The first decade of this millennium saw country music flourish, opening its doors to a more eclectic sound while keeping its tradition of thought-provoking lyrics. From seasoned legends to tween newcomers, the country music pool diversified hugely in the first decade of the 2000s -- not only in demographics but also in sound.

The age-old debate of "too country" versus "too pop" found even playing field, as both traditional and modern country music thrived in the 10 years from 2000 to 2009. Read on for a look back at the '00s biggest moments, songs and more.

Country Music Milestones of the 2000s

March 19, 2000: Garth Brooks finishes MLB Spring Training with the New York Mets. He did not earn a spot on the team.

March 21, 2000: Nickel Creek release their debut album. Produced by Alison Krauss, the project spawned three singles and earned the group their first Grammy Awards nomination, for Best Bluegrass Album.

July 8, 2000: Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" hits No. 1. It stayed there for six weeks.

Oct. 26, 2000: Garth Brooks announces his retirement, to focus on his family. In 2012, the "Friends in Low Places" singer hinted that he would resume touring in 2014, when his youngest daughter began college -- and, as fans know, he kept that promise.

Feb. 9, 2001: The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack goes gold. The album, which was produced by T Bone Burnett, includes songs by Alison KraussGillian WelchRalph Stanley, the Fairfield Four and others.

Feb. 17, 2001: Brad Paisley joins the Grand Ole Opry. The artist paid tribute to one of his own musical heroes, Buck Owens, on the night of his induction by wearing the same yellow jacket that Owens wore when he recorded his 1966 live album, Carnegie Hall Concert.

June 30, 2001: Chet Atkins dies. He was 77 years old.

July 31, 2001: Blake Shelton's debut album is released. The album includes his debut single, "Austin," which hit No. 1 in August.

Oct. 5, 2001: Reba premieres on the WB network. She show starred Reba McEntire, Christopher Rich, Joanna Garcia and Melissa Peterman and centered around McEntire's character, Reba Nell Hart, who lived across the street from her ex-husband and his new wife. The sitcom set a new all-time WB viewership record for any program in the Friday night slot and averaged more than 3.6 million viewers each week, before being cancelled at the end of Season 6, in 2007.

Feb. 13, 2002: Waylon Jennings dies, from complications from diabetes. He was 64 years old.

July 20, 2002: Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" hits No. 1. He wrote the song in late 2001, as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and also as a tribute to his father, Hubert Covel, who was killed in a car accident in March of that year.

Sept. 17, 2002: James McMurtry releases Saint Mary of the Woods. It was his sixth studio album.

Nov. 6, 2002: Alan Jackson wins five CMA Awards, tying the record for the most CMAs won in one night in the history of the show. He was nominated 10 times in total.

Jan. 26, 2003: Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks perform at the Super Bowl. The Chicks sang the National Anthem, while Twain was the halftime show headliner.

March 10, 2003: Natalie Maines makes her controversial comments about then-President George W. Bush during a Dixie Chicks concert in London, England. Her words brought the trio's skyrocketing career to a screeching halt.

June 5, 2003: Dwight Yoakam joins the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Yoakam first moved to Los Angeles, Calif., in the late 1970s, as much for the musical influences of artists such as Clarence White, the Byrds and Gram Parsons as for the TV and film opportunities.

June 7, 2003: Kenny Chesney gives his first stadium show. The gig drew 61,780 people to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

July 5, 2003: Johnny Cash gives his final live performance. He died, at the age of 71, that September.

Aug. 19, 2003: Dierks Bentley releases his major-label debut album. Bentley's debut single from his first Capitol Records disc, "What Was I Thinkin'," went to No. 1, and the project's two other singles, "My Last Name" and "How Am I Doin'," landed in the Top 20.

Aug. 23, 2003: Trace Adkins is inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. He'd been invited to become a member in June.

Sept. 15, 2003: Miranda Lambert signs her first record deal. The deal, with Epic Records, came only a few months after Lambert placed third in the first season of Nashville Star.

Sept. 27, 2003: Dierks Bentley earns his first No. 1 single. The song has been certified gold, for sales of 500,000 copies, and also helped Bentley win an ACM Awards trophy for Top New Artist of the Year.

July 17, 2004: Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" hits No. 1. The song won every major award after it was released, including ACM and CMA trophies for Single of the Year and Song of the Year, as well as two Grammy Awards.

Aug. 18, 2004: Big & Rich's debut album, Horse of a Different Color, goes platinum. The record contains Big & Rich's platinum-selling hit "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)."

Sept. 29, 2004: Randy Travis earns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At that time, Travis had more than 30 movie credits to his name, including appearing in such films as At RiskThe Rainmaker and Baby Geniuses.

Oct. 26, 2004: Sugarland release their debut album. All four singles from Twice the Speed of Life -- "Something More," "Just Might Make Me Believe" and "Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)," in addition to "Baby Girl" -- landed in the Top 20, with "Baby Girl" and "Something More" both peaking at No. 2.

July 26, 2005: Jason Aldean releases his debut album. The self-titled disc's lead single, "Hicktown," became a platinum-selling hit, while the project's second single, "Why," earned Aldean his very first first No. 1 song.

Sept. 25, 2005: Jake Owen signs with RCA Records. He dropped his debut albumStartin' With Me, on July 25, 2006.

Oct. 1, 2005: Dierks Bentley joins the Grand Ole Opry. Ironically, before his induction -- even before his start as a country artist -- Bentley was actually somewhat banned from the Opry's backstage area.

Jan. 21, 2006: Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel" hits No. 1. It was her first No. 1 song on the country charts; she released it in October of the previous year.

March 12, 2006: Miranda Lambert earns her first gold single. "Kerosene" is the title track of and third single from Lambert's debut album, released in 2005.

Jun 19, 2006: Taylor Swift releases her debut single, "Tim McGraw." She wrote the song with Liz Rose.

July 17, 2006: Kellie Pickler signs her first record deal, with BNA. The deal came only a few months after her elimination from American Idol.

July 18, 2006: Eric Church releases his debut album, Sinners Like Me. Church co-wrote all 12 songs on his debut record, which spawned three Top 20 hits.

Aug. 12, 2006: Rodney Atkins earns his first No. 1 song. "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)" was the title track of Atkins' sophomore album, which also landed at the top of the charts.

Oct. 17, 2006: Tim McGraw earns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The unveiling of McGraw's star was scheduled to coincide with the release of his third major motion picture, Flicka, which hit theaters three days later (Oct. 20, 2006).

Oct. 24, 2006: Taylor Swift's debut album is released. Swift wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs on her debut project.

Aug. 14, 2007: Luke Bryan's debut album is released. I'll Stay Me has been certified gold.

April 15, 2008: Lady Antebellum release their debut album. All three singles landed in the country charts Top 15, and the self-titled project won the trio a slew of honors.

May 10, 2008: Carrie Underwood joins the Grand Ole Opry. The Season 4 American Idol winner was invited to join the Opry by Randy Travis and inducted by Garth Brooks.

May 27, 2008: Darius Rucker releases his debut country single, after years of success with Hootie & the Blowfish. The song hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, making Rucker the first African-American solo artist to top that chart since Charley Pride did so in 1983 with "Night Games."

Aug. 10, 2009: Brooks & Dunn announced their breakup. The country duo released their final album, #1's ... And Then Some, on Sept. 8 of that year; they launched their Last Rodeo Tour and performed their final concert on Sept. 3, 2010.

The Best of Country Music in the 2000s

Top 10 Country Songs of the 2000s: A great country song can inspire you, make you laugh or make you cry; it may even enliven you to do crazy things like jump out of an airplane, dance like no one is watching ... or do a little damage to a cheater's beloved truck. The 2000s saw all of the above.
Top 10 Country Albums of the 2000s: In a 10-year period that saw tremendous change in the musical landscape (goodbye, cassettes and CDs ... hello, digital downloads!), the artists who not only survived, but thrived, in the 2000s did so mostly on their own terms, distinguishing themselves even further.
Top 10 Country Artists of the 2000s: From seasoned legends to tween newcomers, the country music pool diversified hugely in the first decade of the 2000s -- not only in demographics but also in sound.

Country Music in the 2000s: Hear a Playlist

With the dawn of a new millennium, country music threw open the barn doors and launched a new era of crossover hits and country stars from pop, bluegrass and rock 'n' roll roots. It was the age of the "Redneck Woman," and everybody figured out that it was "Five O'Clock Somewhere."

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