2012 Saving Country Music Album of the Year Nominees

December 3, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  116 Comments

2012 was a bumper crop year for great albums in the greater country music world, and that necessitates a bolstered lineup of candidates for Saving Country Music’s coveted Album of the Year.

7 total made the list, with others admittedly getting completely screwed by their absence. Rachel Brooke’s A Killer’s Dream isn’t officially out until tomorrow, but trust me, it is epic, and still couldn’t make the list. It’s ridiculous that both Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Grifter’s Hymnal and Justin Townes Earle’s Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now aren’t on here, but they will both show up very prominently in the Song of the Year list.

Lee Bains & The Glory Fires There’s A Bomb In Gillead and the Calamity Cubes’ Old World’s Ocean are other excellent offerings that on a lesser year for music may have won the award outright. But this year, competition is stiff, and you really had to shoot the moon to make the list. Another that probably should be considered, but I must recuse myself from considering because I was part of the production team is James Hand’s Mighty Lonesome Man. (Look for these and other album on SCM’s upcoming “Essential Albums” list.)

I already have a bead of sweat forming across my brow brought on by the impossible decision of who I’m supposed to pick off this list. As always, audience participation is very encouraged, including write-in candidates. Vote down in the comments section and I do take feedback into consideration for the final decision, especially if people tell me why it is the best candidate, instead of simply following a Facebook link and typing a name.

Turnpike TroubadoursGoodbye Normal Street

To be the Saving Country Music Album of the Year, you can’t just be good, or even great. You have to bring some intangibles to the table. You have to make an important impact on the greater music world. The way Goodbye Normal Street accomplishes this requirement is by its ability to branch out and create new fans for independent music. Find the most diehard pop country fan and play “Good Lord Lorrie” for them and watch them wither and want their own copy. It’s substance with accessibility, and that is a powerful, powerful weapon for real music.

“Call it a maturing or a coming into their own, but this album marks the most solid offering from this Oklahoma-based band yet, and a defining of their sound, their place in the music world, and as a band that music world should pay more serious attention to. Sharp wit, self-reflection, specific references to characters and situations in an almost Townes or Robert Earl Keen-like storytelling approach imbibes this music with a freshness and engaging nature, revitalizing the old-fashioned love and heartbreak songs in the modern, independent context.” (read full review)

Kellie Pickler100 Proof

The founding, underlying principle of Saving Country Music is the fight for creative freedom for artists. In 2012, no other album and no other artist defines that fight more than Kellie Pickler. Sacrificing her major label deal and a big payday to make the album she wanted, Kellie put out a strikingly traditional and engaging album that Chet Flippo, the same writer that covered the Outlaw country music scene back in the 70’s for Rolling Stone, called “the best pure country album in recent years.” But if 100 Proof wins, it won’t just be because of what the album symbolizes or its critical acclaim. It will be because it’s just so damn fun to listen to.

“If you are truly a fan of country music and have an open heart, you will like 100 Proof. In the Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn mold, 100 Proof revives the lost appreciation for the strong, yet sweet country woman, while staying away from the surface symbolism that erodes the substance from many of the other artists that attempt this difficult feat.” (read full review)

Olds SleeperNew Year’s Poem

I swear, Olds Sleeper is the Tom Waits, Beck, and Townes Van Zandt of our generation all wrapped into one…while at the same time being some random dude with a straight job churning out songs in a spare bedroom, playing all the parts and recording the music himself. Someone putting out so much music in a year, and doing so in such a lo-fi context isn’t supposed to be this good. Olds Sleeper will churn out 3 or 4 albums, and 40-something songs a year under various pseudonyms. The songwriting is par-excellence, tearing at your heart, reducing grown ass men to tears at times. And at other times New Years Poem is a straight up headbanger. Be prepared for how dirty and under-produced this project is, but that’s all part of the fun. New Year’s Poem is breathtaking, Old’s magum opus up to this point. Oh, and it’s FREE.

“Old’s New Year’s Poem opens up a new chapter in his music, and name’s his most complete album yet. There’s a great balance between his balls-out fuzz jams and heart-straining ballads, and a good flow from stem to stern.” (read full review)

Bloody Jug BandCoffin Up Blood

If I was picking the winner exclusively on creativity and originality, this album would win it running away. Coffin Up Blood gives you hope for music. It proves that there’s still new ways of making old music, and still uncharted territory yet to discover. At the same time it is one of the most purely entertaining albums of 2012. On the outside it may look like some horror gimmick, but this was an album that lots of time and love went into and was done right from start to finish.

“Forget the heavily death-infused concept, what The Bloody Jug Band has accomplished is releasing one of the most creatively-spellbinding albums in recent memory. Its funny. Its dark. It never takes itself too seriously. It is as engaging as any album I have listened to in years. You can’t stop listening to it, and when you’re not listening to it, you crave it. Think it’s all been done in roots music? Listen to Coffin Up Blood and prove your ass wrong.” (read full review) 

Corb Lund- Cabin Fever

Like the cowboy poets of old, Corb Lund is a master craftsman with the pen, knowing how to balance humor and heartbreak, irony and perspective to perfection. This album is angry, bordering on insane at times, but never loses its poetic, top-shelf aptitude with words. From a songwriting perspective, it’s 2012’s best while boasting some real fun music ranging from rock & roll to Western Swing.

“The United States is not the only land with lonesome cowboys and wide open spaces. Corb Lund grew up on his family’s farm and ranch in Alberta (the Canadian province, not your smelly aunt with 6 cats), and his rural cowboy life and thirst for country comes through in his music. There’s no corny hoser-ism here, Corb Lund is rich with ribald and wit, with forays into rock & roll and wild diversions of the mind from a man struggling to relate to modern society.” (read full review)

Lindi OrtegaCigarettes & Truckstops

That’s right ladies & gentlemen, two Canadians are candidates for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year. Lindi lands on the list for putting out the most tasteful, most stylistically-flawless album over the past 12 months, and one that has something for everyone. Lindi Ortega will be a big force in American country and roots music in the coming years. Mark my words.

“‘Cigarettes & Truckstops’ is a succulent endeavor into the very fabric of country music, dusting off country’s roots, adding a little rockabilly, and re-emerging with them in a sexy and relevant candor, talking care free about drugs and danger, and not doing anything to be cool but being herself. Lindi Ortega doesn’t need to paint flames on her chest, she’s hot enough. I certainly can see how folks from a very wide swath of the roots world could get into her music. From the underground to Americana, if you don’t like her music, you’re not listening to it right.” (read full review)

Eric Strickland – Honky Tonk Till I Die

If you’ve made to the bottom of the list here and were wondering where in the hell the music from just a simple Southern country boy belting out bad ass country songs with no strings attached was, well meet Eric Strickland. Straight laced as it may be, this album is still something special simply from the strength of the songs and the performances.

“This is what Saving Country Music is all about. This is the reason I put my pants on every morning. Everything else is just fluff, filibustering, treading water until I come across that one artist, that one album that embodies everything true country fans are looking for but have yet to find. That is what you have with Eric Strickland and his band The B Sides, and their album ‘Honky Tonk Till I Die.'” (read full review)

116 Comments to “2012 Saving Country Music Album of the Year Nominees”

  • Nice list, but where is Huber’s Tongues of Fire? That is my album of the year. Solid though and through. Another notable should be Hooten Hollars Greetings from Welp City. Both albums blew my mind this year. Just my two cents.

    • I agree. I haven’t heard most of these albums in their entirety but it is very hard to believe that everything listed above was better than Tongues of Fire.

      • “I haven’t heard most of these albums in their entirety

        Well I have, AND “Tongues of Fire”. It’s a solid offering and I’m a big supporter of Huber, but honestly I don’t think it’s even his best album. I think “Bury Me Where I Fall” is better, and in this big of a year for music, you have to put out a career-best caliber album to even be considered.

        • I agree that Bury Me Where I Fall was better. Huber wasn’t just treading water on this one though… I still listen to TOF daily. I wish i could hear the rest though.

          • It is always nasty work choosing who should be at the top. You feel like you’re criticizing things that in truth are really good, or excellent which seems inherently wrong. I definitely thought about “Tongues of Fire”, but in such a strong year, I had to come up with reasons NOT to nominate albums, and my specific train of thought was that if it was not his best album, how could nominate this one that was put out in a stronger year?

            Tough decisions.

        • Also, to your argument, …And Justice For All wasn’t Metallica’s best album but it is still a classic.

          • I thought the songs on “And Justice For All” we’re too short. ;)

        • Glad to see Bloody Jug Band though. I drive my wife nuts listening to The Pain! :)

          • I love the Bloody Jug Band too. Such a great variety of instruments that you don’t run across often. Unique songs. Rocking sound! Fantastic guitar work.

        • I like IBWIP’s top 7

  • where is bob wayne till the wheels come off.

  • No VandenAvond? Not even a mention? Questionable judgement.

    • Bob Wayne, Joe Huber, and Tom VandenAvond will all be on the “Essentials List” that will be published shortly. I still sifting through some 2012 albums and I want to make sure I put an ear on everything I can before I post it. I also can promise that VandenAvond with appear on the Song of the Year list. It was a strong year for music.

  • Nice to see Corb on there. The guy is a great songwriter and this was a hell of a record. I wouldn’t call him underground, or cutting edge, or anything like that. But he puts out good old fashioned country country music and this was my favorite record.

  • For me Grifters Hymnal by RYH is hands down album of the year but i’m also a huge fan of goodbye normal street and corb lunds cabin fever is a great effort as well. all and all solid list though.

  • I would have to add these major contenders:

    Chris Knight
    Jason Eady – Can’t believe this one is not on there
    Sarah Gayle Meech – another great
    Marty Stuart
    Shovels and Rope
    Dwight Yoakum
    Josh Abbott
    Bob Wayne
    Joseph Huber
    Blackberry Smoke – although it is more southern rock
    Shivering Denizons
    Aaron Watson
    Cletus Got Shot
    Hooten Hollers
    Shooter Jennings
    Trampled By Turtles
    Ronnie Dunn

    • Ditto on the Chris knight record it really is a stellar work should have thought of it myself.another Dark Horse would be Larry Joe Taylors Sailing on Sunday record lots of Dave Perez from the Tejas barothers on accordian and harmony vocals Augie Myers on Keyboards loyd maines at the production helm if you like a little tropical tex mex flair with your country storytelling this is fun record to check out.

  • What about Dwight Yoakam?

    My personal favorite? Tom V at the 331 club, but it wasn’t exactly released on a record label.

    • As I said in a bar a few weeks ago to someone, Corb Lund put out the best Dwight Yoakam album this year.

      • Dang! Burn… Good list and article though

        • I love Yoakam and “3 Pears” is decent, but in my opinion it doesn’t belong on this list.

          • In my humble opinion, Dwight has paid just about every due there is to pay, and the fact that he is still putting out fantastic albums is impressive and rare. Great list either way

      • That’s a big statement, my friend.

        *shuffles off to download the Corb Lund record*

  • American Aquarium- Burn. Flicker. Die is one of the most fun alternative country albums I have heard since Whiskeytown.

    Tift Merritt- Traveling Alone. I caught her live and she blew me away and I picked up the new album between sets. Absolutely mind blowing voice, the song writing is some of the best ever, she crafts her songs perfectly and you have no problem relating at all. I havent seen many people talking about this album and it is a shame as everyone is missing out on one of the best albums of the past 20 years.

    Ryan Bingham- Tomorrowland. I know you are over Bingham, but I really enjoy the new album. Perfect mix of the rocking songs and the slower meaningful songs. His voice still holds up, the song writing has gotten better and it is a real “for the people” album. Tracks like “Flowerbomb”, “Rising of the Ghetto”, and “Heart of Rhythm” are his best work ever.

    Justin Townes Earle- In my eyes this is his masterpiece. I have had the same favorite album for over 12 years and never thought I would hear something top it, but “Nothings Gonna” topped it. He did everything right on this album, not a single throw away track, he cut them live in the studio and you can feel the looseness of the band, the lyrics are poignant as ever with great introspection of himself and of others.

    I agree with you though Trig, it has been a hell of a year for music and I dont envy you for trying to make a list and pick what does and doesnt make it. I didnt have the highest of hopes for music this year and have been proven wrong week after week. So many great songs and albums came out and whoever ends up taking home the top billing will know they beat some serious competition.

    • See this is the reason I’m supposed to publish my “Essential Albums” list first. Because if I don’t all people want to talk about is the albums that are NOT on the list.

      After Ryan Bingham won that Oscar, I thought he’d made it. “Tomorrowland” has to be the most least talked-about album in 2012 from a major artist.

      If I had expanded the list to 10, Justin Townes Earle would have made it for sure. I just think the production approach held it back some. It’s an album of excellent songs, but not an excellent album in my opinion, if that makes sense.

      • Part of what I think hurt Bingham is that he is on his own label now. He left LostHighway and instead of signing to another label he created his own and released it on that. I think if he signed to another label he would have benefited from their marketing and gotten more word out there.

        I get what you are saying about the JTE album being excellent songs but not an excellent album. I counter with, have you heard the album in the track order it was released in as I know you got a promo that had a slightly different order to it. That could make the world of difference.

        I havent gotten around to listening to everything on your list, but so far I would say that Lindi and The Troubadours should be near the top. Turnpike put out a great fun album and Lindi really shocked me at how great her songs were and her amazing voice.

        • I agree it is a better album with the tracks in the right order. Let that be a lesson to bands and artists when they send their stuff out to review. Unmarked MP3, out-of-order tracks, on-demand tracks (meaning you can’t download and listen at leisure) are the bane of the music reviewer. There’s just too much music out there these days to make it hard to do a review.

          Nonetheless, even with the rearranged track order, it’s the whole “Memphis” concept and some of the songs that were meant to convey that, that didn’t do it for me.

  • Turnpike Troubadours hands down.

  • My vote is for the Troubadours – love that album.

  • I just can’t think of any album that I keep coming back and back to listen to more than Cigarettes & Truckstops. I’m hoping that her short cameo’s on Nashville get some attention for her.

  • Troubadours hands down. They are going to break out one of these days.

    Also, is Rancho Alto 2012 or 11? If 12, it’s #1.

    • 2011, but it’s a good album and made my 2011 Essential List. Apparently they all hate me though because I bag on Shooter Jennings and he “produced” their upcoming album. ;)

  • It’s really hard for me to choose between Turnpike Troubadours and Corb Lund. Everything you said about the accessibility of Goodbye Normal Street is true, but Cabin Fever has got my wife listening to Corb instead of Carrie Underwood, and she no longer calls him “That weird Canadian guy you listen to”

    • Having said that, Little Victories would be my choice or album of the year.

    • Not really relevant to which record is better, but Lund and the Turnpike Troubadors are touring together right now. Just caught them in Cadillac, SK. Great show, by both.

  • Put me down for Turnpike Troubadours as well. There is nothing out this year I have listened to more.I just can’t seem to get sick of it,and that is very unusual for me!

  • Not to mention at one point the Troubadours were #7 on the iTunes country charts.

  • Troubadours for sure.
    JP Harris and Tough Choices I liked also.

  • Loved the Kellie Pickler album! The fact that only two songs were released from it, neither of which ranked among the best songs in the album, is pretty maddening. Kellie Pickler should sue her label for failing to promote her best album thus far and for handling the single releases so poorly. I’m also disappointed about how the album failed to even get nominated for the CMA’s, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given that Kellie was out of her label by the time the CMA nominations took place.

    I hope that “Mother’s Day” is on your Song of the Year list! If that song were released, it would instantly become the best song on country radio right now. It’s remarkable how Kellie’s two most soulful and heartfelt songs are about missing her mother while growing up. “I Wonder” was a gorgeous portrayal of the anger and hurt she felt toward her mother, and “Mother’s Day” closes the chapter by showing a more mature, mellow sadness regarding her mother.

  • Troubadours

  • Solid list. It’s good to be on the right side of music.

  • If You Want Blood…You Got IT!!!

    I Personally like the List just the way it is…But, maybe i’m Bias.

    Thanks for the Recognition & JUG-ly Support Trigger Man. Very Humbling and Badass…

  • LOVE Kellie Pickler and 100 Proof. Best Country album so far. Only one missing is Marty Stuart-Nashville Vol. 1 Tear the Woodpile Down. Now I’m off to listen to some of the albums I haven’t heard.

  • Even though I’ve seen the Turnpike Troubadours 10 times in several states, I’d have to go with Corb Lund. Cabin Fever is the best album by far of 2012.

    Can they both be given the award since they’re touring Canada together now?

  • I have to go with Corb Lund and Chris Knight.

    I am also a fan of Shooter Jennings and Bob Wayne, but those two albums were not their best work.

    • Two things kept Shooter’s album from being a lot better than it should have been:

      1) Southern Family Anthem
      2) Tom Morello’s guitar solo.

      I want to produce Bob Wayne’s next album…

      • I agree on the Morello solo. I get that he’s s’posed to be technically great, and he’s a seemingly smart, nice guy…but I don’t see what the fuss is about. His work with Shooter seemed outta place. I like him alright, but he does make some questionable decisions. 

  • It’s a toss-up between Corb and the Troubadours for me. Marty Stuart and Ray Wylie Hubbard’s albums were awesome too, and I’m just starting to listen to Lindi Ortega. Like it so far. Erick Strickland is great too; sounds like Waylon and Jason Boland. The only album I was a little put off by is the Bloody Jug Band mostly for the vocal delivery of the guy, but I at least give them credit for being creative and going outside of the norm. Good list overall; hope to see Corb or TT get the nod.

    • LOL…Not everyone likes Charcoal in their Cereal, and I respect that. Either Way, thanks for checking out the BJB…;)

  • Troubadours followed closely by Corb Lund

  • My picks…

    Album of the Year: The Grifter’s Hymnal, Ray Wylie Hubbard
    Song of the Year: 32.50, Jonny Burke
    Artist of the Year: Ray Wylie Hubbard

    • I saw Jonny Burke open for James McMurtry several times and I liked his songs and live act, but I was a little disappointed with the album when it came out. He’s ok as a solo act, but sounds a lot better with a band behind him… Nice guy, though. I talked to him after a couple of the shows and he was very personable.

      • I saw him & James in Chattanooga. Jonny didn’t have a band with it was just him, an electric guitar & a base drum. He was awesome. I agree he’s better live but 32.50 is a great song.

  • Turnpike Troubadours are saving it everyday. Great album, great shows, great guys. That’s my vote.

  • Turnpike Troubadours…

  • I’m pleased “Coffin Up Blood” made the list.

    It is my favorite album this past year, and I purchased, downloaded, was gifted, or traded over 100 albums this year in probably a dozen different genres. It was that good. Throw in the fact that they had the cajones to do a country cover of “If You Want Blood” by AC/DC and went all-out with it, and didn’t pussyfoot around with the fact that they were doing the unthinkable with a beloved classic rock song, and PULLED IT OFF… well, it’s got my vote (if I had one). Some would simply dismiss it as a “Rob Zombie gone country” type of trip, but there’s so much more to it than that. Some bands’ songs make you visualize a story, BJB’s songs make you feel like you were IN the story. There’s that much depth there. Show me another band that can make you see through the eyes of a vulture, a werewolf, the grim reaper, and even The Devil himself.

    I can’t wait to see what they do for an encore.

  • Tom VandenAvond – Wreck of A Fine Man
    Joseph Huber – Tongues of Fire
    Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Grifter’s Hymnal
    Otis Gibbs – Harder Than Hammered Hell
    Bob Dylan – Tempest
    Left Lane Cruiser – Painkillers
    Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
    Truckstop Darlin’ – Hope And The Heart It Breaks
    Kris Kristofferson – Feeling Mortal

    • Painkillers crossed my mind to include here. It will certainly be on the “Essential List” with most of the others you mention. The two things that kept it off were 1) It’s mostly blues 2) It’s all covers. But as far as a fun album to listen to, it’s right there at the top for 2012, and that’s coming from someone who traditionally hates cover albums.

  • Album of the year will be Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale.And Chris Knight should be a nominee. Good list anyway.
    Greetings from Germany

  • Turnpike Troubadours have my vote. The whole album is extremely well written, but “Good Lord, Lorrie” is amazingly potent.

  • The top three in my No Depression list this year were Ray Wylie, Corb and JTE. Had Turnpike Troubadours at #5, right behind Chuck Prophet’s Temple Beautiful. So, of the albums listed, Corb Lund gets my vote.

    My reaction to Corb Lund’s album was similar to my reaction to Ray Wylie’s A. Enlightenment B. Endarkment album: “What have I been missing?! Time to do some catch up!”

  • Great list! We Canadians appriciate the love.

  • Kyle, could you elaborate as to what capacity you were involved in the production of James Hand’s album?

    • It was in no great capacity. I think I’m listed on the liner notes as a “production assistant.” I mostly was just an ear to listen to takes and rough mixes and give my opinion on what direction the music was going. I also helped supervise some of the studio sessions. It was an unbelievable honor to work with James Hand and all the legendary musicians they brought in for the project, including Cindy Cashdollar and Earl Pool Ball. As I told them before I committed to helping, if I did, I would have to recuse myself from given any opinions about the album once it’s released. I have still helped James promote the album in certain ways and may still do so in the future. But a gun up/gun down review, or a glowing accolade like Album of the Year doesn’t seem appropriate since I was on the team that helped put it out.

  • Trigg,

    Did you review Town Mountain’s 2012 album “Leave The Bottle?” Their first release “Heroes and Heretics” was great, but i didn’t listen to their second album or the most recent one… Just wondering if you had heard it…

    • Love their covers of Snowin’ On Raton and I’m On Fire.

    • I did not review it yet. I’ve heard some of the music, have not listened to it cover to cover. We’ll make sure to put a star by it on the list and see if we can’t do that by the end of 2012. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • I gotta vote for Turnpike Troubadours with Corb as runner up.

  • Houston Marchman’s Econoliner is a amazing album lryically from a criminally underated songwriter. RYH grifters hymnal is tops for me followed closely by Goodbye Normal Street ,cabin fever and Chris Knight’s latest with Econoliner by Houston Marchman and Sailing on Sunday by Larry Joe Taylor close behind. What a great year for music 2012 was!

  • Without a doubt Eric Strickland and the B Sides – Honky Tonk til I Die. I know them personally and know without fail they live and breathe true “real” country music and Eric is giving more than 150% into doing exactly what your website says “Saving Country Music”!!! He writes from the depths of his own soul that flows with true love for the music but somehow that reaches the core of so many of those who give a listen! He “puts his heart in to the music” and “pours his soul into his songs” to quote one of my favs! This CD shows that Country Music is alive and well and does not always sale out but stays true to its roots and tradition/heritage!!

  • I’ve been looking forward to this! Although I haven’t heard of a couple of these artists, their albums are trusted recommendations I WILL invest time and money into. After Damaged Goods was nominated last year, I invested in the artists that beat my favorite scumbags, wondering what could possibly knock Hellbound Glory from the horse, and I was nothing short of amazed. That said, Turnpike Troubadours was a group I stumbled upon during my investigations and I’m so very happy they’ve made it to the top of your list for 2012. I second all your feedback. It was their creative outreach that pulled me in – and some marketing at the High Sierra Music Festival this year (which is creative in itself since the festival isn’t traditionally all country). I can’t officially cast a vote yet this year knowing how much I could be missing – Goodbye Normal Street – tentatively – but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion I’m going to love the hell out of Coffin Up Blood. Can’t wait for the essentials list either.

  • I have mine done and will be posting it to you tube in a few weeks. I do a video presentation. With a short clip of a song from each cd.
    I figure if the song cause somebody to look up the cd I’ve done my part to promote the indie artist.

  • Thanks as always, sir, I really appreciate your work. You’re responsible for an ever-growing portion of my music collection.

    Not to be a negative nitpicker, just wanted to encourage people to donate what they can to Olds Sleeper when they download the album. You can get it for free, but probably good to throw down us much as works for you.

  • My vote would go for 100 Proof. The honesty in her voice in every song on the album is something I found myself drawn to. Plus Ive been listening to alot of male vocalists the last few years so the Pickler album was very refreshing.

  • Looks like I might be the only one, but for me it’s Eric Strickland and the B Sides – Honky Tonk Till I die. In my mind that IS what country music should sound like.

    • that really means a lot to me. Thanks for being a fan.

  • The Turnpike Troubadours. The album is perfect from beginning to end. Evan’s songwriting is beautiful, loaded, and seems to somehow get better every time I hear something new. Add that to R.C.’s style on “Wrecked” and “Morgan Street,” which maybe a little more lighthearted, but no less wonderful, and BAM. Perfection.

  • I saw Lindi Ortega on her recent tour with Social D. & the Biters…all three great bands, and the rock crowd really seemed to take to Lindi. Really enjoying her Christmas album as well…I hope she keeps up what she’s doing. 

  • Out of the one’s listed above, I would go with the Turnpike Troubadors.

    That being said, my favorite album was Jason Eady’s “A.M. Country Heaven”. I wish it was on Spotify so it would get a wider audience, but it’s worth buying blindly. Brilliant songwriting and performing, wrapped around a classic country sound.

  • No Kenny Chesney? This list has no credability.

  • It’s a tossup between the Bloody Jug Band and the Troubadours on this one. I learned of both band’s existences this year and have definitely been turned into a fan. Though I recently picked up the Corb Lund record (got the one with the acoustic versions of each song which is awesome) and have been spinnning that a lot lately too. Overall definitely a good crop of albums this year.

  • Just wanted to throw in my vote for Turnpike Troubadours with Goodbye Normal Street. All of those on your list are definitely good ones but I really loved that album. Good songwriting, but still catchy songs and they even appeal to those that aren’t necessarily listening to underground/independent country.

  • Seriously though, my favorite this year has been Folk Soul Revival’s Prompting the Dapperness. I saw them at a festival and have loved them ever since. I was really shocked that this site didn’t have a review of any of their material.

  • Never have I heard an album so dark, yet so enlightening!
    The art of storytelling is alive and well within the tracks of
    Coffin Up Blood (nice play on words btw).
    While your list is solid throughout and very respectable,
    I’ll have to lean toward the Bloody Jug Band as a runaway
    winner based on such daring creativity weaved within those
    sweet, sweet melodies.

  • Rachel Brooke is epic. No doubt. Can see why she missed the list because of criteria. But Olds and Linda Ortega there’s the choice. Olds just keeps getting better. This album has diversity, real guts, down home boogie and just plain poetry fit for the soul. Linda’s album makes me smile, races my heart and calls out for more. Either one: though if “country” is the criteria, Linda gets the nod.
    Meanwhile if Kellie gets picked, ok by me. (never thought I’d say that.)

    • My feelings on both Justin Townes Earle’s and Rachel Brook’s albums are so similar in so many respects. I will include albums and songs in my lists even if they’re not “country” in a traditional sense, but they will always have to fight an uphill battle. That doesn’t mean they’re still not great and we can’t celebrate them here, but I always have to be mindful of the “country” in Saving Country Music.

      • I not only respect your opinions but I am grateful for the new music you showcase. This is your site, it is great. Thanks for all your hard work.

      • Glad you clarified that and I do agree. I was like where the hell is Rachel Brooke on the list. Glad your keeping it purely country. Sometimes we get too excited about all the wonderful bands from the roots movement we forget this site was suppose to be about country music,

  • Not sure if it’s Album of the Year worthy but Roger Alan Wade’s new album just came out this week…and I have to say it sounds pretty damn good to me.

    • You know, this is the very first mention I have seen about it, anywhere. I’m now seeing it on his Facebook. Thanks for the heads up, we’ll check it out!

      • Trigg, he didn’t talk much about it. He posted something on FB a couple weeks ago saying it was coming soon and the next thing you know it was out. No release date announcement or anything. Very strange but still…love me some RAW.

  • Here is my pick… Joseph Huber.. I’ll be that guy TriggerMan!! HAHA …

    • “Dance Around The Daggers” was another close runner up.

  • Gotta go with the Troubadours. Every song is real life with no laundry lists. The album is like a bio of their lives.

    Top 3 songs
    1. Good Lord Lorrie
    2. Wrecked
    3. Southeastern Son

  • Off this list I would have to chose Olds Sleeper. Been listening to that album regularly all year and never tire of it. Classic stuff! Now if you want to know my actual album of the year it would be this
    Granted it’s not an actual release but it’s thirteen tracks from two of the finest songwriters in the land. Natural Born Chillers for the win!!!!!

  • Kellie Pickler – 100 Proof gets my vote and I’m thrilled it made your top 7 list. Knowing how much Chet Flippo loves pure country, I’m also thrilled to see him call 100 Proof the best pure country album in recent years and I agree. If the mainstream industry awards weren’t so based on who’s getting the most promotion and radio airplay, no doubt Kellie would have top vocalist, song, and album of the year nods there too. At least her producer was recognized. It’s a damn shame country radio isn’t playing this album. Also I think the label promoted a few other artists’ weaker singles past hers at radio, at least I saw them pass on the charts. You know something is broken when you see pop songs, remakes of pure pop artists’ songs and a dozen mediocre songs (many from brand new artists with no radio track record) passing Kellie’s 100 Proof songs. It makes me sick to see country radio so pop these days, and this is coming from someone who grew up listening mostly to pop and rock.

    Now why should you pick Pickler for 2012 Saving Country Music Album of the Year? The proof is in the 100 Proof, it’s that damn good and country front to back, no filler material, her vocals, writing, and the production are excellent. It’s the total package. Also she’s done a lot to help support and save country music.

    Over 30 million people watched Kellie perform and nail country songs on American Idol back in 2006 (her season had the highest ratings) so we can also credit her for bringing new fans into country. She deserves but has never been credited for that while Taylor Swift got tons of credit for it from her promotion machine. I don’t see Taylor doing anything to support country music like covering country classics in concert, performing dozens of Opry shows, or #PICKLERSJUKEBOX. Blake Shelton was just given CMA Entertainer of the Year, largely for talking about country music on The Voice. Gracia Harrison, the best country singer ever on that show, was asked on twitter who her favorite artist is and she said definitely Kellie Pickler. That took guts because the trend on these shows is to name drop whoever radio is playing the most or a judges’ spouse. I like Darius but Kellie has earned an Opry invitation and newer country artist Darius got it because he has more radio airplay.

    As much as I love 100 Proof, I’m hoping Kellie adds more rock to a few songs on her next album (like the music of Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind and some other songs on her debut). I’m wondering what y’all would think if she did that? I love country and country/rock and don’t care for pop or slow AC songs, however I also love her country/pop songs with a good amount of steel and other country instruments. Red High Heels, I Wonder, Wild Ponies, Small Town Girl, and Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You are some of her best songs. I like some rock in my country and also like Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Alan Jackson, Jamey Johnson, etc.

  • rachels album is the best that has ever been released in ‘underground country’. i say that because of the high level and catchiness of the songwriting and the overall sound and feel of the album i feel is unmatched in this realm.

  • My top 10 cds of the year I’ve done this video over 5 times and still can’t get the sync. It’s in sync till I upload it. then poof it screws up

  • Jason Eady would make my list, no questions asked. His song, Wishful Drinkin’, would be song of the year. Happy to see James Hand and Corb Lund on this list, hadn’t heard of Eric Strickland before, looked him up on Spotify, liked the whole album quite a bit.

  • My 18 year old daughter, who I constantly give crap to for listening to Taylor Swift and the like, made me sit down and listen to the Kellie Pickler and I was sold. This is a really good country record.
    But then I started playing the Turnpike Troubadours. She took them back to college with her and has her whole floor listening to them. I have about 40 high school and (mostly) college students that work for me. Normally I drive them nuts with music like Whitey Morgan and PeeWee Moore. But they all love the Troubadours. Even the true country haters don’t mind it. They are the first band that I have heard in a long time that is undoubtably country but appeals to those who don’t like “country” music.

    I would have to add The Hooten Hallers’ Greetings From Whelp City. It is extremely solid from top to bottom. When you realize that all of this wonderful noisy sound is coming from two, that’s right TWO, musicians, it makes it even better. I know, its a blues record, but it definitely has the right vibe for this list. It also has the somewhat Hippster leaning college approval, and other old farts like me enjoy it.

    But if I had to pick a best of the year it would definitely be The Turnpiuke Troubadours’ Goodbye Lonely Street. I have a new favorite band of the week every week, and nothing stays in the regular rotation for very long, but I keep going back to this record. And, at least in my small corner of the world, they are an underground band with quickly growing main-stream appeal.

  • I’m not sure if they are really country records, but I would put Justin Townes Earle’s Nothing Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now and Austin Lucas’ A New Home In The Old World in that list. Thanks for the great job anyway!

  • I vote Coffin Up Blood. Great vocals, awesome guitar, and killer music video. Besides, they’re a jug band. What’s not to love?

  • Finally got a video that insync

  • Do you know Barna Howard ? His 1st album is a true masterpiece :

  • This is a great group of nominees. I’m just honored to make it on there!

  • Coffin Up Blood is the most fun I’ve had listening to an album in a long time. I’m already nostalgic for a few years back when everybody was making really dark underground country records and this one was right up my alley. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Bloody Jug Band will do in the future. New Years Poem is nothing short of a masterpiece. If you listen to the entire album and it doesn’t take you somewhere, I feel bad for you. But if I was choosing one album of the year, it would have to go to Goodbye Normal Street. It’s the perfect mix of style and substance. Plus, I’ve been listening to it for almost a year straight and I’m showing no signs of getting tired of it.

  • Where’s Bob Wayne till the wheels come off.

    • It’s “Till The Wheels Fall Off” (no worries, I made that mistake a couple of times too). And it’s a good album, it was just an even better year for music.

  • I listen the crap out of that Eric Strickland album. I love it to death but im still whipped and shellshocked about Lindi Ortega’s album. She came out of no where and swiped me away. I brought some redneck dude from my town to Austin earlier this week and I showed him many great albums that he never heard of. When I put on Lindi Ortega he was blown away compare to all the other stuff i showed him. Definitely high quality stuff.

  • The Lindi Ortega album is the only one on this list I come back and listen to. But my 2 cents say that Waylon Speed – Valance is the best of the year.

  • Not sure if anyone will catch this comment on such an old post but I just have to put this thought out there.

    Trigger, you have an excellent site here and I think you have done a great job sifting through all the music and exposing a lot of us readers to some fantastic stuff in the process. This post was the one that first got me hooked on your site, in part because I was amazed at how much good stuff was circulating out there. That is, in part, why I am revisiting this.

    I certainly appreciate why you ultimately went with Kellie Pickler as the album of the year, but a year and a half out, I feel like that album has already not aged really well. I think the first song is still fantastic and ought to be a radio staple but I have found the rest of it has not really stuck with me. This is in contrast to Lindi Ortega’s album which continues to fascinate me. I liked Tin Star a lot but Truckstops and Cigarettes out does it in so many ways. It is such a darkly beautiful and timeless piece of music, I am still working my way through it. The bleak story it tells (has anyone commented on how it seems like a concept album?) are pure country and it is so wonderfully executed.

    I am not second guessing you at all, as I said. I just think it is fun to reevaluate things a bit further down the road and get on my little hobby horse.

    While I am on 2012, I’d also like to put in a good word on Eric Strickland. That album was a real gem and I have not tired of listening to it yet.

    Thanks again for pointing out all the great tunes.

    • This is interesting insight.

      For me personally, I think “100 Proof” holds up strongly, though it is one of those albums I’ll revisit, listen to once and really love, but then not come back to for months.

      Where I will agree is “Cigarettes & Truckstops” I think is overall a better album than “Tin Star”, despite the title track being one of the strongest tracks Lindi has ever written.

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