2018 Saving Country Music Album of the Year Nominees
In the humble estimation of Saving Country Music, 2018 has been the second bumper crop year in a row for excellent, top shelf efforts in country music. To reflect that, the number of nominees for Saving Country Music’s vaunted Album of the Year recognition has been pushed to its capacity of 10 once again, with each selection worthy of the topmost recognition in 2018. And with no clear front runners, and no obvious names to walk away with the distinction this year, it’s a wide open field.
Even with 10 nominees, it still feels like numerous albums got shorted, which is just the way it is when you have to cut the amount of candidates off at some point. This includes Lori McKenna’s The Tree, and John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness—both songwriting tour de forces. So is The Pistol Annies’ Interstate Gospel. Also sitting right on the bubble was Tom Buller’s When A Country Boy Gets The Blues, which probably deserves recognition for one of the greatest discoveries for 2018. If the bylaws could be changed and 11 nominees allowed, it would very likely go to Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains.
You won’t get any complaint here if Country Marie Andrews and May Your Kindness Remain, or Randall King‘s self-titled album is one of your favorites, or the favorite of 2018. Cody Jinks and Lifers also remains a strong effort, and similar to Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves, they still might be represented in the nominations for Best Song of the Year, so don’t lose hope in them being considered for end-of-year accolades just yet.
Plus all of these records and more will be included on Saving Country Music’s much more expansive Essential Albums List, which will be published later in December. So if you feel something was left off here, be patient. Further albums will also be reviewed, and be made eligible for the Essential Albums List as the end of the year nears.
As always, your feedback isn’t just requested, it will be included in the final calculations for the winner. So if you have an opinion, please leave it below in the comments section. However, this is not a straight up and down vote. Your opinion will count, but it will count even more if you put the effort out to convince all of us why one album deserves to rise above the others. And please, no “You Forgot!” comments. You think something has been unfairly omitted? By all means use the comments section to inform us. Because ultimately this isn’t an effort to make music into a competition. The purpose of this exercise is to expand the knowledge base of great music to all the music we think is the year’s best for the benefit of everyone.
Without further ado, here are your 2018 nominees for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year.
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s – Hard Times and White Lines
Whitey Morgan is like the embodiment of all the rage and frustration of true country music fans channeled into one hairy human vessel. Whitey’s “Fuck Pop Country” shirts are just as famous as some of his songs, and no quarter is given when he walks out on stage to whip crowds into a honky tonk frenzy, and feed them a steady dose of hard country shit kickers.
Hard Times and White Lines is only Whitey’s fourth full studio record in nearly 15 years of playing, but it’s always been quality over quantity with Whitey, allowing an appetite to build among his rabid fan base before slinging them a thick slab of red meat they’ll feed off of for years to come, and that’s what he does here. Whitey doesn’t look at new records as some experimental artistic medium, or an opportunity for him to noodle around with innovative ideas that potentially may alienate his fan base. He’s not looking to reinvent himself for the adulation of media critics. He knows who he is, and what he does. He is the voice of the whiskey drunk, the working man, and the weary country music listener, and he wears that badge proudly.
“Country” music in all of its modern incarnations and mutations will continue to devolve and disgust the folks who know what the music is supposed to be. But as long as Whitey Morgan and the 78’s are still around, they will be offering a true compass of what real country music is, and give the fans of real country a home, and a voice. (read full review)
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Years
You think music is a skills competition? You think what speaks deeply to people in music is the perfection served through drum loops and Auto-Tune, or technically adept musicianship, or even vintage styling conveyed through cute production techniques trying to emulate past greatness? Four scraggly dudes and a single mother from North Carolina just proved they can supersede all other efforts simply by assuring the pain and the blood of real life experiences are sown straight into your songs, embedded between the notes, and born out in the melodies. Years is soaked in whiskey and sweat, tenderized through conflict, forged from 700-mile van rides to play $200 shows, and ultimately captured in studio recordings that like a great sponge, are able to soak up all of that pain, and convey it with lossless quality.
Sarah Shook is the badass woman we’ve been waiting years for. She can play the guys off the stage and drink them under the table, all on a half night’s sleep and her eyelids at half mast. Years is the exact type of country music album you crash little music websites and Spotify playlists searching for—that album that immediately sucks you in, and promises years of enjoyment and recurring listens, even in the world of endless audio variety. It’s a record that feels like it was made specifically for you, regardless of you’re in the midst of a breakup and a bout of drunken depression, or you’re beyond all of that and enjoying a stable, sober family life. It’s an album where every song begs to be heard, and not one gets passed over. There’s nothing expressly special about any of it. But there’s something especially warm about all of it, making you say, “This is what I’m talking about when I say I love country music.” (read full review)
Caitlyn Smith – Starfire
Starfire is an opus. Even being wise to the talents this young woman possessed for many years, and steeled from multiple spins of her short-run EP’s and scattered video releases, Starfire still cuts deep, surprises with each new track, and universally impresses. All these incessant releases from Music Row of young women trying to make it in country, rolling off the assembly line one after another with their strident attempts at contemporary styling, stretching average talents to attempt to appear exceptional, trying to win ears with songs written by committee and algorithm—all that effort expended feels like such a waste in the presence of a project like Starfire.
The only thing keeping Caitlyn Smith from being a household name is simply the lack of knowledge to her existence. She once penned a mega hit for Meghan Trainor called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” If there was any justice in the world, the tiers that Trainor has attained would be waiting for Caitlyn Smith as a reward for what she’s accomplished on Starfire. Whether anybody else knows it or not, Caitlyn Smith has made a near masterpiece, and made the model of what modern country pop should be. (read full review)
Jamie Lin Wilson – Jumping Over Rocks
Call it The Tao of Jamie Lin Wilson. It’s about figuring out a way to pursue your passions, regardless of the challenges. It’s facing adversity with a cheerfulness and perseverance until the walls in front of you come crumbling down almost automatically. It’s about making yourself available to finish a co-write, lend a backing vocal, or whatever else it takes to wiggle your way into the music scene with a smile and a willingness in your heart, just like Jamie Lin Wilson has been doing for years.
Jumping Over Rocks is Jamie Line Wilson’s second official solo release to go along with her early work with The Gougers, and later with the Texas music supergroup The Trishas. All that feels well in the past now though, similar to how referencing Jason Isbell as “The Former Drive-By Trucker” feels obsolete. Jamie Lin Wilson is Jamie Lin Wilson—The Queen of Texas/Red Dirt’s modern era.
Jumping Over Rocks is not a default title; it’s perfect. It’s a testament to Jamie Lin Wilson’s dexterity as an artist, and as a human. She is a remover of obstacles, a doer of the demanding. They say you can’t be a full time mother and have a meaningful music career. You can’t give birth to a child and release a new record and hit the road a few weeks later. Try telling that to Jamie Lin Wilson. Just as her music bolsters our spirit, imparts important wisdom, and wets the corner of the eye, Jamie Lin Wilson’s personal story inspires us to pursue our own dreams and persevere, touching us just as much or more than any single note she may sing, or splendid line of verse she may compose. With Jamie Lin Wilson, it’s the full package that leaves you spellbound. (read full review)
American Aquarium – Things Change
Backed into a corner is where an artist and songwriter like BJ Barham performs at his best. With a guy like this, defeat is where he finds his greatest inspiration, his most deep-seeded determination, and his willingness to sacrifice it all for the cause, and the dream. Limping along just successful enough to sustain was not the right place for American Aquarium. It all needed to implode for it to ultimately succeed. It’s gutting out a living, and giving a middle finger to the sweltering sun that has always been at the core of American Aquarium—a philosophy like is embodied in the song “Work Conquers All” from Things Change.
Even the political stuff here is done with such better tact and respect than others recently. The line “And last November I saw first hand what desperation makes good people do…” from the song “Tough Folks” does so much better at encapsulating the political dilemma the United States is in. Instead of insulting people, it recognizes their inherent goodness, regardless of their political stripes. Contrast this between the judgemental and ineffective venting of anger in recent projects. This approach helps to bridge understanding as opposed to drawing hard lines.
Seven studio albums in is about the time you start ignoring a band as the treads wear down and the sound begins to dull. But out of the smoldering ashes of American Aquarium 1.0, this band found its footing, and it is truly something to behold. (read full review)
Blackberry Smoke – Find A Light
Screw talk of saving country music, or even notions of “Southern rock.” With their latest album Find A Light, Blackberry Smoke prove they’re singlehandedly saving rock and roll and everything that stands for—Southern, countrified, and everything in between. Blackberry Smoke transcends genre—in the good way where you’re so badass, everyone wants to claim you as their own, and no single scene can contain you.
Blackberry Smoke doesn’t give a shit anymore about trying to fit into anyone’s preconceived notions of what they should be. Find A Light is the band unsheathing the guitars and going for it. In this calculating music world where so many bands are obsessed with their public perceptions, it’s refreshing, needed, well past due, and welcomed to have a band indulge their barbaric rock and roll masculinity and let the cards fall where they may.
These guys prick such an array of emotions and eras in their efforts with Find A Light, and revive sounds that are going so incredibly underserved except for backlist titles from classic rock greats. Yet their efforts to record roaring anthems and tear-soaked ballads are in the right here, the right now, in the modern context, hoping to become the classics for future generations, and replenish what ClearChannel ran into the ground for decades on classic rock stations.Blackberry Smoke is saying, “We’re here. It’s our time to step up and save the Southern music, be damned what anyone else thinks is cool or relevant.” And that’s exactly what they accomplish on Find a Light. (read full review)
El Coyote – Self-Titled
We’re blessed to live in a time period when there are plenty of woman-led singing duos, trios, and quartets to peruse for your listening pleasure. With the power conjoined female voices can bring to the hopeful and heartbreaking sentiments of country and roots songs, you can’t have enough of this audio virtue. But the one issue a lover of female harmonies who also happens to be a lover of country music will find listening to these respective acts is that despite the promising sounds of their names, they often veer way more folk than what you’re hoping for.
For those fans of the old Carter Family records, or the sounds of the famous Trio collaboration between Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris, you just want something a bit more country backing these strong, beautiful voices. You want the moan of the steel guitar to match the emotion that three part harmonies evoke, and you want sentiments the fit more with the agrarian and blue collar experiences that country music provides.
Enter the band El Coyote from Montreal, Canada who makes all of this happen and in brilliant form in their debut, self-titled album. Made up of three women singers and songwriters named Angela Desveaux, Michelle Tompkins, and Katie Moore backed by a three piece band, they’re just about everything you want from a woman-fronted singing trio as a country fan, but without losing the gentleness of the folk portion of the discipline. (read full review)
Dillon Carmichael – Hell on An Angel
This record is nothing short of merciless in how it just grinds out one deeply-powerful, slow and plodding track after another. Everything is too damn slow in the best possible way, like the Southern drawl of your grandpa on a Sunday morning, graced with a familiarity that makes you feel like you’ve found home. Dillon Carmichael and Hell On An Angel is what we mean when we say “country music.” Like all great things, country music gets better with age. This is what makes us revere the old greats of country, and suspicious of fresh-faced newcomers, like some are sure to regard Dillon Carmichael. His skin may be tender, but his soul is definitely old.
There’s just something about being in the country that settles your mind, and warms your heart. You can count on it. It’s not complicated. You sit beside a lake with a line in the water, or stretch out between a tall pine, and everything is right in the world. That same feeling washes over you when listening to Dillon Carmichael’s Hell On An Angel, not just because the music is good, but because it assures you that country music is in good hands for the future, with young, impassioned artists keeping the sound alive, and showing sincere promise to help do so for many years to come. (read full review)
Jason Eady – I Travel On
The songwriting of Jason Eady is unquestionable, and has been for some time. In the realm of Texas country and beyond, Jason Eady’s penmanship is arguably the pinnacle, with only a select few performers to be consider beside him, including his wife Courtney Patton. Eady’s approach to country music has always been a measured one. The sounds come from wood and wire, in acoustic-only arrangements, not letting anything get in the way of the songs themselves, which is where the spotlight and attention should always be with an artist like this. But while lumping worthy praise upon Jason Easy’s last few records, Saving Country Music has been vocal about the lack of muscle, or gas behind the music.
How to resolve adding a little bit of enthusiasm to the music, but still adhering to Jason Eady’s acoustic-only proclamation was a tough riddle to solve. Since Jason Eady fits more the model of a Texas honky tonker, bluegrass never really entered the mindset as a possibility. But adding a couple of hot shot bluegrass ringers was the exact injection Jason Eady’s music needed to not just coast, but soar, and the results speak for themselves on I Travel On.
No toes are stepped on. The music never drowns out the emotion of the story or the moment. It’s probably not even fair to call this a bluegrass album. It’s a Jason Eady album with some badass instrumentation to go along with his established and beloved sound, with incredible music runs embellishing the songs, and adding new textures to Eady’s storytelling experience. Still even with a fuel-injected bluegrass kick behind great songs, the music of Jason Eady will never be for everyone. It’s too damn good for the masses. (read full review)
Mike and the Moonpies – Steak Night at the Prairie Rose
The romantic notion of what an old school honky tonk band from Texas should be has been used to stoke fantasies and fill television and movie screens for years. It’s also been a template for Music Row-molded fashion plates to play dress up and role play the part for many patently unaware fans. But putting your finger on the actual embodiment of a Texas two-step honky tonk band who can play covers and originals for four hours non stop and make it look easy—and all while looking cool themselves—is a little more myth than reality. Yes, there are many smoky bars and wooden dance floors throughout the Lone Star State. And there are many cover and original bands that play them. And then there’s Mike and the Moonpies.
It’s the local flavor, the authenticity, the dedication to themselves, their fans, the music, and the true-to-life dues paid by Mike and the Moonpies that make them darn near the perfect embodiment of the Austin, TX dance hall and dive bar band so many want to emulate, but so few want to put in the sweat or make the sacrifices to actually become. And with such a salivating appetite for authenticity now stirring out there among the country music listening pubic, it’s time for Mike and the Moonpies to step out of the shadows of being considered an undercard band of the Texas music circuit, a “poor man’s Turnpike Troubadours” as some have referred to them in the past, and be hoisted forward as just about the perfect example of what a true Texas country dancehall band is all about. It also happens to be that Steak Night at the Prairie Rose is about the perfect record to do that with. (read full review)
Billy Wayne Ruddick
December 3, 2018 @ 8:48 pm
I forgot to mention Town Mountain. New Freedom Blues is a great album.
December 3, 2018 @ 8:50 pm
Nathan Kalish “I want to believe”
David Allen “Lovers are liars, gamblers, and thieves”
Dom Flemons “Black Cowboys”
Pat Reedy and The Longtime Goners
Tyler De Jong
December 3, 2018 @ 8:54 pm
No complaints with these selections! My vote goes to Jamie Lee Wilson, that album gets better each time.
Close second is Jason Eady.
December 3, 2018 @ 8:57 pm
My top 10:
1. American Aquarium
2. Whitey Morgan
3. Charley Crockett
4. Jason Eady
5. Erik Dylan
6. Pat Reedy
7. Cody Jinks
8. Adam Hood
9. James Steinle
10. Brent Cobb
And the rest alphabetically:
Devil Makes Three
Dirty River Boys
Folk Soul Revival
John R. Miller
Left Arm Tan
Mike and the Moonpies
William Clark Green
Non-country album of the year:
The Record Company
December 4, 2018 @ 3:27 am
Thanks for the mention 71dude!!!
December 4, 2018 @ 7:27 am
1/4 of the artists your alphabetical list I didn’t even know released albums this year… Dallas Moore? Urban Pioneers?
December 3, 2018 @ 9:33 pm
American Aquarium. BJ Barham reflects on political discourse, religious hypocrisy, and personal growth throughout the album. It’s rare to find any of these things on an album, much less all of them. Good stuff.
December 3, 2018 @ 11:50 pm
I’m split between Courtney Marie Andrews, Jamie Lin Wilson and Sarah Shook, and I also really liked Jason Boland (funny he doesn’t even get honorably mentioned, and yet his album received a higher rating than some of the nominees) and Cody Jinks. But I think it’s time a lady won it (first time since Kellie Pickler, if I’m not mistaken) – though in that case it will probably be the one who doesn’t wanna be “some proper kinda lady”.
I’ve got no doubts, though, who my number one is when it comes to the greater Country/Roots/Folk/Americana realm – or just music in general:
Erin Rae: Putting on Airs
That one is this year’s timeless masterpiece in my books, and “Wild Blue Wind” belongs in the Great American Songbook.
December 5, 2018 @ 11:49 am
Add in Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire, and I agree––the four best country-related releases were all by women. I think one of them truly deserves it, regardless of arguments such as “it’s time a woman wins it.” (Interestingly, these women’s records are followed for me as well by Boland [#5] and Jinks [#6].)
December 5, 2018 @ 3:25 pm
Actually I was listing the ladies in alphabetical order. If push came to shove, I’d give it to Jamie Lin for being a mother of four – that is, a truly phenomenal singer-songwriter-mother-of-four. But actually I just listened again to Eady’s album after a while and can’t believe how good it’s gotten in the meantime. So many great choices this year – I’m thinking it might make sense to make it a double or even a triple share. Couldn’t go wrong with it being Jamie Lin and Eady (a number of people mentioned these two together in their comments).
December 5, 2018 @ 5:34 pm
Just realized that Vivian Leva’s album also came out this year – I thought it was 2017. Definitely among the very best this year, can’t wait to hear more from her.
Another name I wanna mention from outside Country (but still very close) is Adrianne Lenker, who released the beautiful abysskiss. Whether playing solo, duetting with Buck Meek (“her” David Rawlings), or fronting Big Thief, she’s a true genius of today’s American music.
Amanda Shires’ To the Sunset was among the year’s best as well.
Definitely a ladies’ year.
For The Birds
December 5, 2018 @ 4:28 pm
Gonna check some of these out – thanks!
December 4, 2018 @ 3:10 am
AOTY has to be Years, by Sarah Shook. This album is freaking perfect in every way, everything flows, everything she has done is amazing (sidelong, the new ep and the audio tree ep) not even close with anything else.
This album makes me want to go through a break up again and come out on top of life again.
Not actually, I have an amazing lady and a baby, so yeah I’ll keep that.
But the music is good. So so so good.
Hope she’s coming to Australia soon.
December 4, 2018 @ 3:28 am
Whitey Morgan all the way. If radio ever wakes up to this man, he could save country music.
December 4, 2018 @ 4:39 am
I forgot to mention “New Routes” by Asleep at the Wheel. The old dudes and young Miss Katie made a great one. It’s a little lightweight, but got more spins from me than 90 percent of everything else.
December 4, 2018 @ 6:17 am
1. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
2. Sparrow – Ashley Monroe
3. Starfire – Caitlyn Smith
4. Interstate Gospel – Pistol Annies
5. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975
6. Chris – Christine & The Queens
7. Dying Star – Ruston Kelly
8. Into The Agony – The Smoking Popes
9. Love Is Dead – Chvrches
10. Into The Sunset – Amanda Shires
December 4, 2018 @ 6:48 am
That John Prine album is really good. For real.
December 4, 2018 @ 7:18 am
Joshua Hedley released the most Country-sounding record this year.
I like a few on this list better, but as a Country album goes his takes the cake, with Whitey Morgan making a close second (I just find his stuff too loud for how slow it is on this record)
I’ve still never listened to a Jason Eady record, does anyone have any favorites/favorite songs to suggest? so I jump in at the best material?
I consider Colter Wall’s album a “folk” offering but I’d totally respect letting it get nominations in Country categories, especially because the line cat get so blurry and hazy at points.
Colter Wall easily put out one of my favorite “listening” records, for a lazy day or a drive in the rain.
Still, Joshua Hedley did 2018 right, and I will never falter in my psychotic praise of his record that in my opinion doesn’t get enoiugh respect
December 4, 2018 @ 9:13 am
AM Country Heaven
Promises In Pieces
Longer Walk in the Rain
No Genie in this Bottle
Daylight and Dark
Just the tip of the iceberg but a good list to start with
December 4, 2018 @ 9:55 am
Absolutely love Jason Eady’s new album. Calaveras County and Lost My Mind in Carolina are my two favorites.
December 4, 2018 @ 10:00 am
The above selection is a great start. Here are some of my personal favorites.
Back to jackson
Late Night Diner
Other side of Abilene
Paid My Dues
Where I’ve Been – one of the most honest country songs I’ve heard in a long time.
December 4, 2018 @ 4:45 pm
The one Eady song you really need to hear is Barabbas.
December 5, 2018 @ 3:27 am
My favorite Eady songs are AM Country Heaven and Black Jesus. And as Euro South mentioned, Barabbas is an unbelievably good tune as well with phenomenal lyrics.
December 5, 2018 @ 8:11 am
Haven’t heard Jason Eady yet??? Man you are missing out on some phenomal music. Checkout “Cry Pretty, AM Country Heaven, No Genie in this Bottle, Why I left Atlanta, Whiskey and You, Back to Jackson”
December 5, 2018 @ 6:12 pm
And if you get a chance to see him live with his current band, do so. The stripped down approach live is something to see. I really like him with a pedal steel and electric, but this current lineup really works well.
December 4, 2018 @ 8:04 am
western Centuries “songs from the deluge” is a great album as well Worth the top ten for sure.
December 4, 2018 @ 8:47 pm
“Songs From the Deluge” is definitely my favorite of the year.
December 5, 2018 @ 3:31 am
I almost forgot about that record. Definitely worthy of consideration as well. It’s just a further testament to this website that it reveals so much good music to me I can’t keep track of it all.
December 6, 2018 @ 12:27 am
Definitely agree Western Centuries is a great 2018 album.
December 6, 2018 @ 12:28 am
“had a great album”
December 4, 2018 @ 8:33 am
No mention of Brandi Carlile’s “By The Way, I Forgive You”? Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” and Ruston Kelly’s “Dying Star” are also in my top this year.
My top 4 list:
1. Eric Church – Desperate Man
2. Ruston Kelly – Dying Star
3. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
4. Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You
December 4, 2018 @ 8:38 am
Years/Sarah Shook. Absolutely.
December 4, 2018 @ 9:04 am
My top 5…
1. Pat Reedy & the Longtime Goners – That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More)
2. JP Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
3. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – Years
4. Cliff Westfall – Baby You Win
5. Brent Cobb – Providence Canyon
December 4, 2018 @ 4:18 pm
Cliff Westfall … that fell through the cracks because when Trig posted his review it was available on very limited platforms. Downloading now.
December 4, 2018 @ 9:25 am
So many quality albums this year. Of Trigger’s list I’ve got to give it to Sarah Shook, but for me the album of the year has been Providence Canyon from Brent Cobb.
December 4, 2018 @ 9:32 am
Where in the hell is Austin Lucas?
December 4, 2018 @ 9:53 am
Looks pretty good! Personally, I’d bump Caitlyn Smith out. I love her album, but as the year went on it started to feel like an “Oh yeah, that album was pretty decent.”…I don’t feel like it has the clout of some of the others. I’d put Colter Wall in over Caitlyn Smith. And I’m not sure who I’d bump, but I’d have Cody Jinks’s Lifers in the top 10 for sure.
December 4, 2018 @ 10:26 am
From this list, I’d vote Things Change with Steak Night a VERY close second. Personally I would give the award to Brent Cobb’s Providence Canyon. I also loved Lifers (probably just because I love Jinks but I do acknowledge he has made better albums in my humble opinion) and The Tree of Forgiveness. I didn’t grow up listening to John Prine like a lot of lucky folks….but I think I have reached full Prine saturation now and loved this album.
December 4, 2018 @ 10:35 am
Steak Night at the Prairie Rose is my album of the year. I’ve never felt a connection to an album like this before. Every song tugs at the ol heart strings.
December 4, 2018 @ 10:36 am
Pound of pound, my favorite this year is Brent Cobb’s Providence Canyon.
December 4, 2018 @ 11:01 am
Surprised Tami Neilson didn’t make your list. Sassafrass is my favorite album this year.
December 4, 2018 @ 2:38 pm
I was surprised how much I enjoyed Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plans, and it may well have got my vote had it made the top ten.
Sarah Shook and the Disarmers ‘Years’ is all killer no filler.
December 4, 2018 @ 3:48 pm
Man this is hard.
1. Jamie Lynn Wilson
2. Caitlin Smith
3. Whitey Morgan
I picked Jamie Lynn because it’s more of a country record than Caitlin, however If I had to pick an album of the year any genre, it would be Caitlin. All four albums are right on par with each other, I struggled with this.
December 4, 2018 @ 4:05 pm
Love going through everybody’s lists in the comments to find all the awesome that I missed throughout the year. So much great stuff out there that just needs to see the light of day in order to shine.
Keep ’em coming!
December 4, 2018 @ 4:28 pm
Country Music Writer of the Year: Trigger
Keep up the good work buddy. We appreciate everything you do.
December 4, 2018 @ 8:07 pm
Thanks, I was just thinking the same thing.
list of top ten essential websites, this one is one or two for me.
Your comment needs a lot more “likes.”
December 4, 2018 @ 4:30 pm
Hands down… Blackberry Smoke! Find a Light has something for everyone! I have loved every album by them, but this one I found to be very diverse. I love the rockin’ song I’ll Keep Ramblin. Mother Mountain gives you all the feels. Blackberry Smoke brings back the feel of Rock and roll in the days of old. We need more bands like them!
December 4, 2018 @ 5:01 pm
Glad to see Lori McKenna’s “The Tree” get mentioned. Love that album.
Bill from Wisconsin
December 4, 2018 @ 5:43 pm
Ok, I’m adding the late Tony Joe White’s Bad Mouthin. Not as bad as his Rain Crow album, but he put it out about a month before he passed this fall. Some great YouTube videos of him spanning his career.
December 4, 2018 @ 9:52 pm
Where part of Wisconsin ya from Bill? I’m up in Langlade County.
Bill from Wisconsin
December 6, 2018 @ 6:20 pm
I’m on the east coast, Manitowoc county.
December 4, 2018 @ 7:27 pm
Jason Eady and Caitlyn Smith are tied for my #1!
December 4, 2018 @ 9:00 pm
Mike and the Moonpies album Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, gets my vote. From Road Crew to Things aint like they used to , to getting high at home, runs the gamut of what country music is all about — hope, happiness, heartache, loss, and change.
I have listened to this album over and over and over again and it never gets old. This album has something for everyone.
The Moonpies are a talented, hard working, loyal band that stay true to their craft. It’s time they get the recognition deserving of their talents and hard work.
December 5, 2018 @ 4:27 am
John Prine and Colter Wall for me
December 5, 2018 @ 5:52 am
I’m asking for advice here 🙂
I really became fan of Wes Youssi and this country/rockabilly sound. What other artists could you recommend with a similar sound ?
Sorry if there are mistakes, English isn’t my native language.
December 5, 2018 @ 7:19 am
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Years is not only the best country music album of the year, it is the album of the year in music period.
Discovering Sarah Shook in 2018 is why this website is so important to me. Not only has Years been in my constant rotation but Sidelong is probably the other album I have listened to the most
December 5, 2018 @ 10:00 am
American Aquarium has definitely received the most listens from me in this year’s group. Things Change gets my AOTY vote. However, Jamie Lin Wilson and Jason Eady are close behind. Honorable mentions go out to Stryker Brothers, Adam Hood, Randall King, and Mike and the Moonpies. I have also enjoyed Gary P. Nunn and Friends. I love reading all of the opinions shared here.
December 5, 2018 @ 12:33 pm
Left off William Clark Green’s new one…good stuff, as well.
December 5, 2018 @ 10:50 am
I vote for Jason Eady’s ‘I Travel On’ album because it’s fabulous. Fan from the UK.
December 5, 2018 @ 10:59 am
Whitey Morgan and Jason Eady deserve this!
December 5, 2018 @ 7:37 pm
My vote is for Jason Eady. His music has gotten me into country music, something I never thought possible!
December 5, 2018 @ 9:24 pm
Steak Night at the Prairie Rose by a mile. Mike and the Moonpies are seriously good.
I do believe that Providence Canyon by Brent Cobb could’ve gotten a little more recognition. Some seriously good song writing on that album.
December 6, 2018 @ 7:58 am
I always discover new really really good country music through this site. Naturally, I have to listen to all of your selections.
I saw Ms. Shook and the Disarmers in a small venue this summer. The venue was in the middle of Portland Oregon but it felt like a West Tennessee honkytonk in the early 1970’s. Ancient jukebox Hank I was the entry ambient music. This resonated well with the performance. The 4 scraggly dudes-one that she called shiny top-were like four hippies that found Hank I’s little bastard child beside the road. They fed her some whiskey and she clearly and authentically tells her story. The live contrast between Sidelong and Years strongly indicated to me a woman with an undeniably rough diamond voice. The performance. Purity is the only word I can use to describe it. Humble extremely emotional Appalachian folk music-you know-the kind that preceded Buck Owen’s glitter and cross-over. Hell, it reminds you why Appalachian folks didn’t like manufactured country music to begin with. She was like Mother Maybelle met Ms. Lambert and Ms. Presley and then decided to tell it like it REALLY is y’all.
Obviously, I am voting for Ms. Shook, Shiny Top and the Boys! With all the love in the world for the Pistol Annies.
December 11, 2018 @ 7:30 am
Man, I miss Portland!
December 6, 2018 @ 2:48 pm
Steak Night at the Prairie Rose. Hands down my favorite album this year, can’t wait to see them live again!
December 6, 2018 @ 4:17 pm
The Mike and the Moonpies album is one that feel like I’ll be listening too still 10 years from now. It’s just a great sounding record. It’s the type of record that makes you drive 20 mph over the speed limit. It was a great year for music overall though I think.
December 6, 2018 @ 6:30 pm
Mike & the Boys for me with American Aquarium a close second. Love the Shook album too. We’ve been Savin up for babies & a little farmhouse near her fathers land in real life so that one really hit home.
December 6, 2018 @ 7:16 pm
*but that AA album has made waves here even with my red blooded republican friends. Good music really does break down walls..
December 7, 2018 @ 6:55 am
Trig – as always, thanks so much for putting this out there. This is honestly my favorite post of the year as I get to catch up on all I missed. Just purchased 5 new albums after reading your input and all the posts.
December 7, 2018 @ 2:01 pm
Thanks for reading Jimbo.
December 7, 2018 @ 4:36 pm
It’s a toss up between Dillon Carmichael and Whitey Morgan. Whitey is my spirit animal but man, Carmichael’s album was stunningly good. It really was a stunning year for the genre.
December 7, 2018 @ 8:21 pm
Lots of good choices, but…
I Travel On
December 7, 2018 @ 8:33 pm
Jason Eady. He is still the best songwriter going and he deserves to be recognized as such. Given his new upbeat sound and his energized live shows, the man deserves every accolade possible.
December 8, 2018 @ 5:47 am
I’ll nominate “Solid Ground” — the latest by Wade Bowen, one of so many excellent artists this website has introduced me to. “Solid Ground” has remained in heavy rotation over here for months.
December 8, 2018 @ 7:19 am
For me, *album* of the year should have (a) no, or very few, filler songs, (b) Good lyrics and country instruments, (c) variety in the production, ie songs should not all sound samey. The album should also withstand repeated plays without becoming boring. My vote goes to Mike and the Moonpies. American aquarium is a close second.
December 9, 2018 @ 5:12 pm
Working my way through the list. Didn’t care much for Whitey Morgan before this, but White Lines is a work of depth and resonance
(Is it just me, or does Carryin’ On sound like Bandy the Rodeo Clown, which sounds like Gentle on My Mind?)
December 9, 2018 @ 7:37 pm
I get the reference now that you mentioned it. In case you didn’t know, the song is a cover of Dale Watson’s original.
December 9, 2018 @ 5:39 pm
“Steak Night.” Familiar and fresh–the most that any music can do. If you went to a bar and the band sounded like this, you’d think you were the luckiest person on earth.
December 9, 2018 @ 7:39 pm
December 9, 2018 @ 11:47 pm
I Travel On – Jason Eady
December 10, 2018 @ 9:19 am
Jumping Over Rocks is food for the soul. Definitive #1 on this list.
Another shout for Hard Times are Relative – for day to day listening, this album remains my most listened to of the year.
December 10, 2018 @ 11:42 am
Sorry Trigger, but you’ve got it wrong. John Prine, Kacey Musgraves, Colter Wall — all three released amazing albums this year, but you skipped over them for equally talented though less known artists. At the very least Colter Wall’s album should have made the top ten — it was, in my opinion, the top album of the year.
December 16, 2018 @ 8:05 pm
Condider Kari Arnett’s ‘When the Dust Settles’ for your 2018 essentials list
December 24, 2018 @ 2:19 pm
I guess most of y’all cannot comprehend this song or album. That my only conclusion why it’s not being discussed as the clear front runner.
December 25, 2018 @ 1:11 am
My top 10 albums of the year listed alphabetically by first name.
John R Miller
Mike and the Moonpies
Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners
Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Honorable mention to Jamie Lynn Wilson, Jason Eady, Western Centuries, El Coyote, John Prine, Cody Jinks, JP Harris, Brent Cobb and Adam Hood
Really excited about 2019 with potential releases from Tyler Childers, Arlo McKinley, Justin Wells and Sturgill Simpson.
December 31, 2018 @ 9:25 pm
All worthy but for my two cents regarding creativity, songwriting, and just generally criminally overlooked: Sam Morrow’s “Concrete and Mud”… has a very 70s “Gimme Back My Bullets” Skynyrd Southern rock/charm vibe. Also will mention Hillstomp “Monster Receiver” and their back catalog for those that like a grimy, country blues style.
January 10, 2019 @ 9:33 pm
Really surprised Caitlyn Smith gets an AOY nomination. A couple of really solid songs, but overall a pop-inflected offering with middling vocals. Better than anything on “Today’s Hits!” country radio, but nowhere near the level of Sarah Shook or Blackberry Smoke. Whitey Morgan is also a perennial favourite, but I feel his records don’t quite reach the level of AOY greatness that we’re looking for. Always a few classics, but just a bit too much filler. I used to declare Jason Isbell the forgone-conclusion winner of Album/Artist/Everything Of The Year….but for me, Nashville Sound was a step down from Southeastern. So on balance, Sarah Shook or Blackberry Smoke should take the crown.
January 10, 2019 @ 9:58 pm
January 29, 2019 @ 9:05 pm
Thanks….somehow I missed your ‘conclusion’. Good call! Everybody I’ve played Years for agrees it’s something special!
March 29, 2019 @ 1:34 pm
I think you forgot the best of the best Male and female…Tyler Childers and Senora May..just saying !
March 29, 2019 @ 1:37 pm
Tyler Childers was released in 2017.
March 29, 2019 @ 1:40 pm
It also WON Album of the Year in 2017, and Tyler Childers was awards Artist of the Year in 2018.
August 18, 2019 @ 11:14 am
Hey guys and what about Jeremy Foucault and Blood Brothers? I understand that album not core country stuff, but i think it s too much good. Craftly-rooted music.