If you’re a music enthusiast looking to expand the country genre in your vinyl record collection, you’ve come to the right place. With country music being such a widespread and well known category, there are various sub genres that fall within the country music genre as well. That said, it can be difficult to narrow down the top country vinyl records that you should without a doubt have in your collection. Read on to discover the top 8 country vinyl records:
#1 Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison (1968)
Starting off the top list of country vinyl records is Johnny Cash’s live album At Folsom Prison which sold upwards of 3 million copies upon its release. What started out as a simple desire to record a performance at a prison soon turned into not only a reality, but a top charting and timelessly influential album in the world of country music. In fact, two shows were recorded at Folsom State Prison, in which Cash created a 17 track album, consisting of 15 tracks recorded from the first show, and the remaining two from the second performance.
The album At Folsom Prison was a legendary creation that attempted to reflect Cash’s perception of life in prison, and the tracklist did just that. As a matter of fact, specific tracks on the album, such as “Folsom Prison Blues,” were so relatable that inmates who heard it would literally write to Cash asking him to come perform at their own prison. That said, the album found success both inside and outside of prison walls and acted as a bridge that would musically fuse the two worlds together.
#2 George Jones - I Am What I Am (1980)
After slowly dropping off in the music scene as a result of a lack of shows and substance abuse, George Jones released the album I Am What I Am and regained his presence in the music industry in doing so. The first song on the album, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” took critics and fans of the country genre by storm, topping charts for a consistent 18 weeks. Some even claim that the song and the album are not only his greatest personally, but of all time in the country realm as well.
It is without a doubt that this album has been, and continues to be, heavily influential for numerous country artists throughout the genre. What initially served as a bounce back album for Jones post-rehab, soon turned into a grammy winning, platinum selling, and beautifully crafted tracklist that would leave the country music scene craving for more!
#3 Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors (1971)
The incredibly talented American country singer and songwriter, Dolly Parton, released her eighth studio album in October of 1971, which received a stunning amount of critical acclaim. Charting in Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, Coat of Many Colors includes one of Parton’s personal favorite songs, “Coat of Many Colors,” in which she has, time and time again, claimed to be her favorite song that she has ever written. This self-proclaimed favorite by Parton herself has further seen the same level of acclaim and success from fans and critics alike over the years. Needless to say, the album Coat of Many Colors continues to be considered a legendary work of art and one of country's best, even in today’s day and age.
#4 Willie Nelson - Shotgun Willie (1973)
Willie Nelson is undoubtedly one of country music’s most recognized singers and songwriters, and for good reason. Since the release of Nelson’s debut album in 1962, the renowned country singer has released a total of 94 albums, creating a notorious and well-distinguished discography over the years. And while we can’t necessarily include every one of Nelson’s collections on the list of top 8 country albums, there is something to say about one album in particular, Shotgun Willie.
Nelson’s sixteenth album titled Shotgun Willie was released in 1973, and at the time, sparked a change in Nelson’s music both, personally and generally among country music as a whole. The album itself initiated a new sound within the well-known Nashville honky tonk music at the time. This new sound which was partially influenced by Shotgun Willie would soon come to be known as outlaw country, a subgenre of country music with a fusion of blues, honky tonk, rock, and folk.
Given Nelson’s strong influence in regards to country music over the decades, there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest on this list of top country artists. Even currently at 87 years of age, Nelson continues to make and release music, further expanding the genre of country music in doing so.
#5 Garth Brooks - No Fences (1990)
Moving into the early 90’s, Garth Brooks released his album No Fences in 1990, which made its way to Billboard’s number one spot on the Top Country Albums chart at the time. No Fences came to be Brooks’ best album, revolutionizing country music through the use of softer and more subtle sounds, as opposed to traditional country music at the time.
Given the new influence that this album provided, Brooks reached another level of fame as a result of the album, international acclaim. As a country artist, breaking the boundaries of a solely American fanbase is hard to comeby and therefore, a highly notable achievement. With the album No Fences, Brooks did just that and was able to become an internationally recognized American country artist outside of the U.S. With that said, this innovative and well-crafted album undoubtedly secures a spot on the top country vinyl record list.
#6 Billy Ray Cyrus - Some Gave All (1992)
Another artist that emerged towards the end of the century was Billy Ray Cyrus who released his debut album Some Gave All in 1992. Similar to Brooks’ international success, Cyrus rose to charts beyond that of the U.S. and topped charts in multiple countries worldwide with his song “Achy Breaky Heart.” In addition to the album’s praise overseas, Some Gave All also became the best-selling debut album by a solo artist in the year of its release. Since then, the album has seen unwavering success and to this day, remains a timeless and classic record.
#7 Shania Twain - Come on Over (1997)
With an uptempo twang and a successful integration of country and pop music, Come on Over by Shania Twain broke the traditional mold of country music by introducing an innovative sound to the genre. The release of this album reshaped the genre entirely by blending sounds of pop, rock, and country in a way that appealed to each genre as much as the other. In other words, the production of this album beautifully pulled together a combination of sounds that were unheard of at the time, ultimately creating a new subgenre within country music itself.
The subgenre now known as country pop all started with Twain’s album Come on Over, and with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, the album has rightfully made its way to become one of the greatest selling country albums of all time. As a certified diamond album with countless other certifications, nominations, and awards, you can guarantee that your country vinyl record collection isn’t complete without Come on Over included.
#8 Dixie Chicks - Wide Open Spaces (1998)
By the late 90’s, country music had expanded significantly, however, Dixie Chicks held strong to the classic country sound with robust vocals alongside the steel guitar and fiddle. Wide Open Spaces was the beginning of a new era for the Dixie Chicks as this was their first album with Natalie Maines as their new lead vocalist. In that, the album, and the band, found success in their new sound, pushing them to the top of the charts.
If there is anything that can speak to the level of success that the Dixie Chicks achieved with the release of Wide Open Spaces, it’s that the album won Best Country Album over Shania Twain’s Come on Over at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards. While the two albums were notably different in their composition, they were both held to grammy-worthy stature. That said, the fact that Wide Open Spaces won over Come on Over, another widely acclaimed album, goes to show how distinguished the album came out to be. The album not only acted as the Dixie Chicks breakthrough to success, but also remains a legendary piece in the world of country music to this day.
Build your vinyl collection and listen with quality
Now that you have the top country albums in mind, start collecting and give your new records a well-deserved spin. When it comes to record players and listening to your vinyl collection, you will want to be sure that you are listening to your albums of choice with a top quality record player. That said, Victrola offers a variety of top quality vinyl record players that match the aesthetic of any home. With a record player that sounds just as great as it looks, you can be sure that your record collection will sound great for years to come!