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by Linda Ryan

December 14, 2011

The Top 25 Country Albums of 2011

by Linda Ryan  |  December 14, 2011

What a year this has been! There have been so many global watershed moments that helped define the year, from the serious (including the natural disaster in Japan and the lousy economy) to the frivolous (the end of All My Children, Charlie Sheen's meltdown). There were good moments as well. Thank you Navy Seals for a job well done! Rock on, Gabrielle Giffords! And 2011 definitely proved fairy-tale weddings still have the (somewhat repulsive) power to wrap your "should know better-ness" in a taffeta Vera Wang and make you go all silly in the head. Oddly enough, this is true whether you are a real-life prince and princess (William and Kate), a Hollywood tabloid wannabe princess (that's you, K-Dash), or a soon-to-be princess of the night (hello, Twilight).

This was an especially great year for music as well. Country freshmen such as The Band Perry (oh come on -- if Eric Church and Luke Bryan can be nominated for Best New Artist three albums into their career, we can call these guys "freshmen"), The Civil Wars, The Pistol Annies, The Dirt Drifters and Middle Brother all brought a left-field freshness to the Nashville sound. And longtime loves -- from Sunny Sweeney to The Jayhawks to Alison Krauss -- paid us a much-needed return. And hello? Was this a great year for Blake Shelton, or what?

Personally, 2011 was marked by great tragedy for me, as I lost my baby girl. I'm quite happy to kick this year out the door. With that, Kevin Fowler's "Daddies and Daughters" is the song that moved me the most this year, making my heart leap with joy and ache with the sadness of what could have been. And that's really the power of music: at its best, it's the friend who walks beside you, in both tragedy and hope. Here are some of the friends who walked with me this year.

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