Debut albums. The chance for an artist to show everyone what they are all about. Sometimes artists may have a great debut, but fall flat when they release their sophomore disc. Other times, it may take a few albums before they really get the right combination that speaks to the fans. The list I've compiled are ten of the best debut country music albums. They range from Johnny Cash
's 1957 debut to Taylor Swift
's self-titled 2006 release.
Alan Jackson - 'Here in the Real World'
was one of the artists of the Class of 1989. Like Clint Black
, his music was also part of the neo-traditionalist movement. A quiet, modest man, Jackson spoke volumes with his songwriting, writing or co-writing all but one track on this album.
From the mournful title track, which tells the tale that "the boy don't always get the girl," to the lovely ballad penned for wife Denise, that went on to become his first No. 1 -- "I'd Love You All Over Again" and the longing "Wanted," which included a partial recitation, Alan wrapped his voice around every note, creating a fine beginning to a career that continues strongly today.
Carrie Underwood - 'Some Hearts'
After winning American Idol's fourth season, Carrie Underwood
got right to work on her debut album Some Hearts.
The album appeals to both pop and country fans, which is part of the reason it has sold over 6x platinum so far. The other reason is the girl can truly sing! Some Hearts
contains songs from some of Nashville's most successful songwriters. The four singles released all became No. 1 songs for her.
The songs range from the gospel-tinged power ballad "Jesus Take the Wheel," the auto-biographical, and self-penned "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore," the poignant "Don't Forget to Remember Me," to the song that preaches to guys everywhere not to cheat on their woman -- "Before He Cheats."
Clint Black - 'Killin' Time'
1980s country music was filled with crossover country pop styled music. Clint Black
came onto the scene with music that was filled with a great honky tonk sound -- the polar opposite of what radio was pushing. The album produced four consecutive No. 1 hits, with "A Better Man," the title track, "Nothing's News" and "Walkin' Away." Clint had a voice that initially was compared to Merle Haggard
, and could definitely craft a fine tune, having written or co-written every track on Killin' Time.
In the mid-tempo "Better Man," he sings about leaving a relationship not broken, but better off than before. While "Straight from the Factory" had a great honky tonk style, "Nothing's News" had a bluesy country feel with plenty of steel guitar.
Dixie Chicks - 'Wide Open Spaces'
Love 'em or hate 'em, the Dixie Chicks
have released some fine country music. Their debut especially stands out, with songs about dreamers everywhere ("Wide Open Spaces"), songs reminiscing about past relationships ("You Were Mine") and telling that guy you like that he's with the wrong girl ("There's Your Trouble.")
In a time when country music had been leaning in a country-pop direction, the Chicks brought banjo, mandolin and fiddle back into mainstream country. They didn't just sing well, they played all their own instruments, and wrote many of their songs. This album has sold over 12x platinum.
Dwight Yoakam - 'Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.'
came upon the country scene in 1986, with an album filled with a mixture of honky tonk and Bakersfield country songs. He includes a whipped-up cover of Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man," which proved to be a major chart-topper, gaining Yoakam a wide mainstream audience; he also turned out impressive versions of "Ring of Fire" and "Heartaches by the Number." His Appalachia-by-way-of-Bakersfield sound cumulates with the nearly bluegrass "Bury Me."
Garth Brooks - 'Garth Brooks'
entered the country scene in 1989, with the release of his first single "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old.)" The song became a top 10 hit, but the second single, "If Tomorrow Never Comes"
climbed all the way to the top.
Part of the "Class of 1989," which also included Clint Black and Alan Jackson, Garth didn't really break ahead of the others until his fourth single, "The Dance" was released. The tender ballad about a life lived to the fullest struck a chord with fans everywhere, and propelled sales of his debut album to 10X platinum.
Johnny Cash 'Johnny Cash & His Hot and Blue Guitar'
had the makings of someone that would one day become a huge country star from his very first album. Recorded at Sun Records, it contained four of his most popular hits that have graced the track lists of countless Cash compilations -- "Cry! Cry! Cry!," "I Walk the Line," "So Doggone Lonesome" and "Folsom Prison Blues." He added to this some older folk tunes ("Rock Island Line" and "The Wreck of the Old 97"), a spiritual ("I Was There When It Happened"), and an uptempo number from Jerry Reed, entitled "If The Good Lord's Willing." The album was released in 1957, and has been re-issued in 2002 with remastered recordings plus several bonus tracks.
LeAnn Rimes - 'Blue'
was at the tender age of 13 when her debut single "Blue" was released in 1996. The title track was a song that songwriter Bill Mack had originally written for the legendary Patsy Cline
. LeAnn's delivery of the song was compared to Cline's, and the album has a more traditional flare to it, while her later releases were more pop. Another song where the Cline influence is especially felt is on "Hurt Me." The album also includes a duet with Eddy Arnold on "Cattle Call,"
a song Arnold had made famous years before.
Steve Earle - 'Guitar Town'
While Guitar Town
debuted at No. 65 on the country album charts, in just over a month, the album had moved up to the Top 40, where it continued to rise each week, by six months, it had climbed all the way to the top of the chart. The reason for the rise in popularity was due to the release of the edgy title track. The songs on the album have a rock feel mixed with country. With songs of heartbreak ("Goodbyes All We've Got Left"), hope for better things outside your hometown ("Guitar Town" and "Someday"), to living your dreams to the disappointment of your family's wishes for you ("Hillbilly Highway.")
Taylor Swift - 'Taylor Swift'
Big Machine Records
's entry onto the country music scene came in the form of a song named after a popular country superstar -- "Tim McGraw." While the song wasn't about McGraw, but instead his music, Swift painted a picture of a relationship that had ended, and a wistful longing that whenever her ex would hear "Tim McGraw," he would think of her.
At the young age of 16, Taylor wrote or co-wrote every song on this album, which appeals to country fans and pop fans alike. The vocals have a pop feel to them, while the instrumentation features fiddles and banjos, along with guitar, bass and percussion. Her lyrics are relatable to teens everywhere, giving her a fan base of her peers, but also appealing to older fans as well.t