Top Albums of 2012 So Far

June 4, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  28 Comments

2012 so far has been a remarkable year for top flight albums throughout the country world. That compelled me to tweak my regular mid-year format to not just include any album that has received a positive review (though these are all listed at the bottom), but instead highlight the ones that I think have a serious chance to be considered for Album of the Year. So though this list may be shorter than normal, this is the best of the best. To already have six Album of the Year contenders in only 6 months speaks to just how strong the upper eschalon of albums could be, and already is in 2012. A bumper crop to say the least.

Please understand this list just includes albums that have already been reviewed by SCM. There may be others out there still needing to be reviewed. And if you see an album you feel is left off, or you want to leave a list of your own, by all means, navigate to the comments section and share.

Marty StuartNashville Vol. 1, Tear The Woodpile Down

Right now, nobody is doing more to save country music than Marty Stuart. And he doing it by revitalizing the roots of country why still being cool, fresh, relevant, and loud.

“You know those periods in an artists’ career that you look back on like they can’t do wrong, churning out amazing songs and albums one after another? Hank Jr. from Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound to The Pressure Is On, Willie & Waylon after they’d shaken loose from the grips of RCA in the mid 70′s. That’s the kind of epic and influential period were in the midst of right now with Marty. What a blessing it is to realize this and to be able to experience it all in the present instead of trying to relive it through the past.” (read full review)

Olds SleeperNew Years Poem

Can an album from some local musician who doesn’t tour much win Album of the Year? He did last year in the name of Slackeye Slim. How about an album that’s given away for free? Why not when it’s this good, and the always-assiduous Olds has put out yet another free album I haven’t even had time to process yet called Head First. Olds Sleeper may be some musical genius that it takes years to discover the depths of.

“The fact that he’s just some weird guy, hunkered down in a walk-in closet with a 4-track or something, who plays all his own instruments and does all his own recordings, rarely plays out live, and puts out albums at a 4-per year clip and makes them all cheap or free, doesn’t diminish from one’s ability to take him seriously, it adds to his mystique. Sure, there’s tons of armchair musicians out there balancing studio time in their basement between a bad job and honey-do’s, but they rarely, if ever have the level of substance, heart, and dedication that Olds Sleeper does.” (read full review)

Ray Wylie HubbardThe Grifter’s Hymnal

Hubbard’s previous album A. Enlightenment was nominated for SCM’s Album of the Year in 2010, and as I said in the review for The Grifter’s Hymnal, this one is better. The songs are more song-like, the album is a more cohesive concept. Hubbard may not be country, but he’s real, and that makes him more country than most of what flies that flag.

“If there’s honor amongst thieves, then it only seems fitting there should be a Grifter’s Hymnal. And if there’s going to be a Grifter’s Hymnal, it’s only fitting Ray Wylie Hubbard should compose it. The ingredients of grifters are already mixed there on his palette: Tales of dead and dying things and dens of iniquity, the struggle or the soul between good and evil, and the difficulty sometimes of telling the two apart. But to have a hymnal you also must have a message, and you must be able to convey that message with eloquence, poetical prowess, wit and rhyme. Well don’t worry, it’s all here. Just open it up and sing along.” (read full review)

Kellie Pickler100 Proof

Saving Country Music likes an album put out by a former American Idol contestant that came from Music Row? You bet it does, and unabashedly so. The industry may be ignoring this record, but I refuse to. And yes, there is a chance it may be named the best all year. And if it is, it won’t be just to send a flying middle finger at the radio DJ’s and industry type ignoring it, it will be because it is the best.

“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. This is one of the best albums to come off of Music Row in years, and may turn out to be one of the best in 2012, period–an opinion I fear we may see validated in lackluster sales and the absence of hit singles from it. The mainstream may not support in en masse, but I will.” (read full review)

Turnpike TroubadoursGoodbye Normal Street

I still feel like the Turnpike Troubadours have room to grow, which is so very exciting when you already hear the strength displayed in this album.

“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…The Turnpike Troubadours make songs about love cool to listen to again. This is also their ace-in-the-hole, what makes them a band that could break out…Goodbye Normal Street says goodbye to the silly love and heartbreak song formulas that saddle corporate FM, and says hello to how love songs and sad stories in country music should be.” (read full review)

Justin Townes EarleNothing’s Gonna Change…

I didn’t even give this album the full two guns up in the review, though I left it open for augmentation in the future. I still have reservations about the whole “Memphis” album concept and how that relates to some of the songs, but when you talk about strength of songwriting, it doesn’t get any better than Nothing’s Gonna Change…. I still may change the review to two guns up, and it still might win Album of the Year without it. Songs like “Maria”, “It Won’t Be The Last Time,” and “Unfortunately, Anna” are just that magnificent.

“There is not a bad song on this album. We see JTE return to the honest, heavy-hearted songwriting that has become his signature. Though this album is hard to warm up to. JTE’s voice may come across as unusual at first, maybe even weak, and the production may seem out-of-place or even droning because it is such an unusual approach for him, or any artist originating out of the Americana world. But when you give it time, it all starts to work. I think time will be a great ally of this album, just as much as the short-term may be a hindrance.” (read full review)

Other Great Albums to Check Out:

(click on link for review)

28 Comments to “Top Albums of 2012 So Far”

  • you left out Bad JUJU triggerman


    • It’s there man, I put together a whole list of all the positive reviewed albums together and for some reason it disappeared when I posted this. Just went back and added them all. Bad Juju is a great album!


  • i loved ray wylies album a classic, and ole marty never disappoints a true country fan, turnpikes was good,but the kellie pickler i could only get into like two the songs it seemed a little too polished for me but imma check out the olds sleeper album and justin townes earle is ok i just cant get into him like i did his daddys old stuff


  • Out of that bunch my vote goes to Turnpike Troubadours. That was a incredible album


  • I was kind of waiting for an article like this. The Turnpike Troubadours have definitely become a standard of my road trip listening material with this last album. Apprentice to Ghosts, I’ll Keep Calling, Down On The Bikini Line…It’s been a good year for new music already. And Dwight Yoakam hasn’t even released his new one yet.


  • Thanks for the list Triggerman. There’s a few there I have to check out. I have to ask though; where’s the love for Tom VandenAvond? “Wreck of a Fine Man” just saw release and it is as good as anything he has done. His last three albums have been noticeably absent from the SCM review list for the last few years. In my book, the guy is gonna be one of those artist’s people are still listening to fifty years down the track.


    • I like Tom Vandenavond, and I’ll admit I’m both late to the game with him, and that it also took me some time to warm up to him, and I agree he deserves more coverage here. He’s not easy to “get” so to speak. But I get him now. My understanding is “Wreck of A Fine Man” is not officially released until June 12th though I know there’s hard copies floating around and such already. Hopefully that release will give me a chance to showcasing him more than I have up to now.


      • Quite right, the 12th is the official date, the pre-orders are out now. I’m glad you’ve warmed to him and look forward to a review in the near future. Maybe even a retrospective of his past work as well? I think Hillgrass Bluebilly are re-releasing hard copies of his self-titled debut and The Right Time this year.


        • I couldn’t have said it any better! TVA is among the top in my opinion and I hope to see more talk of him here!


  • I like the list you got started here and agree with ya. I just can’t seem to put down my albums from Ugly Valley Boys and Sunday Valley yet from last year though.


    • Man, the Ugly Valley Boys just keep giving and giving. You listen the hell out of them, burn it out, and two days later you’re right back to it. They’re uncannily good. Like the X-Men.


  • Sorry. This doesn’t have anything to do with this article, but I came across this southern rock band that is touring with Dierks Bentley right now. They are great and remind me of Blackberry Smoke another great southern rock band that doesn’t get the attention they deserve.




    • Thanks for the info on the Cadillac Black, they look interesting. Agreed on Blackberry Smoke, very underrated band.


  • Great list more music for me to check out.

    This is my list of the cds that will be making the final cut on my own top 10

    Billy Don Burns: Portrait of a Honky singer
    Turnpike Troubadours :Goodbye normal street.
    Ray Wylie Hubbard The Grifter’s Hymnal
    The Boxcars all in
    .Davy Jay Sparow Old Fashion
    Chuck Mead back to the Quonset Hut
    Jp Harris I’ll keep calling
    Willie Nelson Heroes.


    • Thats only 8


      • Sorry I’m still working on my list. I haven’t bought that many cds this year.


  • jackklatt.bandcamp.com/album/mississippi-roll


  • Big thanx for introducing me to Olds Sleeper, through that I found another moniker he records under Jellyspine Jenkins, different musical styles from each other, and from Slackeye Slim, but all great music, what a talented. Sadly if he rarely plays live then I guess there’s little chance of him touring Australia (shame about that)


  • My five favorites so far:

    Ray Wylie Hubbard – Grifter’s Hymnal
    Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
    Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden
    Chelle Rose – Ghost of Browder Holler
    Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful


  • i’m going with marty and the carolina chocolate drops.


  • Really???? No Chuck Mead?? Really??


    • This is just a list of albums that have already been reviewed. I have “Back at the Quonset Hut” here, I just haven’t spent enough time with it yet. I love Chuck Mead, Chris Scruggs and all those boys, and I think it is a super cool project with the revitalization of an old building, the documentary and everything. My hangup is that all these songs a very common covers. Do we really need yet another version of Wabash Cannonball and Girl on the Billboard? I’m not saying it’s bad whatsoever, I really need to spend more time with it. But is it really fair to put it up against an album of original material, or at least material that is original to us?


  • Nice list


  • My favs thus far
    RWH Grifters Hymnal
    Turnpike Troubadors Goodbye Normal Street
    Jason Eady AM country Heaven
    Good Luck and True Love Reckless Kelly
    Jackson Taylor and the Sinners Bad JuJu


  • Soda Gardocki’s Waltzes, Trains, Wires and Wood?


    • Another very recent release, think was just released last Friday, but definitely on my radar.


  • Here is the list of cd I’ve bought so far this year..

    Billy Don Burns: Portrait of a Honky singer
    Turnpike Troubadours :Goodbye normal street.
    .Ray Wylie Hubbard The Grifter’s Hymnal
    .The Boxcars all in
    .Davy Jay Sparow Old Fashion
    Willie Nelson Heroes
    .tear the woodpile down Marty stuart
    Jp Harris I’ll keep calling
    Chuck Mead back to the Quonset Hut
    Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
    Justin Townes Earle
    The Grascals. Life finds a way
    Pictures can’t talk back: Darrell Mccall
    scratch Gravel Road SPECIAL CONSENSUS


  • Rachel Brooke, JB Beverley and Joseph Huber all have albums coming this year. I would put my money on one of these three getting album of the year.
    JB is a perfectionist and he had never released anything that is less that 2 guns up in my opinion. You just know that his new album will be setting the bar.
    Rachel will have Viva La Vox backing her on her new album. If it sounds anything like they did live, its bound to be 2 guns up.
    And Joseph Huber, the one man band… He has great songs that are deep and intriguing. I have listened to “Iron Rail” (the single off of his new album) several times and that song itself is 2 guns up worthy.
    My advice to all the other artist out there… Give it all you got or you will be up a creek. I think Joseph said it best “cant you see a floods a comin…”


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