In 2010, Nashville, Tenn. locals played an integral role in the city’s recovery following May’s Cumberland River floods. And it was bolstered in a moving display of unifying volunteerism from the country music community that lasted long after the floodwaters receded. The Grand Ole Opry House stage was submerged and forced the Opry’s live radio show to tour various venues across Nashville until the restoration was completed. Little Jimmy Dickens and Brad Paisley helped reopen the Grand Ole Opry House in October following a $20 million renovation that wrapped just in time for the show’s 85th anniversary. Taylor Swift continued her pop culture domination by becoming the youngest Grammy winner of the Recording Academy’s all-genre album of the year category for Fearless. 4 FINI, the founding company behind the Vans Warped Tour, launched the inaugural Country Throwdown Tour with Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, Little Big Town, Eric Church, Eli Young Band, Jonathan Singleton & the Grove, The Lost Trailers, Ryan Bingham and Emily West. In December, Garth Brooks wrapped the year with nine sold-out benefit concerts at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena with proceeds supporting those impacted by the Cumberland flood. These are the albums that were the soundtrack of 2010:
10. Coal Miner’s Daughter: a Tribute to Loretta Lynn by Various Artists
Lynn is an American treasure, so when her music is honored on a tribute album, it better be out of this world. This 12-song compilation delivers on the hype with performances from an arsenal of Grammy winners, including Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, The White Stripes and Lee Ann Womack. Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert back Lynn on the album’s finale, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” The year marked Lynn’s 50th anniversary of her signing her first recording contract.
I Am What I Am has Haggard doing out insightful country wisdom in masterful performances that put his humanity center stage. For example, there are feelings of exalted freedom in “Live and Love Always” and self-acceptance in the title song. Featuring his longtime band, The Strangers, all of the songs are Haggard originals except for “The Road to My Heart” by Freddy Powers. Doug Colosio and Scott Joss co-wrote “Bad Actor” with Haggard. “How Did You Find Me Here” was co-written with his wife, Theresa Lane Haggard. The release fell in the same year he was inducted into the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. On that night, his longtime friends Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson were part of a musical tribute that included Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley.
Zac Brown Band’s sophomore album exhibited the band’s intentions of being a musical force after coming off the wildly successful debut, The Foundation. Irresistible hits “Colder Weather,” the Alan Jackson collaboration, “As She’s Walking Away,” and “Knee Deep,” featuring Jimmy Buffett anchor this the triple-platinum-selling collection.
If making music with as many musicians as possible is Willie Nelson’s No. 1 goal, Johnson’s The Guitar Song pretty much nailed it. Produced by Dave Cobb, the double concept album is a one-hour-and-45-minute emotional, honky-tonk epic. Starring a long list of world-class musicians, The Guitar Song is split into collections, The Black Album and The White Album, and it paved the way for the experimentation of Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers and Colter Wall.
Hemingway’s Whiskey yielded the first No. 1 for hit-makers Shane McAnally and J.T. Harding, who co-wrote “Somewhere With You.” “The Boys of Fall,” “Live a Little” and “Reality” were also No. 1s for Chesney, while “You and Tequila” featuring Grace Potter was nominated for best country duo/group performance at the 54th annual Grammy Awards.
5. They Call Me Cadillac by Randy Houser
“Whistlin’ Dixie” is now a Delta Blues standard after Houser filmed the music video for the song in Clarksdale, Miss. – a rare distinction not many artists achieve these days. His sophomore album is 46 minutes of Houser belting swampy, honky-tonk rock that’s as spicy as Delta hot tamales. The title song reintroduces Houser using his nickname, Cadillac, and gives a shout-out to some really know-how girls.
Those who had the privilege of knowing Bentley when he first arrived in Nashville remember him at home glued to a couch practicing mandolin while watching videotapes on how to pluck like Bill Monroe. Bentley is among today’s country musicians who treat country music like it’s an heirloom. Up on the Ridge is his dedication to bluegrass, marking a departure from the hard country rock that put him on the map. To celebrate the album, he performed 24 concerts in 30 days starting in Portland, Or. and closing at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
My Kinda Party marked unprecedented success for Aldean at the time in his career. In its first week, it moved 193,000 units, and it has since received quadruple platinum certification reflecting four million copies sold. Aldean was nominated for Grammys for best country album, best country duo/group performance for “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Kelly Clarkson and best country solo performance for “Dirt Road Anthem.” The album also featured “I Ain’t Ready to Quit,” Thomas Rhett’s first major cut as a songwriter with Jaron Boyer and Ben Stennis.
Swift came more into her own as an introspective storyteller with her third album, Speak Now. The album continued to fuel her pop-culture dominance by delivering a string of hits, including the title song, “Back to December,” “Mean,” “Never Grow Up” and “Mine.” The subsequent Speak Now Tour was among 2011’s most successful tours and marked her first performances as a stadium headliner. “Mean” won Swift two Grammys for best country solo performance and best country song.
Led by the compelling title hit, this album made Lady Antebellum a household name. “Need You Now” was inescapable during its life on the charts and yielded four Grammy wins for the band, including song and record of the year. The collection featured other hit gems, “Our Kind of Love,” “American Honey” and “Hello World.”