Barring a big upset, Kacey Musgraves‘ Golden Hour will be named album of the year by the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 7. The album first showed its potency at the CMA Awards on Nov. 14, when it topped Chris Stapleton‘s From A Room: Volume 2 as album of the year. At the Grammys on Feb. 10, it won both best country album (again beating Stapleton’s album) and the top all-genre award, album of the year. (Don’t feel too bad for Stapleton: He already has ample bragging rights, as you will see below.)
Golden Hour, Musgraves’ fourth album, is vying to become the sixth album to sweep this Triple Crown of country music, by winning album of the year at the CMAs and ACMs and best country album at the Grammys. Here are the first five albums to achieve this remarkable feat. The dates shown are the years the albums were released.
Dixie Chicks, Fly (1999): The trio’s second major-label album spawned six top 10 country hits on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart, including the chart-toppers “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Without You.” In addition, Fly, produced by Blake Chancey and Paul Worley, was nominated for the album of the year Grammy, but lost to Santana’s Supernatural.
Taylor Swift, Fearless (2008): Swift’s sophomore album scored five top 10 hits on Hot Country Songs, including the No. 1s “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me.” Swift co-produced the album, which also won the album of the year Grammy, with Nathan Chapman.
Miranda Lambert, Platinum (2014): Lambert’s fifth major-label album garnered a pair of top 10 hits on the Country Airplay chart, “Automatic” and “Somethin’ Bad,” a collab with Carrie Underwood. Produced by Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay and Glenn Worf.
Chris Stapleton, Traveller (2015): Stapleton’s first solo album was the first by a male artist to win the Triple Crown. It featured the top 10 Country Airplay hit “Nobody to Blame.” Traveller was nominated for the album of the year Grammy but lost to 1989 by former Triple Crown winner Swift. Stapleton co-produced the album with Dave Cobb.
Chris Stapleton, From A Room: Volume 1 (2017): Stapleton’s second solo album made him the first artist to take the Triple Crown twice. It included his first No. 1 Country Airplay hit, “Broken Halos.” Stapleton again co-produced the album with Cobb.
Note: The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack (2000) took album of the year at both the ACMs and CMAs but wasn’t entered for best country album at the Grammys. It competed instead (and won) for best compilation soundtrack album. It would almost certainly have won best country album if it had been slotted there. (The country album champ was Timeless—Hank Williams Tribute.) O Brother, produced by T Bone Burnett, also won the album of the year Grammy. The Soggy Bottom Boys’ “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” cracked the top 40 on Hot Country Songs.
In addition, the six albums below were crowned album of the year by both the CMAs and ACMs in the years before 1994, when the Grammys reinstated a best country album award. (They had one briefly in the mid-’60s.) We’ll never know how many of these albums would have won the Triple Crown if that had been a possibility in those years.
Merle Haggard, Okie from Muskogee (1969). Haggard recorded this, his first live album, at The Civic Center in Muskogee, Okla. The studio version of the title track topped the Hot Country Songs chart for four weeks. Produced by Fuzzy Owen.
Charlie Rich, Behind Closed Doors (1973). Rich’s 16th album — his fifth for Epic — spawned three top 10 Hot Country Songs hits, including a pair of No. 1s — the title track and “The Most Beautiful Girl.” The latter song also reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. This would almost certainly have won best country album if the Grammys had had such a category. How can I be so sure? It was the only country album nominated for album of the year that year. (It lost to Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.) Produced by Billy Sherrill.
Willie Nelson, Always on My Mind (1982). This was Nelson’s 27th studio album. The classic title track topped the Hot Country Songs chart for two weeks. “Let It Be Me” and “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” both reached No. 2 on that chart. Produced by Chips Moman.
Alabama, The Closer You Get… (1983). The group’s fourth major-label album spawned three consecutive No. 1s on Hot Country Songs — “Dixieland Delight,” the title track and “Lady Down on Love.” Alabama co-produced the album with Harold Shedd.
George Strait, Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984). Strait’s fourth studio album spawned three top five country hits on Hot Country Songs — the title track (which reached No. 1), “The Cowboy Rides Away” and “The Fireman.” (Strait’s subsequent albums Blue Clear Sky and Carrying Your Love with Me won both the CMA and ACM album of the year awards, but didn’t win the Grammy.) Strait co-produced Does Fort Worth… with Jimmy Bowen.
Garth Brooks, No Fences (1990). Brooks’ second album spawned four consecutive No. 1s on Hot Country Songs — “Friends in Low Places,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” and “The Thunder Rolls.” Produced by Allen Reynolds.
One final note: At awards shows, as in life, it ain’t over till it’s over. Golden Hour is competing for the ACM’s album of the year award with From A Room: Volume 2, Dan + Shay’s Dan + Shay, Eric Church’s Desperate Man and Dierks Bentley’s The Mountain.
The ACM Awards air live April 7 from Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.