Saving Country Music’s Best Albums of 2013 So Far

2013 has come on strong here recently for quality albums, with some real contenders for the coveted “Album of the Year” distinction released just in the last week. Any “Best Of” album list for 2013 is also going to reflect the leadership and creativity displayed by country music women, which has become one of the year’s underlying themes so far.

PLEASE NOTE: This list only includes albums that have already been reviewed by Saving Country Music. There are many other excellent albums sitting in the review que, for example John Moreland’s In The Throes that many are hyping as an Album of the Year candidate. And please feel free to leave your opinions and suggestions about what are the best albums of 2013 so far down below.

The Mavericks – In Time

the-mavericks-in-time“Some bands like to espouse themselves “defying genre,” when many times this is just a front for lacking a musical compass or an original sound, hoping disparate elements will meld together simply from the uniqueness of the experience. That is not the case with The Mavericks. Every one of their songs is a country song. Every one is a Latin song. And every one is rock n’ roll, all the way through. It’s because their influences overlay each other in parallel layers instead of being haphazardly mixed together. They aren’t a blend of genres, they’re every classic genre all at the same time.

“This is not just a great album for The Mavericks, it is a great addition to the American songbook as an example of the melting pot of cultures that have come together to birth some of the most vibrant and compelling music heard by man.” (read full review)

Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain

sturgill-simpson-high-top-mountain“Real country fans are just going to have to get comfortable with the new reality that their favorite music is on a surprising uptick. No more mopey faces, no more plotting midnight graffiti runs to Music Row as retribution for keeping your favorite artists down. Regardless of what kind of filth is still transpiring on country radio, a new spring of vibrant, independent country music is blooming and finding surprising support, and there may not be a better example of this new season than Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson and his breakout album High Top Mountain.

“Emerging from the coal region of Kentucky, to working on trains in Utah, to Nashville, TN to tackle the nasty business of trying to make it in music, Sturgill’s path has been windy, but like the stitches on the cover of High Top Mountain, it has lead to a sunny ending of seeing the realizations of his dreams dreams that we all benefit from in the form of a great new gift of country music.” (read full review)

Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In

caitlin-rose-the-stand-in“Ladies and gentlemen, Caitlin Rose has arrived. It may take some time for the rest of the world to wake up to this realization. But they will. The strength of The Stand-In assures it. The Stand-In is frighteningly good. It’s an enterprise in the evocation of rich human emotions, interwoven with delicious hooks and intelligent riffs, stirring vocal performances delivering meaningful, elevated lyricism, and a towering production performance that may go down in the history books. Just simply”¦ Wow.

“It’s really hard to look at this album and not see it as a springboard. This is Caitlin Rose’s moment. She’s no stand in, she’s an A1 girl. Caitlin Rose is in full bloom on The Stand-In.” (read full review)

Jason Isbell – Southeastern

jason-isbell-southeastern“On Southeastern Isbell goes right for the gut with an elegiac knife, thrusting and stabbing in a morose and unrelenting ritual of emotional evocation. Southeastern is downright suffocating in spots in its weight. It is bold, and merciless in how in preys on the faint-of heart, and can make a faint-of-heart out of even the most devout Stoics…It’s potent enough that it doesn’t need additional content to keep you entertained for longer because even when you walk away from it, the songs are still playing in your head, and the emotions it conjures are still ripe.

“Completely unfair Isbell, completely unfair. And selfish too. You should have saved some of these songs for others.” (read full review)

Eric Strickland – I’m Bad For You

eric-strickland-im-bad-for-you“Eric Strickland is Country with a capital ‘C’ and couldn’t make a bad album if he tried. He may be more locally-oriented than the other big names in honky tonk music, but gives up nothing to his more well-known comrades when it comes to cutting songs and records….At the heart of Strickland’s appeal is his ability to take what on the surface may seem like tired, clichè country themes, and give them a fresh, new feel.

“Real deal, true blood, hard driving, but daring to be sweet in moments, Eric Strickland and The ‘B’ Sides are doing their part to save country music. Now it’s time to do your part by giving them your ear and attention.” (read full review)

The Dinosaur Truckers – The Dinosaur Truckers

the-dinosaur-truckers“Can four dudes from Germany make American roots music and still be authentic? Do they have the ear, the personal history, the DNA, the dirt under their fingernails to do what American-based string bands do, or will they be forever relegated to being once removed from the American musical experience? If The Dinosaur Truckers and their new self-titled LP are any indication, the answer would be “Ja! Natürlich!”

“German or not, The Dinosaur Truckers give up nothing to their cross-ocean string band brethren, and maybe could even teach a thing or two to some of the awful punk-gone-country string bands who bring the energy and anger, but not the songwriting and attention to detail. The Dinosaur Truckers are the full package.” (read full review)

Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Dark & Dirty Mile

jason-boland-dark-dirty-mile“If Red Dirt spans a wide sonic palette that ranges from hard country to straight rock n’ roll with alt-country, country rock, Southern rock, and even some country pop thrown in between then Jason Boland is the hard-edged bookened defining Red Dirt’s country border. In other words, it is pretty difficult to be more country than Jason Boland and the Stragglers.

“You know what you’re going to get from a Jason Boland show and a Jason Boland song. Dark & Dirty Mile continues on with that consistency and strength, and assures that as Red Dirt grows and ages, Jason Boland & The Stragglers will still be one of the movement’s premier acts, and one preserving the country roots in the Red Dirt legacy.” (read full review)

Jayke Orvis & The Broken Band – Bless This Mess

jayke-orvis-bless-this-mess“Jayke Orvis may have taken a long and windy road to finding his way in the music world, but if his current sonic output is any evidence, he has found his path, and it is righteous.

“With stability and a shared vision of making a band around Jayke’s music, but one where all musicians are treated as equal, Jayke Orvis & The Broken Band have re-captured the fervor and spellbinding performance aspect that made the .357 String Band such a force of music nature. If anything, The Broken Band may be taking it a step further with a deeper attention to composition, pushing all four players to the edge of their abilities, and the edge of human capability itself…” (read full review)

Holly Williams  – The Highway

holly-williams-the-highway“Before this album, I’d been mostly opinion neutral on Holly Williams. Being the granddaughter of Hank Williams, the daughter of Hank Jr., and the sister of Hank3 appointed her music the respect of more than a cursory look. The pedigree runs too deep in that family to handle her otherwise.

‘The Highway’ puts Holly Williams smack dab in the middle of this revolutionary crop of young women that threatens to completely shake up the country music world and mindset. Along with Kacey Musgraves, Caitlin Rose, and Ashley Monroe, Holly Williams now has a career-caliber album that exemplifies the leadership and creativity coming from country’s young women.” (read full review)

Other Notable 2013 Albums So Far

  • Wayne Hancock’s Ride
  • Ashley Monroe’s Like A Rose
  • Carolina Still’s The Color of Rust
  • The Carper Family’s Old-Fashioned Gal
  • The Ten Foot Polecats Undertow
  • Willie Nelson’s Let’s Face The Music & Dance
  • The Deadstring Brothers’ Cannery Row
  • Rattleshack’s Rattleshack
  • Fifth On The Floor’s Ashes & Angels
  • Son Volt’s Honky Tonk
  • Nellie Wilson’s Not This Time
  • The Highballer’s Soft Music & Hard Liquor
  • Olds Sleeper’s Before & After The Here And Now
  • Ray Lawrence Jr.’s More Raw Stuff
  • Dale Watson’s El Rancho Azul
  • Jimbo Mathus’s The White Buffalo
  • Daniel Romano’s Come Cry With Me
  • Roger Alan Wade’s Southbound Train
  • Amber Digby – The World You’re Living In
  • Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park