40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Dolly Parton, 'Blue Smoke'

34. Dolly Parton, 'Blue Smoke'

There's a lot going on here, and it's impossible to dislike any of it. Highlights: a cuddly Kenny Rogers duet called "You Can't Make Old Friends," bold covers of both Bob Dylan (a bluegrass-dexterous "Don't Think Twice") and Bon Jovi (a genuinely bonkers, spin-class-worthy "Lay Your Hands on Me"), an old murder ballad gussied up with heavenly a capella flourishes ("Banks of the Ohio") and a tart anti-PUA riposte called "Lover du Jour" ("That's crap," she stage-whispers to a garbage Casanova at one point). Dolly is having an absolute blast through all of it, and her good cheer is infectious. R.H.

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