Whether you're a lifelong fan or a country music newbie, there's always something to learn and someone new to discover.

From Americana to zydeco, country music has influenced -- and been influenced by -- a wide variety of genres. "Modern country music," since the age of sound recordings, is represented by thousands of worthwhile artists and their best albums, which makes whittling a list down to a mere 10 something of a herculean task. But you've got to start somewhere, and we believe that each of these distinctive collections will teach you something invaluable about country music.

With that in mind, school is in session: Flip through the gallery above to see our picks for 10 albums that will kick-start your country music education. Better take notes!

This list was originally compiled by Stephen L. Betts, and revised by Christina Vinson.