The best country albums of 2020 come from artists who set out to tell a great story. Beautiful lyrics, dynamic themes and a sensitive, melodic weave mark most of the albums that top our list for the year. And then there's one that's just too much fun to ignore.

Most of all, our team of music critics coveted a dynamic experience in rating and ranking the 10 best country albums of 2020. When they're played front to back, a vocalist needs to show a variety of influences, some range and an ability to cover different subject matter convincingly.

Ashley McBryde does that with Never Will, and she checks in at No. 6 on this list. Chris Stapleton does it perhaps better than anyone. His Starting Over album comes in at No. 2.

Elsewhere, Kip Moore continues to define and refine his gritty, country-rock soul search across Wild World; Tenille Townes released the debut album of 2020 with The Lemonade Stand, a tight mix of emotions that somehow leaves you feeling inspired through the sadness; and Hardy proves an artist reliant on shirtsleeve English can make tremendous country art.

We cropped this list of the best country albums to just 10, but honorable mentions go to 2020 efforts from Brandy Clark (Your Life Is a Record), Brett Eldredge (Sunday Drive), Lindsay Ell (Heart Theory) and Morgan Myles (Therapy). As was the case in 2019, it's a female-heavy list, and once again, it's a list filled with artists who don't flinch when presented with opportunities to take chance (see No. 4).

Who had the best country album of 2020? One project was so well conceived and executed upon that we couldn't ignore it as the shining star of this difficult year. This is a group of country music pros who teamed with a demanding producer to create a dreamscape of a project we couldn't quit.

The Best Country Albums of 2020:

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