We know that you're probably wondering why we'd create a list of songs featuring country artists, but hear us out. There's a lot of crossover between country and rock, and some really good songs have come out of blending the two.
Country rock is a genre on its own (think The Eagles), and some of the biggest artists in rock 'n' roll history were considered part of the similar-sounding southern rock genre, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers Band and The Marshall Tucker Band. These artists were at their peak during the 1960s and '70s, so by the time the '80s rolled around, rock was primarily defined by leather and hairspray, and it seemed to part ways from country a bit.
In the '90s, both country and rock went through their own revivals within the mainstream, but they were still pretty distinct from one another. Decades later, we're seeing a crossover between the genres thanks to artists such as Jelly Roll — whose song "Dead Man Walking" from his 2021 album Ballads of the Broken went to No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart — and Hardy, whose 2023 album The Mockingbird & The Crow is a half-country, half-rock album entirely, and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
Jelly Roll's brand new album Whitsitt Chapel came out on June 2 and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 — ahead of both Foo Fighters and Avenged Sevenfold, who also released albums on the same day. So essentially, the artists who are blending country and rock are contributing greatly to rock's survival within the mainstream — there's no argument there.
"I know a ton of rednecks from back home that listen to rock 'n' roll more than country. And for some reason, I think culturally, those two genres of music just culturally share a market... I would love to do a study or to dive in one day to really figure that out," Hardy told Loudwire Nights earlier this year of the similarities between rock and country.
"It could stem from southern rock, like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band, Allman Brothers — that kind of appeal to the working man, the good old boy, the redneck or whatever."
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But even before the prevalence of artists such as Jelly Roll and Hardy, rock and country artists have collaborated on songs. Zac Brown Band released "Heavy Is the Head" with Chris Cornell in 2015. A decade before that, Bon Jovi teamed up with Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles for the Have a Nice Day hit "Who Says You Can't Go Home." The rockers ended up doing a whole country-infused album the next time around with 2007's Lost Highway, which featured songs with LeAnn Rimes and Big & Rich.
More recently, Halestorm released a song with Ashley McBryde, and Dolly Parton sang a duet with Rob Halford on a track with Nikki Sixx and John 5. There are plenty live collabs out there, but we're sticking to studio recordings. Scroll below to check out 11 rock + country collaborations that go hard.
Zac Brown Band + Chris Cornell, 'Heavy Is the Head'
Zac Brown Band's fourth studio album Jekyll + Hyde featured a collaboration that many people probably didn't see coming — one with Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell on the song "Heavy Is the Head." What was even more surprising was that the song was released to rock radio instead of country, making it Zac Brown Band's first entry on the Mainstream Rock chart.
According to iHeart, Brown said in a 2015 interview, "It's an honor to have Chris on this tune, and he's one of my favorite rock screamers ever."
Tom Morello + Chris Stapleton, 'The War Inside'
Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello has worked with a variety of artists throughout his career, especially on his solo albums. For 2021's The Atlas Underground Fire, the guitar virtuoso tapped Chris Stapleton for a track called "The War Inside." As noted by American Songwriter, the duo first met at Chris Cornell's memorial service, and they later had a long conversation about fatherhood.
“That therapy session became the fodder for the song, of two dads talking about life, what it’s like to manage three generations, not drink yourself to death,” Morello said. “So that became the underlying premise of the song.”
Five Finger Death Punch, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brantley Gilbert + Brian May, 'Blue on Black'
Five Finger Death Punch originally did a cover of Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band's "Blue on Black" for their 2018 album And Justice for None. The following year, though, they recorded a new version of the track with Kenny Wayne Shepherd himself, as well as Brantley Gilbert and Queen guitarist Brian May. The video came out in April of 2019, and proceeds from the song were donated to the Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit first responders.
In August of 2022, Five Finger Death Punch announced a tour with Brantley Gilbert, bringing the country-rock blend to live audiences.
"There's actually gonna be a little more crossover [in the audience] than we originally thought... We've been talking about doing it for years," Gilbert said during an interview on the Bobby Bones Show about the tour.
Halestorm + Ashley McBryde, 'Terrible Things'
"Terrible Things" was a track included on Halestorm's 2022 album Back From the Dead, but in the spring of 2023, they decided to do a new version of it with singer Ashley McBryde. Some of the members of Halestorm live in Nashville, so they're surrounded by the spirit of country music as it is. But during an interview with American Songwriter, frontwoman Lzzy Hale explained how they duet came out.
"We had been talking about making the song a duet/guest appearance since we recorded it. And instead of staying in our hard rock lane, we, in true Halestorm style, wanted the take a risk and blur the lines. Because as a music fan, regardless of whether you love pop, classical, jazz or country…we are all rockers at heart. And Ashley… is a rocker," Hale asserted.
"So, we decided to reach out to see if it inspired her. She said 'fuck yes' straight away. And her voice and presence created this whole other level to the track. Also, our voices blend really well together, which in my opinion is very rare. Once more, when we were filming the music video, I saw how much she cared about the message of the song. Her eye contact blew me away. She knows who she is and what she brings to the table. It was beautiful."
Aerosmith + Carrie Underwood, 'Can't Stop Lovin' You'
Aerosmith have performed with Carrie Underwood live before, but did you know the country superstar was also featured on one of their studio tracks? The song "Can't Stop Lovin' You" was featured on their 12th (and most recent) studio album Music From Another Dimension!, which came out in 2012.
According to Rolling Stone, Steven Tyler asked Underwood to sing on the song at the last minute.
“I sang it a little country and western. When it was done, it was discussed that I might have sang it a little too country. And all along we thought, should we get someone in?” he recalled.
The country singer was in Los Angeles when she got the call from Tyler, but she was leaving the next morning. However, she agreed to hit the studio that night with him and Joe Perry.
Kid Rock + Sheryl Crow, 'Picture'
Both Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow have dabbled in multiple genres, including rock and country. So their first collaborative effort, the song "Picture" from Rock's 2001 album Cocky, is a unique addition to this list. The whole album was a sonic departure from Rock's previous rap-rock works, and "Picture" is a soft, acoustic song about longing for a relationship that ended. It had great success on Top 40, Country and Adult Contemporary charts.
Since the duet, Crow has called Rock out various times, especially on social media, over his outspoken and often crude remarks. One time, when the musician wrote a negative tweet about Taylor Swift, Crow quoted his tweet and wrote, "Spread love. Not hate. End of subject." In 2017, she also shared a video on Twitter singing the words, "If Kid Rock runs for Senate, I wouldn't be surprised / But not over my dead body, 'cause dude, I'm still alive!"
Bon Jovi + Jennifer Nettles, 'Who Says You Can't Go Home'
As we mentioned earlier, Bon Jovi has done a couple of songs with country artists over his career, and their 2007 album Lost Highway was overall pretty country-rock sounding. But the one that started it all was "Who Says You Can't Go Home," which the band released a version of on their own, as well as one with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, and the latter did well on country radio and even earned some awards.
CMT reported that the track was originally supposed to feature country artist Keith Urban, but Jon Bon Jovi felt that their vocal styles were too similar, so he asked for recommendations for a female vocalist to duet with instead.
"I knew that the song had great crossover appeal, and we were just trying to find the right voice to complement mine," Bon Jovi said. "The greatest compliment that I could give her is that she made the song her own... She comes from a rock background and fell into country. She could have been a pop star, absolutely, or will be one in the future, most likely, like the ways Shania Twain or Faith Hill or those girls crossed back over."
U2 + Johnny Cash, 'The Wanderer'
This is definitely the oldest entry on this list. In 1993, U2 released one of few songs without Bono on vocals, the Zooropa track "The Wanderer," which instead featured Johnny Cash behind the mic. Partisan Magazine notes that Bono had originally written the lyrics and sang the song himself, but he wanted Cash to sing it, and preferred the alternate version over his own.
"I was thrilled to death, because I love that song," Cash said [via U2's website].
Cash also later recorded a cover of U2's ballad "One" for his 2000 album American III: Solitary Man.
Chris Janson, Dolly Parton + Slash, '21 Forever'
In May of 2023, country singer Chris Janson released a collaboration with Dolly Parton called "21 Forever," which also features guitar contributions from none other than Slash. The song will appear on the artist's upcoming album The Outlaw Side of Me.
"I’m so thrilled to announce, that two Global Icons have joined me in song, for my absolute biggest collaboration to date,” Janson wrote in a press release [via Country Now]. “Dolly and Slash, it doesn’t get any BIGGER than that. I’m incredibly humbled and grateful for these two. Hope you all enjoy ‘21 Forever.’”
Brantley Gilbert + Jelly Roll, 'Son of the Dirty South'
Brantley Gilbert has already appeared on this list, so if you weren't paying attention to his efforts with Five Finger Death Punch, maybe you'll enjoy his song with Jelly Roll. The duo have done a few songs together now, but "Son of the Dirty South" really transcends multiple genres. It's a country song with rapping and hard rock moments, a sound that Gilbert is willing to defend to the end.
"At the end of the day, music is music, and if you don’t like it there’s a volume button or a power button. Skip it. Kick rocks," the musician told Taste of Country.
"I’ve always been a guy that listens to a little bit of everything. But I write about my life. I grew up in a small town, did shit jobs, worked farms — I’m a country dude. That’s really the only life I knew, being country and a little bit of the biker world," he continued. "You can call it Southern rock or rock or whatever. Man, I just think it’s music."
Dolly Parton + Rob Halford, 'Bygones'
When Dolly Parton was first nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in early 2022, she politely declined, asserting that she didn't feel she had earned the right to be given the title. However, she changed her mind shortly after, and assured that if she were inducted, she'd make a rock album. She was inducted later that year, and has since kept her promise.
Parton's forthcoming rock effort features an array of collaborations with rock artists, and her most recent offering from the collection is a track called "Bygones," which the legend performed a duet with Judas Priest's Rob Halford on. Nikki Sixx and John 5 of Motley Crue also play on the track, so the only thing that's really country about it is Parton's history. Nevertheless, it's another addition to the country rock crossover that truly seems to be on the rise at the moment.