July 4th is National Country Music Day and in honor of the occasion, Wonderwall.com has rounded up our favorite living country stars, like these legends — Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire — and others like Blake Shelton, George Strait and more. Now keep reading to see if your fave made the list…
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Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay are one of the biggest duos in country music today. Not only have the guys collaborated with artists including Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson and Rascal Flatts, among others, but the country-pop duo also have won Grammys every year for the last three years — first in 2019 for "Tequila," then in 2020 for the wedding reception staple "Speechless," and most recently in 2021 for the Justin collaboration "10,000 Hours." That's a pretty good record!
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Kane Brown is the perfect modern country star. The tattooed and pierced singer-songwriter came to fame after first winning fans on social media with his covers. He then wasted no time breaking records with his own brand of pop-infused country music: In 2017, he became the first artist to have simultaneous No. 1s on all five main Billboard country charts (with tracks "Heaven" and "What Ifs" from his self-titled debut album). Then in 2018, Kane — who won favorite male country artist three years in a row at the 2018, 2019 and 2020 American Music Awards — crossed over to mainstream success when his second album, "Experiment," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
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Garth Brooks. Ever heard of this guy? We won't bore you with all of the numbers, but one can't be overlooked: In 2016, he became the first artist to score seven diamond-certified albums (meaning they've gone platinum 10 times over). Garth was named artist of the decade for the 1990s at the American Music Awards and he's still one of the biggest music stars in the world, regardless of genre.
Kelsea Ballerini's climb in the country world has been methodical. In 2014, she released "Love Me Like You Mean It," which hit No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart and made everyone take notice. She's released several more No. 1 songs since then. In 2016, she became the first solo female country music artist to top both the Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts with her song "Peter Pan." And she kept busy in 2020 releasing not one but two albums — "Kelsea" and "Ballerini."
Darius Rucker is not only a fantastic artist but also a history maker. The rocker-turned-country singer's first single in 2008, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," made him the first Black artist to reach No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart since 1983. Darius, who first came to fame as the frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish before going country, has since released numerous No. 1 singles and albums and in 2009 became the first Black American to win the best new artist award from the Country Music Association. His 2020 single "Beers and Sunshine" served as a great summer anthem too.
Maren Morris is a force to be reckoned with in country music. She burst onto the scene in 2016 with her hit "My Church," which went platinum in the United States. She won her first Grammy in 2018 and then crossed over into pop music with "The Middle," her hit single with Zedd and Grey, which was even featured in a Target commercial. Her second album, "Girl," was released in 2019 to critical and commercial acclaim and yielded massive hits like the title track and "The Bones." In 2016, Maren became a member of the all-women country group The Highwomen alongside Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires.
He is nicknamed "The King," after all! George Strait, who's one of the bestselling artists of all time, has amassed more than 60 No. 1 songs and sold more than 100 million albums over the course of his illustrious career. Though he retired from touring in 2014, he still releases music and had a 2016 residency in Las Vegas. It's pretty easy to see why George is, was and always will be "The King."
Zac Brown Band is without a doubt one of the most talented acts in music. They can follow up one of their No. 1 songs ("Chicken Fried," for instance) with a country classic by Johnny Cash and then move on to a cover of a Rage Against the Machine or Metallica tune. Having collaborated with Dave Grohl, Jimmy Buffett, Jason Mraz, Kid Rock and more, they may actually be the coolest and most versatile band in country music.
Little Big Town's popularity has steadily risen since the group formed in 1998. They had a monster 2014 with the release of "Painkiller" and accompanying hit "Day Drinking." They've won a number of CMA and ACM awards, not to mention several Grammys and an American Music Award. Their eighth album, "The Breaker" — featuring the award-winning hit "Better Man" — arrived in early 2017, and their ninth, "Nightfall," arrived in 2020.
Tim McGraw isn't just a force in country music. He's also a force on the big screen, with nearly a dozen movie credits (and counting!) to his name. Ever the trendsetter, Tim — who's married to fellow country superstar Faith Hill — was also one of the first country artists to collaborate with a rapper when he recorded with Nelly in 2004. Up until then, those two genres just didn't mesh. But Tim is always willing to shake things up, and that's why we love him. He also happens to be incredibly easy on the eyes — if you're into that good-looking Southern gentleman thing.
Willie Nelson is an octogenarian and he's still selling out shows. That alone should tell you all you need to know about this American icon. He's in the Country Music Hall of Fame and pretty much every one of today's popular artists (not just country stars) want to collaborate with him. He's won too many awards to even try to count, and he did it all with the same guitar he's been playing since 1969: an instrument he calls Trigger in honor of Roy Rogers' horse. Willie is one of a kind!
Kacey Musgraves is one of the hottest country stars of the last decade. She's won six Grammys — including album of the year for "Golden Hour" in 2019 (plus the other three Grammys she was up for that year) — a couple CMA Awards (including album of the year in 2018) and in 2014, she took home the ACM Award for album of the year… then did it again in 2019! She's also a respected songwriter who crafts tracks not only for herself but for other artists including Miranda Lambert ("Mama's Broken Heart" was a Kacey co-write).
Alan Jackson has nothing left to prove. The guy has done it all. He's had more than 30 No. 1 songs over the course of his three-decade career. Awards? Check. Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Check. Membership in the Grand Ole Opry? Check. Like we said, this guy has nothing left to prove.
Sitting at the top of the charts is becoming the status quo for Luke Bryan. In 2014, he logged six No. 1 songs from his "Crash My Party" album. Think about it: One album, six songs that hit the top. And he hasn't stopped since then. Luke will be around in country music for a long, long time. And he's on TV too: Luke is one of three music star judges on the rebooted "American Idol."
Shania Twain is the bestselling female artist in the history of country music. The history! And she did it with just five studio albums. In a day and age where album sales aren't as big as they used to be, Shania may remain on that perch for a long, long time. She might even be there — forgive the pun — "Forever and Always."
Despite being a controversial figure in country music, there's no denying Morgan Wallen is making his mark in the genre. The crooner's 2021 album "Dangerous" became the first country album to spend its first 10 weeks straight at No. 1, according to Billboard. He accomplished that feat despite being "canceled" in early 2021 following the release of a video in which he used a racial slur. The Academy of Country Music and the Grammys declared him ineligible to receive awards in 2021 and many country radio stations refused to play his music from March to May. Following the video's release, Morgan apologized in a statement to TMZ and promised to do better.
Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn had some success as solo acts, but together, they were magic. And lucky for us, they reunited in 2015 after a five-year hiatus. During the '90s and a good portion of the '00s, it was basically a given that Brooks & Dunn would win every award for a musical duo. And in 2019, country music was blessed with a Brooks and Dunn "Reboot"! Yep, the dynamic duo released a new album with re-recordings of previous singles that included guest vocals from today's hottest country artists like Luke Combs and Kane Brown.
Who would ever have thought that the cute blonde girl from "American Idol" would have such an impact on country music? Carrie Underwood has already been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and has won basically every music award several times over. Rolling Stone called her the female vocalist of her generation in any genre. High praise, yes, but the magazine might not be wrong. In 2020, Carrie she released her seventh studio album, "My Gift," then followed that up with her first gospel album, "My Savior," in 2021.
If you've never heard the name Randy Travis, you've probably lived under a rock for the past 30 years. The singer broke onto the scene during the mid-'80s and has released countless No. 1 hits since then. Unfortunately, problems in his personal life have overshadowed his career in recent years. He got divorced after nearly two decades of marriage in 2010 and was arrested twice in 2012 — once after he was found (minus his clothes) on the side of the road. Then he had a stroke in 2013 that reportedly left him unable to speak for a time. Years of rehab paid off: He sang "Amazing Grace" during his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Dolly Parton is more than just a legendary singer and songwriter. She's a brand. Dolly has the second most Grammy nominations of any female artist in history (after only Beyonce), and she's a respected actress too. She's an icon, plain and simple.
Brad Paisley once called Alabama the "coolest band around." Cool? Sure. Successful? Understatement. The band has countless No. 1 hits, multiple multiplatinum albums and a boatload of awards. They're also one of the biggest selling acts of all time, regardless of musical genre. Not too shabby.
Toby Keith toiled in obscurity in the country world during the early '90s without a record deal. After he finally got a contract, he went on to sing the most played country song of the decade, "Should've Been a Cowboy" and earn 20 No. 1 hits over the years. So how do you like him now? A LOT!
Reba McEntire is so beloved (not just in the country world) that nowadays, she goes by only one name, à la Cher, Madonna, Beyonce and Adele. Reba is the only solo female artist in country music history to have No. 1 hits in four straight decades. Talk about endurance! Aside from selling millions of albums, Reba is also a businesswoman and an actress. Her eponymous TV show aired for six years and was syndicated in more than 30 countries. She's more than a singer — she's an entertainer.
Kris Kristofferson is one of country's crown jewels — a living link to late greats Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. He was a member of The Highwaymen, a country supergroup that included Waylon, Johnny and Willie Nelson, and, yeah, that's not bad if you're into that whole playing-with-legends thing. He's also won a Golden Globe for acting and wrote "Me and Bobby McGee," which has since been covered by countless acts — most notably Janis Joplin, who took it to No. 1.
Tanya Tucker had her first hit, "Delta Dawn," when she was just 13 years old. (What were you doing at 13?!) Her success continued through the late '80s and '90s before her career eventually slowed. But she was so big at her peak that she actually performed during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXVII with a couple other folks on this list. She's since enjoyed a hard-won career comeback and in 2020 won her first two Grammys.
You couldn't escape Travis Tritt during the '90s as the long-haired country rocker put together hit album after hit album. In fact, seven of his albums are certified platinum or higher. A lot of today's biggest singers — regardless of genre — can't come close to achieving something like that.
Dwight Yoakam has been popular since the '80s. Hit singles, platinum albums and Grammys are old hat (cowboy hat, if you will) for this guy, who's also acted in some pretty great movies like "Sling Blade" and "Wedding Crashers." Rumor has it that the late Johnny Cash once called Dwight his favorite singer. That's good enough for us.
Thomas Rhett was born to be a country singer — his dad is singer Rhett Akins, after all! Thomas, though, didn't take the shortcut to stardom. Instead, he worked his way up. His professional career went into another orbit in 2017 when he won ACM Awards for song of the year and male vocalist of the year. That same year, his album "Life Changes" debuted at No. 1 on the country charts. His "Die a Happy Man" album also hit No. 1. His latest album, "Country Again: Side A" was released in 2021. Life may change for Thomas, but success sure doesn't!
Trisha Yearwood sings some of the most incredible ballads you'll ever hear. She's snagged three Grammys and a few CMA and ACM awards and sold millions of albums worldwide. In 2013, she even picked up an Emmy for her cooking show "Trisha's Southern Kitchen." She has a slew of No. 1 hits and even more Top 10 hits. She's also married to some guy named Garth Brooks. Can you say power couple?!
Good luck counting every ACM Award, CMA Award and Grammy that Brad Paisley has claimed over the years! In addition to being a consistent prize winner, he's also a member of the Grand Ole Opry and is married to a bona fide Hollywood star, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley.
The first decade of the 2000s were good to Rascal Flatts. Really good, actually. The band caught lightning in a bottle and, man, did they harness it. They've won enough awards in their career — including multiple CMA, ACM, CMT and People's Choice awards — to fill a small house. In early 2020, they announced plans to split — on good terms — after two decades together… but we've still got the music!
Clint Black (pictured with wife Lisa Hartman Black) is one of the few country singers — especially today — who actually writes his own material. His songs were a mainstay on the country charts during the '90s — plus, his name is Clint Black. It just sounds like a name destined for country music superstardom!
Loretta Lynn is one of the most groundbreaking figures in country music. She's won basically every single musical award there is — heck, she was even given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for what President Barack Obama said was "courageously breaking barriers in an industry long dominated by men." Every female in the genre owes Loretta a huge debt of gratitude.
Jason Aldean doesn't just fill stadiums when he plays live — he fills football stadiums. As in, more than 70,000 people per show. In 2014, he was named the biggest selling digital country artist in history with more than 21.5 million certifications. We know that digital sales are a fairly new thing in the grand timeline of music, but still, the biggest… in history. His ninth album, "9," came out in 2019 and included his latest smash hit, "Got What I Got."
Blake Shelton holds the record for most consecutive No. 1 singles (17) in the Country Airplay chart's history. Pretty darn impressive, Shelton. Through his work on "The Voice," he's also become one of country music's most mainstream faces. On the show, the guy is comedy gold. In a recording studio, he's not just musical gold but musical platinum!
Martina McBride can flat out sing. Since breaking onto the scene during the early '90s, the talented brunette beauty has consistently charted. She has multiple CMA Awards under her belt, won the ACM Award for top female vocalist three times and has been nominated for 14 Grammys. And she doesn't seem to age!
Country music has become the soundtrack of the summer, and a lot of that is thanks to Kenny Chesney. His brand of musical escapism has proved to be hugely successful with country fans, who come out in droves not only to see him live but also to buy his music. Anytime Kenny releases a song, you can pretty much earmark it for the Top 10. He's that automatic.
Sibling duo Brothers Osborne combine the lead vocals of T.J. Osborne (left) and guitar playing of John Osborne for a killer combo that has been gracing country radio stations now for more than half a decade. 2015's "Stay a Little Longer" was a Top 5 hit; they most recently released "Skeletons," their third studio album, in 2020. T.J. also made history in 2021 when he came out in an interview with Time magazine, becoming the first openly gay man signed to a major music label in the country genre.
Lady A — made up of Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott — just feels like a group that we'll always be hearing about. Their 2009 single "Need You Now" spent five weeks at No. 1 and was a massive crossover hit on mainstream radio, endearing them to fans for more than a decade now.
Florida Georgia Line's rise in country has been meteoric. Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are one of the biggest acts going today. FGL's 2012 song "Cruise" was an insanely catchy hit that became the best selling digital country song of all time thanks to its presence on country and pop radio after rapper Nelly joined them for a remix (though Sam Hunt did later break their record).
Vince Gill is in the Country Music Hall of Fame. He should be too. After recording more than 20 albums, garnering a whopping 21 Grammys — plus a handful of CMA Awards — it's easy to see why the singer-songwriter and producer is still one of the most respected names in music.
Miranda Lambert's star has shined even brighter with each passing year. Now it's at the oh-my-God-she's-on-fire level — the singer can seemingly do no wrong. Miranda is the first woman to win the CMA Award for album of the year twice. She also snagged nine consecutive ACM Awards for female vocalist of the year — beating Reba McEntire's record in 2018. In other words, get used to hearing her name for the next several decades — because she is a powerhouse who can go from making us all grab a tissue with "Over You" to making firearms and pyro sound pragmatic. Miranda, dear, keep doing what you're doing. We're not even close to being "over you."
No. 21: Eric Church
Eric Church didn't hit it big immediately — he sort of meandered out of the gate with his first two albums. Then came "Chief," and the singer — who almost never steps out without his sunglasses — finally had his first No. 1 album. He's since racked up several hit songs and the awards to go along with them. And he just might be the most rock 'n' roll of anyone in country music today!
The Chicks — FKA the Dixie Chicks — were on top of the world during the late '90s and early '00s. ("Wide Open Spaces" had a constant presence in our car's six-disc changer.) But then came lead singer Natalie Maines' infamous comments critical of then-President George W. Bush during a concert. The statement ruffled a lot of feathers in the country community, but rather than shying away from the controversy, the Chicks doubled down by releasing the song "Not Ready to Make Nice," which addressed the scandal. They ended up taking home two Grammys for the track to go along with the others they'd previously earned. "Gaslighter" — their eighth studio album and first in 14 years — was released in 2020.
For those who are counting, Chris Stapleton has five Grammy Awards, seven ACM Awards and 10 CMA Awards. That should get your attention. He's far from done too, so the "Tennessee Whiskey" singer should increase those totals every few years. Not only is Chris a singer, but he's also an incredibly accomplished songwriter — he's even crossed genres and co-written with Justin Timberlake.
Dierks Bentley is a mainstay on country radio. His 2014 album "Riser" showed his range and proved he can be just as sentimental (the emotional "I Hold On") as silly (think "Drunk on a Plane"). In 2016, Dierks released his eighth studio album, "Black," and made a splash with his song "Different for Girls," which featured singer Elle King. His ninth studio album, "The Mountain," came out in 2018.
Let's get it out of the way quickly: Yes, Sam Hunt is swoon-worthy. He's also an amazing talent and a huge star. So far in his relatively short career, he's snagged Grammy, CMA and ACM award nominations. His hit song "Body Like a Back Road" was a constant on the radio in 2017 — it was the No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for 34 consecutive weeks, which set a record. The track had such crossover appeal that it hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 too, a rare feat for a country artist. We're patiently awaiting new music from the star.
When it comes to Faith Hill, there's no need to go through the numbers: They're huge. She's sold millions of records, won multiple Grammys and is married to one of the hottest men in country music, Tim McGraw. Faith was one of the first country artists to have crossover success thanks to "This Kiss" and "Breathe," but she's still a "Mississippi Girl" despite all her success.
Keith Urban plays a mean guitar — and he can certainly sing a smash hit too. Everything this guy touches turns to gold… or platinum. Billboard named his song "Somebody Like You" the biggest hit of the '00s. But that's not all! Aside from his booming musical career, he also has a Hollywood wife in Nicole Kidman and had a huge TV presence as a judge on "American Idol."
Though Ingrid Andress only released her debut single, "More Hearts Than Mine," in 2019, she's already a staple on country radio. Her debut album, "Lady Like," was released in 2020 and earned her a best new artist Grammy nomination.
Dustin Lynch has had his fair share of No. 1 hits. He broke onto the scene in 2012 with "Cowboys and Angels." Then, from 2014 to 2017, he had a run of hit songs, notching five No. 1 singles in a row. His most recent release, "Tullahoma," came out in 2020 and yielded the Lauren Alaina hit duet "Thinking 'Bout You." Not bad for a "Small Town Boy."
Brett Eldredge has released four albums since 2013 and two of them went to No. 1 including 2017's "Brett Eldredge." In 2020, the velvet-voiced crooner released his latest catchy hit, "Gabrielle," as the lead single from the album "Sunday Drive," which came out the same year.
Ronnie Milsap has done it all. The singer is one of the most influential performers of the 1970s and 1980s, releasing major hit singles like "It Was Almost Like a Song," "Smoky Mountain Rain," "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me," "I Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World," "Any Day Now" and "Stranger in My House." Ronnie has also won six Grammys and had 40 No. 1 country hits on the charts!