of this is the listener, particularly the one who has a taste for both banjo and synthesizer, as Twain’s relentless zest for lyrical escapism finally has the music to match her infectious positivity. – KC

Recommended Tracks: “Nah!”, “Ka-Ching!”, “What a Way to Wanna Be!”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Down”

12 Chicks

Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way

Somewhere between the Bush slam heard around the world and the five-Grammy victory seen around the world came this masterful, refreshingly real album, defined only by its own merits. A raw slice of the album deals with the incident that changed the Chicks’ career – and quite possibly the course of mainstream country music – reflecting a tenacity that’s wrapped in still-tender pain. But the same multi-faceted assuredness rings throughout the rest of Taking The Long Way, found in songs that dive deep, lyrically and sonically, into stories of struggle and doubt. With its bone-chilling depictions of life’s realities, the Chicks’ first fully-written album is a piece of art that pays a brilliant, ironic tribute to the heart of country music. – Tara Seetharam

Recommended Tracks: “Not Ready to Make Nice”, “Silent House”, “I Hope”, “So Hard”

11 Nickel

Nickel Creek, Why Should the Fire Die?

While they have been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and won IMBA award for Instrumental Group of the Year, Nickel Creek have always insisted that they are not a bluegrass band. With Why Should the Fire Die?, Nickel Creek makes its strongest argument, taking on new producers, introducing more rock and pop influence, and generally going in their own direction. Still, and perhaps most importantly, they have maintained their ability to avoid all things formulaic while pushing beyond the boundaries of youthful talent. – WW

Recommended Tracks: “When in Rome”, “Can’t Complain”, “Anthony”, “Doubting Thomas”

– – –


  1. I like the Yoakam album, and I think it ranks right about where it belongs. I’d also recommend “Intentional Heartache”, the song and the video. ;) THAT single (and video) should have ranked higher on the charts.

  2. Leeann’s kidding aside, it’s a stretch to call this section of the list wacky:

    20. This Side – Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Folk Album

    19. There’s More Where That Came From – CMA winner for Album of the Year

    16. Lonely Runs Both Ways – Grammy winner for Best Country Album

    13. Up! – CCMA winner for Album of the Year, Grammy nominee for Best Country Album

    12. Taking the Long Way – Grammy winner for Album of the Year and Best Country Album

    11. Why Should the Fire Die? – Grammy nominee for Best Contemporary Folk Album

    The other albums were all critically acclaimed and frequented the Best-of critics lists in their year of release.

  3. This Side is my favorite of Nickel Creek’s records. I could never really get into Why Should The Fire Die, but I need to give that disc another chance.

    Lee Ann Womack is amazing and so is that album. Pure magic. Same with the Dixie Chicks.

    Best of the list so far, IMO

  4. I would hardly call this list wacky. I especially like that you have Shania, the Dixie Chicks, and Lee Ann Womack on this one. I own each of the albums and I always find myself going back to listen to them.

    Taking The Long Way should be listened to by everyone. It is one of the best albums made this decade. I might’ve placed Taking The Long Way a little higher though, but I haven’t seen the rest of the list yet to say that.

  5. Yes, my own kidding aside, I’m very proud of our list. I believe it’s unique, but a lot of thoughtful consideration was put into our choices and I think this list of 100 albums well represents the writer’s diverse tastes.

  6. Ooh, this is gettin’ juicy. :)

    I can’t say I’m with you on the Shania album, but I adore AKUS’ Lonely Runs Both Ways and the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way. That would have ranked in my Top Ten and “Voice Inside My Head” is one of my favorite singles of the last decade. Looking forward to the final reveal!

  7. A lot of the early-mid 2000’s stuff has held up really well. After a year as underwhelming as 2009, it’s been great to go back. A lot of great singles too, so I’m looking forward to seeing that list as it comes together.

    I agree with Leeann. I think it’s important to acknowledge this as “Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade.” It’s just a reflection of our tastes, as any list is.

    The 9513’s list looks quite a bit different than ours, as it’s a reflection of their tastes, and that’s been an enjoyable read. Between the two lists, I have a lot of albums to catch up on!

  8. I cant really agree still, because I only have listened to the Chicks album…but i appreciate the…unique taste displayed here.

  9. OMG, if Dwight Yoakam’s fine “Blame the Vain” album is no. 14, “Tomorrow’s Sounds Today” has GOT to be in the Top 10. You cannot leave either one out of the top 100. I would have ranked “Population Me” a lot higher than 91, but hey, at least it got ranked. So happy for Dwight!!! I hope he gives us some more awesome music next year for the next decade. He’s such a unique American treasure. :-)

  10. I think much of the surprise is coming from preexisting ideas about which kinds of artists “should” be able to appear on a list like this, particularly in a high spot. I think everyone is guilty of that to a particular extent, so I don’t fault anyone for it, but I would urge those who are skeptical about, say, the Shania album to at least give it a fair listen. As I said in an earlier comment on the countdown, I don’t personally consider that album country even in the “green” mixes, but it is a pretty fantastic piece of work for what it is (ABBAish pop).

  11. I have the Shania album and have listened to both the green and red mixes. It’s not bad for what it is — ABBA-ish pop sums it up very well, actually — but to rank it ahead of There’s More Where That Came From? ? I know opinions will differ and don’t intend any disrespect to anyone. I’m just sayin’ …

  12. Re. TAKING THE LONG WAY–Besides everything else that has been said about it, it also displays the Chicks’ willingness to expand their rootsy sound into what seems almost sonically like a throwback album to the 1970s country-rock of the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt, with some unusual instrumentation here and there (“Voice Inside My Head” even has a few splashes of electric sitar). In my mind, they’ve always stood out from all other country groups not only by virtue of being women, but having a wide-ranging musical pallet; and “TTLW” really confirmed this for me.

  13. But should “Abba-ish Pop” rank so high on a Country countdown? The matter of it’s inclusion to begin with would be a whole ‘nother discussion.

    I like Shania, but I don’t think this is her best work.

  14. Re ‘1970s country rock of the Eagles’ – I’d regard that as a pollutant rather than a worthwhile influence – although it’s useful in determining if an act is country or faux-country.

    If an act cites the Eagles as a primary influence, then they are faux-country. If they cite Haggard, Jones, Lefty or Randy Travis, then they are real country

  15. Am I only person who doesn’t understand how (or why) Shania got so popular? Her voice is nothing special (even a bit cringeworthy to me), and her songs are some of the most pointless records I’ve ever heard.

  16. Like Dan said in a different comment thread, I think that when albums are placed that close together (#19 & #13), the specific rankings don’t say much about the difference in quality. I tend to look at it more in sets of tens, but I realize that kind of defeats the purpose of the list.

    Quite frankly, at the end of the day, even though it’s what we enjoy spending all our time doing on this site, music wasn’t meant to be ranked. A wise man/Kevin once told me that if something moves you, it has value. You can’t quantify that kind of personal value.

  17. Paul, what if someone cites Reba, Dolly, Randy Travis, Vince Gill, George Michael, AND the Eagles as an influence?

    You can’t definitively say that someone isn’t country based on their influences.

  18. People have been taking it upon themselves to declare things country and not country for nearly as long as there has been something called country in the first place. Same with hip-hop and soul music.

    Tara’s right about the mathematics of this, too. This was a panel vote, so you’re dealing with a handful of points making a difference. I can understand being surprised by Shania’s name if some of the other writers’ names appeared after it, but come on. I wrote that entry. Anybody who’s been reading CU for longer than a day should know that I love me some pop-country!

    I think that if you approach a list like this looking for a validation of your own opinions or of widely accepted ones, it’s bound to be a disappointment. But if you approach it with a curiosity for another take on a diverse genre or with an interest in learning about music you may have missed, it’s a lot more enjoyable.

  19. …it’s fun to discuss such lists and i enjoy these comment threads, but really, if you can’t approach such an exercise the way kevin outlined it above you miss out on the best part of it.

  20. I absolutely agree with K about Shania. Her voice makes me cringe too. Regarding Paul’s comment about the Eagles as a “pollutant”, I guess I’m “faux country” (I’m definitely not a traditionalist) because I still play my old Eagles records, loved the Country tribute to the Eagles and “Long Road out of Eden” would be in my top 10 country albums of the decade. Give me Don Henley over Haggard, Jones, Cash, Jennings or any of the old guys. But I still really enjoy reading this blog and Paul’s comments here and on other blogs.

  21. I’ve heard the same accusation leveled against Linda Ronstadt, but I don’t buy it. Some REAL Country singers list Linda as an influence.

    And by today’s standards, some of the Eagles song sound more Country than some of country’s biggest stars. I think songs like Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take it Easy, Tequila Sunrise, and How Long sound more country than just about anything Taylor or Keith or Rascal Flatts have done.

    And I do think Shania is more Country than the Abba comparison warrants, although her kind of country aint my kind of country, I think she does it very well. (plus she is an excellent songwriter)

  22. Just to clarify, I’m not saying that Linda or the Eagles are pure Country, but their influence has reached some real Traditonal style Country singers along with folks like Hank Williams and George Jones.

  23. Re Steve’s comments, Trisha Yearwood is one of my favorite all time country singers and she often reminds me of Linda Ronstadt. Saw Ronstadt for the first and only time in the summer of ’06 at the Westbury Music Fair on LI, a few months before moving to Nashville. At the age of 60 then, she was fantastic. It was Linda’s cover of “Crazy” in 1976 that got me to check out Patsy Cline’s music which I love.

  24. Bob, I kind of see Linda as an eclectic artist, much like Emmylou Harris, both supremely talented.

    I know that Trisha is a huge Ronstadt fan, and Patty Loveless also cites her as one of her influences, (along with folks like Ralph Stanley and George Jones of course)

    Regarding the Eagles, their Common Thread tribute album was made for a reason. Trisha participated, as did Clint Black and Travis Tritt, some real Country artists.

  25. I know people will disagree, but “There Is More Where That Came From” is the closest album to hit perfection in any album I have ever listened to…My number one by far! EVER!

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