Saving Country Music’s Best Albums of 2013 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
“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
“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
“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
“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 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, clichÃ¨ 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
“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
“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 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
“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
June 17, 2013 @ 8:45 am
I’m liking the current selections this year. Just purchased Carolina Still, Eric Strickland, Dale Watson, and Fifth on the Floor this morning. Already purchased Sturgill Simpson, Ashley Monroe, Holly Williams, and Shooter. Waiting to see if Jayke Orvis will be available on Amazon anytime soon otherwise putting Jason Isbell, Pistol Annies, Jason Boland, Old Crow, Seasick Steve, Kacey Musgraves, and Valerie June on the soon to be bought list.
So far my favorites have to be Sturgill Simpson, Ashley Monroe, Eric Strickland, Jayke Orvis, Carolina Still, Boland, and Kacey Musgraves.
June 17, 2013 @ 9:34 am
Valerie June, Possessed By Paul James, Austin Lucas, and a few others are still set to release albums this year. Folks eager to declare what the 2013 “Album of the Year” is may want to wait for these other shoes to fall. I’ve heard bits of all three, and they’re spectacular.
June 17, 2013 @ 11:10 pm
And last year’s album of the year winner Kellie Pickler is releasing a new album this fall!
June 18, 2013 @ 8:54 pm
The Opry added Someone Somewhere Tonight to their youtube channel!
June 17, 2013 @ 8:51 am
Bonnie Whitmore’s “There I Go Again” might be the best country record that you’re not listening to.
June 17, 2013 @ 9:39 am
Thanks for the suggestion. Looks like her latest album just came out. We’ll check it out!
TX Music Jim
June 17, 2013 @ 9:25 am
Albums you haven’t reviewed yet That are album of the year consideration worthy are El Western Motel by Chris Wall. Thus far outside of this record my other pick would be Jason Boland’s Dark nad Dirty Mile.
June 17, 2013 @ 9:47 am
I like “El Western Motel” but I’m afraid it is a little too sparse to be a good introduction to Chris Wall’s music. So I’ve been going back through his albums to maybe find a better introduction, then come back to “El Western Motel.”
TX Music Jim
June 17, 2013 @ 11:47 am
Trig, correct El Western Motel is very accoustic and sparse which I dig a lot. For a better introduction I would start with Cowboy Nation and then Tainted Angel and finally live at Gruene Hall. All fine full band albums. Tainted Angel has a young Reckless Kelly as the back up band. The live album is cool because unlike most live albums it is mostly new material not contained on other records.His Earlier releases like ‘no sweat” on rykodisc I beleive are out of print but still maybe available from Chris directly through his website.Everything else should be on I tunes or Amazon etc.
June 17, 2013 @ 10:15 am
For artist of the year, Isbell is really taking the cake for me. Just the other year, JTE was getting the nod in this category due to how great his sobriety was influencing his music. Well Isbell is just tearing things up, and his getting clean has just taken his music to a new level.
It became solidified for me when watching his cover of maybe the best country song of all time “Pancho and Lefty”.
June 17, 2013 @ 10:28 am
I liked most of these albums, but none of them really blew me away.
So far my favorites of the year Simpson, Boland, and Son Volt; but I think they’re all inferior to a lot of the nominations from 2012 (Pickler, Troubadours, Chris Knight, Corb Lund).
Not saying it’s been a bad year or anything, but I thought 2012 had some exceptionally strong albums
June 17, 2013 @ 11:12 am
What do you think about Trace Adkin’s new album “Love Will”. It’s all country love songs. You may enjoy it.
June 17, 2013 @ 2:04 pm
I’ve not heard much but a few songs. The problem with Trace Adkins is he wants it both ways. He puts out joke songs like “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk” and “Brown Chicken Brown Cow,” and then wants to be taken seriously when he puts out a sappy album. Even he’s saying his run as a radio star might be over. One of the most amazing voices in country, but he’s got no compass. I will try to listen to the album further when I get a chance.
June 17, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
Good Album,I recommend it
June 17, 2013 @ 8:56 pm
This prompted me to give a few of the songs a listen. It’s better than Honky Tonk Badonadonk, and there is nothing that terrible about it–at least by Country Radio standards– but I don’t think it’s that much better (or more country) than most Trace Adkins songs.
June 17, 2013 @ 11:16 pm
His biggest problem now is the duet with Colbie Callait, a terrible Swiftish move. When will the industry learn that most country fans don’t want any pop? Dozens of country women can record a much better duet with Trace!
June 17, 2013 @ 11:33 am
My two favorites this year are Simpson on Boland.
I instantly loved High Top Mountain.
Dark and Dirty Mile was a little different. I had to listen to it a few times to really start to like it. It kind of grows on you.
June 17, 2013 @ 11:45 am
Truck stops and Cigarettes by Lindi Ortega! Lovely Canadian gal.
Whitney Rose- Whitney Rose (Another GREAT Canadian gal.)
June 17, 2013 @ 2:05 pm
“Cigarettes & Truckstops” was a 2012 release, but a great one. We’ll check out Whitney Rose.
June 17, 2013 @ 5:56 pm
Ahhh my bad. And the Whitney Rose one is also 2012.
June 18, 2013 @ 10:17 am
Yes I second the Whitney Rose reccomendation. One of the best pure country voices around and her album is pretty much pure traditional old school country like Kitty Wells or Patsy Cline and she writes her own songs. Seen her live many times as well. She could definitely blow up with a little help.
June 19, 2013 @ 4:26 pm
I heard she is working on a new album. Let’s hope a 2013 release date isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
June 17, 2013 @ 12:31 pm
great list. ive been listening to holly williams and jason isbell already based on your earlier reviews and im becoming a fan next up are the mavericks.
lately the youtube clips on this site dont work for me i just get a big black box. anyone know what might be causing this?
thanks in advance for any suggestions
June 17, 2013 @ 2:08 pm
Not hearing from anyone else with that problem. Some public access/work networks block flash players, but that wouldn’t be just specific to this site.
June 17, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
Nice picks here’s a list of the cds I think are the best
Don Rigsby The Mountain Doctor
Junior Sisk The story of the day I died
Dailey and Vincent Brothers of the Highway
Sturgill Simpson High Top Mountain.
The Daughters of bluegrass Pickin like a girl
The steeldrivers hammer down
Dale Watson El Rancho Azul
Amber Digby The world your living in
Wayne Hancock Ride
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell Old yellow moon
June 17, 2013 @ 3:47 pm
I haven’t listened to Eric Strickland, Dinosaur Truckers, or the Jake Orvis releases yet. But, I will soon. With that said, the following are my favorite albums at the halfway marker:
1. “High Top Mountain” Sturgill Simpson
2. “Like A Rose” Ashley Monroe
3. “Feeling Mortal” Kris Kristofferson
4. “American Kid” Patty Griffin
5. “Cavalcade” Cold Satellite
6. “The Highway” Holly Williams
7. “The Low Highway” Steve Earle
Hopefully the second half of the year will be better.
June 17, 2013 @ 3:55 pm
The Mavericks album is great.
Another album to keep an eye on later this year will be Julie Roberts debut on Sun Records this coming October. The first new music from Sun Records in over 25 years.
June 17, 2013 @ 4:11 pm
Didnt Chris Knight’s Little Victories come out this year? Or is time flying by that fast? I love that record. I love Bolands new Album too. Its been awesome listening to his transition as an artist over the years.
June 17, 2013 @ 4:46 pm
Chris Knight’s “Little Victories” was September 2012. Excellent album though.
June 17, 2013 @ 5:38 pm
Dang time flies. Thanks for the response though.
June 17, 2013 @ 4:12 pm
Really enjoying Sturgiss and Caitlin this year. Della Mae has put out a great album for those that like a bit of bluegrass. My most anticipated album will be Valerie June.
June 17, 2013 @ 5:39 pm
Here’s my some of my favorites, roughly in order:
Jason Isbell – Southeastern
Richard Thompson – Electric
Patty Griffin – American Kid
Jimbo Mathus – White Buffalo
Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain
Holly Williams – The Highway
Caitlin Rose – The Stand In
Steve Earle – The Low Highway
Daniel Romano – Come Cry With Me
Peter Rowan – The Old School
Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison – Cheater’s Game
Jonny Fritz – Dad Country
Just got the new new Mavericks but haven’t listened to it yet. John Morleand on the way. Excited to hear about upcoming releases by PPJ, Austin Lucas and Valerie June. Maybe Scott H. Biram, too? Got a Facebook update saying recording was done and mixing was next.
June 18, 2013 @ 5:40 am
What the hell? Let’s make it a “fine fifteen.” A few more gooduns:
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon
Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
June 17, 2013 @ 6:02 pm
I’ve probably listened to Caitlin Rose – The Stand-in almost every day since it came out. I’m not even close to suck of it. It gets better everytime.
June 17, 2013 @ 6:36 pm
Go ahead son…you know it’s “High Top Mtn” don’t let these other poor souls get all worked up thinking they got a chance on this one.
June 17, 2013 @ 7:01 pm
Some really good stuff on your list! 🙂
My favorites so far this year:
1. They Might Be Giants, ‘Nanobots’ (my favorite band, so I’m biased like that)
2. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, ‘Cheater’s Game’
3. Richard Thompson, ‘Electric’
4. Ashley Monroe, ‘Like a Rose’
5. Kim Richey, ‘Thorn in My Heart’
6. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, ‘Old Yellow Moon’
7. Kacey Musgraves, ‘Same Trailer, Different Park’
8. Pistol Annies, ‘Annie Up’
Honorable mention: Terri Clark, ‘Classic’ (released in the US digitally last fall, but got a CD release in January)
June 17, 2013 @ 7:43 pm
Great list. Just got the Sturgill Simpson and am enjoying it. Otherwise it’s Caitlin Rose, Jason Isbell, and John Moreland for me. I need to pick up the Dinosaur Truckers, Jayke Orvis, Eric Strickland, and Jason Boland albums (the others on your list I have).
June 17, 2013 @ 8:32 pm
Most of my favorites already listed and some to check out, but 2 of my favorites i didnt see are Jerry Milller and Slaid Cleaves.
June 17, 2013 @ 9:09 pm
Southeastern gets my vote. Funny thing is I totally forgot about this album even coming out until I saw your review, bought it on amazon the second I was done reading it. Can’t remember an album in recent memory that has felt so personal to me, powerful stuff. Keep doing what you’re doing, man. I’m sure I speak for many when I say your work results in artists selling units.
June 18, 2013 @ 7:50 am
really digging Sturgill Simpson and The Dinosaur Truckers thanks for that, a few more that deserve recognition are:
Luke Winslow King -The Coming Tide
Woody Pines – Rabbits Motel
Leeroy Stagger – Truth Be Sold
June 18, 2013 @ 11:25 am
The Tuttles with A.J. Lee – Endless Ocean
i really love this band its made up of 3 siblings, their father and aj lee a family friend. i prefer the fearless kin sound to the tuttles but i think they are just as good especially aj lees singing which really blows me away especially considering shes still in high schoool and will probably get even better as she gets older.
June 18, 2013 @ 12:00 pm
Southeastern, hands down. I’ve been a Isbell fan since I first heard the song “Decoration Day.” He really has outdone himself this time. Amazing. I would go so far to say that he has joined Turnpike Troubadours for best album of the decade.
June 18, 2013 @ 2:45 pm
I am relatively new to the site, and love it! For the most part I couldn’t agree more with your opinions. One question, why don’t you cover Steve Earle? I only saw one review for the “Townes” album. Granted, he has strayed from traditional country music, but “The Low Highway” is a great country album. No love?
June 18, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
No beef with Steve Earle whatsoever. Love his music, though I’ve been outspoken about wishing he would tone down his politics sometimes. Not necessarily because I am opposed to them, I just like a good separation between music and politics.
Established alt-country artists like Steve Earle may not get as much attention here because they already tend to get tons of favorable press, and I’m usually seeking out either 1) The excellent artists way under the radar. 2) The exceptions in the mainstream realm that independent fans actually may like. It doesn’t mean I’m avoiding Steve Earle, and I mention him in passing often, even if I don’t do many dedicated features. There’s so much music out there, the hardest task I face every day is deciding what to spend my time on.
Jason "Mater" Robinson
June 18, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
Nice list…but no Dad Country by Johnny Fritz?
June 19, 2013 @ 12:02 am
This was an album I swore I had written a review for, but went back and couldn’t find it. Have a sense we’ll see one soon. I wouldn’t consider it an Album of the Year candidate, but it’s got some good songs.
June 18, 2013 @ 9:34 pm
My personal favorite of 2013…or the last several years…is Daniel Romano’s “Come Cry With Me”. If you have not heard it, take a second and go to itunes and just preview a couple of songs.
This guy sounds like country music should sound. He’s making honest-to-God country music and that is very rarely done in this day and age.
June 19, 2013 @ 8:58 am
Why no mention on SCM on the new Dierks Bentley/Kacey Musgraves tune, “Bourbon in Kentucky”? This is a traditional-sounding song which should be highlighted on this site!
June 19, 2013 @ 9:42 am
There are a dozen songs released in country music every day, and a dozen albums every month. I am only one person and can’t feature every one of them. I am aware of the song, and if I feel inspired and if I have the time to feature it in some way I certainly will.
Brandon Lee Williams
June 20, 2013 @ 9:26 am
I realize you haven’t reviewed it quite yet. John Morelands “In The Throes” is literally the best album I’ve heard this year besides Isbell. They just happened to be on the same week and Isbell lauded more fanfare of course. If any of you guys haven’t bought this yet you seriously have to reevaluate your priorities 😉 Cheers
June 20, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
Listen to Craig Campbell’s, ‘Never Regret’ that came out in May. Craig sticks to his country roots and it seems like your listening to a good country album of the early 90’s.
June 22, 2013 @ 9:07 am
Yep, by all means, check out John Moreland’s new album, In the Throes. It’s really good.
June 24, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
How am I missing all these albums? I need to purchase these ASAP.
July 1, 2013 @ 1:25 pm
The Mavericks were on CBS This Morning recently and immediately after, “In Time” went to #1 on Amazon and iTunes, beating out Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton. Maybe there is some hope after all. Maybe.
July 19, 2013 @ 11:03 am
Turgil Simpson and Caitlin Rose do it for me. I also quite like LeAnn Rimes’ record so far… I know it’s mainstream country and I’ll probably be mocked for that, but several of it’s songs are interesting to me both because of the honesty and the direct writing of the lyrics and the catchy melody.