10 Country Album Snubs Missing From Apple Music’s 100 Best Albums List

Yesterday, Apple Music released its list of 100 Best Albums. The list—created by a panel of experts, artists, and songwriters—purportedly contains the best albums ever made. They didn’t look at sales metrics or streaming numbers for the list. As a result, it’s a very subjective list that, to be fair, contains masterworks from some of the greatest artists in history. However, there is a serious lack of country music on Apple’s 100 Best Albums list.

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Apple’s 100 Best Albums list contains three country or country-adjacent albums. Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour came in at No. 88. It was a country-pop album with elements of electropop, disco, and other genres. Then, there are two standout folk records on the list. Joni Mitchell’s Blue was No. 16 and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited came in at No. 14.

There are several country albums that left their mark on the face of music history, transformed the genre, or set the stage for countless other artists. With that in mind, here is our list of 10 albums that should have been on Apple Music’s 100 Best Albums list.

Purgatory—Tyler Childers (2017)

Fans of modern independent country music arguably have Tyler Childers to thank for the current scene. Without him, artists like Wyatt Flores, Zach Bryan, Logan Halstead, and countless other young artist/songwriters in the genre wouldn’t be here. Purgatory received Gold certification with no help from country radio, proving how successful an independent country artist could be.

As far as the album goes, it contains many of the songs that made Childers the mega-popular artist he is today. “Feathered Indians,” “Whitehouse Road,” and “Lady May” all come from this breakout 2017 release. Even the “deep cuts” on the record are classics. “I Swear (To God),” “Tattoos” and “Honky Tonk Flame” are examples.

No Fences—Garth Brooks (1990)

Garth Brooks changed the face of modern country music. The massive success of his albums made him the blueprint by which many artists modeled their careers. At the very least, he’s the blueprint after which label executives modeled artists’ careers.

No Fences, went No. 1 country, No. 3 on the all-genre chart, and sold 20 million copies worldwide. It remains Brooks’ best-selling record. The album contained country classics like “The Thunder Rolls,” “Friends in Low Places,” and “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House.” This ‘90s country classic should have been an easy addition to Apple’s 100 Best Albums list, even if it isn’t available on the streaming platform.

Jolene—Dolly Parton (1974)

Dolly Parton is an icon. Her fame and influence spread far beyond the country music world. It would be impossible to count the artists that she has influenced and inspired over the years.  This album contained two of her most iconic songs—the title track and “I Will Always Love You.” These songs remain incredibly popular today and arguably helped Parton become the cultural force she is today.

As far as country albums that should have made Apple’s best albums list, this one seems like a no-brainer if only for its impact on Parton’s now-iconic and game-changing career.

John Prine—John Prine (1971)

John Prine never saw much chart success during his career. That didn’t stop him from being one of the most influential songwriters in country and Americana, though. Much like Dolly Parton, it would be impossible to count the songwriters who took inspiration from Prine. However, modern giants like Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Kacey Musgraves are on that list.

Prine’s self-titled debut is also a masterclass in songwriting. Tracks like “Angel from Montgomery,” “Spanish Pipedream,” “Paradise,” and “Pretty Good” are examples of why Prine is so revered and why this album should have made Appl’s list.

My Kind of Country—Reba McEntire (1984)

There’s no way to say what country music would look like without Reba McEntire. However, there is no denying that the genre is better for her contributions. The music she made—and continues to make–, the way she carries herself, and her outlook on life have been hugely inspirational for countless artists. It would be safe to say that without Reba, we wouldn’t have Lainey Wilson and countless other ladies of country music.

My Kind of Country was McEntire’s eighth studio album and contained two No. 1 singles, “How Blue” and “Somebody Should Leave.” More importantly, this album sees the Oklahoma native gaining creative control over her output and therefore set the stage for the rest of her career.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken—The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1972)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken might be one of the most important country albums of the seventies and should have been a shoo-in for Apple’s Best Albums list. With this collection of songs, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band bridged the gap between two generations of musicians and listeners. This group of what Roy Acuff called “Long-haired West Coast boys,” gathered some of the greatest country, bluegrass, and old-time musicians from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s and introduced them to a new audience.

The album featured Doc Watson, Roy Acuff, Merle Travis, “Mother” Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and many others. Notably, Watson found a new level of appreciation from the younger audience and was then able to record and tour for the rest of his life. Without the influence of Doc Watson, we likely wouldn’t have artists like Billy Strings. Without this album, Watson and his elder contemporaries may have been largely forgotten in the changing of the guard.

Coal Miner’s Daughter—Loretta Lynn (1971)

When it comes to country albums that should make Apple’s—or any other—best albums list, Coal Miner’s Daughter is an easy pick. The album helped to boost Loretta Lynn’s popularity and the title track told the humble beginnings of the legendary country singer who broke glass ceilings and laid the groundwork for just about every woman who saw success in country music after her. It also went on to be her signature song, the title of one of her autobiographies, and the title of the Oscar-winning biopic about Lynn.

Produced by the legendary Owen Bradley with songs written by Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Conway Twitty, Glen Campbell, and Marty Robins, Coal Miner’s Daughter is a stellar example of the Nashville Sound and an exemplary snapshot of that era of country music.

Red Headed Stranger—Willie Nelson (1976)

Sometime in the last 50 or so years, Willie Nelson stopped just being a country legend and became a full-blown cultural phenomenon. Red Headed Stranger has much to do with that transition. It was his first release for Columbia Records, the label that finally let Nelson have full creative control over his output. So, after seventeen albums, listeners finally got to hear the music that Willie truly wanted to make. The rough and sparse arrangements give this album its character and helped to establish the Texas native as one of the original standard-bearers of the Outlaw Country or Progressive Country movement.

Outside of Red Headed Stranger’s cultural and historical importance, it is also full of great songs. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Time of the Preacher,” “Hands on the Wheel,” and the title track make this album an undeniable country classic.

Honky Tonk Heroes—Waylon Jennings (1973)

With Honky Tonk Heroes, Waylon Jennings showed what he could do when he had full control over his creative output. If one were to distill the “Outlaw” sound, this album would be the result. Additionally, it introduced the wider country music world to the songwriting skills of Billy Joe Shaver, who penned all but one song on the album. More importantly, this album and those around it chronologically had a massive impact on the future of country music with artists throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s, and beyond looking to Jennings for inspiration.

The tracklist of Honky Tonk Heroes is also packed with great songs. The title track, “You Ask Me To,” “Ain’t No God in Mexico,” and “Black Rose” are among those that make this one of the greatest country albums of all time.

Storms of Life—Randy Travis (1986)  

Those who love ‘90s country have Randy Travis as well as a handful of other artists including Alan Jackson and George Strait to thank for the neotraditional sound that was the backbone of the genre in that decade. When Storms of Life hit record stores and singles like “On the Other Hand” and “Diggin’ Up Bones” hit the airwaves, country fans fell in love. Travis flew in the face of the Urban Cowboy sound that dominated the airwaves in the early to mid-’80s and proved that there was still an audience for this kind of music.

Featured Image by Andrew Putler/Redferns

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