The country music community remembers 2011 as the year that saw John Rich win Celebrity Apprentice and the rise of Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina on American Idol. Shania Twain and Frédéric Thiébaud had a New Year’s Day wedding in Puerto Rico. Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton married in May in Boerne, Texas. Shelton signed on to coach rising talent on a new show called The Voice. Glen Campbell revealed that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the darkest days in country music history happened when a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair moments before Sugarland was set to perform. The accident killed seven people and injured dozens more. These are the country albums that rocked 2011.
10. The Shape of Things by Adam Hood
An Alabaman with a penchant for blue-collar, country-soul, Hood was discovered by Miranda Lambert, who randomly caught his set at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas. The Shape of Things makes the list for being full of timeless country songs that went on to be recorded by Little Big Town, David Nail, Frankie Ballard and John Corbett. Hood is also among Lambert’s co-writers on The Weight of These Wings, and a contributor to Anderson East’s Encore and Lee Ann Womack’s The Way I’m Livin’.
Red River Blue marked an upwards trajectory in Shelton’s career after yielding four consecutive No. 1s “Honey Bee,” “God Gave Me You,” “Drink on It” and “Over.” Since its release, the 11-song album collection has received double-platinum certification.
After Nashville’s 2010 flood, 2011’s This Is Country Music gave the country music community new roots. And it served as Paisley’s unifying musical response to a natural disaster. The 15-song collection featured hit collaborations “Old Alabama” with Alabama and “Remind Me” with Carrie Underwood. Don Henley guests on “Love Her Like She’s Leavin’,” while Paisley’s sons William “Huck” and Jasper Paisley appear with Clint Eastwood on “Eastwood.” Blake Shelton joins Paisley on “Don’t Drink the Water,” and the closer “Life’s Railway to Heaven” features Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow and Carl Jackson.
tailgates & tanlines pretty much sent Bryan’s celebrity into the stratosphere with mega-hits “Country Girl (Shake It for Me),” “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” “Drunk on You” and “I Don’t Want This Night to End.” However, the quadruple-platinum album also offers timeless country songs like “You Don’t Know Jack” and “Tailgate Blues” that attract loyal fans that will follow Bryan’s career for life.
Lady Antebellum pretty much owned 2011 with Own the Night’s string of hits including “Just a Kiss,” “We Owned the Night” and “Dancin’ Away with My Heart.” The Own the Night Tour marked the first time the band toured outside North America with engagements in Europe and Australia.
Multi-instrumentalist Hayes can play pretty much any instrument and perform most of them crazy well. He recorded every instrument on his self-titled debut, including breakthrough hits “Storm Warning,” “Wanted,” “Somebody’s Heartbreak” and the Jason Mraz collaboration, “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me.” For his impressive work, the Recording Academy nominated Hayes for best country album, best new artist and best country solo performance for “Wanted.”
Here for a Good Time marked Strait’s 39th album in 30 years and it was mostly co-written with his son, Bubba Strait, and hit-maker, Dean Dillon. The 11-song collection was Grammy-nominated for best country album. It was supported by a co-headlining tour with Reba McEntire featuring Lee Ann Womack as the opener.
Pistol Annies’ Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe had to audition their new band to Lambert’s manager before she took on the trio as a client. Hell on Heels, their first masterpiece, showed the women’s commitment to classic country. The title track is a platinum-certified hit that has become an inescapable standard at Nashville karaoke bars. “Lemon Drop” has Presley comparing life to the bitterness and sweet in the lemony candy. “Housewife’s Prayer” is a realistic look at a housewife that has hit an emotional bottom.
2. Four the Record by Miranda Lambert
Lambert continued to get daring with her subject matter and tonality on her fourth studio album. “All Kinds of Kinds,” “Easy Living,” “Dear Diamond” and “Nobody’s Fool” offer a passionate ride through Lambert’s signature country and mixes in her sultriness with “Fine Tune,” “Fastest Girl in Town” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
Chief was a game-changer for Church who has built a devoted following by touring nonstop. With Jay Joyce at the helm, Chief produced five hit singles, including Church’s first No. 1s “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen.” The album was Grammy-nominated for best country album and won Church his first CMA for album of the year.