Don't jump to conclusions — the hands-down best country album of the 2000s isn't obvious. Actually, at the time of its release, the artist behind our No. 1 album of the 21st century was blasted for championing traditional country music amidst a storm of rock guitars and auto-tune. We're a complicated bunch, aren't we?

Great country music is timeless, and we'll prove it with a list of albums pulled from all of the most popular hyphens. Find alt-country on this list, as well as pop-country, country-rock, bluegrass, Americana, country-blues, traditional country, bro-country and every crack and crevice in between.

If you lined these 100 albums up chronologically, you'd see a symbolic pendulum swinging back and forth across the years. The polish of the early 2000s gave way to a rural celebration as Shania Twain and Faith Hill stepped back and Gretchen Wilson began to dominate — with help from more rootsy artists like early-career Miranda Lambert, of course, and the relevant, but increasingly dynamic Alan Jackson, Rodney Atkins and eventually Jamey Johnson.

2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood had established herself by the time Taylor Swift began her meteoric rise. By 2010, pop-country totally dominated with albums from the Band Perry and Lady Antebellum stretching the genre far to the left. Later Keith Urban and Sam Hunt would push even harder — streaming services brought more fans than ever to the genre. The bros of country music embraced it the most, working to find a best-of-both-worlds solution. Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean thrived here, but adapted to changing landscapes again after two 20-year-olds released "A Girl in a Country Song" and Chris Stapleton took the CMA Awards stage alongside Justin Timberlake.

No artist was too old and none were too young to be considered for this list. Major label distribution mattered as much as the album art, although major label records tend to produce more radio hits, which was considered. Sales, fan opinion, staff opinion and critic reviews were weighed equally. Any album that presented the raw materials for how we think of that artist today was given extra consideration. It's why Miranda Lambert's Revolution is ranked higher that Four the Record, even though the latter enjoyed more commercial success and is as strong artistically.

So, let the conversation begin. What is the best country album of the 2000s?

Here Are the 100 Best Country Albums of the 2000s:

100 Best Country Albums Contributors: Billy Dukes, Sterling Whitaker, Angela Stefano, Amanda Hensel, Ania Hammar, Chuck Armstrong, Amy McCarthy, Carena Liptak, Cillea Houghton, Annie Reuter, Mike Thiel, as well as special contributions from Michael Ray, Jimmie Allen, Gretchen Wilson, Devin Dawson, Jordan Davis, Riley Green, LeAnn Rimes, Danielle Bradbery, Granger Smith, Justin Moore and Ashley McBryde.

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