10 Classic Country Albums Turning 20 This Year - Rolling Stone
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10 Classic Country Albums Turning 20 This Year

From the Garth Brooks’ blockbuster ‘Double Live’ to Lucinda Williams’ evocative ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’

Garth Brooks, Lucinda Williams

Garth Brooks' 'Double Live' and Lucinda Williams 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' are among the 10 classic country albums turning 20 this year.

Andre Csillag/REX/Shutterstock & Isopress/REX/Shutterstock

As the 20th century was coming to a close, something new was up in country music: Much of the best country being made wasn’t getting on mainstream radio anymore — some years, 1998 among them, maybe most of the best country didn’t make it there.

Partly this was because there was just so much country being recorded, and with more variety than ever before, but the sharp resulting split in styles and audiences was more or less unprecedented in country music. On one side were millions and millions of folks, many of them new to the genre, who loved the enormously popular country-pop that followed in the wake of Garth Brooks and later Shania Twain; on the other were smaller fan bases (often made up of onetime rock fans new to country as well) of music that was rootsier or twangier or punkier (or all three) but called “alternative country.”

The last two decades have only seen an intensification of this divide, but as a look back at the best country albums of 1998 makes plain, there’s always been great music to be heard on both sides.

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