When CDs sold like hotcakes in the 1990s, it reshaped the list of the best-selling country albums ever recorded. This trend found Shania Twain and Garth Brooks competing with more than just country history, with both artists reaching Beatlemania-type sales figures in their primes and not just places at the top of the billboards.
Beforehand, country albums didn't post those kinds of numbers, with even something as seminal as Johnny Cash's three million-selling At Folsom Prison not cracking the list. Today, with digital music consumption changing everything, million-dollar sellers are much harder to come by, regardless of genre or social media reach. Newcomers like Luke Combs and Chris Stapleton have sales that are climbing the charts, but seasoned veterans like Brooks, Twain, and George Strait take up multiple spots on this list.
To trace these numbers, the RIAA's list of platinum and gold albums served as a starting point. When additional sales data could be found via Wikipedia and other sources, the albums were sorted by those figures. When exact numbers were found, only U.S. sales were considered. In many cases, all that's out there numbers-wise is platinum status. For the numerous albums where all that's known is five or six-time platinum accolades, the artists are alphabetized, in line with RIAA's list.
With all of that in mind, here are the 50 best-selling country albums to date.
50. Strait Out of the Box, George Strait (1995)
The math gets a little fuzzy for Strait Out of the Box. It's eight times platinum, but that figure takes into account that each purchase included four different CDs. Even if the actual sales are in the 2 million range, it's still the best-selling box set in country music history.
49. Greatest Hits, Hank Williams Jr. (1982)
Since SoundScan numbers were first considered in 1991, Bocephus' greatest hits album has sold an absurd 3.4 million copies.
48. 50 Number Ones, George Strait (2004)
The greatest hit-maker of them all's chart-topper roundup has sold over 3.7 million copies in the states.
47. Red, Taylor Swift (2012)
Swift's eclectic in-between period that saw her shifting from country-influenced pop to just straight-up modern pop music gifted us this 4.2 million-selling album.
46. Speak Now, Taylor Swift (2010)
Swift's days as a pop-accessible country singer brought new eyes and ears to the genre through such albums as this 4.5 million-seller.
45. Here For the Party, Gretchen Wilson (2004)
Wilson brought some edge back to the mainstream, joining the five-times platinum ranks back when she was modern outlaw's new hope.
44. Always and Forever, Randy Travis (1987)
One of several seminal albums by Travis, this traditionalist-minded album shook up the charts and became a five-times platinum release.
43. The Gambler, Kenny Rogers (1978)
With a title track synonymous with his widespread fame and acting career, Rogers' five times platinum nod to the Old West remains a part of popular culture over 40 years later.
42. Feels Like Today, Rascal Flatts (2004)
This vocal group notched a rare five-plus platinum album from the past 15 years that's not by either Taylor Swift or an act feeding off '90's success.
41. Greatest Hits Volume Two, Reba McEntire (1993)
Back when greatest hits compilations were ideal listening to keep in the truck, Reba McEntire's second collection of career-defining moments also notched five times platinum honors.
40. Greatest Hits, Waylon Jennings (1979)
While the Wanted! Outlawsalbum set sales records back then, Jennings' best-of collection eventually surpassed all other outlaw-related releases as that scene's lone five times platinum release.
39. I Still Believe in You, Vince Gill (1992)
Gill's five million seller puts him on a list that, due to the way CDs sold like crazy at the time, excludes many of the all-time great legends he honors through his music.
38. Did I Shave My Legs For This?, Deana Carter (1996)
Carter's huge success is almost forgotten over 20 years later. When she first hit the scene, hype and some outstanding songs catapulted her into the five times platinum club.
37. Scarecrow, Garth Brooks (2001)
Brooks just moving 5 million copies of his eighth album, proved that CD sales were dipping in the early 21st century.
36. Hard Workin' Man, Brooks & Dunn (1993)
Brooks & Dunn's sophomore album saw their stars rise higher, behind five-times platinum sales.
35. For the Record- 40 Number One Hits, Alabama (1998)
"Old Alabama" is defined by this two-disc roundup of the group's chart-toppers. It ranks among country music's five times platinum releases.
34. Greatest Hits, Alabama (1986)
With their dominance of country radio in the 1980s, it's no surprise that a mid-decade greatest hits roundup sold as well as anything that decade, notching five times platinum honors.
33. Mountain Music, Alabama (1982)
Alabama helped beckon in a new decade of country music with their best-selling studio album. It rounds out country's stacked five times platinum list of legendary albums.
32. Up!, Shania Twain (2002)
By Twain standards, Up! stunk up the charts by selling just 5.5 copies in the U.S. Seriously, who today wouldn't dance in the streets over those numbers?
31. Greatest Hits Collection, Alan Jackson (1995)
The old trick of putting a couple of new singles on a best-of comp paid off for Jackson when this collection topped the 5.8 million plateau.
30. Home, Dixie Chicks (2002)
The peak of the Dixie Chicks' fame and controversy came in the wake of this album's release. It sold a little less than 6 million copies.
29. Blue, LeAnn Rimes (1996)
When it comes to overall album sales, Rimes' debut was the best by a teenager, pre-Taylor Swift. It sold around 5.9 million copies in the states.
28. Pure Country Soundtrack, George Strait (1992)
Strait's best-selling single-disc release remains this si,x times platinum film soundtrack, highlighted by the classics "Heartland" and "I Cross My Heart."
27. Not a Moment Too Soon, Tim McGraw (1994)
McGraw's big breakthrough became a huge seller, becoming the first of his two albums to go platinum six times.
26. Greatest Hits, Tim McGraw (2000)
Whether it's because his "hat act" era holds up so well or because CDs just sold so well then, McGraw's earliest material remains among his best-sellers. This compilation reached the six times platinum club.
25. Greatest Hits Volume II, Alan Jackson (2002)
Even if its double-disc packaging skews the numbers, Jackson's 2002 best-of compilation matched his best-selling studio album as a six times platinum release.
24. A Lot About Livin' (And a Little 'Bout Love), Alan Jackson (1992)
Jackson made his Hall of Fame case stronger with this six times platinum studio album, his first career chart-topper.
23. Faith, Faith Hill (1998)
Commercial success came for Hill back when that meant multi-platinum (six times, in this case) success.
22. Brand New Man, Brooks & Dunn (1991)
Another seminal '90's country act to reach six times platinum status is the duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, managing the feat with their debut CD.
21. Breathe, Faith Hill (1999)
The high-point of an eventful and ongoing career remains this 1999 album, which sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5 million copies.
20. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (2006)
This 7 million-selling collection of songs, primarily written by Swift as a high school freshman, signaled she was here to stay as a pop-minded force.
19. Fresh Horses, Garth Brooks (1995)
Brooks existed on such a commercial plain that netting Taylor Swift numbers in 1995 (7 million sales) reads like a let-down.
18. Fearless, Taylor Swift (2008)
At a time of huge stage shows and pop crossovers, only Taylor Swift approached the sales numbers of Garth and Shania. Her biggest county album, fiscally-speaking, moved over 7 million units.
17. The Woman in Me, Shania Twain (1995)
Twain's breakthrough album sold 7 million copies at the least and remained a hit throughout the rest of the decade.
16. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood (2005)
This fairly recent 7.4 million-selling hit album should spark a few conversations about Underwood's staying power and the influence of reality television.
15. The Hits, Garth Brooks (1994)
About half of Brooks' regular buyers must not have needed a second copy of these songs, as it "only" sold about 7.8 copies.
14. O Brother, Where Art Thou?Soundtrack, Various Artists (2000)
The biggest recent happening for old-time and traditional music came in the form of a massively successful film soundtrack that sold over 7.9 million copies, making the music of common mountain folks cool.
13. In Pieces, Garth Brooks (1993)
Brooks' historic overall sales figures got a boost when his 1993 album sold around 8 million copies.
11. The Chase, Garth Brooks (1992)
Despite a staggering 9 million-plus in sales, Brooks' 1992 album almost seems like a flop compared to his other releases in the top 10.
12. Some Gave All, Billy Ray Cyrus (1992)
For a time, Billy Ray Cyrus was one of the most visible country stars on Earth. During that time, his best-known album moved a staggering 9 million units.
10. Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks (1989)
Fittingly, country's club of diamond-certified albums (10 thousand or more sales) begins with Garth Brooks' debut full-length album.
9. Sevens, Garth Brooks (1997)
Brooks truly owned the charts for an entire decade, with seven years of dominance far from subsiding with this 10-times platinum album.
8. Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits, Patsy Cline (1967)
Just one album from Nashville's golden age made the 10-plus times platinum club, with each reissue of Cline's career-spanning genre upping overall sales.
7. Fly, Dixie Chicks (1999)
The most fun roundup of future Dixie Chicks hits kept the group's momentum rolling with its 10-times platinum status.
6. Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits, Kenny Rogers (1980)
This 10 million-selling roundup of hits from Rogers' time as one of the world's biggest celebrities stands among the handful of older releases that piled up enough sales to hang with '90's country's record-breakers.
5. Double Live, Garth Brooks (1998)
Sales figures for this and other multi-disc sets get a bit confusing. A minimum of 10 .5 million copies sold, with the multiple discs included making it technically a 27-time platinum release.
4. Wide Open Spaces, the Dixie Chicks (1998)
The one-act that could hang with Garth and Shania's sales numbers was the Dixie Chicks, who saw the sales of their biggest album soar past 12 million.
3. Ropin' the Wind, Garth Brooks (1991)
As Brooks' albums continued to be massive successes, his early albums kept shifting units at a record pace. In the states alone, Ropin' the Wind sold around 14 million copies.
2. No Fences, Garth Brooks (1990)
Brooks' second album overall remains one of his two biggest sellers, moving an estimated 17 million units in the states.
1. Come On Over, Shania Twain (1997)
Twain's best-selling album ranks among the most successful albums ever, regardless of genre. With around 30 million sales worldwide, no other country release nears its sales figures.
This article was originally published in 2018.