Music

These 5 Country Albums Won The Grammys' Prestigious Album of The Year Award

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Each year, the Grammy Awards honor the best in popular music with its "big four" categories: Album, Song and Record of the Year plus Best New Artist. Album of the Year could be argued as the Recording Academy's top prize, partly because it's handed out at the end of the annual Sunday night broadcast.

Only the following five country-adjacent albums have won Album of the Year in the award's 60-plus year history, with nominated country albums sometimes coming years apart.

Note that the years listed reference when an album won a Grammy or received a nomination (for example, By The Time I Get to Phoenix, which was released in Nov. 1967, won Album of the Year in Feb. 1969).

By The Time I Get to Phoenix, Glen Campbell (1969)

Glen Campbell's Album of the Year award for By The Time I Get to Phoenix highlights a five-Grammy haul across the 1968 and 1969 broadcasts.

The first Album of the Year honor for a country artist came not just for the Jimmy Webb-penned title track but also memorable interpretations of songs by past (Ernest Tubb and Johnny Bond's "Tomorrow Never Comes") and contemporary (Bill Anderson's "Bad Seed" and Jerry Reed's "You're Young and You'll Forget") wordsmiths.

In the 10 previous years, only three albums promoted to country audiences had been nominated for Album of the Year: Ray CharlesModern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1963), Eddy Arnold's My World (1966) and Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billie Joe (1968).

Though country nominees popped up here and there in the '70s, '80s and '90s, it took over 20 years for another country-adjacent album to crack the Recording Academy's glass ceiling.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack (2002)

Campbell remained the only country artist to win Album of the Year until the writer of his hit "Gentle on My Mind," banjo wiz John Hartford, shared the biggest prize of the night with such country, gospel, folk and bluegrass heavy-hitters as Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley.

Both the Coen brothers film and its soundtrack gave bluegrass its biggest boost since Deliverance while charting the course of Americana to come. Likewise, it opened up discussion about the truths and myths surrounding country and other popular genre's origins.

It wasn't the first or last Album of the Year to show its roots, with Bonnie Raitt (Nick of Time, 1990) and the duo of Krauss and Robert Plant (Raising Sand, 2009) among the Americana tastemakers to win the general field's top prize.

Taking The Long Way, The Chicks (2007)

Don't dismiss the Chicks' five-Grammy night as nothing more than the rest of the music industry thumbing its nose at the Nashville establishment.

Sure, harsh reactions by country radio to Natalie Maines' verbal takedown of President George W. Bush might've swayed some voters, but the Recording Academy already recognized the Chicks' artistry. After all, the trio was the only country act with two Album of the Year nominations (for Fly (2000) and Home (2003)) before "Dixie Chick'd" became a verb.

Fearless, Taylor Swift (2010)

Taylor Swift didn't so much leave country music as she transcended a genre with few seats at the Grammy's main table.

Fearless fast-tracked this process with some of Swift's best material to emerge from Nashville, including the singles "Love Story" and "Fifteen" and John Rich co-write "The Way I Loved You."

Swift was 20 years old when she won big with Fearless, making her the youngest person at the time to claim the Grammys' top prize (a record broken in 2020 by 18-year-old Billie Eilish).

A re-recorded version, titled Fearless (Taylor's Version), may set a mark that not even Eilish can break. It's eligible to become the first set of songs nominated twice for Album of the Year.

Read More: Kacey Musgraves Wins Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammys

Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves (2019)

For Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves took a slight left turn from the direction that brought us prior albums Same Trailer, Different Park (2013) and Pageant Material (2018). This more scenic route earned Musgraves four trophies at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards: Best Country Solo Performance for "Butterflies," Best Country Song for "Space Cowboy" plus Best Country Album and Album of the Year.

Musgraves' Album of the Year win came against some of the top rap and pop stars of the moment (Cardi B, Drake, Post Malone and Janelle Monae) plus rootsier heavy-hitters (H.E.R. and Brandi Carlile) and highly-regarded soundtrack Black Panther: The Album.

"It was unbelievable to be even in a category with such gigantic albums ... it's really crazy. But I'm very thankful," Musgraves said during her acceptance speech. "Art is really thriving, and it's been really beautiful to see that. I would have nothing without songs. To me, it's just all about the songs."

Other country albums of note nominated for Album of the Year include Johnny Cash's At San Quentin (1970), Kenny RogersThe Gambler (1980), Shania Twain's Come On Over (1999) and Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton's Trio (1988).

 

 

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These 5 Country Albums Won The Grammys' Prestigious Album of The Year Award