Ten years have come and gone. It’s time to reflect on the past decade and remember some of the great country music everyone has enjoyed. As we are about to usher in a new decade, we don’t want to forget the important musical contributions made by America’s top country artists.
10. Shania Twain. She is one of the most popular country artists since Garth Brooks. And, certainly one of the most marketable. From right across the border in Windsor, Canada, Shania has been accused by critics of diluting traditional country with hard rock rhythms. Her album, The Woman In Me went multi-platinum and reached number five on the pop charts. The singer, songwriter, and guitar player came out in 2002 with her 4th album, Up! It sold almost 900,000 copies the first week it hit the airwaves, and quickly moved to the number one position on the Billboard charts. Her 2004 Greatest Hits album went triple platinum. She has spent the last few years out of the limelight and working on projects.
9. Dixie Chicks. The Dixie Chicks are one of the best-selling female country groups of all time. Exceptional instrumentalists who sing three-part harmonies, the group from Texas is not without controversy. “Goodbye, Earl” is their hit about a woman who gets rid of her abusive husband. In 2002, their cross-over appeal landed them on VH1’s Diva Show with talents Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Cher, and Celine Dion. Trouble began in 2003 on their Top of the World Tour when Natalie Maines spoke out against President Bush and the Iraq war. America boycotted their music. They bounced back in 2006 with their hit, “Not Ready To Make Nice.” The tune won three Grammy Awards, brought them back as the darlings of country music, and the song gave them their highest position on the pop charts. All was forgiven.
8. Alan Jackson. Penning most of his own hits, Jackson is known for his hit-making consistency. He is modest and down-to-earth, with a nice, wholesome image. The Georgia native grew up singing gospel music in church. He married his high school sweetheart, Denise, who was instrumental in getting him discovered. A flight attendant, she saw Glen Campbell waiting for a flight and handed him a demo of her husband’s songs. He got back in touch with Jackson and the couple packed their bags and headed to Nashville! Jackson’s first album, Here In The Real World went platinum. In 2000, he had another hit, “Where I Come From.” His tribute to September 11, 2001, “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning),” sky-rocketed to number one on the country charts and crossed over breaking into the Top 30 on the pop charts. In 2003 he recorded a duet with Jimmy Buffet, “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere.”
7. Kenny Chesney. Raised on country music and rock & roll, Kenny picked up the guitar at East Tennessee State University. After graduating in 1991, he headed to Nashville to try his luck. He had a successful career in the nineties, and in 2000, released a hit, “Don’t Happen Twice,” which went to number one. Chesney’s Greatest Hits album was his second double-platinum effort, residing at the number one position on the country charts. 2002 marked his greatest commercial success to date- No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem was the number one country album in the U.S. and kicked off four top ten singles, which included the song, “The Good Stuff.” At the Country Music Awards in 2004, he won Album of the Year, with When The Sun Goes Down. His marriage to Renée Zellweger in 2005 made headlines and they split the same year. Kenny keeps busy with his music.
6. Faith Hill. Influenced by Reba McEntire, Faith Hill has the crossover commercial appeal that Shania Twain has. Audrey Faith Perry was discovered while working as a secretary in Nashville. Her single “Breathe” appeared on the pop and adult charts, a big hit to start off the decade. She continued turning out hits with “The Way You Love Me,” and, “There You’ll Be.” She captured a Best Female Vocal Performance Grammy in 2003 for the tune “Cry.” She was praised for one of her best works in 2005 with Fireflies. Her Soul2Soul II Tour of 2006 with hubby Tim McGraw became the highest-grossing country tour of all time.
5. Tobey Keith. The recording “Courtesy of The Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” Toby’s reaction to 9/11 in 2002, was Keith’s big breakthrough. A crossover tune, it cracked the pop 25 chart. Toby, an ex-semi-pro football player had his first hit with his song, “Could’ve Been a Cowboy.” In 2001, he finally got the recognition he had been working for–the Academy of Country Music awarded him with the honor of Male Vocalist of The Year, and How Do You Like Me Now?! received Album of The Year. Tobey started his own record label, Show Dog Nashville and the first song he recorded on the label went to number two on the charts, “White Trash With Money.”
4. Rascal Flatts. Gary Le Vox, Jay De Marcas, and Joe Don Rooney are Grammy Award-winning songwriters and members of the group Rascal Flatts. Mixing country sounds with pop rhythms, the three released a self-titled album in 2000. “Prayin’ For Daylight,” was the first single spun off the album and an amazing four other singles went to the Top Ten. An album in 2002 earned them another number one hit, “These Days.” Building a new, younger audience for country music, they continued to turn out hits. Their 2007 release, Still Feels Good went platinum and produced a hit for them–“Take Me There.” They finished off this year with Unstoppable.
3. Carrie Underwood. Perhaps this artist is best know for her win on American Idol. She has become even more popular for what she has done with her career after Idol, parlaying that win into a success in the country music world. It only took six months after her big win to record her first album, Some Hearts. The album went on to produce two number one hits for Carrie, “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” and Don’t Forget To Remember Me.” She was rewarded in 2006 with her first Country Music Award, and toured with country hit makers Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley.
2. Tim McGraw. Honky-tonk with a dash of Southern-fried country rock is how they describe this country crooner who took Garth Brooks’ place as the most popular male singer in the country music world. Son of baseball pitcher Tug McGraw, who played for the Phillies and Mets, Tim played baseball in college, then dropped out and moved to Nashville. He turned out hits in the nineties, and started the decade with his first Grammy Award for his duet with wife Faith Hill, “Let’s Make Love.” More success came the following year, with four number one hits, “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” “Angry All The Time,” “The Cowboy in Me,” and “Unbroken.” He finished the decade in 2009 with “Southern Voice.”
1. Taylor Swift. Speaking of Tim McGraw, this artist wrote a song in tribute to the country star and had an opportunity to perform it live for him while wife Faith looked on. Swift’s first single, “Tim McGraw,” hit the country airwaves and rose to the number six spot on the Billboard country chart. Her self-titled album was released when she was only 16 years old, selling 2.5 million copies. The awards kept rolling in for Taylor when the American Country Music Awards honored her at 17 for her hit “Our Song.” She made the cover of People Magazine’s issue, Most Beautiful List, in 2008. And this beauty has song writing skills. Her second album, Fearless, topped the Billboard chart. She contributed to this effort writing some of the music, and it paid off when she won Album of The Year by the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2008. She topped off this year capturing four of the top awards at the CMA’s, with the most coveted, Album of The Year for “Fearless.” Singer, writer, and guitarist, this talented country musician has only just begun. Look for more from her in the years to come. Her star is shining bright!