Nominees for the 2017 Saving Country Music Album of the Year
For the last few years, in the humble estimation of Saving Country Music, it has been a somewhat down era for excellent, legacy-caliber releases in country music and independent roots, with deference paid to the releases that did leave high water marks here and there. But 2017 was a different story, especially the first half, leaving us with difficult choices of what to consider to be the best of the year, let alone where to start whittling down the field. But here we are, and we’ll try and do our best.
More so than most years, a slew of projects will not make the cut as Album of the Year candidates, and this feels like a crying shame. Jason Eady‘s self-titled effort was right on the bubble, and would have been included if the candidates weren’t cut off at 10. Dori Freeman once again impressed just like she did in 2016, and was also right on the bubble. Billy Strings arguably put out the best bluegrass album of the year with Turmoil & Tinfoil. The Brother Brothers and their Tugboats EP can’t be overlooked. Colter Wall put out a high caliber, self-titled effort, and at only 22-years-old, will certainly get more shots at Album of the Year in the future, as will Parker McCullum, who set the pace for forward thinking country coming from Texas and beyond.
That’s to say nothing about Chris Stapleton‘s two installments of From A Room, or Willie Nelson‘s God’s Problem Child, which very well might be his best effort in a decade, or decades. And if it wasn’t for the relative un-country-ness of Shinyribs‘ I Got Your Medicine or JD McPherson‘s UNDIVIDED HEART & SOUL, they may have been included here as well.
But 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 don’t go crying about what has been left off. 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 calculus of the winner. So if you have an opinion, pipe up. 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 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 exercise to make music into a competition. The purpose is to expand the knowledge base for great music in a vetting exercise that is open to everyone, and respectful to all the music we think is the year’s best.
Jaime Wyatt – Felony Blues
Incredible singing, songwriting, and production in a heavily-thematic effort that hits straight at the heart.
For many of the best practitioners of country music, they don’t choose to pursue country music as a profession, country music chooses them. It becomes a necessity of their circumstances bred from hardship, bad decisions, a misspent youth, or other situations where the burdens of life grow so heavy, the only way to alleviate the load is to put those personal histories and bad experiences into song. With stories spun directly from Jaime Wyatt’s stained history, Felony Blues has the right style, as well as the real world-authenticity that true country music needs to not just send your toes tapping, but to stick to your bones as the real testaments of a life-worn soul.
Exquisitely produced and recorded with an excellent crew of musicians that includes Ted Russell Kamp, Gabe Wincher of The Punch Brothers, and fellow California country artist Sam Outlaw on the duet “Your Loving Saves Me,” the autobiographical, 7-song record is striking in how full and real it sounds, especially when held in contrast to the rather extended era of uninspiring output we find ourselves amidst in independent roots and country music. Though the album was made on a meager budget, no expense was spared if the song called for it, including steel guitar and backup singers, giving this otherwise West Coast country project plenty of Southern textures. (read full review)
Tyler Childers – Purgatory
Traditional/Outlaw country at its finest. A star is born.
Timing is the intangible quantity that is often overlooked for why sweet lady luck smiles upon certain artists and allows their music to succeed, and why others fall flat, or never seem to find the success their relative talent deserves. If Sturgill Simpson had started his career in earnest at age 23, he may have become a known quantity in music way before he was ready, typecast as just okay, and not be in a position where if he randomly chooses to produce an album from some unknown Kentucky songwriter, it immediately results in a necessity to pay attention.
Just like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers was playing and writing music for many years before he was ready to become a part of the national country music conversation. It was only after years of failure, perseverance, tempering in the fires of everyday life and dues paid on small stages that Tyler was able to find enough wisdom furrowing his brow and the proper resources beneath him to take it to the masses.
It’s that nexus between rural, real-world vernacular, filtered through an intelligent perspective, and gifted with poetic insight that makes an album like Tyler Childers’ Purgatory more infectious than your average throwback country effort. This album makes no apologies, and no attempts to sand down the rough edges, speaking candidly about drug use and womaizing similar to those early underground records from folks like Hank3 that helped set the table for the current country insurgency, yet is still distinctly Kentucky in perspective, steeped in the hollers of coal country, where the action happens down winding roads shaded from the sun due to the looming hills, and debauchery is so easy to discover if you know where to go looking. (read full review)
Lilly Hiatt’s – Trinity Lane
This is the 2017 sleeper.
With her third record, second generation alt-country performer Lilly Hiatt has offered up a career-defining album full of songwriting gems and inspired performances that is spirited to the heights of infectious listening by smart and considerate production. This personal and galvanized work finds the full realization of Lilly Hiatt’s vision, voice, and potential as a songwriter and performer, stepping out of the shadow of a famous name, forging her own sound and identity, and announcing her participation in discussions of who is worthy of praise in a new generation of emerging artists energized by rock and country in equal measures.
Trinity Lane is not just a record for people who like music, but for those dedicated acolytes of the art form who would travel two states over for a festival, or fork out money to buy their favorite artist’s new record on vinyl the day of release. Whether it’s incorporating the time stamp of the day David Bowie died in an alt-country song, or one of Trinity Lane‘s standout songs called “Records,” this particular work doesn’t just speak to what it’s like to have your heart broken, it speaks to having music help you through those moments, and how it can act as the backdrop to certain memories.
Trinity Lane is named for the specific street where Lilly Hiatt resides. But beyond the emotional breakup that inspired this record, it also reminds the true music fan what a place apart music can be for the troubles of the mind and heart—where it can create intimate landscapes inside each of us to escape to. There is us, and then there is us when we are lost in those moments all to ourselves that only the best music can provide—music like the stuff found on Lilly Hiatt’s Trinity Lane. (read full review)
Zephaniah OHora – This Highway
An ideal specimen of classic country in the modern context, and the best-produced album in the bunch.
Zephanaiah OHora’s This Highway just very well might be a modern classic country masterpiece. It’s flawless for what it is, which is a reawakening of everything brilliant and beautiful about the Countrypolitan era of country music, while leaving all the superfluousness of strings and choruses and other overproduction aside. In fact in a strange way, Zephaniah OHora, some 60 years after the original Countrypolitan era, has represented the essence and spirit of what made that era so great even better than some of the original artists and albums that helped define that epoch of American country music.
And don’t let me hear a peep about how some slicked back guy from the Big Apple is incapable of singing country music. Just listen to This Highway, and that perception is immediately discredited. If you want a good excuse to disregard Zephaniah OHora and This Highway, I offer my sincerest apologies. It is still eclectic to take this type of vintage approach to country music, and it won’t put Zephaniah on the Sturgill Simpson trajectory to superstardom. But for what it is and how it’s presented, This Highway leans heavily towards perfection. (read full review)
Marty Stuart – Way Out West
Country music’s best conceptualized record of 2017.
This album is steeped in a moment when forces thought to be so diametrically opposed in culture began to cross breed in ways we are still trying to match the creativity of today. Being a tireless student of the music as he is, Marty Stuart has gone and made a record that delves into this era with such authority and enthusiasm, it comes as close to matching those original moments as anyone since.
Just like The West itself, Marty Stuart’s new album is vast and diverse. You have the Marty Robbins-style desert ballads, you have the California country Clarence White influence, you have the Native American and the Mexican represented since they have such a profound influence on the land, and it’s all interwoven with the wonder that the American West inspires.
As much as Marty Stuart is a student of country music—and always has been from his days of playing in the bands of Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash—he’s also a teacher. And with a refreshing boldness, and frankly a little bit of guts from running the risk of being misunderstood by some of the fuddy duddy fans of traditional country, Marty Stuart encapsulates a critical time in country and all of American music when country music became cool. And even better, with Way Out West, Marty Stuart proves it still is. (read full review)
John Moreland – Big Bad Luv
The best songwriting of 2017, hands down.
Moreland has always been the apex predator in the songwriting department since he began releasing albums, even preceding Jason Isbell for those who put the effort out to seek Moreland out and listen. But the production of his records has always left a little to be desired. It’s hard for an artist who is used to performing solo to sit in a studio and know what to do with additional musicians, and this came through in the recording process. Don’t mistake this as a desire for Moreland to have a “produced” sound. That would suffocate his music faster than anything. But releasing music that is infectious, that honors groove, that finds a fetching melody is just another way to broaden the audience for John Moreland songs and enhance the experience, and shouldn’t been seen as somehow disrespecting or misunderstanding what’s at the heart of his appeal.
Big Bad Luv is exactly the type of album that John Moreland needed to make, where his songcraft suffers none, but is bolstered by the virtue of a more compositional approach to the music itself. And this is the only place he could improve or “evolve,” because the songwriting was already at the pinnacle. This album works like memories do. Salient, yet immersed in longing. Warm, but tinged with a little bit of pain. The song ends, but the message remains in your heart—and on this album, the melody and beat still frolicking in your toes, while presenting maybe even a more elevated songwriting effort from previous Moreland works, if that is even possible. (read full review)
Sunny Sweeney – Trophy
A victory from a once major label star who found her voice, and her home.
With Sunny Sweeney’s new album Trophy, it’s country, it’s Texas, and most importantly, it’s Sunny Sweeney all the way. It is the full package. It is a homecoming for Sunny. Like she says so well in the song “Nothing Wrong with Texas,” we all get so swept up in thinking there’s greener pastures, and better opportunities in latitudes and locations beyond our own, we forget that sometimes the things we go searching for in life are right under our noses. It’s not always a compromise to settle. Sometimes there’s nothing better than what you already have.
Trophy is the name of Sunny Sweeney’s fourth record, and a song about an attitude problem of an ex-girlfriend or wife. But the title is also indicative of a victory. The problem with money and fame is that you can always have more of it. The true victories in life are the ones earned when you discover something about yourself, and achieve a goal that is personal to you. Sometimes this comes with the earning of great wealth and recognition, and sometimes it comes at the compromise of them. But the measurements of fame and wealth are arbitrary and capricious. What’s most important is the personal discoveries you achieve. That is the point of the pursuit of happiness, and what is at the heart of Trophy. (read full review)
Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way From Your Heart
Has to be considered one of the strongest contenders in a strong field.
The Turnpike Troubadours are the greatest country music band in the world right now. The Turnpike Troubadours very well may be the the greatest country act overall—male, female, duo or group. Unlike other big non-commercial names like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Sturgill Simpson, the Turnpike Troubadours are not polarizing in any way to the population of music fans. Unlike Stapleton and Simpson, they are truly independent. You don’t shy away from the Turnpike Troubadours in any way from some perceived political affiliation or other potential acrimonious issue. And unlike Isbell, Stapleton, and Simpson, the Turnpike Troubadours are solidly, undeniably country.
The appeal for the Turnpike Troubadours crosses age groups, gender, geographic location, and social status. The Turnpike Troubadours are the independent band that even your mainstream-listening friends and family love. The Turnpike Troubadours are energetic and youthful, yet mature. Their music has an infectiousness, yet is still incredibly deep. The Turnpike Troubadours are all things to all country music people, and continuously prove their universal appeal whenever given a chance. And with a head full of momentum and a growing mantle of critical accolades and commercial accomplishments, the Turnpike Troubadours may have just released their most gratifying album yet.
Where other promising acts of independent country seem to almost invariably veer towards the rock or indie side of music as they make their career ascent, the Turnpike Troubadours have stuck to their country roots. If anything, they’ve added more twang to their sound by incorporating a sixth permanent member into the band recently in steel guitar player “Hammerin’” Hank Early. The Turnpike Troubadours are a band that won’t break your heart as a country fan. They won’t abandon you to follow some big trend, or attempt to set one for themselves. Like the rising and setting sun, the Turnpike Troubadours are steady. They are there for you, while remaining remarkably fresh and avoiding anything the feels even close to a stale routine. (read full review)
Joseph Huber – The Suffering Stage
Not to be overlooked, a strong display of songwriting and instrumentation, combined with excellent, unique production.
It’s hard to say enough about Joseph Huber’s songwriting, and how he’s able to evoke melancholy and forlornness in both timeless and timely narratives, or his ability to step behind most any instrument and pull the magic out of a melody that is eerily perfect for the desired mood and message. But something that can’t be emphasized enough about Huber’s music, and what is at the heart of why his songs have this naturally mournful, yet warming sensation, is simply the way his record’s sound, boiled down to perfunctory recording technique. It’s wholly immersive on the senses, like the smell of the inside of your grandfather’s suitcase.
The Suffering Stage makes reference to the Buddhist philosophy of life as suffering, and to life as a “stage” that we’re all simply players on. Whether it’s a spiritual journey or a theatrical movement, the point is to walk away with something learned; something gained. This is what Joseph Huber delivers on this record. Old, forgotten memories get stirred to the forefront. Theories on life are recalled and reflected upon. And you don’t end up more happy like music is supposed to do, you end up a little sad and nostalgic, but in a way that’s strangely comforting in a manner simple happiness is incapable of delivering. (read full review)
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
A tour de force from Isbell. The Album of the Year in Americana, for sure.
Jason Isbell’s The Nashville Sound is a career record. Put it right up there with his 2013 breakout, Southeastern. It is an important record for our time, and not because it relies on raptly polarizing political ideologies as the basis for its message and creative assertions, but because Jason Isbell, a native of Green Hill, Alabama, who is as Southern as the day is long, who is as sharp and in tune with the rhythms of culture in his time as anyone, is like a living, breathing embodiment of the modern day American experience, with all the dichotomies, guilt, glory, fortitude, humility, fears, and vices we all face encapsulated into one perspective, all capped off with his newly-found illumination via fatherhood.
The Nashville Sound is not a country album. It’s a Jason Isbell album. We want to claim it as country because it’s just so damn good regardless of what you call it. Country music should be proud to have Isbell within its ranks, and that’s the same reason so many try to extract an artist like Sam Hunt. A track like “Anxiety” isn’t really country at all. It’s not like any song we’ve heard from Isbell in the past. But it’s good, and most every roots-based genre will look to claim it.
We have lost so much in the last 18 months in the United States and beyond, even those of us who may have won political victories. The polarization and vitriol has inflicted its acrid state of mind on nearly every sector of life, including sports and leisure, and things that are supposed to take our minds off everyday trouble and conflict. At some point there must be a firewall, and music not meant as political insult shouldn’t be taken as such, or characterized so. Especially music that carries such enjoyment, wisdom, and is able to evoke emotions like The Nashville Sound does. (read full review)
Thomas Rhett – Life Changes
1) Please feel free to leave who YOU believe should win in the comments section below, as well as a list of your top albums of 2017.
2) Your feedback is strongly encouraged and will factor into the final decision, but this is not an up or down vote.
3) A much more expansive Essential Albums List will be posted in later December, so no bellyaching about what is “missing.” Make a suggestion of what you believe deserves greater recognition. This list is not just intended to reinforce who you already like, it’s purpose is to help fill in gaps in everyone’s knowledge base about great country and roots music.
December 5, 2017 @ 3:07 pm
Joseph Huber album of the year. The man is the Rodney Dangerfield of his time…he gets no respect.
December 5, 2017 @ 4:20 pm
I’ve listened to Childers probably more than any other artist this year, not named Jinks. Purgatory along with the Troubadours album were my two favorites for the year.
December 5, 2017 @ 4:23 pm
Sunny Sweeney is the Sharpening stuff.
December 5, 2017 @ 4:23 pm
And I think it is good.
December 5, 2017 @ 6:04 pm
Jospeh Huber gets my vote!
December 5, 2017 @ 7:01 pm
1. on the rocks- midland
2. california sunrise- jon pardi
3. sweet southern sugar – kid rock
4. sagebrush – ned ledoux
5. when the good guys win – granger smith earl dibbles jr
6. the good ole days- tracy lawrence
7. ttwo – miranda lambert
8. from a room vol 1 and 2 – chris stapleton
9. land of cotton – jonathan east
10. vinyl – william micheal morgan
December 6, 2017 @ 4:36 pm
You like it real poppy judging from this list…
December 5, 2017 @ 7:08 pm
I’d go with Tyler Childers first and then Turnpike Troubadours… Also, Jason Eady far surpasses the Jamie Wyatt album… Her album is only 7 songs. the space song is a little strange and the first song is pretty much her saying wishing on a wishing well repeatedly… at least that how it comes off. I get the yearning to add female artists, but there were far better. Giving Back The Best of Me though is a great song and in my rotation… If anything a song of the year nod for sure, but not feeling the whole album.
December 5, 2017 @ 8:11 pm
Joseph Huber has been one of the pioneers and saviors of country music. While I was a bigger fan of the. 357 style of rock/bluegrass, since branching out on his own, his real talent as a musician and songwriter has really taken off and is worth therecognition. Any instrument, any style, any time, he owns it. Add his unbelievable songwriting that make you literally feel the words and you got gold.
December 5, 2017 @ 8:34 pm
It obviously depends on your taste in the variety of sounds and realms of country music that are out there, but if we are talking pure country sound, songwriting, and relatability for the average person Zephaniah O’Hara and this highway wins for me. On top of everything amazing about this record, is the fact that we probably won’t hear anything with this sound or quality in a long time, unless it’s from Zephaniah himself. Although it’s not “original” so to speak, i personally haven’t heard anything like this in a long time. This may be going a little bit overboard, I would play numerous songs from this record and ask my grandparents (born in the early 40s) what year the song was made and they would say “oh yeah I’ve heard songs similar to this before it was probably late 50s, early 60s”..little did they know it was made just a few months prior. My point is that the record is incredibly unique, evocates old school quality, and screams true country music. This site introduced me to this album, otherwise i would have never discovered it. That’s saving country music.
Per Tore Gresseth
December 6, 2017 @ 5:20 am
I really can’t choose between the Turnpike Troubadours album and Sunny Sweeney’s Trophy.. But I think as for country music, Turnpike is more of an all around country album. Not necessarily better, but somehow I feel it’s more uplifting to country. I love both.
December 6, 2017 @ 6:47 am
My two cents(votes) for album of the Year:
Marty Stuart – Way Out West
Shannon McNally – Black Irish
December 6, 2017 @ 7:33 am
If Purgatory does not win then someone needs to explain to me what country music actually is
December 6, 2017 @ 8:00 am
Haven’t heard all the music but I can say Joseph Huber is in my opinion the best songwriter of this generation.
December 6, 2017 @ 9:29 am
Wheeler Walker Jr. – ‘Ol Wheeler
Tyler Childers – Purgatory
December 6, 2017 @ 10:27 am
I actually love the Wheeler album. My wife likes it more. LOL
December 6, 2017 @ 9:52 am
Joseph Huber, in my opinion, unequivocally released the best album of the year and some of the greatest tunes ever produced. Musically and lyrically, Joseph Huber is an amazingly reflective and introspective singer-songwriter that crafts some of the most masterful and timeless tunes.
December 6, 2017 @ 10:08 am
I respect all of the above! I also like to believe I have a broad range of listening to various types of singers and songwriters. Joseph huber is one of my alltime favorite singer and song writers. My vote is for Joseph Hubers suffering stage. That record has gotten hrs of my attention ever since I purchased it. Him and the boys are one of the hardest working musicians ive ever seen. Hes always on the grind and always delivering pure talent!
December 6, 2017 @ 4:11 pm
Joseph Huber The Suffering Stage
December 6, 2017 @ 4:17 pm
So, I am a huge Moreland fan, but this album missed the mark for me. In an effort to put forth a bigger sound and get away from the “sad bastard” reputation it felt to me like Moreland strayed a little too much in the arrangements and that the songs weren’t as heartfelt or memorable. It felt like it could have been better and more focused with someone like Dave Cobb producing it.
For an example of how to get balance of the heartfelt singer songwriter/playing with a band dynamic look no further than Tyler Childer’s record. The production value takes what are otherwise really good (but slightly unfocused) songs and adds texture, making them much more interested, and focused.
Just my two cents.
Also, it’s a total travesty that Colter Wall’s record is not mentioned in the top 10. Biggest omission by far.
December 6, 2017 @ 4:31 pm
You forgot what is hands down the best album of this year by far. And it wasn’t released til August so it’s gotten by a lot of people.
ALEX WILLIAMS- Better than Myself!
I can’t overstate how fantastic this cat is on his debut!
December 18, 2017 @ 7:34 am
Thanks for mentioning this. I was not familiar with Alex and I really like that recoding.
December 6, 2017 @ 6:45 pm
I put Zephaniah on repeat and just let it play over and over, start to finish. All the others have individual tracks that I dislike and end up skipping.
December 6, 2017 @ 7:04 pm
Joseph Huber is one of the best artist out there today, never miss a show in Michigan, can’t wait for them guys to come around.
December 6, 2017 @ 7:12 pm
December 6, 2017 @ 7:48 pm
Zephaniah’s This Highway is very concise and the production shines through the whole way through. The songwriting is great- deep, but still relevant. If people could just get over the pop beat that has them all doped on country radio these days, an album like this could really become popular. #1 vote!
#2- Way Out West… can’t beat that spacious sound of Marty’s guitar!
December 6, 2017 @ 8:39 pm
Childers wins for the hippest record of the year no doubt.
December 6, 2017 @ 9:16 pm
2.) Marty and the Superlatives
3.) Troubadours (umm, leave out the F-bombs next time, please)
December 7, 2017 @ 2:23 pm
Top 10 Country/Americana Albums of The Year
01-Michael Chapman – 50 
02-Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives – Way Out West 
03-Morgan Haner – Transmitter Blues 
04-Otis Gibbs – Mount Renraw 
05-Chris Stapleton – From A Room Volumes 1 & 2 
06-Nikki Lane – Highway Queen 
07-The Texas Gentlemen – TX Jelly 
08-The Mastersons – Transient Lullaby 
09-Various Artists – Music from The American Epic Sessions (2017)
10-Colter Wall – Colter Wall 
Best Live Album
Old Crow Medicine Show – 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde 
Best Covers Album
01-Various Artists – Music from The American Epic Sessions (2017)
02-Old Crow Medicine Show – 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde 
03-Alice Jayne – Inside The Cover 
04-Lucinda Williams – This Sweet Old World 
05-Alison Krauss – Windy City 
Best New Artist
Producer of The Year
EP of The Year
01-Lindi Ortega – Til The Goin’ Gets Gone [EP] 
02-Rab Noakes – The Treatment Tapes [EP] 
03-The Brother Brothers – Tugboats [EP] (2017)
04-Whitney Rose – South Texas Suite [EP] 
05-The Easy Leaves – The Wheels [EP] 
Instrumental Album of The Year
01-Toby Hay – The Gathering 
02-Noam Pikelny – Universal Favorite 
03-Jimbo Mathus – Solo Blues Guitar: Jimbo Mathus Performs The Replacements’ Let It Be (2017)
04-Elkhorn – The Black River 
Song of The Year
01-Sunny Sweeney – “Bottle By My Bed”
02-John Moreland – “Sallisaw Blue”
03-Lindi Ortega – “Til The Goin’ Gets Gone”
04-Chip Taylor – “Senorita Falling Down”
05-Natalie Hemby – “Cairo, IL”
06-Otis Gibbs – “Bison”
07-Liz Rose – “Grocery Money”
08-Ray Wylie Hubbard – “Tell The Devil Im Getting There As Fast As I Can”
09-Jaime Wyatt – “Giving Back The Best of Me”
10-Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “If We Were Vampires”
December 7, 2017 @ 11:40 pm
I already mentioned above that my vote was for Marty Stuart’s “Way Out West.” That hasn’t changed.
However. I’d like to make a case for a “Mainstream Album of the Year” (or similar), if there were to be such an award. With apologies to Chris Stapleton, I’d pick Brad Paisley’s “Love and War.” I’ve been a fan of Paisley since “Part Two.” His early stuff is very good and very country. Granted, his sense of humor can be a little much at times, but the music was definitely country. “American Saturday Night” showed a shift: it was still a decent album, but was more heavily produced. Then came “Wheelhouse” (and the whole “Accidental Racist” thing), which was, to me, Paisley’s low point. It almost seemed like he was trying too hard while being unsure of which way to go: hold on to tradition or try to do what the youngsters doing. “Moonshine in the Trunk” was alright, but, save for the title track, was fairly forgettable. All that to say, my expectations for “Love and War” was low. Very low.
The good news is “Love and War” sounds like Brad Paisley of old. Perhaps still overproduced, I’ll forgive that because it’s real music played on real instruments. The first thing we hear is banjo, the third is mandolin; there’s steel guitar and fiddle. And real drums. (Keith Urban, I’m looking at you.)
Song selection has highs and lows. The bad: a list song and a tad too much predictability. The good: none of the songs sounds like a 45 year old singing like a 20 year old. Highlights include “Go to Bed Early,” “Grey Goose Chase” (which is reminiscent of “Mr. Policeman” from 5th Gear), the Johnny Cash-penned “Gold All Over the Ground,” and “Meaning Again.” “Selfie #theinternetisforever” is fun and has typical Paisley humor. Lastly, while I know the title track can be argued for it’s effectiveness (and was in the original review here) , featuring John Fogerty lends it credibility. I’d like to see it released as a single.
Is “Love and War” the best album of the year? No. But, for a mainstream artist, Brad Paisley has shed some of the bro-country influences from the last couple albums and has released a album that is rooted in country music, with songs that fit him and not someone half his age. That can only be a good thing for Brad Paisley, his fans, country music.
December 8, 2017 @ 12:01 am
This “Purgatory” album, sorry as hell I ignored it before. WOW. Maybe even better than Turnpike Troubadours…maybe. Got a physical copy on the way and wearing it out on Amazon Prime. Both are so good but I’ve been listening to one of them for years and one for days.
December 8, 2017 @ 5:04 pm
Joseph Huber wins my vote…Tyler Childers 2nd..
December 8, 2017 @ 9:12 pm
Joseph Huber, The Suffering Stage, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd votes.
January 17, 2018 @ 4:30 pm
That goes for me too, Suffering Stage sweep.
December 9, 2017 @ 5:38 am
December 9, 2017 @ 8:21 am
Lilly Hiatt… come on bro…
I only heard one song off the album and it can best be described as hot garbage.
How The White Buffalo was left off this list is a travesty, his new album is brilliant from beginning to end.
December 9, 2017 @ 11:46 am
“I only heard one song off the album and it can best be described as hot garbage.”
Then perhaps it would stand to reason that this opinion is not informed. Man how I wish I could come to these conclusion and they be considered credible when I have to review certain mainstream records.
The White Buffalo record is pretty good. Still haven’t ruled out reviewing it.
December 9, 2017 @ 2:16 pm
With all due respect (I bow to your musical taste and thank you for the countless artists that you have introduced me to), I don’t think that I need to listen to an entire Florida Georgia Line album to know that their product is trash.
Lilly is nothing more than a second generation “singer” that forces a fake twang and recycled rhetoric.
You heavily lean towards female singers as of late
December 24, 2017 @ 12:43 pm
wowwww, her record came across as pretty heart felt to me…granted, I listened to more than one song off of it. also, she’s a southerner….so not so sure about that “forced twang”
December 9, 2017 @ 1:17 pm
It’s the Troubadours. Hands down. The rest were also very good, especially Childers’ Purgatory, but nothing else delivered such a fantastic all-encompassing experience.
The only strike against them is their own critical success. Everything they have released this decade has been SOOOO good, that pure excellence has become their status quo. They aren’t surprising anyone when a beautiful album like this arrives, so it takes away a tiny bit of that excitement we all get when hearing Childers wail for the first time.
December 9, 2017 @ 4:40 pm
December 10, 2017 @ 7:02 pm
Working from this list, John Moreland gets my vote.
Best album I heard all year though, belonged to Will Hoge’s Anchors, and it wasn’t even close! He’s easily the most under appreciated artist of our time.
December 16, 2017 @ 7:56 pm
Thank you Shaun. I agree. Full disclosure, I work with him, so I’m biased, but I read about artists getting lauded for being brave for taking stands like being against our president (wow, go out on a limb there) or that women should make as much money as men (no shit), and I think about Will’s Still A Southern Man, The Ballad Of Trayvon Martin, Times Are Not Changing, and so on, and they are great fucking songs in addition to being more nuanced, cutting social critiques. And he writes great songs that aren’t political too!
June 22, 2018 @ 6:40 am
David, following up way after this article was relavent, but when you say that you work with Will, does that mean that you tour with him? I’ve been listeing to Will for over 15 years and I’m finally getting the chance to see him play tonight. If you do tour with him, I’d love to catch up and let you buy me a beer, lol. Maybe we could even talk about how I can get my hands back on some of those early EP’s that I lost during the conversion to streaming (thanks wifey, hope you got more than .50 cents for them at the garage sale – #stillpissed).
December 11, 2017 @ 10:21 am
I finally got a chance to listen to Ned Ledoux’s Sagebrush and it should win hands down. It is one of the best albums I have heard in a long time. It sounds so much like his dad. Even the duet with Chase Rice doesn’t hurt the album. The album is a 10 out of 10.
December 11, 2017 @ 12:48 pm
So many good albums this year. I’d probably go with Huber or OHora if I had to choose.
December 12, 2017 @ 9:47 am
Sagebrush Ned Ledoux. Sounds so much like his dad it’s not funny, damn good album too.
Toby in AK
December 12, 2017 @ 11:29 pm
my vote goes to Sunny, I think her album is going to age well and the song “bottle by the bed” is a rarity – a topic that hasn’t been covered in a country song… that I can think of
December 19, 2017 @ 12:50 pm
my list with link, there is a few on it people here might like and i cant recommend enough the Alligator man album!
December 20, 2017 @ 12:16 pm
how about that Eli Fox’s Tall Tales album? some mighty picking!!
John "Bones" Antus
December 27, 2017 @ 3:33 am
Emi sunshine is the future of country music
December 29, 2017 @ 6:05 pm
Tyler Childers “Purgatory” makes an excellent runner-up, but Lilly Hiatt’s “Trinity Lane” was the album of the year. It’s as good as Lucinda Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” It’s as good as Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town.” It’s as good as Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern.” Lilly Hiatt. “Trinity Lane.” Album of the Year.