If you’re a country fan, add these classic rock albums to your collection.
Classic rock has undoubtedly influenced the shape and sound of modern country music. Turn on the radio and you can hear everything from ACDC’s fat guitar riffs to Keith Richards’ jangly guitar riffs all over top 40 songs.
The classic rock albums on this list undoubtedly influenced modern country, but they’re worth owning for more than that; They’re really damn good. If you’re into collecting albums, whether on vinyl or digitally, make sure you add these to your collection.
13. The Allman Brothers Band, Eat a Peach
Eat a Peach is a cornerstone of southern rock music. Its influence on modern country is clear. Listen to “Blue Sky”, “Melissa” and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and you’ll hear riffs and phrasing that are still employed today, especially by country-rock groups like Blackberry Smoke.
Favorite tracks: “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, “Blue Sky”
12. Neil Young, Harvest
Harvest wasn’t Neil Young’s first attempt at country-infused folk-rock, but it was his best. On his previous album, After the Gold Rush, Young merged his signature songwriting style with warm, traditional country and folk sounds. On Harvest, he perfected that sound.
Favorite tracks: “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man”
11. The Marshall Tucker Band: The Marshall Tucker Band
The Marshall Tucker Band’s debut self-titled album helped lay the foundation for southern rock music. Contemporary country artists, such as the Zac Brown Band, often cite the Marshall Tucker Band as a strong influence and continual source of inspiration.
Favorite tracks: “Can’t You See”, “Take the Highway”
10. The Byrd’s, Sweethearts of the Rodeo
When Gram Parsons joined The Byrds, the country influences poured into the group’s sound. Sweetheart of the Rodeo was the first example of Parsons heavy country influence on the group’s music. Despite its country sound, Nashville’s conservative rule makers hated this album, and when the band performed it at the Grand Old Opry, it was a total disaster (imagine a bunch of longhairs singing country on Roy Acuff’s stage.) Considered an odd bird at the time, Sweetheart of the Rodeo became one of the most influential country-rock albums of all time and helped shape the alt-country genre.
Favorite tracks: “Hickory Wind”, “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man”
9. Gram Parsons, Return of the Grievous Angel
Grevious Angel was one of the earliest examples of country-rock as we know it today. After his tenure with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons launched his solo career, releasing a trilogy of albums. Grievous Angel was the second in the series and undoubtedly his best. Parsons used some of Elvis’s back-up players on this record, including guitar legend James Burton and Glen Hardin. Special guests also included Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.
Favorite tracks: “Return of the Grievous Anglel”, “In My Hour of Darkness”
8. ACDC, Back in Black
No one does party arena rock like ACDC. Back in Black, the pinnacle of the band’s signature sound, is an essential album for any country fan, as it inspired so much of the modern rock sound you hear in mainstream country today. Producers and artists beg, steal and borrow the chunky power chords and screaming guitar from this album all the time.
Favorite tracks: “Back in Black”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”
7. The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975
Gram Parsons and The Byrds may have been the forerunners of country-rock, but The Eagles made the genre explode into the mainstream. During 1971-1975, the Eagles were in their prime, churning out country-inspired hits like “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Already Gone”, and “Take it Easy.” The Eagles’ Greatest Hits album has all those hits and then some. It’s one of the best selling records in music history. Listen to it and you’ll understand why.
Favorite tracks: “Hotel California”, “Take It Easy”
6. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Street Survivors
Street Survivors is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s finest record, but it’s also the most tragic. A few days after the album’s release, the band’s plane crashed in a Florida swamp, killing three band members. The record company subsequently changed the album cover of the band standing in flames, pictured above, to a more subdued image of the band against a black background. Tragedy aside, Street Survivors showcased Skynyrd at their best and rawest.
Favorite tracks: “That Smell”, “What’s Your Name?”
5. The Band, The Band
Leave it to a band that’s four-fifths Canadian to make some of the best country-rock music ever recorded. The Band’s first album includes their most recognized songs, including “The Weight” the tragic Civil War song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek.”
Favorite tracks: “The Weight”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
4. The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
The Rolling Stones recorded a number of songs for this 1970 classic at the legendary Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama, where some of the best country, pop and rock and roll was also recorded. The Stones’ Muscle Shoals recording sessions yielded “Brown Sugar”, “Dead Flowers” and perhaps classic rock’s greatest homage to country music, “Wild Horses.” Sticky Fingers is one of the best gritty rock and roll albums of all time.
Favorite tracks: “Wild Horses”, “Dead Flowers”
3. The Grateful Dead, American Beauty
The Grateful Dead were pioneers of the country-rock genre. Their 1970 album American Beauty seamlessly blended country, bluegrass and rock and roll, all with hippie vibe. This album inspired countless country artists and sing-songwriters to come, and it’s most famous tracks, “Friend of the Devil” and “Truckin’”, are two of the most covered songs of all time.
Favorite tracks include: “Friend of the Devil”, “Truckin’
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bayou Country
From the wobbly opening notes of “Born on the Bayou” to the driving finale of “Keep on Chooglin”, CCR’s Bayou Country takes listeners on a sonic journey through the deep south. CCR hailed from San Francisco, but you wouldn’t know it by the swampy sounds on Bayou Country. Released in 1969, Bayou Country still influences modern country today. Fire up Eric Church’s 2012 hit “Creepin'” and you’ll hear it.
Favorite Tracks: “Born on the Bayou”, “Proud Mary”
1. Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
Exile on Main Street is a near perfect combination of American country and rock and roll. Even more impressive, it was made by a group of Brits. In the early 70’s, the Stones were knee-deep in their exploration of American music, and Exile is sort of a time capsule for that era of the band. The album has everything from rowdy juke joint music to heart-wrenching gospel. Original alt-rocker Gram Parsons also contributed to the recording, particularly on the track “Torn and Frayed.”
Favorite tracks: “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup”