A woman wearing a hat, standing on stage with a guitar and microphone.

The 5 Greatest Country Artists of All Time

Top Country Artists to Listen To

Originating in the south and west of the United States, country music enjoyed mainstream attention in the 1940s and 1950s, and its appeal has grown further since then. Today, country music is a major player in the music scene.

Read on to discover five of the top country artists of all time, starting with Carrie Underwood of American Idol fame.

Carrie Underwood

Oklahoma’s Carrie Underwood is one of country music’s newest faces and brightest stars. She won American Idol in 2005 after captivating audiences with her powerful voice. Her debut album, Some Hearts, went nine times platinum and won five Billboard Music Awards for Album of the Year in 2006, Country Album of the Year in 2006, Female Billboard 200 Album Artist of the Year in 2006, Country Album of the Year in 2007 and Country Album of the Decade in 2009.

Underwood has conducted seven of her own tours and has co-headlined several others. She has released eight albums since her debut, including Carnival Ride, Blown Away and Denim & Rhinestones.

Clocking in at a magnificent 85 million records sold, it’s impossible to ignore how Carrie Underwood has successfully brought country music to new audiences.

Johnny Cash

Known for songs including "Get Rhythm," "Farther Along" and "Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash is undoubtedly one of the most important country artists of all time. Born in Arkansas in 1932, Cash was heavily influenced by rock and gospel music, which gave his country music an edge over the competition.

Cash released 97 albums during his career, including his debut record Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar! in 1957. Cash was the proud recipient of multiple Country Music Association Awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980.

Despite his death in 2003, Cash’s legacy lives on. In 2005, Joaquin Phoenix starred as the Man in Black in the movie I Walk the Line, and in 2020 the UK’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra reimagined his most loved songs in a new album of orchestral arrangements.

Dolly Parton

What list would be complete without Dolly Parton, one of the most familiar names and recognizable people in the music business? Introducing herself to the world in 1967 with Hello, I’m Dolly, she has gone on to release 48 studio albums across an incredible 50-year career.

Born in Tennessee, it was easy to see from the very beginning that Dolly Parton was a country superstar. She’s collaborated with other hugely famous people over the years, including movie star Sylvester Stallone, crooner Michael Bublé and fellow country singer Miley Cyrus. A little-known fact is that she’s actually Miley’s godmother!

Dolly’s most famous songs include the iconic "9 to 5" and "Moving Jolene," as well as "Islands in the Stream," which she sang with Kenny Rogers. She has been nominated for 50 Grammys across her career, winning 11 of them.

Dolly Parton regularly tops polls for the nation’s favorite country singer, including a new poll conducted by YouGov where she tops the list for Millenials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Hank Williams

Unlike Cash and Dolly, Hank Williams’ music career was short-lived. It spanned just six years and saw only two LPs released - Hank Williams Sings and Moanin’ the Blues in 1951 and 1952, respectively. Most artists who only release a few LPs sink into the sands of time, but not Hank. His short music career was so influential that it led to nine posthumously released studio albums and compilation albums containing previously unreleased songs.

From a young age, Hank learned to play the guitar despite being unable to read music. He is best known for the songs "Lovesick Blues," "Your Cheatin’ Heart" and "Jambalaya On the Bayou."

In the years since his death, Hank Williams has been honored with several awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.

Shania Twain

Canadian-born Shania Twain dragged country music into the 1990s in style, releasing her debut self-titled album in 1993. Despite the album’s failure to launch her career, she achieved this just four years later with the release of the well-known and much-loved album Come On Over. It features Shania’s three most popular songs: "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," "Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)" and "That Don’t Impress Me Much."

Come On Over achieved unparalleled success, becoming the best-selling studio album by a solo female artist and the best-selling country album. Shania is still releasing music today with her most recent album Queen of Me, being released in 2023.

Shania Twain has played a vital role in the evolution of country music, bringing it into the new millennium with a pop undertone that has revitalized consumer interest in the genre.