Daily Top Five: Favorite Debut Albums

Clint Black Killin' TimeAs we’re prepping our 1993 lists, there have been many debut albums in consideration.   That year brought the first studio sets from big stars  like Tracy Byrd, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw,  Shania Twain, and Clay Walker.    Also, sentimental favorites of attentive listeners, like Brother Phelps. Shawn Camp, Bobbie Cryner, Lisa Stewart,  and Lari White also released their first discs.

Debut albums aren’t always great. Sometimes the artistic voice just isn’t there yet.   But some new artists knock it out of the park the first time out.

Today we ask:  What are your Top Five Debut Albums?

Here’s my list:

  1. Kim Richey, Kim Richey
  2. Clint Black, Killin’ Time
  3. Randy Travis, Storms of Life
  4. Bobbie Cryner, Bobbie Cryner
  5. Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky



  1. This is a tough one!

    1. Kim Richey, Kim Richey. Yep. Damn near flawless. I still play this one all the time.
    2. Living With Ghosts, Patty Griffin.
    3. Guitars, Cadillacs, etc. etc., Dwight Yoakam.
    4. Kerosene, Miranda Lambert.
    5. Storms of Life, Randy Travis.

    Country really does have a ton of great choices for this topic!

  2. Jonathan’s right. This is a tough one, but I love these albums and even think that they’re the best album from each of these artists:

    1. Ashley Monroe, Satisfied
    2. Justin Townes Earle, The Good Life
    3. Randy Travis, Storms of Life
    4. Big & Rich, Horse of A different Color
    5. Blackhawk, Blackhawk

  3. I Love Chase Rice debut album FGL Cole Swindell Thomas Rhett and Miranda’s debut album


    For Reals
    1. Gloriana self titled
    2. Jana Kramer
    3. Taylor Swift
    4. Carrie Underwood Some Hearts
    5. Jon Pardi

  4. In no particular order

    Dierks Bentley-self titled
    The Dirt Drifters-This Is My Blood *anyone know what happened to these guys?*
    Eric Church–Sinners Like Me
    Joe Nichols-Man With A Memory
    Dwight Yoakam–Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.

  5. 1. Happiest Girl In The Whole USA – Donna Fargo
    2. Eagles – Eagles
    3. Rose Colored Glasses – John Conlee
    4. Before The Next Teardrop Falls – Freddy Fender
    5. Rosanne Cash – Rosanne Cash

    And not trying to be a know-it-all, but Pieces In The Sky wasn’t Emmylou’s debut album. That was Gliding Bird.

  6. What was I thinking not listing the Brandy Clark album? Also, I should say Shovels and Rope, Oh, Be Joyful, their first full length album. I love these two albums as much as my top 3 listed above and better than the other two that I lsted.

  7. I like Brandy Clark as a writer I find her voice to be rather mediocre she wouldn’t eve rank in my top 10 female vocalists of country music. But she’s a good song-writer and I’m excited for what artists she collaborates like Carrie Underwood Miranda Lambert who I hope she can release some better songs cause my gosh Little Red Wagon is awful I’d love for her to collaborate with Ashley Monroe Eric Paslay Jon Pardi Maddie & Tae all of which I find extremely talented.

  8. I couldn’t narrow it down to five and so I ended up with a bunch of bonus choices. Also, in the case of the Johnny Cash album I do recognize that back in the 1950’s, country was almost exclusively a singles genre and not really album geared. However, I believe it still fits the category and so I placed it in.

    1. EmmyLou Harris: Pieces of the Sky
    2. Alan Jackson: Here in the Real World
    3. Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar
    4. Karen Jonas: Money
    5 (A). Randy Travis: Storms of Life
    5 (B). Keith Whitley: L.A. to Miami
    5 (C). Garth Brooks: Garth Brooks
    5 (D). Alison Krauss & Union Station: Two Highways <———- Not technically Krauss' first album, but the first with Union Station.

  9. My limited record collection will hurt me on this one, but here goes:

    1. Big & Rich “Horse of A Different Color”
    2. The Dirt Drifters “This is my Blood”
    3. Kacey Musgraves “Same Trailer Different Park”
    4. Charlie Worsham “Rubberband”
    5. JT Hodges “JT Hodges”

    To Mike W, from what I understand, the Dirt Drifters split up around 2012 after their album (which is freaking awesome) failed to do anything commercially. Dierks Bentley covered one of their songs on Riser, though (“Hurt Somebody”).

  10. Thanks SRM,

    I had heard they split up, but I am wondering if the lead singer or any of the other band members have released anything lately. Shame since that first album had a very heavy Springsteen meets Country vibe to it. Kinda like what Kip Moore tries to do, but doesnt quite pull off.

  11. Country only, in no particular order (otherwise Illmatic is obviously #1) :

    1. Same Trailer Different Park
    2. The Good Life
    3. Barton Hollow
    4. High Top Mountain
    5. Wide Open Spaces (I consider the Chicks a new band when they added Natalie Maines)

    Love the Kim Richey shoutout! Thorn in My Heart is one of my favorite albums.

    (Anyone who hasn’t listened to Angel’s Share: Fix that)

  12. Alabama – “My Home’s In Alabama,” just because of what it did to country music.
    George Strait – “Strait Country”
    Dwight Yoakam – “Guitars, Cadillacs, Ect.”
    The Judds – “Wynonna and Naomi”
    Earl Thomas Conley – “Fire and Smoke” was his RCA debut even though he had one before under the Earl Thomas Conley Band “Blue Pearl” which wasn’t sent to my station. So I consider “Fire and Smoke” his debut.

  13. Srm and Mike W,
    I don’t know how the Dirt Drifters album slipped under my radar, but I just listened to the Amazon clips and I like it a lot and I’m downloading it right now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  14. Raymond, the Dirt Drifters were around right at the start of this decade, they signed to Warner Bros in 2011 and released one album. Mike W. did a great job of describing their sound, and their lyrics were great blue-collar poetry. Regrettably, they never broke through.

  15. Now that I think about, I want add Eric Paslay’s self titled debut to my list. I guess I know more good debut records than I thought.

  16. My five:

    1. Hand Sown, Home Grown–Linda Ronstadt: her first solo album, and arguably the first alternative country album made by a female artist, released in March 1969, with such L.A. honky-tonk rockers as “Break My Mind” and “The Only Mama That’ll Walk The Line.”

    2. Eagles–The Eagles: Often duplicated, this album came out on the heels of having worked with Linda in 1971. But don’t just think “Take It Easy”; there’s the very acoustic C&W of “Train Leaves Here This Morning”, as well.

    3. The Gilded Palace Of Sin–The Flying Burrito Brothers: Very ragged but incredibly influential late 1960s C&W/rock masterpiece, with such classics as “Sin City” and “My Uncle”.

    4. Pickin’ Up The Pieces–Poco: Released in March 1969, this album is the first one from a much-underrated band, formed out of the ashes of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, that Rascal Flatts and Lonestar probably wish they could have been, with such songs as the title track, and the C&W/rock instrumental “Calico Junction.”

    5. Bramble Rose–Tift Merritt: Absolutely incredible debut for the Texas-born songstress who now makes her home in Brooklyn. Released in 2002, this album, with songs like the title track, “Diamond Shoes”, and “Are You Still In Love With Me?”, shows how she balances modern Americana with “old school” country-rock (in the manner of Linda and Emmylou).

  17. 1.Miranda Lambert: Kerosene
    2. Ashton Shepherd: Sounds So Good
    3. Jamey Johnson: The Dollar
    4. Joey+ Rory: The Life of a Song
    5. Brad Paisley: Who Needs Pictures

  18. I should note that for singers who debuted in the 1950s, first albums were usually collections of singles, recent and otherwise, so there really isn’t a debut album for the likes of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb or Kitty Wells. That said here’s how I would rate debut albums (in order):

    1) Storms of Life – Randy Travis
    2) Country Charlie Pride
    3) Guitar Town – Steve Earle
    4) Brad Paisley – Who Needs Pictures
    5) Strangers – Merle Haggard

    Others I considered:
    Killing Time – Clint Black
    Ballad of Forty Dollars – Tom T Hall
    Sticks and Stones – Tracy Lawrence
    Twelve Stories – Brandy Clark
    The Way I Remember It – Teea Goans
    Texas Fiddlers – The Quebe Sisters

  19. some of the debut albums listed above were not debut albums – I have two earlier Kacey Musgraves albums (and there is a third) that came before Same Trailer Different Park . Jamey Johnson issued an album in 2008 called That Lonesome Song

  20. 1. Suzy Bogguss – Somewhere Between
    2. Hal Ketchum – Past the Point of Rescue
    3. Zac Brown Band – The Foundation
    4. Striking Matches – Nothing But the Silence
    5. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories

  21. 1. Randy Travis – Storms of Life
    2. Steve Earle – Guitar Town
    3. Kris Kristofferson – Kristofferson
    4. Billy Joe Shaver – Old Five and Dimers Like Me
    5. Lyle Lovett – Lyle Lovett

  22. Paul, I believe The Dollar (2006) predated That Lonesome Song – though technically neither was a proper debut since Johnson self-released his first album in 2002.

  23. Mike W,

    Nice inclusion of Sinners Like Me. It is the number one debut album of all time in my opinion. I wish Eric Church stayed with that sound.

  24. CountryKnight,

    I agree for the most far, but I LOVED “Chief”. Probably one of my favorite Country albums in some time, so the change in production for Church has been a mixed bag as evidenced by “The Outsiders” which I found to be an incredibly uneven album.

    Another name forgotten by some that had a really good debut album was Randy Montana. The lead singles were bland, but he had a number of really good songs on that album including “Like a Cowboy” which kicks the butt of the Randy Houser song of the same name, but different lyrical content.

  25. 1. Dwight Yoakam – Guitars, Cadillacs (Has Dwight Yoakam ever made a bad album)
    2. Eric Church – Sinners Like Me (still his best album in my opinIon)
    3. JT Hodges (Underrated)
    4. Zac Brown Band – The Foundation (Love every song on there still to this day)
    5. BlackHawk (Henry Paul’s voice is amazing)

  26. Clint Black–Killin Time
    Chely Wright–Woman in the Moon
    Kacey musgraves–Same Trailer, Different Park
    Kris Tyler–What a Woman Knows
    Sticks and Stones–Tracy Lawrence

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