Garth Brooks on 10/1/93 in Chicago,Il. / Shania Twain performs at Grammy Awards/ Wynonna Judd performs onstage
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Every No. 1 Country Album of the '90s, Ranked

Going into the '90s, country music remained a singles-driven genre, associated more with hit songs than critically-acclaimed albums. The combination of meteoric CD sales in the early Soundscan era and the rise of country megastars with crossover appeal — namely Garth Brooks and Shania Twain — shook up perceptions about who listens to country music and how it's consumed. Others helped change mainstream perceptions of the genre, with the prior decade's breakout stars (Reba McEntire, George Strait) and new acts that've yet to go out of style (Tim McGraw, The Chicks) sealing their place in '90s country lore with albums that stack up against those of pop, rock and hip-hop contemporaries.

To celebrate a golden age of country albums, Wide Open Country contributors ranked all 53 titles to top Billboard's Top Country Albums chart between 1990- 1999. Here's the results.

Unchained Melody: The Early Years (1997), LeAnn Rimes

LeAnn Rimes on 7/12/97 in Twin Lakes, Wi.

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Curb Records wisely followed up the swift success of LeAnn Rimes' Blue with this compilation of earlier recordings plus the title track, a Righteous Brothers cover that was the B-side to the Target exclusive Christmas single "Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart." As early as age 11, Rimes interpreted country (Patsy Montana's "Cowboy's Sweetheart") and bluegrass (Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky") standards while delving into the rock (The Beatles' "Yesterday") and R&B (Whitney Houston's version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You") songbooks. The lone Rimes co-write on the disc, "Share My Love" is a fun, rock-tinged track that's a cross between Bonnie Tyler's rock-pop hits from the '80s and that same era's pop-country unit shifters. — Bobby Moore


Waitin' On Sundown (1994), Brooks & Dunn

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn (Brooks & Dunn) during 28th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at California Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, CA, United States.

Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Brooks & Dunn shook up the country landscape with debut album Brand New Man (1991) and its followup, Hard Workin' Man (1993). Though both were immensely successful, neither reached No. 1. That glass ceiling got shattered on the third try by this swaggering collection of modernized honky-tonk stunners. Chart-topper "Little Miss Honky Tonk" and deep cut "Some Kind of Trouble" follow the duo's popular and potent recipe of Merle Haggard's lyrical excellence and Hank Williams Jr.'s blues-rock mastery. Changes of pace include such gems as the gorgeous "A Few Rides Away" and the Texas-fried throwback "If That's the Way You Want It." — Bobby Moore


You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (1997), LeAnn Rimes

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1990: Photo of LeAnn Rimes

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This standards-heavy covers collection made 15-year-old LeAnn Rimes the first solo artist under age 19 to chart the all-genre Billboard 200 twice. Her vocal might and clear gift as a song interpreter make standouts like Conway Twitty-via-Bette Midler's "The Rose" come across as what would've been her American Idol audition picks if the series had debuted a few years earlier. — Bobby Moore

Lead On (1994), George Strait

Ebet Roberts/Getty Images) UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: USA Photo of George STRAIT

Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Lead On was another successful album by George Strait, released in November 1994. This project continued to establish Strait's solid sound in '90s country with four singles, two of which reached No. 1. Strait led off the album by releasing the upbeat "The Big One," which was written by longtime Nashville radio personalities Gerry House and Devon O'Day. This served as Strait's first No. 1 of the project, and he got his second with "You Can't Make Your Heart Love Somebody," a poetic heartbreak tune. Strait wrapped up the project with the memorable "Adalida" and the Dean Dillon and Teddy Gentry-penned "Lead On," which charted at No. 3 and No. 7, respectively. — Grace Lenehan Vaughn 

Greatest Hits: Volume 2 (1994), Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire performing at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois, August 12, 1995.

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This compilation culled from Reba McEntire's most successful material since her 1987 album The Last One to Know. It spans a creatively- and commercially-rich stretch of her career and includes early '90s hits "Fancy" and "Is There Life Out There." As if having those on one handy disc wasn't enough, the album introduced two new tracks: breakup song and Top 10 single "They Asked About You" and Linda Davis duet "Does He Love You." The latter won CMA and Grammy awards for its singers and deserves consideration as one of the decade's best recordings. — Bobby Moore

Some Gave All (1992), Billy Ray Cyrus

 Photo of Billy Ray Cyrus

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The infamous "Achy Breaky Heart" livened up the country line dancing revival while reaching ears well beyond the swinging doors of your local honky tonk. Like "Macarena" and other charmingly campy songs-turned-dance crazes, it garnered plenty of resentment once it became overexposed— though to reach that point, it clearly resounded with country music's broadening audience. As for the rest of the album, its patriotic title track has a lot of heart, while "She's Not Cryin' Anymore" was Billy Ray Cyrus' first shining moment as a songwriter. Deeper cuts like the Hank Williams Jr.-style country-blues bopper "I'm So Miserable" make lingering claims that Cyrus poisoned the country music well with pop all the more ridiculous. — Bobby Moore

The Limited Series (1998), Garth Brooks

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Garth Brooks performs at The First Union Center on September 09, 1998 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Garth Brooks' Limited Series box set compiled his first six albums and tacked one bonus track onto each disc. Add-ons include a version of "Something with a Ring on It," which got cut by Mark Collie for his 1990 album Hardin County Line. It set a first-week box set sales record while debuting atop the country and pop album charts. — Bobby Moore

Carrying Your Love With Me (1997), George Strait

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 26: George Strait performs as part of the George Strait Music Festival at the Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1998 in Oakland, California.

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In 1997, George Strait released his 17th studio and his seventh album of the 1990s with Carrying Your Love With Me. This album served to continue Strait's success in the decade with three No. 1 songs and one Top 3 single. The standout of the project is, of course, the classic title track, which was released as the second single. In "Carrying Your Love With Me," Strait sings about keeping a partner's love with him at all time, and it became a 2x Platinum certified, No. 1 hit. The other singles, "Round About Way," "One Night at a Time" and "Today My World Slipped Away," also contributed to the success of the album which topped the Top Country Albums and Billboard 200 charts. — Grace Lenehan Vaughn

The Hits (1994), Garth Brooks

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 23: Garth Brooks Johnny Cash performs at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 23, 1994.

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Per the artist's request, Garth Brooks' greatest hits compilation was only available for a limited time to keep consumer focus on his studio albums. What began as a McDonald's exclusive to raise funds for Ronald McDonald Children's Charities still sold a whopping 10 million copies. There's no bonus tracks, demos or rare B-sides, meaning that there were that many first-time buyers and devoted completists lined up to purchase material that'd already sold multi-millions. — Bobby Moore

Hope Floats Soundtrack (1998), Various Artists

1998 Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. star in Hope Floats.

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The charming '90s romance classic Hope Floats gave us more than Sandra Bullock as an ex beauty queen and Harry Connick Jr. in a cowboy hat. It also gave us one of the best country music soundtracks of the '90s, featuring Garth Brooks' take on a Bob Dylan classic, a folk song from Americana legend Gillian Welch, a soaring duet between Martina McBride and Bob Seger and more.  — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

High Mileage (1998), Alan Jackson

Alan Jackson at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois, September 12, 1997.

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Alan Jackson's fourth straight No. 1 country album brought a more solemn tone than prior releases. Top 5 singles "Gone Crazy" and "I'll Go on Loving You" deal with lost love and burning lust, respectively, while "Little Man" connected with listeners because of lyrics lamenting the loss of small-town mom-and-pop businesses — a trend that accelerated in the '90s. It's not all serious business, with jovial deep cut "Another Good Reason" and swaggering honky-tonk throwback "Right on the Money" offering a few minutes of escapism. — Bobby Moore

Double Live (1998), Garth Brooks

American Country singer and songwriter Garth Brooks on stage live during the 50th anniversary show from the studios of Voice of America. Washington, DC. March 21, 1992

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Garth Brooks' studio albums sold like hotcakes in the '90s and shot him into the same rare fiscal air as Elvis Presley and The Beatles. His rock-inspired stage show during the same timeframe crossed KISS with Chris LeDoux and played just as big a role in the Oklahoman becoming a household name. It should've been no surprise, then, when a double-disc collection of recordings from Brooks' '96- '98 World Tour became the best-selling live album in US history. — Bobby Moore

Borderline (1996), Brooks & Dunn

Brooks & Dunn performing at the San Jose Arena in San Jose Calif. on December 9th, 1998.

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Brooks & Dunn framed classic country in a modern context across Borderline, with examples ranging from a now-iconic cover of country-rocker BW Stevenson's 1973 hit "My Maria" to scorching deep cuts "Redneck Rhythm & Blues" and "White Line Casanova." Two memorable vocal performances by Ronnie Dunn —"I Am That Man" and "A Man This Lonely"— solidified the album as familiar yet fresh. Yet there's variety to be found on the 11-song collection, such as redneck riviera theme "More than a Margarita," harmonious pop-country ballad "My Love Will Follow You" and, best of all, the ZZ Top-esque and Kix Brooks-sung single "Mama Don't Get Dressed Up for Nothing." — Bobby Moore

One Step at a Time (1998), George Strait

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 26: George Strait performs during the George Strait Music Festival at Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1998 in Oakland, California.

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One Step at a Time was the second to last album Strait released in the '90s, and although it only features three singles released to country radio, it's still a timeless project. The album features a lead-off single that many country fans will remember: "I Just Want to Dance With You." This song, co-written by John Prine and Roger Cook, was the most successful of the album, marking another No. 1 for the singer. The album also contained other classic Strait songs, like the optimistic "True" and the lighthearted, vintage-influenced "We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This." Overall, One Step at a Time landed atop the Top Country Albums chart and was another successful project for Strait in the decade. — Grace Lenehan Vaughn 

Put Yourself in My Shoes (1990), Clint Black

C & W star Clint Black singing w. guitar in field by fence near Freedom Fest concert.

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Though he stunned with honky-tonk toe-tapper "One More Payment" and the tropical twang of "The Gulf of Mexico," it's a couple of slower numbers that completely shattered any concerns that Clint Black was due a sophomore slump. Both the longing "Where Are You Now" and the lonesome "Loving Blind" reached the top of the Hot Country Songs chart, giving him six No. 1s across his first two albums. — Bobby Moore

It's Your Call (1993), Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire photographed in the '90s with Vince Gill

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Two of the best singers of gentle country ballads ever — much less in the '90s — teamed for this album's anchor: the Reba McEntire and Vince Gill duet "The Heart Won't Lie." It's mostly slow-tempo weepers from there, namely the title track and "For Herself." McEntire does let loose musically twice: the revved-up "One Last Good Hand" and of course the saxophone solo showpiece "Take It Back." — Bobby Moore

Blue Clear Sky (1996), George Strait

CA.Strait.4.0419.GFDIGITAL IMAGE—George Strait performs before a packed crowd during the George Strait Country Music Festival at the Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore on Saturday, April 19, 1997.

Gina Ferazzi/The LA Times

George Strait continued his run of great country albums with 1996's Blue Clear Sky, featuring the buoyant, Forrest Gump-inspired title track (what could be more '90s?), the sweeping love song "Carried Away" and "I Can Still Make Cheyenne," a heartbreaker that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame of rodeo songs. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

All I Want (1995), Tim McGraw

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 4: American singer and songwriter Tim McGraw poses for a potrait during the 29th Annual Country Music Association Awards on October 4, 1995 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Tim McGraw released his third studio album with 1995's All I Want. This project continued the upward trajectory of his career that began with his sophomore album, Not a Moment Too Soon. The album produced a total of five singles, which were sent to radio in 1995 and '96, and the lead single was the unforgettable "I Like It, I Love It." Now a bonafide McGraw classic, it shot to the No. 1 spot after its release and stayed there for five weeks. "I Like It, I Love It" was followed by three more Top 5 songs — "Can't Really Be Gone" (No. 2), "All I Want Is a Life" (No. 5) and "Maybe We Should Just Sleep On It"(No. 4) — as well as another No. 1, "She Never Lets It Go to Her Heart." Altogether, All I Want sold more than two million copies and has been certified triple platinum by the RIAA. In addition to landing at No. 1 on the Country Albums chart, the project peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. — Grace Lenehan Vaughn

Kickin' It Up (1994), John Michael Montgomery

Portrait of John Michael Montgomery at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, December 1, 1993.

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John Michael Montgomery's sophomore CD for Atlantic not only topped the country albums chart. It reached the coveted No. 1 spot on the all-genre Billboard 200. Its massive crossover audience not only heard slow dance-starter "Oh How She Shines" and All-4-One's future R&B hit "I Swear" but also the rip-roaring radio fixture "Be My Baby Tonight" and the equally rocking blue-collar anthem "Friday at Five." It's a solid sampler of the sensitive and scorching-hot sides of the Montgomery coin and a preview of decade-defining hits to come. — Bobby Moore

Everything I Love (1996), Alan Jackson

Alan Jackson performs at the State Fair grandstand.

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Alan Jackson taught Country Music 101 with a chart-topping interpretation of Tom T. Hall's "Little Bitty" and an equally-rocking take on Charly McClain's 1980 hit "Who's Cheatin' Who." As for Jackson originals, his silly ("Buicks to the Moon"), sensitive ("Walk on the Rocks") and sensual ("There Goes") sides were on full display on what became his fifth straight multi-platinum seller. It had a whopping six singles— five of which entered the Hot Country Songs chart's Top 10. — Bobby Moore


What If It's You (1996), Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire performs at San Jose Arena on December 9, 1998 in San Diego, California

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

In the spirit of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntire sidestepped collaborating with session musicians on her 22nd career album, opting instead to work in studio with her touring band. The end result was one of McEntire's best start-to-finish listens to date. Declarations of independence "How Was I to Know" and "The Fear of Being Alone" set the pace for a journey that speeds through "I'd Rather Ride Around With You" and slows down for the introspective "Close to Crazy." Its chart success continued a streak of consecutive Top 10 non-holiday country albums that began in 1986 and has yet to end. — Bobby Moore

John Michael Montgomery (1995), John Michael Montgomery

John Michael Montgomery on 12/1/93 in Nashville, Tn..

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A year after Kickin' It Up signaled John Michael Montgomery's mainstream arrival and established his creative versatility, he maintained his crossover audience with a self-titled follow up. Foot stomper "Sold (The Grundy Country Auction Incident)" and the subdued "I Can Love You Like That" need no introduction, and there's more of both tempos where they came from. "Holdin' on to Something" dials in on harmony-driven country-rock, while "That's What I Am" puts even more drive in Montgomery's country. On the more romantic side of the spectrum, there's wedding playlist entries "Heaven Sent Me You" and "Long as I Live." Though more hits were on the way, his two-album cycle in '94 and '95 remains his commercial and creative peak. — Bobby Moore

Not a Moment Too Soon (1994), Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw poses at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on August 3, 1994 in San Jose, California.

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Less than a year after Tim McGraw's self-titled album failed to chart (it would be the last to fall short of this achievement), he released his sophomore effort, Not a Moment Too Soon. It kickstarted what would become McGraw's record-breaking career, and the lead single that started it all was "Indian Outlaw," which was a solid showing for McGraw, becoming his first Top 10 hit at No. 8. Things only went up from there, as it was followed by four Top 5 singles. These were "Don't Take The Girl" (a No. 1 song that has become one of his essential hits), "Down on the Farm" (No. 2), "Not a Moment Too Soon" (No. 1) and "Refried Dreams" (No. 5). The album as a whole reached the No. 1 spot on both the Billboard Country chart and the Billboard 200, and it stayed on the latter chart for 26 straight weeks. It also won an ACM Award for album of the Year in 1994 and it is long regarded as McGraw's breakout album. — Grace Lenehan Vaughn

Stones in the Road (1994), Mary Chapin Carpenter

Portrait of American Country musician Mary Chapin Carpenter, with her guitar, as she poses at the Birchmere, Alexandria, Virginia, January 16 or 17, 1987.

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Mary Chapin Carpenter broke through with 1989's State of the Heart and, her best-selling album, 1992's Come On Come On. Stones in the Road further established Carpenter as one of country music's best lyricists. The folkie-turned-country star never shied away from addressing deeper issues, such as small town secrets and generational trauma ("House of Cards"), but she also let loose with the best of them, as demonstrated on the playful, sultry  "Shut Up and Kiss Me." — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Who I Am (1994), Alan Jackson

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - AUGUST 4: Alan Jackson performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on August 4, 1994 in Mountain View California.

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Covers and outside cuts made Alan Jackson's fifth studio album a quadruple platinum seller. His hit interpretation of Eddie Cochran's rock classic "Summertime Blues" set the tone for a disc solidified by Jackson's takes on the often-covered Rodney Crowell original "Song for the Life" and family singing group The Kendalls' 1984 chart-topper "Thank God for the Radio." A biting commentary on the '90s country bandwagon, the seminal "Gone Country" was penned by the great Nashville songwriter Bob McDill (Alabama's "Song of the South," Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes"). Not that Jackson doesn't shine on the album as a wordsmith, considering the success of self-penned story-song "Livin' on Love." — Bobby Moore

A Place in the Sun (1999), Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw performs during the George Strait Music Festival at Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1998 in Oakland, California.

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Tim McGraw closed out the incredibly successful decade of the '90s with one last album, A Place in the Sun. This album is undoubtedly one of his classics and it produced a total of four No. 1 songs and one Top 10 entry. He kicked off the album with a beautiful, slow heartbreak song called "Please Remember Me," which was originally recorded by Rodney Crowell. This passionate song became the first No. 1 of the album. The next No. 1 single was "Something Like That," which is another that has gone down in as one of the singer's most popular songs. The album cycle was finished with "My Best Friend," "Some Things Never Change" and "My Next Thirty Years." The project as a whole was certified triple platinum by the RIAA and ensured that McGraw's dominance in the country music genre would continue into the new millennium. — Grace Lenehan Vaughn

(Songbook) A Collection of Hits (1997), Trisha Yearwood

Trisha Yearwood performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on September 24, 1994 in Mountain View, California.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The new songs on Trisha Yearwood's first No.1 country album quickly qualified as three of her greatest hits. Two more chart-topping singles were added to Yearwood's career tally: the jubilant "Perfect Love" and her version of iconic power ballad "How Do I Live." More impressively, the Grammy award-winning Garth Brooks duet "In Another's Eyes" became an instant high-water mark for both artists. — Bobby Moore

Tell Me Why (1993), Wynonna

Wynonna at a taping of the PBS series "Centerstage" on May 12th,1993 at WTTW Channel 11 Chicago, Illinois United States

Paul Natkin/

In 1993, Wynonna was still in the infancy of her solo career, but her time sharing the stage with her mother Naomi as part of the legendary duo The Judds had more than proven that Wynonna was (an is) a force to be reckoned with. On her second solo album Tell Me Why,  she reckons with an old flame ( the Karla Bonoff-penned title track), re-affirms her tenacity ("Rock Bottom") and celebrated her fellow country-rockers on the Mary Chapin Carpenter-penned "Girls With Guitars." — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

No Holdin' Back (1989), Randy Travis


David Redfern/Redferns

Randy Travis started the new decade with its first four-week No. 1, the bitter breakup song "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart." A tender tale of a youngster's love for their great-grandfather, "He Walked on Water" climbed to No. 2 in the spring. Yet there's more worth listening to than two early '90s hits and Travis' final chart-topper of the '80s, the Brook Benton cover "It's Just a Matter of Time." Dallas Frazier and Doodle Owens' "When Your World Was Turning for Me" is solid country gold, while "Somewhere in my Broken Heart" heralded the mainstream arrival of one of its co-writers, Billy Dean. — Bobby Moore

Killin' Time (1989), Clint Black

Clint Black on 7/22/90 in Chicago,Il.

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Clint Black's debut album began its climb to No. 1 when it first hit stores on May 2, 1989. Career-launching No. 1 singles "A Better Man," "Killin' Time" and "Nobody's Home" impacted the charts in '89 and set the tone for country music to come. His first single of the '90s, introspective fiddle tune "Walkin' Away" solidified the singer-songwriter as a standard-bearer in a new wave of tradition-grounded country music. Beyond those singles and Top 5 entry "Nothing's News," the Merle Haggard-esque album-closer "Live and Learn" ranks among Black's best deep cuts. — Bobby Moore


RVS III (1990), Ricky Van Shelton

Live shot of Ricky Van Shelton

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Ricky Van Shelton's third consecutive No. 1 LP arrived on Jan. 16. The proud traditionalist thumbed through country music's back pages for material, covering songs popularized by Roy Orbison ("Oh, Pretty Woman"), Jack Greene ("Statue of a Fool"), Charlie Rich ("Life's Little Ups and Downs") and Willie Nelson ("Sweet Memories" as a duet with Brenda Lee). On the fresh material front, Kix Brooks co-write "I'm Starting Over" heralded the arrivals of Brooks & Dunn and other old soul reinforcements who'd soon join Van Shelton in the country music space. — Bobby Moore

Eagle When She Flies (1991), Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton on the set of the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago, Il, May 15, 1991.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

She's so ubiquitous in pop culture, it seems bizarre to say Dolly Parton ever had anything resembling a "comeback." Nevertheless, 1991's Eagle When She Flies was a return to the top of the charts for Parton. The album saw the country legend teaming up with some of the decade's greatest voices, including Ricky Van Shelton (the sweet, sentimental "Rockin' Years") and Lorrie Morgan ("Best Woman Wins.") — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Livin' It Up (1990), George Strait

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 24: George Strait performs at the San Jose Arena on April 24, 1994 in San Jose California.

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Like other '80s stars with No. 1 albums in 1990, George Strait entered a new era of country music while glancing back at its rich past. A Top 5 hit for Strait, "Drinking Champagne" was popularized in '68 by Cal Smith and penned by "Blue" songwriter Bill Mack. Album cut "She Loves Me (She Don't Love You)" had a prior life when recorded in the '70s by its writer, Conway Twitty. Strait even revisited one of his early-career B-sides with the Ace in the Hole Band, "Lonesome Rodeo Cowboy." As for fresher material, the sentimental and spiritual No. 1 "Love Without End, Amen" shaped the more introspective side of the '90s country party for posterity. — Bobby Moore

A Lot About Livin' (And a Little 'bout Love) (1992), Alan Jackson

Atlanta - FEBRUARY 19: Singer/Songwriter Alan Jackson performs at The OMNI Coliseum in Atlanta Georgia February 19, 1991

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Nothing quite punctuates the sheer volume of memorable country releases from 1989 to 1992 like this statistic: it wasn't until his third full-length that Alan Jackson reached the Top Country Albums chart's pinnacle. Like many of his old school-leaning peers on this list, Jackson used his mainstream platform to celebrate the past (a hit cover of K.C. Douglas' blues standard "Mercury Blues"), define the present (album opener "Chattahoochee") and predict the near future (country beach bum anthem "Tropical Depression").

— Bobby Moore

The Chase (1992), Garth Brooks

CA.Garth Brooks.0510.KM....Garth Brooks in concert at the University of Nevada, Reno. File photo shot on June 8 1992 .

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Garth Mania's staying power became unquestionable with his third album, which mixed the social message of "We Shall Be Free" with covers of two of the pop culture mainstay's favorite songs (Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" and Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken") as well as the emotional singles "Learning to Live Again" and "Somewhere Other than the Night." — Bobby Moore

In Pieces (1993), Garth Brooks

American country musician Garth Brooks performs onstage, Chicago, Illinois, October 1, 1993.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Garth Brooks let loose on his most party-hearty album, setting the standard for such material with "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," "American Honky-Tonk Bar Association" and a cover of progressive bluegrass anthem "Callin' Baton Rouge." This all follows an album-opening inspirational message, "Standing Outside the Fire." — Bobby Moore

Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles (1993), Various Artists

The Eagles performing live at the McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield. 10th July 1996. (

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It wasn't Little Texas nailing the harmonies of "Peaceful Easy Feeling" or Suzy Bogguss hitting the high notes on "Take It to the Limit" that sealed this Eagles tribute album's place in '90s country lore. It's the music video for Travis Tritt's "Take It Easy" that keeps this CMA Album of the Year award-winner historically relevant. The Eagles lineup from '78- '80 reunited for the shoot after several acrimonious years apart. In the process, the country-rock legends realized that reuniting on stage and in the studio might be worth a shot. The band remains active almost 30 years later, with project participant Vince Gill as a current touring member. — Bobby Moore


Starting Over (1995), Reba McEntire


Beth Gwinn/Redferns

Reba McEntire showed her roots on this million-selling album, dipping into more than the catalogs of such country peers as Lee Greenwood ("Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands") and Dolly Parton (Donna Summer co-write "Starting Over Again"). She also twanged up personal favorites by The Supremes ("You Keep Me Hangin' On") and Patti LaBelle (LaBelle's 1986 Michael McDonald duet "Own My Own," sung by McEntire with Trisha Yearwood, Linda Davis and Martina McBride). — Bobby Moore

The Greatest Hits Collection (1995), Alan Jackson

Alan Alan Jackson during The 16th Annual Cable ACE Awards at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States.

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More than a growing catalog of fan favorites positioned this compilation to become Alan Jackson's third No. 1 country album. As was custom by this point across genres, fresh tracks debuted on what otherwise would've been a whole disc of material diehards already had in their CD wallet. The new songs were the refreshingly earnest love ballad "I'll Try" and "Tall, Tall Trees," a George Jones and Roger Miller co-write. The latter continued Jackson's trend of introducing legendary hits of the past to a crossover audience. — Bobby Moore

Fresh Horses (1995), Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks performs live on April 08, 1994

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Garth Brooks broke his own mold once again with two singles that failed to crack the Top 10: the socially-aware "The Change" and a country-rock cover of fellow arena-packing act Aerosmith's "Fever." The songs that did surge up the charts hold up, too, including the heart-wrenching "Beaches of Cheyenne" and the playfully risqué "It's Midnight Cinderella." — Bobby Moore

Blue (1996), LeAnn Rimes

CA.LeAnn Rimes.#1.PD.0715: portrait of LeAnn Rimes, 13 year old Dallas girl whose voice is earning her comparisons with the late-great Patsy Cline, especially LeAnn's latest hit "Blue".

Patrick Downs/The LA Times

LeAnn Rimes changed the course of her life —and country music— at age 13 when she recorded the version of "Blue" that became the title track of her chart-topping debut album. The teen sensation's 11-song opening statement brought variety beyond the Bill Mack original that made her a household name. Her lone No. 1 country hit still, "One Way Ticket (Because I Can)" is more of a Martina McBride power ballad than a Patsy Cline-style throwback, while deeper cut "Talk to Me" should've been one of the decade's most revered Texas dancehall crowdpleasers. — Bobby Moore


Everywhere (1997), Tim McGraw

Faith Hill & Tim McGraw during Andre Agassi Grand Slam For Children 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.


Tim McGraw's fourth major label offering opens with the pop-meets-fiddle intro of "Where the Green Grass Grows" —a formula bested by only Shania Twain— and keeps that momentum rolling with additional chart hits in "Just to See You Smile" and the title track. What makes this one special, though, is one of the decade's best duets: "It's Your Love" with Faith Hill. Notably, it was McGraw's first album since the couple's 1996 wedding. — Bobby Moore

Sevens (1997), Garth Brooks

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - JUNE 21: Garth Brooks performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on June 21, 1991 in Mountain View, California.

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Garth Brooks' most recent diamond-certified studio album relied heavily on outside cuts, with the singer only sharing writing credit on six of 14 songs. Steve Wariner ("Longneck Bottle"), Carl Jackson ("Fit for a King") and the duo of Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott ("When There's No One Around") stand out on the list of storytellers behind the songs. In addition, Brooks covered "Do What You Gotta Do" by New Grass Revival— the progressive pickers that'd recorded "Callin' Baton Rouge" five years before Brooks took it to the Top 5. — Bobby Moore

The Key (1998) Vince Gill

ATLANTA October 01: Singer/Songwriter Vince Gill performs at The OMNI Coliseum in Atlanta Georgia October 01, 1999

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One of Vince Gill's most tradition-grounded sets of songs remains his only No. 1 country album. The voices of talented women blend with Gill's instantly-recognizable high tenor vocals on many of the best songs, via assists by kindred musical spirits Dawn Spears ("Don't Come Cryin' to Me"), Patty Loveless ("My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man"), Sara Evans ("I Never Really Knew You"), Lee Ann Womack ("Kindly Keep It Country"), Sonya Isaacs ("Live to Tell It All") and Alison Krauss ("The Hills of Caroline"). — Bobby Moore

Wynonna (1992), Wynonna Judd

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - OCTOBER 8: Wynonna Judd performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on October 8, 1993 in Mountain View California.

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Just one year after The Judds' 1991 farewell tour, Wynonna hit the radio waves like a wrecking ball with the soulful, electrifying "No One Else On Earth," which topped the country charts. But it was the tender "She Is His Only Need," another chart-topper, that served as Wynonna's first solo single. The kiss-off "I Saw the Light" and the Naomi Judd and Mike Reid co-write "My Strongest Weakness" further round out one of the best releases of the decade. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

The Woman in Me (1995), Shania Twain

NASHVILLE - 1995: Singer Shania Twain poses for a magazine shoot held in 1995 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Shania Twain's second major-label album changed more than her life. It backed up the Garth Brooks-pushed notion that a country star can concurrently be a global pop sensation. Over 25 years later, an album that's sold an estimated 20 million copies worldwide stands the test of time. Party-starting anthem "Any Man of Mine" is as synonymous with the '90s as anything from the rise of commercial hip-hop or the self-destruction of grunge, while "No One Needs to Know" is as solid an example of country storytelling as anything by Twain's more traditionalist peers. It also showcased her often overlooked greatness as a singer of ballads and tender-hearted material, as heard on the title track and the album closer "God Bless the Child." — Bobby Moore

No Fences (1990), Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks on 10/1/93 in Chicago,Il.

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Between sales figures that kept it on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart for 126 weeks and a track list starts with "The Thunder Rolls" and never lets up, No Fences belongs in any discussion about the best albums of the '90s— full-stop, no genre designations needed. By mixing the old-fashioned ("Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House") with the sound of the near future ("Friends in Low Places"), Brooks led a fiscal and creative boom in country music that shattered misconceptions about the genre's widespread appeal. — Bobby Moore

Rhythm, Country and Blues (1994), Various Artists

Country Singer Vince Gill, and R&B/Soul Singers Gladys Knight, Sam Moore, and Patti LaBelle attend the 'Press Conference for the R&B/Country Artists Duets Album-'Rhythm Country & Blues' ' on March 23, 1994 at Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City, California.

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Popular music styles born of similar traditions —namely the folkways of Black Americans — converge on this collection of all-star collaborations. Vince Gill's high tenor vocals pair well with the inimitable style of soul great Gladys Knight on an album-opening cover of "Ain't Nothing Like a Real Thing." There's no dud from there, with additional highlights ranging from Little Richard and Tanya Tucker's rowdy take on early rock pacesetter "Somethin' Else" to Marty Stuart and the Staple Singers' country-gospel treatment of The Band's "The Weight." — Bobby Moore

Fly (1999), The Chicks


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As the decade came to an end, The Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks) were at the top of their game. Still, 1999's Fly took the trio to new heights (pardon the pun), with lead single (and Runaway Bride soundtrack feature) "Ready to Run," sweeping love song "Cowboy Take Me Away," premeditated murder ballad "Goodby Earl" and the rowdy "Sin Wagon." — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Pure Country (1993), George Strait

NASHVILLE - OCTOBER 20: Country Music Singer George Strait with Country Music Songwriter Dean Dillon at Party for George Strait Movie premiere on October 20, 1992 in Nashville, Tennessee

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By 1992, George Strait was already over 10 years into a successful recording career. He'd already released 10 studio albums and racked up over 20 No. 1 hits (he'd go on to score 60). One thing he hadn't done yet? Star in a major motion picture. With Pure Country, Strait made his most unexpected move yet by starring as Wyatt "Dusty' Chandler, a country singer at the top of his game who, after losing faith in his profession, decides to go back home to reconnect with his roots. While it wasn't a critical or a commercial success, the movie remains a beloved film among country fans and spawned one of the most successful albums of the '90s. Featuring some of Strait's biggest hits of the decade — the anthemic "Heartland," mournful barroom ballad "When Did You Stop Loving Me" and soaring love song "I Cross My Heart" — the Pure Country soundtrack is one of the best albums of Strait's career. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Wide Open Spaces (1998), The Chicks

The Dixie Chicks with their awards on the 34th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. They won a total of three awards for Top New Vocal Duet or Group, Top Vocal Duet or Group, and Album of the Year ('Wide Open Spaces').

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Though their first two singles, "I Can Love You Better" and "There's Your Trouble," were stellar introductions to the Texas trio, it was "Wide Open Spaces" that put The Chicks on the map. Penned by Texas singer-songwriter Susan Gibson, the gentle folk song about a young woman leaving home for a "place out West" was unlike anything on country radio at the time and has become a country standard and a staple of mix CDs (or mix playlists) of young dreamers setting out to find themselves on the road. Even the album's non-singles, including covers of J.D. Souther's "I'll Take Care of You," Maria McKee's "Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way)" and Bonnie Raitt's "Give it Up or Let Me Go," are must-listens, solidifying The Chicks as album artists on their first release as a trio. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Ropin' the Wind (1991), Garth Brooks

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 15: Country music star Garth Brooks poses for a portrait session on a fence wearing a cowboy hat and playing a Takamine acoustic guitar on August 15, 1991 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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What's arguably Garth Brooks' best album start-to-finish became his first to top both the country and pop charts. Crucial deep cuts "Against the Grain" and "Cold Shoulder" deserve as much consideration for its staying power as its rowdy ("Rodeo," "Papa Loved Mama," Billy Joel cover "Shameless") and subdued ("The River") singles. — Bobby Moore

Come On Over (1997), Shania Twain

Shania Twain live shot circa 1997

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Though she's now a bonafide country superstar, Shania Twain wasn't always embraced by country music's top brass. She endured sexist comments about her appearance and criticism from genre gatekeepers who deemed her music wasn't "country enough" (not unlike another megastar on this list, Garth Brooks). Following the success of her 1995 breakthrough The Woman in Me, Twain could have molded herself into whatever version of herself Nashville execs wanted to see. Instead she released Come On Over and broke the mold entirely. Leading off with "Man! I Feel Like a Woman," in which Twain kicked down doors for her successors with the phrase "Let's go, girls," the album became the biggest-selling studio album by a solo female artist. The playful "Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)," super-charged "Love Gets Me Every Time," witty "That Don't Impress Me Much" and sincere ballad "You're Still the One" round out a decade-defining album that has stood the test of time. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer


READ MORE: 50 Essential '90s Country Songs