When you write about music, you hear a lot of new stuff throughout the course of a year. As they, say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs. However, kissing all of those frogs makes you appreciate the really good albums you hear throughout a year. This year, there were some good ones. In fact there were so many good albums that it was hard to constrain the list to 10 albums. And so, without further ado, here is a list of 12 of the best albums of the year – in alphabetical order by artist.
Tyler Childers Country Squire – Tyler Childers has long been a country star in the making. After this album, it’s fair to say that he is a country star. Period. His songwriting, storytelling, and melodies are all impeccable. The album only contains nine songs, but all of those songs will get you two-stepping.
Charley Crockett The Valley – Crockett brings an old-time country feel to this album that was recorded before he underwent open-heart surgery. His originals are great, and he throws in a cover of “Excuse Me” that no doubt would make Buck Owens proud.
The Drunken Hearts Wheels of the City – This album opens with the lyrics “Love is just a wrecking ball, baby” and reels you in from there. This alt-country gem is the kind of album that you tell your friends they need to hear.
Jade Jackson Wilderness – On this album, Jade Jackson shows her profundity as a lyricist and her acumen for telling a good story. This is one of those albums that is so good from top to bottom that you can’t help but keep it in your heavy rotation.
Jason James Seems like Tears Ago – When you hear the first few moments of the title track on the album, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was recorded by a contemporary of George Jones or Buck Owens. Yes, really. It’s that good. James’s sound belongs to a bygone era, but you can enjoy it any time you want.
Gethen Jenkins Western Gold – With themes like drinking and heartache, this album is immediately familliar. Beyond the familiar themes, every song is infused with the honky-tonk spirit of Waylon Jennings. This album should come with a label that lets you know you’ll find it even more enjoyable if you have a dance partner.
Kendell Marvel Hard Time with the Truth – Loyal reader, if any bitter soul tells you that country music is a thing of the past, this album can provide all the rebuttal you need. This album is not only a far cry from bro country (thank goodness for that), it is the real deal.
Chris Shiflett Hard Lessons – Shiflett has long been known for playing guitar in Foo Fighters, so you know he can rock. On this album, he wraps that rock sound around some good honky-tonk tunes. No matter how big a fan of Foo Fighters you are, this album makes you root for him to do more country albums.
The Shootouts Quick Draw – This band brings western swing to life unlike any other band since BR5-49. If you like two-stepping, this is definitely the album for you.
Alice Wallace Into the Blue – Sometimes you hear an album and the only way you can think to describe it is stunning. Alice Wallace shows herself a spectacular songwriter as well as a singer who can deliver lyrics in a powerful way with minimal effort.
Jontavious Willis Spectacular Class – Sometimes you hear a song for the first time, and you wonder who has you so entranced. That is a distinct possibility when you hear Willis for the first time. This blues album is good enough to bring to mind artists like Joe Louis Walker.
Yola Walk through Fire – The combination of country and soul on this album produced by Dan Auerbach is gorgeous and makes you have an instant musical crush on Yola and her powerful vocals.