Country music is one of music's most popular genres, and one of the reasons for its success is the talent of country singers. They're not only gifted singers, but also serve as storytellers, and oftentimes their stories are as interesting as the ones they're writing songs about! AXS has ranked the 13 best country singers whom every fan should listen to.
Brad Paisley has kept the sound of pure country alive while more and more artists move toward a pop-country sound. He's also the one country artist who's injected a sense of humor into most of his music, with songs like "Celebrity." Paisley is an excellent example of what it means to be a country singer - not only sounding great but having a lot of fun doing it.
Chris Stapleton has a true country music story, working his way up from years of songwriting for other artists to becoming an award-winning singer in his own right. He's now one of the standard-bearers for modern country music as both a singer and a songwriter, with brilliantly written songs like "Fire Away."
Martina McBride's voice continues to be one of the most powerful and distinctive in country music. She hasn't seemed to have lost a note despite decades of performing country hits. She also gave country music its ultimate female empowerment anthem with "This One's For The Girls" which still resonates today, nine years after it first came out.
Blake Shelton is everything music fans want their country singers to be. He's funny, fun-loving and a good singer - much better than he's been given credit for, as his almost larger than life personality sometimes overshadows how talented he is. Songs like "Austin" and "God Gave Me You" prove he's one of the greats.
Randy Travis is one of the underappreciated greats in country music. He might not have fit into the modern scene, because he didn't have that big personality or that big hook to his music; he just kept his head down and turned out fantastic straightforward country songs like "Forever and Ever, Amen." He's struggled with health issues the last few years, but in 2017 told CNN he was doing "good."
Faith Hill was one of the crop of female country artists who found wider success turning out big, high-energy songs with more pop hooks. Hits like "The Way You Love Me" were definitely not traditional country. But no matter what she's singing, Hill has not only a powerful voice but an amazingly clear one. Her sound is distinctive and it's also captivating.
Garth Brooks will always be one of the best-known country singers, and with good reason. Many of the best country songs ever can be attributed to him like "Friends In Low Places." Brooks has turned out some fantastic songs, and while he hasn't quite burned up the charts as much as he used to, he's racked up more than enough hits for two or three careers.
It seems like every country music awards show has Miranda Lambert on its short list. Lambert took the torch from the legendary female country artists and has blazed a path for modern female singers in the genre, both in terms of sound and style. Without Miranda Lambert and songs like "Over You" the genre would look a lot different, and she continues to get better every year.
Luke Bryan should go down in country music history as one of the all-time greats. That's because not only is he a great country singer, but he's a great singer overall. He has a voice that makes any listener melt, and he sings so clearly and with such emotion that it's hard not to be captivated. Songs like "Spring Breakdown" show he's amazingly talented.
Waylon Jennings came up with the quintessential country song when he recorded the theme to "The Dukes of Hazzard." But beyond that, he was a classic storyteller who could spin a song about any kind of love, heartbreak and everything in between. He may not have been much of a showman, but he always knew how to deliver a good song that wasn't soon forgotten.
Dolly Parton's voice is instantly recognizable even by people who don't listen to country music. That's how great of a singer she is; her sound has transcended the genre. Dolly is a living legend not only for songs like "Jolene" but for how she continues to represent the genre and inspire others. Even at 72, she still has an amazing voice and still represents the best of country.
The music world will be hard-pressed to find a better female country singer than Reba McEntire. In fact, most country singers of either genre couldn't hold a candle to her performances, in terms of vocal ability and how much she can bring to each song. McEntire can wring every last drop of emotion out of a song like "Fancy" and do it with a wink and a smile. She's pretty much flawless.
The country genre will never see another singer like Johnny Cash. The man not only had a voice that was perfectly suited for country, but his reputation as the "Man In Black" wound up being just as big as any of his songs. Songs like "Ring of Fire" made country music history while Cash exemplified everything that a country singer was supposed to be.
For more on any of the singers featured on this list, including tickets to their upcoming concert, click their names to visit their artist pages at AXS.