There are a handful of country music albums that turn twenty this year that really made an impact on the genre. Many of the big acts that released albums in 2004 still shine in country music today.

Tim McGraw made a huge impact that year with Live Like You Were Dying. He released his latest album, Standing Room Only, in August. As he told us, he’s been working on the project for a while now. He said, “This album I’ve been working on, gosh, since COVID was going on. I had been collecting songs for a while, found some great songs that had a lot of meanings, a lot of depth to them.”

Tim said of the new work, “I think as an artist, if you’re not improving, if you’re not thinking you’re getting better every time you make a record, then maybe it’s time to quit. “In fact, I mean, I say this every time, but I think as an artist, if you’re not improving, if you’re not thinking you’re getting better every time you make a record, then maybe it’s time to quit. I think this record has some of the most emotional songs, some of the most thought-provoking songs, and life-affirming songs that I’ve ever recorded. I’m excited for everyone to hear ’em because I just really think this is one of the best projects we’ve ever made.”

Next month, on March 29, 2024, Kenny Chesney will release his new album, Born. Twenty years ago, he released When The Sun Goes Down. He told us recently about naming the album. “BORN is absolutely the title track. It’s got a lot of heart, a lot of soul – and it speaks the truth about living life and what we’re all doing here. Banjo out front is a great big pocket that rocks back and forth. It feels great. But more importantly, it’s a lyric that throws out all the options, never tells you what to do, and throws out the one existential truth no matter what you choose: ‘One thing’s for certain, we’ve all been living since the day we were born.'”

He concluded, “Normally, we wait until it’s all figured out, the T’s are crossed, the I’s are dotted, but everything about this record’s been different – from how much time we’ve spent, the different ways we recorded and wrote and found songs. So, why not let the fans know as we’re finishing up?”

We take a look at five albums that came out in 2004 and shaped country music for that year and beyond.

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  • "Live Like You Were Dying" - Tim McGraw

    This was Tim’s eighth studio album. The title track was the first single from the album, and the song peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and stayed there for seven weeks. The song won McGraw won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

    The music video for the title track prominently featured McGraw’s father, former baseball player Tug McGraw, who had died of brain cancer. Billboard named the song the number-one song of 2004.

  • "When The Sun Goes Down" - Kenny Chesney

    This album came out at the peak of Chesney’s success (although it’s been a long “peak” — he still sells out stadiums of shows twenty years later). The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling over 550,000 copies in its first week. The title song was a duet with Uncle Kracker, who is touring with Kenny again this year.

    The song reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, holding the number-one position for five weeks. It was Uncle Kracker’s first appearance on the country music charts.

  • "Twice The Speed of Life" - Sugarland

    This album quickly catapulted Sugarland to headlining status and was their debut project. The group, then a trio, received a nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 2006. They were also nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 2005 American Music Awards. In 2006, they were nominated for New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards. “Baby Girl” was the highest charting single from the album and reached number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts.

    Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush, and Kristen Hall made up the band when they formed in 2002. Hall later left the group, making them a duo in 2006.

  • "Barn & Grill" - Blake Shelton

    Blake was a baby act in 2004, just a few years since his debut album release. Barn & Grill was his third studio album release. An actual neon sign was made and photographed for the album’s cover. In 2014, Shelton said that he had been given the sign and had it displayed in his house in Oklahoma.

    The album produced the sing “The Baby,” which became Shelton’s second number-one hit after his first chart topper, “Austin.”

  • "Feels Like Today" - Rascal Flatts

    This album came out while Rascal Flatts was on top in country music. Their third album, Feels Like Today, has sold over five million copies since its release. It has been certified 5× Multi-Platinum by the RIAA. Many artists have covered the song “Bless This Broken Road” from the album. Rascal Flatts’ version was the highest-charting, becoming a number 1 hit on the Billboard country music charts.

    In 2005, the song won a GRAMMY for the songwriters for Best Country Song. The song was co-written by Marcus Hummon, Bobby Boyd, and Jeff Hanna in 1994.

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