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Essential Country Artist Collections

We list the essential albums every fan should have for individual artists.

Top Three Picks: Alabama
Alabama emerged in the late 70s with a country-rock background to become the most popular country group in history. They released an independent album before being signed by an RCA talent scout in 1980. They've recorded numerous albums since, but after over twenty years of touring, have decided to make 2003 their farewell tour.

Top Three Picks: Alan Jackson
If anyone these days is carrying the torch for traditional country music, it would have to be Alan Jackson. Some people think that all you need these days to sell albums is good looks, & the heck with talent. Having sold over 30 million albums, he symbolizes a line from one of his songs, "who says you can't have it all?"

Top Three Picks: Alison Krauss
Alison was born in Champaign, IL. She began taking violin lessons at age 5, and by age 12 had her own band. At 14 she signed with Rounder records and recorded "Too Late To Cry" with her band, Union Station. Her next two albums were nominated for Grammy awards, but it wasn't til she released "Now That I've Found You" that she really found success.

Top Three Picks: Billy Ray Cyrus
Billy Ray was born and raised in Flatlands, KY. He's probably best known for his line-dancing single, "Achy Breaky Heart," from his debut album, "Some Gave All." He's released several albums since then, and has recently forayed into acting, with the starring role in "Doc," on the PAX network.

Top Three Picks: Brooks & Dunn
Brooks & Dunn have been recording together since their 1991 when they released their debut album, Brand New Man. They've sold over 23 million albums since then and are the CMA reigning duo, having won the award a record 9 times.

Top Three Picks: Chely Wright
Chely was born in Kansas City, Missouri, where she knew by the age of three that she wanted to grow up to be a country music star. She was signed to Polygram, in the mid-90s where she recorded several albums before moving to MCA, where she recorded her best selling album, "Single White Female," and then in 2001, "Never Love You Enough."

Top Three Picks: Clay Walker
Clay Walker was born and raised in Beaumont, TX. He was signed to Giant Records where he recorded his self-titled debut, and hit No. 1 with his first two singles -- "What's It To You," and "Live Until I Die." He followed this success with three more No. 1 songs in the first three years of his career, putting out several more albums, before moving to RCA Records in 2002.

Top Three Picks: Clint Black
Clint was part of the successful Class of 1989, which included Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and Travis Tritt. He was one of the first artists to kick-start the mass market popularity of country in the early 1990s. He was also one of the first artists of a generation inspired by rock-oriented pop as well as country artists.

Top Three Picks: Collin Raye
Born Floyd Collin Wray, he started his music career with brother Scott, performing as The Wrays in the 1980s. Dropping the W, and adding an R, he signed with Epic Records. Always a fan favorite, Collin has released ten albums, including a greatest hits package.

Top Three Picks: Daryle Singletary
Daryle Singletary was born in Cairo, Georgia. He grew up singing gospel music with his brothers and cousins. He moved to Nashville, and in 1995 was signed to Giant Records where he released his self-titled debut, which produced the smash hit singles, "I Let Her Lie," and "Too Much Fun." He released two more albums before moving to Audium Records, where he's released two more CDs.

Top Three Picks: Diamond Rio
The six man group, Diamond Rio consists of Marty Roe (lead singer), Dana Williams, (bass), Jimmy Olander (guitar), Gene Johnson (mandolin), Dan Truman (piano), and Brian Prout (drums). They've been recording since 1991, and are one of the most awarded groups in country music.

Top Three Picks: Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks rose from near obscurity in 1998 to become one of the most popular acts in country music history, selling at this time over 20 million copies of their first two albums. Their third album, "Home" looks ready to head in the same direction as the first two. The future looks bright indeed.

Top Picks - Essential Dolly Parton
A collection of the Top 10 Dolly Parton CDs that every fan should have.

Top Picks - Essential Dwight Yoakam
A list of the Top 10 Essential Dwight Yoakam albums every fan should have.

Top Five Picks - Elvis Live Albums
Elvis Live! There are few words said together that can bring to mind such magic. From his early years when he incited crowds to riot to the late '70s when health failings & personal problems altered his physical form to a comic parody of itself, Elvis never failed to deliver a magnificent show. His voice never faltered, & his audience never lost faith or their adoration of the man & his majesty.

Top Five Picks - Elvis Soundtracks
Elvis' movies are often ridiculed, and rightly, as bubble-gum C-grade films which were churned out as nothing more than lengthy advertisements for their star, who was continually thwarted in his desire to be a real, and respected, actor. However, hidden in those often terrible pockets of celluloid was some pretty wonderful music. Not his best but there are a number of gems worth digging for.

Top Ten Picks - Elvis Studio Albums
Twenty-five years after his death, Elvis continues to be one of the best-selling artists in history.

Top Three Picks: Faith Hill
Faith Hill has evolved from country girl next door to a glamorous cover girl in the eight years since she's been on the scene. A mother of two, and soon to be three, she shares the spotlight with husband Tim McGraw. They've toured together and have recorded several popular duets as well.

Top Picks - Essential Garth Brooks
A list of the Top 10 Essential Garth Brooks albums every fan should have.

Top Three Picks: Gary Allan
Gary Allan has known what he wanted since the first time he was offered a record deal at the age of fifteen. Passing on it due to inexperience, he later began to sell cars until a kind-hearted woman heard a demo tape and paid his way to Nashville. Such recognizable hits songs as "Her Man," "It Would Be You," and "Smoke Rings in The Dark," all lead up to his latest album, "Alright Guy."

Top Picks - Essential George Strait
George Strait emerged in the early 80s with a traditional sound that he's stood by throughout the years. His sound draws from both western swing & honkytonk styles, & his music has been an influence in many of today's rising stars. After twenty years, Strait still can top the charts, & artists are always honored to be chosen to tour with him.

Top 3 Essential George Jones Albums
George Jones is known as the "greatest living country singer." His song "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is ranked on many lists as the greatest country song of all time. Early in his career, he had problems with sobriety, and earned the other less complimentar…

Top Three Picks: Hank Williams
In his short life, Hank Williams inspired millions with his music, yet he was unable to translate his talent to an inner happiness for himself. In a career that spanned a mere six years, he had ten No. 1 songs, and over twenty Top 10 songs. He even had four consecutive records hit No. 1 after his death.

Top Three Picks: Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. During her teens, she sang in country bands in New England. By the end of 1994, she was signed to Curb Records, and released her self-titled debut. While she did have hits with the first album, her major impact was after releasing her sophomore project, "I'm Alright," which gave her three No. 1 singles. Her third album, "Burn" was also a success.

Top Three Picks: Joe Diffie
Joe Diffie made his public debut at age 4, singing "You Are My Sunshine." In high school he was part of a garage band, then he moved into a gospel quartet & bluegrass band in his early 20s. He moved to Nashville & got a job at Gibson Guitars, while trying to get people to listen to his songs. By the end of the 80s he had a record deal & his first single, "Home" was also his first No. 1.

Top Three Picks: John Berry
John was born in South Carolina and raised in Atlanta. He released his self-titled debut on Liberty in 1993, which featured "Kiss Me In The Car." In 1994, John underwent brain surgery to remove a cyst. On the day of surgery, his single, "Your Love Amazes Me" hit #1 on the charts. He released several more records before leaving Capitol for an independent label.

Top Three Picks: John Michael Montgomery
John Michael was born in Danville, KY, and made his stage debut at age 5 with his parents, who were musicians themselves. Even though his music leans more to the pop side of things, John Michael was actually at the forefront of the new traditionalist movement in the early 90s.

Top Picks - Essential Johnny Cash
All you really need to say is Johnny Cash. Everything else? Unnecessary. Everyone knows his voice and his face. He touched every generation for 5 decades, in every genre of music, & always said he was too country to be a rocker. Recently we lost Johnny Cash to a long illness, which has left the music world a lot emptier. But he'll live on forever through his music.

Top Three Picks: Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney released an album with Capricorn records in 1993. He later signed with BNA and release his first album with the label, All I Need To Know in 1995. But it was Kenny's third album, I Will Stand which yielded him his first No. 1 song with She's Got It All. Kenny has continued to gain popularity, and has released a Greatest Hits album in 2000.

Top Three Picks: LeAnn Rimes
LeAnn was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but raised in Garland, TX. She burst on the scene in 1996 with her debut single, "Blue." LeAnn had begun singing as a child, and had released her first album at age 11. She signed with Curb in 1995, and released "Blue," which was a huge hit. She's released several albums since, and now has decided her next album would be a pop venture.

Top Three Picks: Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann was born and raised in Jacksonville, Texas, the daughter of a disc jockey. She attended Belmont University, which led to an internship at MCA Records, where she was later signed. She released a self-titled debut in 1997 to critical acclaim. "Some Things I Know" followed in 1998, and then the triple-platinum selling "I Hope You Dance" in 2000.

Top Three Picks: Lonestar
Lonestar recorded their self-titled debut in 1995. Lonestar has really blasted into the stratosphere after their chart topping single, "Amazed" from their triple-platinum selling album, Lonely Grill, and the band still continues to make great music with I'm Already There.

Top Picks - Essential Loretta Lynn
A list of the Top 10 Essential Loretta Lynn albums every fan should have.

Top Three Picks: Mark Wills
Born in Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mark grew up liking metal bands, and he played in several garage bands during his teens. As he became an adult, he shifted towards country music. He signed with Mercury Records, where he released his self-titled debut, which was a moderate hit. "Wish You Were Here" followed with three No. 1 singles, then "Permanently," and "Loving Every Minute."

Top Three Picks: Martina McBride
Martina McBride with her bright blue eyes and brunette hair might make you think she was signed for her looks. She has only to open her mouth to prove that thought wrong. The woman has a voice that is unbelievable for her small stature. She's won CMA Female Vocalist as well as CMA Video of the year for the thought provoking "Independence Day."

Top Picks - Essential Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard was a big part of the Bakersfield sound of the 1960s. His life became the basis for many of his classic country songs, such as "Mama Tried," "Workin' Man Blues," and "The Bottle Let Me Down." He's probably best known for his "Okie From Muskogee," even though he was born in Bakersfield, CA. He's also one of the most frequently listed "influences" on country artists today.

Top Three Picks: Patty Loveless
Patty Loveless is one of the most traditional of modern country singers. Born in Pikeville, Kentucky, her straight-from-the-heart vocal style is descended from the old-time mountain singers. That Patty is able to sing, with absolute sincerity, both upbeat dance numbers and though or tear-provoking ballads, is the reason she's one of country's more successful female artists.

Top Picks - Essential Reba McEntire
A list of the Top 10 Essential Reba McEntire albums every fan should have.

Top Three Picks: Rhett Akins
Rhett was born in Valdosta, Georgia. He learned the guitar and joined a ban with his brothers by the time he was 11. He moved to Nashville in 1992, and was signed to Decca Records, where he put out "A Thousand Memories." He had three Top 40 hits, including "That Ain't My Truck," which soared to #3. He recently signed with Audium Records where he put out "Friday Night in Dixie."

Top Picks - Essential Ronnie Milsap
A list of the Top 10 Essential Ronnie Milsap CDs every fan should have.

Top Three Picks: Sammy Kershaw
Sammy Kershaw was born in Kaplan, Louisiana. He grew up with the music of Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, and his idol, George Jones. As a teen, he toured with a local musician in the South. Then, in 1991, he signed with Mercury Records, where he released "Don't Go Near The Water," with "Cadillac Style," as the first single, reaching No. 3.

Top Three Picks: Sara Evans
Sara was born in Booneville, Missouri, the oldest girl of seven children. While growing up, she performed with her family at churches and festivals. In 1996, she auditioned for RLG chairman Joe Galante, and was offered a recording contract. She released her debut, "Three Chords & the Truth" in 1997, followed by "No Place That Far," and in 2000, "Born To Fly."

Top Three Picks: Shania Twain
Shania was raised in Timmons, Ontario. When her parents died, she worked to raise her younger brothers by singing and dancing in a local resort. She was signed to Mercury Records, where she released her self-titled album. Producer "Mutt" Lange came into the picture, and produced Shania's second album, "The Woman in Me," and like her name, she was "on her way."

Top Three Picks: Suzy Bogguss
Suzy Bogguss was born in Aledo, IL. She was discovered while singing at Dollywood, and signed to Capitol Nashville where she cut her first major label album, "Somewhere Between." The album was followed by "Moment of Truth," but her breakthrough album was her third, "Aces." She's recorded several albums since, and has left Capitol to record on her own.

Top Three Picks: Terri Clark
Terri was born into a musical family, where her grandparents were also country stars. As a teen, Terri listened to records like The Judds, Reba McEntire and Linda Ronstadt. She moved to Nashville after graduating from high school and was signed to Mercury Records in 1994.

Top Three Picks: Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw worked hard to make a name for himself, and did so in 1994, with a series of hit singles that dominated the charts throughout the year. Things got even hotter when he teamed up with Faith Hill. The current CMA Entertainer of the Year has it all, & seems to consistantly crank out songs that fly to the top of the charts.

Top Three Picks: Toby Keith
During Toby's nine-year career, he has had a total of thirteen number one songs, five platinum and three gold albums. He started out on Mercury records, and in 2000 moved to DreamWorks where he has really shined, and started picking up awards left and right for his work. All I gotta say is, it's about time.

Top Three Picks: Trace Adkins
Trace Adkins was born in Sarepta, LA where he grew up playing guitar, and was part of both a Gospel quartet and a country band playing nightly in honky tonks. After moving to Nashville, Trace was discovered by Capitol Nashville president Scott Hendricks who saw him at a gig and signed him on the spot.

Top Three Picks: Tracy Byrd
Tracy Byrd was born in Beaumont, TX. After moving to Nashville, he was signed with MCA Records where he recorded his self-titled debut, which produced his first #1 song, "Holdin' Heaven." He released five more albums before moving to RCA, where he released "It's About Time," and then after moving to the sister label, Arista Nashville, "Ten Rounds."

Top Three Picks: Tracy Lawrence
Tracy Lawrence was born in Texas, but raised in Foreman, AK. He played in his first band at age 16, and moved to Nashville in 1990, where he worked as a telemarketer and ironworker while looking for his big break. He was signed by Atlantic in 1991 at a showcase he was doing at the Bluebird Cafe, and produced his first album, Sticks and Stones.

Top Three Picks: Travis Tritt
Travis was born in Marietta, GA & taught himself how to play guitar when he was 8, and he wrote songs by 14. He signed to Warner Brothers & released Country Club. While successful, Nashville was hesitant to embrace him because of his rock and roll roots. Today, he is now with Sony Nashville and continuing to make great music.

Top Three Picks: Trisha Yearwood
Trisha Yearwood has been recording country music since 1991. With eight studio albums, a Christmas collection, and a Greatest Hits album under her belt, she just keeps getting better all the time.

Top Three Picks: Ty Herndon
Ty Herndon was born and raised in Butler, AL. He sang gospel music and played the piano, and after high school, moved to Nashville. He signed with Epic in 1993 and released his first album, which garned his first No. 1 song, "What Mattered Most." He's released four albums since, plus a Greatest Hits package.

Top Picks - Essential Vince Gill
A list of the Top 10 Essential Vince Gill albums that every fan should have.

Top Picks - Essential Waylon Jennings
A list of the Top 10 Essential Waylon Jennings albums that every fan should have.

Top Picks - Essential Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson may be the most distinctive and well-known individual in America. Be it for his music, his love of weed, his braids, his movies, his books, his battered guitar, or his trouble with the IRS, Willie is a true American Icon. There's nothing more distinctive than his high tenor voice or the unmistakeable melodic sound of that guitar.

Top Three Picks: Wynonna
Wynonna started her career as one half of the popular mother-daughter duo, The Judds. When her mother contracted hepatitus and was forced to give up performing, Wynonna went solo, releasing the self-titled album which gave her three consecutive No. 1 singles. She's released several albums since, and had a reunion with her mom in 2000, and released the Reunion Tour album.

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