Who were the best country singers of the 90s and what songs did everybody know the lyrics to? We want to shine some light on the talented country music artists who became household names in the particular genre of music. It may not be the most mainstream genre, but there was and still is a lot of love for it. The 90s was the best decade for the genre, so let’s see who has made our list.
What Is Country Music?
Country music is a genre of popular music that originated in the Southern United States in the early 20th century. It takes its roots from the folk music of the Appalachian region, and is characterized by simple, traditional instrumentation and lyrics that often tell stories of life in the rural South. Country music is often associated with the rural lifestyle, and its songs often reflect the values and hardships of rural life.
Common themes in country music include love, heartbreak, and patriotism. Country music has a wide range of styles, from the traditional honky-tonk to the more modern pop-influenced sound. Country music has also been a significant influence on other genres of music, such as rock and roll and blues.
Today, we have decided to split our top country singers into male and female country singers of the 90s, so let’s get started as there are a few on our list today. Ladies first!
Female Country Singers Of The 90s
Audrey Faith McGraw, known professionally as Faith Hill, is an American singer. She is one of the most successful country music artists of all time, having sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.
Hill’s first two albums, Take Me as I Am (1993) and It Matters to Me (1995), were major successes and placed a combined three number ones on Billboard’s country charts. She then achieved mainstream and crossover success with her next two albums, Faith (1998) and Breathe (1999).
Faith spawned her first international success in early 1998, “This Kiss”, while Breathe became one of the best-selling country albums of all time, led by the huge crossover success of the songs “Breathe” and “The Way You Love Me”. It had massive sales worldwide and earned Hill three Grammy Awards.
Shania Twain is a Canadian singer-songwriter and actress. She has sold over 100 million records, making her the best-selling female artist in country music history and one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Her success garnered her several titles including the “Queen of Country Pop”. Billboard named her as the leader of the ’90s country-pop crossover stars.
Raised in Timmins, Ontario, Twain pursued singing and songwriting from a young age before signing with Mercury Nashville Records in the early 1990s. Her self-titled debut studio album was a commercial failure upon release in 1993. After collaborating with producer and later husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Twain rose to fame with her second studio album, The Woman in Me (1995), which brought her widespread success and recognition as one of the top country singers of the 90s.
It sold over 20 million copies worldwide, spawned eight singles, including “Any Man of Mine” and earned her a Grammy Award. Her third studio album, Come On Over (1997), became the best-selling studio album by a female act in any genre and the best-selling country album of all time, selling over 40 million copies worldwide. Come On Over produced twelve singles, including “You’re Still the One”, “From This Moment On”, “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and earned Twain four Grammy Awards.
Patty Loveless is an American country music singer. She began performing in her teenage years before signing her first recording contract with MCA Records’ Nashville division in 1985. While her first few releases were unsuccessful, she broke through by the decade’s end with a cover of George Jones’s “If My Heart Had Windows”. Loveless issued five albums on MCA before moving to Epic Records in 1993, where she released nine more albums.
Regarded as one of the top country singers of the 90s, four of her albums—Honky Tonk Angel, Only What I Feel, When Fallen Angels Fly, and The Trouble with the Truth—are certified platinum in the United States. Loveless has charted 44 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including five which reached number one: “Timber, I’m Falling in Love”, “Chains”, “Blame It on Your Heart”, “You Can Feel Bad”, and “Lonely Too Long”.
Loveless’s music is defined by a mix of sounds, including neotraditional country, country pop, and bluegrass music, with her singing voice garnering favourable comparisons to Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris. Recurring songwriters whose work she has recorded include Matraca Berg, Kostas, Jim Lauderdale, and Steve Earle. She has collaborated with Vince Gill, George Jones, and Dwight Yoakam, among others.
Nearly all of her albums were produced by her husband, Emory Gordy Jr. Although she largely retired from performing in 2009, Loveless has sporadically contributed to other artists’ works in subsequent years. She has won five awards from the Country Music Association, two from the Academy of Country Music, and two Grammy Awards.
The Dixie Chicks
The Chicks (previously known as Dixie Chicks) is an American country music band from Dallas, Texas. Since 1995, the band has consisted of Natalie Maines (lead vocals, guitar) and sisters Martie Maguire (vocals, fiddle, mandolin, guitar) and Emily Strayer (vocals, guitar, banjo, Dobro).
Maguire and Strayer, both née Erwin, founded the band in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, with bassist Laura Lynch and vocalist and guitarist Robin Lynn Macy. Hailed as the top country singers of the 90s, they performed bluegrass and country music, busking and touring the bluegrass festival circuits and small venues for six years without attracting a major label. In 1992, Macy left and Lynch became the lead vocalist.
Upon signing with Monument Records Nashville in 1997 and replacing Lynch with Maines, the Chicks achieved success with their albums Wide Open Spaces (1998) and Fly (1999). After Monument closed its Nashville branch, the Chicks moved to Columbia Records for Home (2002). These albums achieved multi-platinum sales in the United States, Canada, and Australia, along with several charting singles on the American Billboard Hot Country Songs charts.
“There’s Your Trouble”, “Wide Open Spaces”, “You Were Mine”, “Cowboy Take Me Away”, “Without You”, and a cover of Bruce Robison’s “Travelin’ Soldier” reached number one. The Chicks also reached number one on the Adult Contemporary chart with their 2002 cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”.
Tanya Denise Tucker is an American country music singer and songwriter who had her first hit, “Delta Dawn”, in 1972 at the age of 13. Over the succeeding decades, Tucker became one of the few child performers to mature into adulthood without losing her audience, and during the course of her career, she notched a streak of top-10 and top-40 hits.
One of the most iconic country singers of the 90s, she has had several successful albums, several Country Music Association award nominations, and hit songs such as 1973’s “What’s Your Mama’s Name?” and “Blood Red and Goin’ Down”, 1975’s “Lizzie and the Rainman”, 1988’s “Strong Enough to Bend”, and 1992’s “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane”. Tucker’s 2019 album While I’m Livin’ won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album, and “Bring My Flowers Now” from that same album won Tucker a shared songwriting Grammy for Best Country Song. Tucker’s documentary The Return of Tanya Tucker Featuring Brandi Carlile was released to theatres Fall 2022.
Country Male Singers Of The 90s
Now for the men’s turn! These fellas really shone in the 90s and this is why they are included on our list today.
Tim McGraw is an American country singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor. He has released 16 studio albums (11 for Curb Records, four for Big Machine Records, and one for Arista Nashville). 10 of those albums have reached number one on the Top Country Albums charts, with his 1994 breakthrough album Not a Moment Too Soon being the top country album of 1994.
In total, McGraw’s albums have produced 65 singles, 25 of which have reached number one on the Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts and make him one of the most successful country singers of the 90s. Three of these singles – “It’s Your Love”, “Just to See You Smile”, and “Live Like You Were Dying” – were respectively the top country songs of 1997, 1998, and 2004 according to Billboard Year-End.
He has also won three Grammy Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association (CMA) awards, 10 American Music Awards, and three People’s Choice Awards.
Billy Ray Cyrus – Iconic Country Singers of the 90s
Billy Ray Cyrus is an American country singer and actor. He has released 16 studio albums and 53 singles since 1992 and is known for his hit single “Achy Breaky Heart”, which topped the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart and became the first single ever to achieve triple platinum status in Australia. It was also the best-selling single in the same country in 1992. Due to the song’s music video, the line dance rose in popularity.
A multi-platinum-selling artist, Cyrus has scored a total of eight top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. His most successful album to date is his debut Some Gave All, which has been certified 9× multi-platinum in the United States and is the longest time spent by a debut artist at number one on the Billboard 200 (17 consecutive weeks) and most consecutive chart-topping weeks in the SoundScan era.
It ranked 43 weeks in the top 10, a total topped by only one country album in history, Ropin’ the Wind by Garth Brooks. Some Gave All was also the first debut album to enter at number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. The album has also sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling debut album of all time for a solo male artist. Some Gave All was also the best-selling album of 1992 in the US with 4,832,000 copies.
George Harvey Strait is an American country music singer, songwriter, actor, and music producer. Strait is considered one of the most influential and popular recording artists of all time. In the 1980s, he was credited for igniting the neotraditional country movement, famed for his authentic cowboy image and roots-oriented sound at a time when the Nashville music industry was dominated by country pop crossover acts. The influential and record-breaking legacy of his pioneering neotraditionalist country style has garnered him as the “King of Country Music.”
Strait’s success began when his first single “Unwound” was a hit in 1981, signalling the mainstream ascendance of the neotraditional movement and rebuke of pop country. During the 1980s, seven of his albums reached number one on the country charts.
In the 2000s, Strait was named Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music, elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and won his first Grammy award for the album Troubadour. Strait was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 2013, and ACM Entertainer of the Year in 1990 and 2014. He has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins in both categories than any other artist.
Garth Brooks is an American country music singer and songwriter. His integration of pop and rock elements into the country genre has earned him popularity, particularly in the United States with success on the country music single and album charts, multi-platinum recordings, and record-breaking live performances, while also crossing over into the mainstream pop arena.
Brooks is the only artist in music history to have released nine albums that were certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (surpassing the Beatles’ former record of six); those albums are Garth Brooks (diamond), No Fences (17× platinum), Ropin’ the Wind (14× platinum), The Chase (diamond), In Pieces (diamond), The Hits (diamond), Sevens (diamond), Double Live (21× platinum), and The Ultimate Hits (diamond).
Since 1989, Brooks has released 23 records in all, which include 13 studio albums, two live albums, three compilation albums, three Christmas albums, and four box sets, along with 77 singles. He has won several awards in his career, including two Grammy Awards, 17 American Music Awards (including “Artist of the ’90s”) and the RIAA Award for best-selling solo albums artist of the century in the U.S.
Closing Thoughts on Country Singers Of The 90s
All of these country singers of the 90s have such raw talent and we honestly have only scratched the surface when it comes to country singers. So please keep exploring and stay curious about this wonderful genre of music. Country music is a great way to get in touch with your roots, while also tapping into a wide range of emotions.
It is a genre that is often filled with stories of love, heartbreak, hope, and resilience. The melodies are often catchy and the lyrics are often meaningful. Listening to country music can help you to relax, reflect, and connect with your feelings.