The best country albums of 2000 -- Topped by Lee Ann Womack's ''I Hope You Dance,'' Alanna Nash's pick of the hottest country albums for 2000

By Alanna Nash
December 22, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

The best country albums of 2000

1. I Hope You Dance
Lee Ann Womack
Womack worked a miracle on this collection of honest, passionate songs, which avoided mainstream’s manufactured sentiment yet still sold at radio. The title track, an unabashed declaration of selfless love, was a multiple winner at this year’s Country Music Association Awards, suggesting Womack’s the best hope to spearhead an industry return to authenticity.

2. Crossing Muddy Waters
John Hiatt
Hiatt’s first-ever acoustic album uses the dissolution of a couple’s once-blazing love as a metaphor for the crumbling values and anguished pride of the old South. From stark portraits of loss and death, rebel flags, and drunken car wrecks, he creates a deeply affecting meditation on earthly suffering and spiritual redemption.

3. The Hardest Part
Allison Moorer
Whether you interpret this as a reflection on the vagaries of contemporary love, or as an autobiographical look at her parents’ murder/suicide, Moorer’s second album is a tour de force of longing and obsession. Smoky, sensuous, smart.