KYGO Staff’s Top 10 Favorite Country Albums Of All Time
By Patrick Knight on May 4, 2020
The KYGO staff was challenged over the weekend to come up with their 10 favorite country albums of all time. The only rules they had were they could only pick one album from an artist (so the list couldn’t be all Garth albums) and they couldn’t pick a greatest hits album but live albums were OK. It was fun reading all their submissions this morning.
So we present to you, the KYGO staff’s Top 10 favorite country albums of all time in their words and why they loved these projects.
Tracy Dixon – Morning Show Co-Host
- Eric Church – Chief …it wails. It’s perfect. That’s it and that’s all. I love this album so much
- Chris Stapleton – Traveler …this is one of those “I remember where I was the first time I heard it” kinda albums. His voice can cut through a room and make you feel emotions like no other artist. He broke open doors in country music that had been closed for too long. Bringing back the sound of country while still realating to real life today.
- Miranda Lambert – Weight of These Wings …Taking the pain and emotions and truly showing her vulnerability. Tin Man could be one of the greatest performances from a female in country music history. Even though this didn’t give us the tough girl Miranda we all had loved, I found this so much better because of it bravery.
- Midland – On The Rocks …it’s just so fun! How can you not love these guys! Perfect blend of classic country party vibe and they just make me happy
- Garth Brooks – No Fences …I mean COME ON. This was my childhood. Every single member of my family LOVED this album and could sing every song driving down the road in our Aerostar Minivan. It was also the first concert we ever went to AS a family. Still…NO ONE can compare to Garth Brooks
- Kasey Musgraves – Golden Hour TALENT…Ok, at first, I didn’t get it. I just maybe didn’t take the time to really listen to the words and connect. Once I did it’s perfectly clear this woman is an incredible musician and songwriter. It’s one of my favorite albums to play in the house unwinding with the family.
- Faith Hill – Breathe …Behold, the force of a power ballad. This was Faith at her absolute best. She was such a superstar in every way with one of the best voices in country music. Still to this day, I don’t think she gets enough credit for how amazing her voice is.
- Tim McGraw – Set This Circus Down This was a masterpiece I thought. When I thing road tripping albums, this is always the first one I play. Telluride is still one of my favorite songs from Tim
- Sam Hunt – Montevello …Creativity. Love it or hate it, I have nothing but respect for his willingness to wait for songs that HE loves. That’s what makes an artist an original. I love the guy.
- Clay Walker – If I could Make A Living …Maybe a surprising pick. Not like it changed to course of music, or was even a huge star making album…BUT, it was the VERY first CD i ever bought with my babysitting money, so it will always be a personal favorite with all the memories of listening to it in my room.
Sheena – Midday Host
- Hank Williams – The Memorial Album There is an old saying about how to sing the blues, you must live the blues. Hank Williams was the master of singing about the blues. I can literally feel every word in every song he sings. This LP was the first LP released after Hank Williams died. It includes songs like Cold, Cold Heart, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Hey Good Lookin’ and my all-time favorite country song: Kaw-Liga.
- The Highwaymen – The Highwaymen The term “super-group” is an understatement when talking about The Highwaymen. I have a hard time imagining a more talented group of singer-songwriters. The storytelling is so vivid that if feels like you are being transported to another time. Songs like Committed to Parkview andDeportee touch on social, cultural and political issues that are still valid today. This album not only provides an oral history of the 20thcentury I also feel like it transcends the ages as well.
- George Strait – Pure Country This is another album that was a huge part of my childhood. When I was in elementary school, I had to stay with my grandparents in Wichita Falls, Texas. At the time, my grandpa was stationed at Shepard Air Force Base. There were no other kids living around the on-base apartments so… I was bored. It was during this week that I very nearly wore out my grandparent’s VHS of Pure Country and their cassette of the soundtrack. I am so lucky that my grandma was such a cool lady and never told me to pick something else.
- Oh Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack – Various Artists This album is a wonderful, comprehensive collection of country, folk, bluegrass and Americana. Even though many of the songs were either re-recorded or remastered for this album, I can’t help but love the simplicity of the lyrics and the talent of the vocalists and instrumentalists. I honestly cannot get tired of this album.
- Dolly Parton – Jolene Miss Dolly recently said that she wrote Jolene andI Will Always Love You on the same day. That was a heck of a writing day! This album has fantastic song writing. There is a good balance of upbeat, happy songs and songs of aching and longing. Also, fun fact, I Will Always Love You was on the soundtrack for one of my favorite movies… The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas!
- Tanya Tucker – Delta Dawn I mean… how many 13-years-olds do you know that sound like Miss Tanya on this album?! There is a great mix pop country and traditional country. The bonus for me on this album is that she covered Hank Williams, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.
- Garth Brooks – No Fences This is the first Garth Brooks album I can remember listening to front to back. It was the soundtrack for many camping trips. When Garth went on tour for this album, my mom and I waited in line for two days (yes, we slept on the sidewalk) to get tickets. Then my parents didn’t even take me to the show. I was salty about this for a long, long time. That is, until last year when I finally saw him in concert.
- The Judds – Rockin’ with the Rhythm My mom and I love the Judds. Grandapa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days) reminds me of my own conversations with my grandparents about the past. One of the more upbeat songs Have Mercy is actually very disheartening. The whole album is honest and relatable.
- Hank Williams Junior The Pressure Is On Many of the albums on this list take be back to my childhood. And this one is no exception. Country Boy Can Surviveis one of my all-time favorite songs. I loved the collaborations with Boxcar Willie, George Jones and Don Helms. The last song, The Ballad of Hank Williamsgives us a brutally honest yet humorous idea of what it was like to work with Hank Williams Senior.
- Aaron Lewis – The Road I have been a fan of Aaron Lewis since he first hit it big with Staind. At first, I was surprised to learn of his transition to country music. However, this album felt more honest and organic than anything he did with Staind. I am love that Aaron Lewis decided to switch gears from rock to country.
Paul Donovan – Afternoon Host
- John Denver – Poems, Prayers & Promises Yeah, this one goes way back. My dad loved John Denver. I became such a big fan of his music. This is actually a three-way tie with “Rocky Mountain High” and “Back Home Again”. John captured Colorado like no one else.
- Kenny Chesney – When the Sun Goes Down I remember when this one came out. We were coming to the end of a long cold winter and we were all ready for summer. “Anything But Mine” is still to this day, my favorite song from him. I also loved the video.
- Jason Aldean – Relentless Jason’s first album came in a close second to this one, his second album. I remember before Jason made it big, he visited me in the KYGO ‘Living Room’ at the National Western Stock Show in ’06? He was getting ready to head to do his show at the Grizzly Rose. ‘Relentless’ is my favorite track on this one.
- Randy Travis – Storms of Life When Randy came onto the country music scene, he sounded like no one else, kind of the old country sound that we’d missed and we were all ready for it!
- Eric Church – Sinners Like Me Eric Church had a fresh hip sound. If you’ve ever experienced him live, you know he’s a great entertainer. This was a tough call, because I also love ‘Carolina’ and ‘Chief’.
- Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces Were you there at Copper Mountain for Westfest when the Dixie Chicks played? I miss that festival. They were so fresh sounding, everyone sang and played an instrument. ‘Fly’ followed, and it was almost a tie here.
- ZBB – You Get What You Give I still remember the moment at Coors Field when ZBB played John Denver’s ‘Rocky Mountain High’ and followed it with ‘Colder Weather’. That was a magical moment.
- Garth Brooks – Garth Brooks When Garth released his first album, I wondered, what cowboy wears a turtleneck (cover art)? We all know the rest of this story…
- Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around Dad had Johnny’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ in his VW bug and played it over and over again. When the man in black recorded the NIN ‘Hurt’, I was so moved by it. The video completed this masterpiece.
- Alabama – My Home’s in Alabama I’ve lost count of how many times I used to listen to the almost seven minute version of the title track while on a late night 6-hour drive home from Dallas to Sulphur, Louisiana. But that was the perfect driving song while going home to family.
Fizz – Evening Host
- Garth. Fresh Horses. This was his new album when he played the Cheyenne frontier days in 1996. My first concert EVER. Chris Ledoux sang with Garth that night. Epic. Which leads me to my next album…
- Chris Ledoux. Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy. The entire album is great but the title track with Garth is really special. Chris left us way too soon.
- Dixie Chicks. Fly. Brilliant song writing. So much musical talent. And one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen (Fiddler’s in 2016).
- Jason Aldean. My Kinda Party. With ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ and a collaboration with Kelly Clarkson, how can you go wrong? Stellar album from start to finish.
- Brooks and Dunn. Brand New Man. Their first album with so many hits! Neon moon will never get old. Never.
- Collin Raye. I Think About You. This album dropped right as I was starting my country radio career. I’ve seen him twice at the grizzly rose. I’ve got one of his drummer’s broken sticks to prove it.
- Sturgill Simpson. Sound and Fury. He’s got such a great sound and this album sounds fantastic on long car rides when you’re social distancing. My kids dig it too.
- Reba. Rumor Has It. My sister owned this album. I would sit in her room and listen to ‘You Lie’ on repeat. She must have been going thru something. Ha.
- Alabama. The Closer You Get. My parents had this on 8 track. Wasn’t a great road trip in the family station wagon with out it.
- Kenny Chesney. The Road and The Radio. I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge Kenny fan before this album. I finally saw him live after this album was released. Mind blown. This album has made an appearance at every summer bbq since.
Patrick Knight – Music Director/Weekends
- Garth Brooks – In Pieces This album was the start of my love for country music. My father and I would hear all these songs on our local country radio station(s) and across Northern Minnesota. I’ve never forgotten how cool it was to have my dad tell me about Garth as we drove to hockey practices and games every night. Because of Garth, I fell in love with music as a whole and I will always be grateful for that. Two of my favorite songs of all time are on this project but that will be for another list in the future!
- Eric Church – Caught In the Act My favorite part of music is hearing it live. The energy and connection between artists and fans is something that will never get old and Eric summed up music perfectly in his hit record “Springsteen” when he says, “funny how a melody sounds like a memory.” He is 100% accurate with that. I relate so many life memories to music I was listening to at the time or had heard and nothing brings that together more than hearing it live.
- Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park Still one of my all-time favorite albums front to back in any genre. There is nothing Kacey can’t do and if you haven’t heard this project from her, I can’t recommend it enough. I love having it on at the house on the weekends even though my daughters just want to hear Kacey sing, “All Is Found” from the Frozen 2 soundtrack these days! =)
- Luke Bryan – Crash My Party I could argue that Luke is my favorite artist, as I own all his albums. I have loved listening to his music since I first heard, “Country Man” and “All My Friends Say.” However, there was just a feeling I had the first time I heard “Crash My Party” and I knew Luke was going to vault into being a superstar. The album has so many awesome songs on it.
- Luke Combs – What You See Is What You Get Luke Combs is our modern day Garth Brooks. Yep, I said it. Everything about Luke is country and speaks to the country fan. Our format is better because of him. That is not a knock on ANY other artist but there is just something special about Luke. This album (which includes his Prequel EP) is perfect and does not have a “skip” song on it. It is also the first album that my wife and I get to listen to WITH our two young daughters and create memories with them. I LOVE this album.
- Sam Hunt – Montevallo Above, I mentioned how Garth instilled a love of all music in me and nothing represents that better in country music than Sam’s debut album. There is something for everyone on this project. I could not believe the first time I listened to it how it just connected so many musical dots for me. Darn near perfect front to back.
- Jo Dee Mesina – Jo Dee Messina This album makes the list due to the simple fact, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” is on it. It was the second country cassette tape (yep, you read that right) that I bought with my own money at my local Sam Goody. I listened to that song so many times; I ended up having to buy the cassette tape 4 more times just to be able to listen to that song due to wearing out the cassette.
- Alabama – Cheap Seats Along with listening to all the Garth music as kid with my dad driving around Minnesota, “Cheap Seats” still sticks out to me from that time. My father grew up in Texas so hockey wasn’t something he was used to even though he supported my brothers and I playing. However, when we listened to “Cheap Seats” together on the radio, I knew a baseball story was coming from him after the song. Still makes me smile all these years later.
- Kenny Chesney – Live in No Shoes Nation There might not be a better artist to connect their music with their fans than what Kenny Chesney can make a stadium of people feel like when they see him live. I look forward to seeing him in concert just to simply feel the music and watch people have an amazing time. Kenny is one of the best to ever do it and all the songs on this album, in their live form, get played at my house when the sun is out and the grill is on.
- Kip Moore – Wild Ones Even though many people will argue that Up All Ngiht is their favorite Kip album (it is very good), I just love the second project from Kip. Maybe it’s because “I like my country rocking” (thanks Church) and I just feel that from this album. From the second song, “Come and Get It” to “Girl of the Summer” – it’s A+.
Brian Taylor – Weekends
1. George Strait ‘You’re Something Special To Me’ – this was the first album (cassette tape) that I ever owned as a human being. Got it for Christmas from my mom. She knew I loved this man. As a kid I wanted to be him (who wouldn’t) and I’m just thankful radio as allowed me to meet him a few times.
2. Justin Moore ‘Outlaws Like Me’ – this another one of those albums that I can listen to from song one to song number 13. I swear every song on this album is almost my entire life’s sound track.
3. Keith Whitley ‘L.A. to Miami’ – I heard someone once say that if Keith Whitley was still alive. He would’ve gave George Strait a run for his title of being the King of Country. I seriously believe that.
4. Ashley McBryde ‘Girl Going Nowhere’ – this is definitely one of those albums that I listen to from the first song to number song number 11.
5. Garth Brooks (self titled…first album) – This man was everything country music needed and this album proved it to me. I’ll never forget when my mom took me to meet him at a Walmart for a meet and greet when about 10 years old.
6. Jon Pardi ‘California Sunrise’ – I feel like I can honestly say this man is currently…country when country wasn’t in todays country world. This album is straight up traditional country at its best.
7. Randy Rogers Band ‘Roller Coaster’ – this little band from TX is one of the most underrated bands in country music, but I’m proud to say I’ve seen them sell out Red Rocks a few times! I’ve been a fan since their first album…which came out 2002. This was their 2nd and this was the album that really made me a fan.
8. Sam Hunt ‘SOUTHSIDE’ – I may be as country as they come with my music, but I feel like Sam Hunt , is today’s Garth Brooks with his country music. He makes country sound cool and he’s definitely brought over a lot of non country fans to format. Just like Garth did.
9. Ronnie Dunn ‘Re-Dunn’ – One half of Brooks and Dunn…the voice of B and D really. Born in Colman TX and this album brought back to life so many great songs from the past. His rendition of George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” is hands down AMAZING!
10. Don Williams ‘Country Boy’ – Growing up in TX…I always into artists from TX. One of the best voices in country music…Don Williams. He was from the Floydada TX (west texas) and to be honest…his greatest hits album was the first CD I ever purchased. I got kicked out of a SEARS for listening to it on one of their CD players. Loudly.
Ashley – Weekends
- Diamond Rio – Diamond Rio I just loved these songs… “Meet in the Middle” will always be one of my most favorite songs ever. But loved the quirky songs on here too, “Mirror Mirror” and “Norma Jean Riley”. I loved the lyric, “wish I had a dog, seen her in the park with a puppy on a string.”
- Miranda Lambert – Revolution Some of the most well written country songs in the modern era… “White Liar,” “Only Prettier,” “The House That Built Me”, and “Heart Like Mine” were all part of this album. But so were many other great songs… 11 more incredible songs, in fact. When most albums only have 11 total songs (based on some silly rights payment issue), this album had 15 tracks of country goodness.
- Brooks & Dunn – Brand New Man This album was not only a hit machine, it included “Neon Moon” which is not just in my list of top country songs, it is in the top 10 songs of all time for me from any genre.
- John Anderson – Seminole Wind Brilliant music… that’s all there is to say about this. Not just lyrically clever in songs like “Straight Tequila Night,” but the chord progressions were so interesting with sharp minor to major chords. This album is a gem.
- George Strait – Blue Clear Sky This was the hardest to pick because the rules said an artist could be picked only once. But I went with this because of songs like the title track and “I Can Still Make Cheyenne.” George is the reason I love modern country… why I wanted to work in country radio. Truthfully, I could have a top 10 albums of all George Strait albums.
- Jason Aldean – My Kinda Party In the world of rock country, this album defined the niche. It had it all from jams like the title track to the boundary-pushing “Dirt Road Anthem.” Then you throw in “Tattoos on This Town,” “Fly Over States and power ballads like “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” you have a blockbuster album. One of the things I liked was the album’s “throwback” sound as it was recorded on two-inch tape rather than the digital domain which much of everything after 2000 has been recorded in.
- Kenny Chesney – When The Sun Goes Down Fun fact, this album contains one of two Kenny Chesney songs that I put up in my top 10 songs of all time. While “You and Tequila” comes off Hemingway’s Whiskey, this album boasts “Anything But Mine,” perhaps my favorite country song of the last 20 years. Kenny, like Strait though, is hard to pick just one. I could have easily gone with The Big Revival.
- Garth Brooks – No Fences Where do you start with this one? “The Thunder Rolls,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “Two Of A Kind… ,” “Friends In Low Places.” This album is country royalty right here. Garth is in the list with Chesney and Strait… why do I have to pick just one?
- Luke Bryan – Tailgates & Tanlines Let’s be honest… we wish all Luke Bryan songs sounded like the ones from this album. Big smashes but felt these songs were from a time before what seems to be a contrived formula for Luke. These still had the honesty of exploration.
- Eric Church – Chief Start to finish… it’s hard to beat this album. And probably the best performer alive today… this album feels like what signifies that, even though there were amazing albums before that like Sinners Like Me and Carolina. Chief certainly put Eric on the map, commercially.