The Best Country Albums Of The 21st Century

Having offered my Top 10 of 2009, I thought it would be appropriate to make a list of the top 20 country/Texas/Red Dirt music albums of the 21st century.

It was an interesting decade with a return to the rootsier sounds of traditional country music. Making such a list was not easy, but the following is a guide to some of the best country/Texas/Red Dirt music I have come across in the last 10 years.

Garth Brooks — "Scarecrow" (2001)
Garth Brooks released "Scarecrow" just before his move to a soloist. All in all, it’s a terrific album featuring songs like "Wrapped Up In You," his duet with George Jones ("Beer Run") and a cover of America’s "Don’t Cross The River."

Toby Keith — "Shock n’ Y’all" (2003)
"I Love This Bar," the inebriated sing-along that gave us the name of his chain of restaurants, turned out to be one of Toby Keith’s best-loved songs. And really, the songs here are pure Toby Keith, from the patriotic "American Soldier" to the terrific "Whiskey Girl."

Corb Lund — "Losin’ Lately Gambler" (2009)
Along with his band, The Hurtin’ Albertans, Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund proves to be the real deal with his songs about rural life in the Canadian West and working as a vet. Lund is a true treasure.

Cross Canadian Ragweed — "Soul Gravy" (2004)
Cody Canada, Jeremy Plato, Grady Cross and Randy Ragsdale, the boys who make up Oklahoma’s Cross Canadian Ragweed, really hit their stride on "Soul Gravy," the quartet’s strongest record in this century. Listen to "Sick and Tired" with Lee Ann Womack and you’ll understand why.

The Dixie Chicks — "Home" (2002)
This was the album The Dixie Chicks released prior to singer Natalie Maines’ anti-Bush comments that caused the group’s popularity to tank. Regardless, the music on "Home" is amazing. Beautiful harmonies, acoustic instruments everywhere. It’s by far the band’s best offering.

Luke Olson — "Uvalde" (2003)
Not well-known beyond his central Texas stomping grounds, Olson’s "Uvalde" turned out to be an album I go to again and again. With a great voice, thoughtful lyrics and lots of traveling imagery, Olson’s "Uvalde" is one I’d take to a desert island.

Kevin Fowler — "Loose, Loud — Crazy" (2004)
Kevin Fowler is an amazing singer and songwriter. He’s also clever with a lyric and a turn of phrase. "Loose, Loud — Crazy" cemented Fowler as not only a rebel with a sense of humor but an entertainer with a holster of great songs.

Gary Allan — "See If I Care" (2003)
"Nothin’ On But The Radio" was a highlight on this disc, but only one of many Allan songs that made "See If I Care" his career best.

Robert Earl Keen — "What I Really Mean" (2005)
This is Keen at his most introspective and creative. Thoughtful lyrics and some of the best songs in his long music career.

Various Artists — "O Brother Where Art Thou?" (2000)
I recall being amazed at how good this soundtrack was. And hearing the Soggy Bottom Boys on country radio performing "Man Of Constant Sorrow" was an absolute treat.

Runners Up:
George Strait — "It Just Comes Natural" (2006)
Dierks Bentley — "Modern Day Drifter" (2005)
Kyle Bennett Band — "Kyle Bennett Band" (2005)
No Justice — "No Justice" (2006)
Pat Green — "Three Days" (2001)
Taylor Atkinson — "Beautiful Disaster" (2009)
Randy Rogers Band — "Rollercoaster" (2004)
Matt Martindale — "Big Sign" (2009)
Aaron Watson — "San Angelo" (2006)
Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses — "Roadhouse Sun" (2009)

About the author: Andrew Griffin is the editor of