Saving Country Music’s Best Country Albums of 2019 So Far
As we get to the halfway pole in the musical year, it’s time to look back and asses the best albums that have been released in 2019 so far. At the moment, 2019 feels very top loaded with stellar releases. It has also been a very busy year for releases in regards to volume, though much more hit and miss when it comes to quality the further you go down the list compared to recent years.
The first albums highlighted should be considered early candidates for Saving Country Music’s “Album of the Year,” while everything else highlighted should be considered coming highly recommended. But of course over time, estimations can change. Some albums may eventually reveal themselves as not worthy for Album of the Year consideration, while others may rise to that recognition.
PLEASE NOTE: This only includes albums that have been reviewed by Saving Country Music so far. Just because an album is not included here doesn’t mean it’s not good, or won’t be reviewed in the future. Many released albums are still slated for review.
Recommendations and opinions on albums is encouraged, including leaving your own list of favorite albums in the comments sections below. However, please understand that nothing has been “forgotten,” and no list is “illegitimate” just because one particular album is left off, or a certain album is included. The point of this exercise is to expand the awareness of great music, and that is how it should be approached by all parties. Saving Country Music reviews a very large amount of material, but no critic or outlet can review every single project released in a given genre.
The albums are presented in no particular order.
Charlie Marie – Self-Titled EP
Fine gentlemen of country music, guard your hearts as you foray deep into the music of Charlie Marie, for the very real possibility of falling head over heels in love with this chanteuse is a clear and present concern when partaking in this incredible channeling of country music’s dulcet tones and classic styling. Ladies of country music, lose yourself in the astonishing pain and deeply personal stories that Charlie Marie spins in the timeless fashion of Patsy Cline, and in such an incredibly haunting manner you feel like you’ve fallen into an immersive suspension of 50’s country musical goodness.
All the people of country music, rejoice that despite all the woes about whatever is supposedly endangering the genre on a given day, in the hearts of gifted entertainers still lies such incredible passion and talent for this music, it has the ability to make the spine tingle, the heart swoon, and the mind spark with wonder and nostalgia like it did the first time you heard your first country song, and you knew it was the style of music that spoke to your soul most personally. Listening to Charlie Marie’s new self-titled EP is falling in love with country music all over again, reminding you why you got wrapped up in caring about this music in the first place, and finding yourself thankful for being alive in an era when an artist like this can still be discovered despite the oppressive media regime that disallows someone like Charlie Marie from being broadcast to the masses.
The old soul is rendered sated in the presence of Charlie Marie’s self-titled EP, with the only hope being that the future affords even more music from this brilliant, beautiful, gifted, and compelling classic country music performer. (read full review)
Ian Noe – Between The Country
Don’t regard Ian Noe (pronounced with a silent ‘e’) as just another Kentucky songwriter in the growing gaggle of them gaining national attention, or just the latest to roll down Interstate 65 into Nashville to corner Dave Cobb in his Studio ‘A’ for a couple of weeks, and get the critics swooning just because it all looks good on paper. The Beattyville native who now makes his home in Bowling Green might have all the pieces in place to woo the Americana crowd, but his perspective, sound, and approach to music is all his own and autonomous from whatever other names or regions might be involved, aside from borrowing heavily from the Overlords of American songwriting such as Prine, Dylan, and Guthrie. Folk and country could fight to claim primary rights for Ian Noe’s music, and his music and songwriting make a strong case for inclusion in both.
On Between The Country, people die, and the light of the world is clouded out by the gloom of hard times, broken hearts, and unsettled minds. The American dream is forgotten in the forlorn struggle for everyday survival, where death isn’t always regarded as a catastrophic outcome, but is sometimes seen as sweet relief from earthly burden, and one marks themselves fortunate if they even receive a proper grave or a marker upon it when the Master calls. There’s no mistaking that the moribund pall that hangs over some of the hills and valleys of some of Kentucky’s most depressed regions fuel such harrowing accounts of life and death, whether it takes shape as a murder ballad similar to those in the historical past, or an account of meth addiction that’s all too real today.
Ian Noe’s own story is just now beginning to take shape. But the promise and excitement he sows in the ten songs of Between The Country is something that’s inescapable. As his fellow Kentuckians continue to ascend to places we never believed possible for those unwilling to bend to radio trends and label requisites, the ranks of up-and-comers continue to be replenished. The songs of Ian Noe may delve into dire subject matters, but it sure makes one feel thankful for the musical bounty Kentucky continues to provide. (read full review)
Emily Scott Robinson – Traveling Mercies
With stunning insight, masterful use of character and setting, and tastefully sparse but complete and fulfilling arrangements, a journey through Traveling Mercies makes you a changed human with lessons learned, perspectives expanded, and moments cherished, not dissimilar to the experience of taking a long road trip across the country following a loose itinerary of friends to visit and places to see.
A travel record at heart, with stories that enchant your perspective similar to the heightened senses that speeding down the highway and taking in new scenery imparts, songs like “Westward Bound” and “White Hot Country Mess” make for enjoyable listens. But this is just the canvas that Emily Scott Robinson stretches taut to create space for her most brilliant master strokes of expression, including in moments where her songwriting becomes so cutting, cunning, poignant, and resonant, it’s only fair to characterize it as authoritative in quality.
Not dissimilar to how you often recall your most warmest or touching memories in quiet moments of reflection, an open heart will entrust similar moments to pondering the stories of Traveling Mercies. Because in an era full of noise and ever-present distraction and priority, this is an album worth slowing down for, reflecting upon, and cherishing fondly. (read full review)
Taylor Alexander – Good Old Fashioned Pain
You’re gonna want to listen to Taylor Alexander’s Good Old Fashioned Pain. You’re gonna want to add it into your heavy rotation, where it will reside for many months and maybe years to come. If and when vinyl copies are made available, you’re gonna want to purchase one, even if it just sits on the shelf, simply to assure yourself it’s there, and if the digital music grid ever goes dark you know you’ve got a backup copy. Good Old Fashioned Pain is the kind of record that you hope and pray crosses your path as country a music fan. It’s the type of record that you crave will be delivered to you each Friday on release day to liven your spirits and satiate your country music soul. And undeniably, Good Old Fashioned Pain is country.
This record refuses to let you down. The songwriting is like the resuscitation of one timeless classic country theme after another, only even more smartly written from dedicate study of the medium, and sculpted to fit Taylor Alexander’s specific story. The record is about a struggling musician attempting to make a dream real, and having to live with the sacrifices of living on the road, getting by with less, trying to hold onto love, all while trying to stay focused and believing in one’s self. In one song after another, Alexander’s stories become allegorical troughs of wisdom, delivered in simple and relatable expressions, while his spirit and perseverance feel palpable, and result in an inspiring listen.
Completely unsigned and looking for a shot at the dream, Taylor Alexander and Good Old Fashioned Pain make as good a case as any for being foisted right to the front of the line from the talent, heart, and authenticity exhibited. (read full review)
Caroline Spence – Mint Condition
Caroline Spence enjoys that one-of-a-kind gift of making a sound that doesn’t just draw you in, in makes every word and note sound immaculate and sincere, immediately inspiring swells of empathy from within the audience. To hear Caroline Spence sing about heartache and loneliness is to be overcome with a feeling of tenderness. Sweet, feminine, inviting, yet infinitely sad, it’s the kind of voice a young child uses to ask for something, and is impossible to deny. It’s the kind of voice that makes you proud to count Caroline Spence as a member of the country and roots community.
A voice like Caroline Spence’s that demands compulsory attention for an audience is one thing. Writing songs to compliment it is another. Stiff debate could ensue about which attribute—singing or songwriting—is what makes Mint Condition stand out, with no wrong answer to be had. Spence had already presented herself as a preeminent songwriter of the independent Nashville scene with 2015’s Somehow, and 2017’s Spades & Roses. But Mint Condition is where a consistency emerges, offering no lulls in the enchantment of her storytelling and conveyance of emotions.
Unlike so many modern songs and records where composers utilize fairy tale notions of self-confidence in popular empowerment anthems addled by platitudes, Mint Condition is about Spence’s confidence to articulate her willingness to give herself to another, her fear at being alone, and an unapologetic need for companionship. This vulnerability is not an expression of weakness, it is an articulation of humanity, and when coupled with Caroline’s vocal qualities, has the ability to perforate the hardened protection around the most steeled of hearts. (read full review)
Ben Jarrell – Troubled Times
Wondering where the hell all the hard charging, kick ass, phase guitar and pedal steel-filled good ol’ Outlaw country music has gone in 2019, and without skimping on the songwriting, thank you very much? Well it all seems to have been sucked up and put to good use by Alabama native Ben Jarrell who just unleashed his debut LP Troubled Times, and it’s one hell of a ride boys and girls. Either you’re paying attention to this thing and telling all your friends and co-workers about it, hitting up that second cousin of yours who can’t stop listening to that Kane Brown mess, or you’re failing as a country music fan.
Troubled Times is the kind of record you wish some of your favorite country artists would release, but never seem to get around to. Good thing that Ben Jarrell did, because it’s red meat for hungry ears. Alive, vibrant, full-bodied and energetic, while in other moments intimate and heartfelt, it’s the kind of debut that doesn’t just fulfill your country music needs in the present tense, it announces your next favorite artist.
You always appreciate a good album, but you appreciate a good album from a new artist even more, expanding your arsenal to kill the pain of those long trips, lonely nights, or long and lame weekend tasks. Ben Jarrell’s Troubled Times is one of those records. (read full review)
The Steel Blossoms – Self-Titled
If you’re a closet fan of the kitschy country songs of Kacey Musgraves, or the unabashed attitude of Maddie & Tae, but just wish it could all be a little more country and organic, the Steel Blossoms have bloomed just for you. A cunning take on the classic country duo with songs that will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think in a listening experience that covers a lot of ground, the two-part harmonies and harrowing tales of the Steel Blossoms are worth seeking out.
Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser are two former elementary school teachers who met in Pennsylvania while playing in separate projects. Immediately noticing a musical kinship between each other, the Steel Blossoms were formed, eventually relocating to Nashville and spending ample time developing their songs and sound on the road and house concerts. Evoking the timeless sorcery of two-part harmonies is one thing. Penning songs that put this gift to good use is another. The Steel Blossoms possess both.
Whatever your mood or sensibility, the Steel Blossoms have you covered, and show a pretty unbelievable range and proficiency with whatever they choose to pen and sing about. Putting your finger on exactly what the Steel Blossoms are may be a little tough, but concluding that they’re enjoyable, engaging, and intriguing is quite easy. (read full review)
Matt Carson – No Regrets
If you really want to test your mettle as a country music fan, if you’re one who thinks they can handle songs of heartbreak one after another like shots of Jack lined up across the bar, if you want to put your emotional capacity through the paces and stress test your country music heart to see if you can compete with the big boys of pain tolerance via country tunes, Matt Carson’s No Regrets is the album for you. This is not for the amateur sad song connoisseur out there. Neophytes to this most severe side of country should start first with records that mix a few sad songs in with other stuff to steal them for what they’ll experience here. This thing should come with a warning label for how heart-rending it is.
With the self-expressed mission to “Make Country Music Sad Again,” Matt Carson makes some serious inroads into this stated objective by self-penning incredible tearjerkers that show no compassion in their conveyance of sorrow, and sings the hell out of some well-recognized covers as well. Completely blind from the time he was born, this South Carolina native doesn’t need to embellish his story to make you wholeheartedly believe his songs of loss, leaving, and regret. When Matt Carson croons about missing someone’s touch, and still smelling them in the hall after they’ve left for good, your own sense of smell and feel are heightened to the emotional toll this man has felt.
And it all has a happy ending of sorts. Matt Carson has moved on from the heartbreak of youth, and is now married with four kids. But that history, and the stories he can compose in his mind without the distraction of the visual world make him a unique and valued songsmith, and one who doesn’t have to pass his works off to some other singer to record the definitive rendition, he can handle that all himself. (read full review)
The Steel Woods – Old News
The Steel Woods have arrived ladies and gentlemen, and with them a whole new legacy of Southern rock to enjoy in the present tense, and look forward to for the foreseeable future. The band’s first album Straw in the Wind smartly took the Southern rock template, modernized it, and put a signature stamp on it by bringing a metal attitude to the music, and texturing the songs with dark chords and themes that could chill you to the bone. But you also got these sense that this was a project still trying to find its footing and could have used a little variety. It was manned by accomplished artists from other projects moving forward with a solid concept, but they were still feeling themselves and each other out, and interested to see how their unique brew of music might be received by the public.
With Old News, they lay it all to bear, leave nothing to chance, throw out their best shots, and scream for rightful consideration right beside bands like Blackberry Smoke and Whiskey Myers as the best Southern Rock the here and now has to offer. 15 tracks go from pure Southern rock, to stripped down country, to country metal hybrids, and a bunch of covers that are hard to quit hitting repeat on, and that all come together for what will go down as a career-defining record.
Old News gives you a lot to chew on, and though it’s difficult to question any track, being a bit more austere might have meant more attention for its most potent moments. But you may need to invest in the double vinyl version of this album and hold it in your hands to really understand this album’s scope and impact. They included a lot of covers as both an homage to the past, and because they blew them all out of the water, and couldn’t whittle them down. This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill sophomore release from an up-and-coming band. The Steel Woods set out to press a Southern Rock opus with Old News, and though it’s always prudent to sit on such lofty proclamations until time has made its own determinations on an effort, this record is certainly a candidate for such an “opus” distinction. (read full review)
Charles Wesley Godwin – Seneca
When you hear an artist like Charles Wesley Godwin sing, there is no need to power cycle your sense of disbelief. The sinewy roots of West Virginia’s hardscrabble existence seem to be intertwined with Godwin’s synapses and muscle tissue, almost as if he’s a construct of the land itself, like a scrub tree clinging to life on the ridge side of an especially steep holler.
Seneca is the name of this project, as well as a 20-mile creek that feeds into the Potomac in Pendleton County. And though you may want to stop short of calling it concept record, Seneca certainly encapsulates the West Virginia experience in a capacity where all the songs work greater than the sum of their parts, and impart both a love and history of the region along economic, geographic, familial, and romantic lines for Godwin personally. It is a love letter to West Virginia and the bloodlines from whence he came, and that sense of everlasting love and appreciation is something everyone can relate to, regardless of the setting of their own personal stories.
Just like Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, and others from the depressed regions of Kentucky and West Virginia who took those inspirations to large crowds across the country, Charles Wesley Godwin’s stories are forged through the authenticity of a local experience, but are worthy of being enjoyed by a national and international audience. (read review)
Other Albums Highly Recommended
Molly Tuttle – When You’re Ready (read review)
Weldon Henson – Texas Made Honky Tonk (read review)
Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here (read review)
Dee White – Southern Gentleman (read review)
Gabe Lee – Farmland (read review)
Reba McEntire – Stronger Than The Truth (read review)
Tom Russell – October in the Railroad Earth (read review)
Randy Houser – Magnolia (read review)
Rhiannon Giddens – there is no Other (read review)
Yola – Walk Through The Fire (read review)
Roger Alan Wade – Simmering Rage (read review)
Tylor and the Train Robbers – Best of the Worst Kind (read review)
Alice Wallace – Into The Blue (read review)
Hayes Carll – What It Is (read review)
Townes Van Zandt – Sky Blue (read review)
The Randy Rogers Band – Hellbent (read review)
Tim Bluhm – Sorta Surving (read review)
Cody Johnson – Ain’t Nothin’ To It (read review)
Leo Rondeau – Right On Time (read review)
Flatland Cavalry – Homeland Insecurity (read review)
The Cactus Blossoms – Easy Way (read review)
David Quinn – Wanderin’ Fool (read review)
Dale Watson – Call Me Lucky (read review)
Aaron Lewis – State I’m In (read review)
George Strait – Honky Tonk Time Machine (read review)
June 4, 2019 @ 8:39 am
thanks to SCM I’ve become familiar with most of these artists… and there is , indeed , some wonderful stuff here , IMO .
more importantly , perhaps, is that even in the face of ‘country music’s'” current mutations there are obviously so many artists of vision and integrity who appreciate how important that artistry is ……not only to their degree of success and growth as ARTISTS but to the music’s ability to resonate based on honest expression and not trend .
THIS is the inspiration other serious artists need . not radio , not karaoke reality singing shows , not publishers and labels looking for the same ol same ol trendy vacuous ‘music’ over and over again and the same ol moldable ‘talent ‘ . its the sincerity of the music that will move a listener over time and generations ….not the shine on the shit .
June 4, 2019 @ 8:46 am
I have eight of your candidates, and I like them all, but for me the winner thus far is the Steel Woods entry. It’s a wall to wall tour de force of Southern rock badassery. I had just misplaced my 64GB thumb drive for my truck when I unwrapped Old News, and it made me forget about the thumb drive for about three weeks. The album is like a roller coaster you don’t want off of.
June 4, 2019 @ 9:09 am
Best Album of 2019 (so far): Felicity Urquhart – Frozen Rabbit
Best Bluegrass / Heritage Album of 2019 (so far): Danny Burns – North Country
Best EP of 2019 (so far): Kathryn Legendre – Making It Up
Diamondbuck – South Detroit Honky Tonks & Other UFO’s
Nathan Seeckts – The Heart Of The City
Harmony James – Resignation
Reba McEntire – Stronger Than The Truth
George Strait – Honky Tonk Time Machine
Bluegrass / Heritage Albums:
Dale Ann Bradley – The Hard Way
Hazelville – Hazelville
Irene Kelley – Bluegrass Radio
Alice & The Underground – Cocaine & Cabernet
Triston Marez – That Was All Me
June 4, 2019 @ 11:11 am
That Legendre EP is awesome. Zach Moulton from the Moonpies on steel too.
A gem of an EP indeed.
June 5, 2019 @ 5:13 am
Gotta thank you for this one. Didn’t know about the North Country record until I read this.. Now been jamming all morning at work. Great stuff. Thanks!
June 4, 2019 @ 9:11 am
So far The Steel Woods album “Old News” has been my favorite. One hell of an album in the country or southern rock genre (fits better into the southern rock category).
With releases upcoming from Cody Jinks and Tyler Childers things could change, but as of now I’ve gotta go Steel Woods. Also really liked the Ben Jarrell album.
June 4, 2019 @ 9:22 am
These are all great albums! However, George Shingleton’s self titled album is STARKLY missing from this list.
June 4, 2019 @ 9:26 am
A lot of great music on that list. A decent portion of them I have listened to and added to my play list. My favorite release so this year is Charlie Marie by far. I listen to it daily. ‘Countryside’ and ‘Shot in the Dark’ are absolutely stunning songs.
June 4, 2019 @ 9:37 am
1. Seneca – Charles Wesley Godwin (My favorite album of the last 2 years)
2. Old News – The Steel Woods
3. Troubled Times- Ben Jerrell
4. Honky Tonk Time Machine – George Strait
5. Desure – Desure (debut EP)
June 4, 2019 @ 9:39 am
Maddie & Tae’s EP is better than all this stuff tbh. I know you don’t wanna listen to it (which I find silly,) but it’s really great, and you should.
June 4, 2019 @ 9:58 am
Why give us an EP when we can get an album?
By the time they release the album what’s the sense in having had close to half of the songs for more than 6 months?
June 4, 2019 @ 6:30 pm
Oh I agree. I want the album and I don’t love EPs that much. That said, it’s what we were given, so I listen. And it rules. I guess it’s a tester for sales with the new label? Dunno.
June 4, 2019 @ 2:31 pm
thanks for the reminder , bb….they kinda fell off my radar but I loved that last ballad .
I get a lot of mileage from their first album – which should have been called ” Too Smart For Radio “
Cool Lester Smooth
June 4, 2019 @ 7:53 pm
If you like that one, check out Jade Bird’s debut – it simultaneously exists on each of the pop/rock/Americana fringes of the country genre, so I understand why it’s not covered here, but the kid’s a special songwriter.
Not Kane Brown
June 5, 2019 @ 5:10 am
Maybe he just hasn’t listened to it yet. Trigger is known for his love of pop music as the amount of Kane Brown, Sam Hunt, and Luke Bryon articles that pop up are proof of it.
That aside, her album is fantastic.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:36 am
Yeah, I’m not sure “love” is how I would describe my coverage of Kane Brown, Sam Hunt, and Luke Bryan here. It’s astounding how I’ve been doing this for 11 years, published 5,400 articles, and some folks still don’t understand what’s at the heart of this website.
Also, Jade Bird is on my radar, and may receive a review. There’s lots of albums to review, and only one of me.
June 5, 2019 @ 12:41 pm
That’s a very impressive debut, and you describe very well her musical “location“.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 5, 2019 @ 2:10 pm
Still can’t believe how thoroughly she outshone Colter Wall when she opened for him…particularly on her “I’ve Been Everywhere” cover.
Gutted that I’m missing her opening for Isbell this summer.
June 4, 2019 @ 10:07 am
Seneca and Homeland Insecurity are probably my favorites so far. Haven’t gotten around to listening to Ian Noe yet. Eagerly awaiting Shane Smith and the Saints, and Chris Knight!
June 4, 2019 @ 10:15 am
Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here
Charles Wesley Godwin – Seneca
The Steel Woods – Old News
Those are my standout favorites this year, so far.
Ben Jerrell’s Troubled Times was an early favorite too, but I’ve cooled way down on it. On repeat listens it just doesn’t feel as unique or as well crafted as it should.
June 9, 2019 @ 12:01 pm
Hey Tex, really glad you liked the record and thanks for mentioning it. I’m open to any ideas on how I can make the next record more unique if you wouldn’t mind elaborating? Eventually, I want to get better at my craft and make records that folks can enjoy repeatedly for a long time.
No negative tone or sarcasm here either, I’m genuinely asking on how I can do better from the folks actually buying/listening to my records. I enjoy engaging with fans and friends on the creative process and I want to stay open to any constructive criticism I can get.
I’m loving all of the other records in this list as well!
Thanks again for listening!
June 9, 2019 @ 1:08 pm
Hey, Ben. Thanks for replying to my post. First, man, don’t ever let dummies and armchair quarterbacks on the internet like me provoke you to second guess yourself or change what you’re doing. You’ve got 100% more musical talent than I could ever hope to have, and what you and your musical peers do brings me (and I’m sure all readers here) a ton of joy. All that I, and fellow fans, can hope for is that artists write and create from the heart, from a place of truth.
Your record is definitely one of my favorites this year so far, and my opinions on albums change as the weeks and months go by (I’ll get hot or cold on a record unpredictably), even years later. Sorry I didn’t quite articulate myself very well with my comment above, and honestly I’m not sure I can articulate my feelings about your record in a very useful, constructive way.
Giving it another spin as I type this and honestly it’s all really good and I suspect it’ll be right up there in my top ten AOTY list for 2019. Goes without saying “Black Helicopter” (among others) is such a jam. Absolute ear-worm of a song. Love it.
I hope you play up in the DC area sometime soon. I bet you do a kick ass show. Beers on me! Thanks again for posting. It’s really great to see artists engaging with fans like this. Big cheers to you, man.
June 9, 2019 @ 8:27 pm
All good man and thanks for the kind words!
I’ll try and make it up that way as soon as I can.
I won’t let random people sway me in any way, I’m too stubborn for that nonsense.
But, I always trying to stay open to new ideas too so that’s why I wanted to ask about it. Either way, all good and hope to see you at a show sometime soon!
June 4, 2019 @ 10:16 am
I like Old News but it’s not half as great as the first album.
June 4, 2019 @ 11:27 am
You’re implying there was a considerable drop in overall quality on Old News, from their debut? I don’t hear it. I bought both albums at the same time and think they’re both consistently pretty great.
June 5, 2019 @ 7:17 am
It’s “not half” because it half covers and they lose their charm after a few listens and you go back to listening to the originals.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:10 am
Old News having so many covers on it is a valid criticism, but I think the covers are well done and welcome. So many country artist albums are comprised of a mix of originals and covers. Seems petty to criticize the Steel Woods for doing it. Speaking of petty, let me go with that pun and say that their cover of Petty’s “Southern Accents” closing the album is excellent. Even gets this Yankee misty-eyed.
As a huge Black Sabbath fan, I also really appreciate this band putting a Sabbath cover on each of their albums so far. I hope they do it again on the next one.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:16 am
As I said in my review of “Bad News,” you have to envision the album as a double gatefold LP (which it is if you buy it on vinyl), which is meant to be a Southern rock opus. The covers aren’t in there in lieu of great original songs, they’re in there to compliment them, and to pay homage to the past.
June 4, 2019 @ 10:16 am
Thanks for this! I’ve discovered so many artists I wouldn’t have otherwise due to your dedication and commitment to this site. Charlie Marie needs a full album released on vinyl like yesterday.
June 4, 2019 @ 10:29 am
i’m really digging the Molly Tuttle album. I surely expected something different but it grew on me a lot!
June 4, 2019 @ 10:51 am
Here are my five favorites so far, not necessarily in order:
Traveling Mercies – Emily Scott Robinson
What It Is – Hayes Carll
Troubled Times – Ben Jarrell
There Is No Other – Rhiannon Giddens
Songs of Our Native Daughters – Our Native Daughters
I’m enjoying the new Doug Seegers album A Story I Got To Tell. Just dropped last Friday. Stars off with a song called White Line, which warmed my heart. I know the song from the late John Starling’s album Long Time Gone, which is one of my favorite country albums.
I took the advice of an SCM commenter and bought digital copies of both Charlie Marie EPs, which aren’t named and so they show up in my Amazon Music library as one album. Great music.
Oh. One more thing. A great one from 2018 that I missed but caught up with in 2019 is Not Tonight by John Howie Jr.
June 4, 2019 @ 11:06 am
These albums are all in my current rotation. Love em all.
Ben Jarrell – Troubled Times
The Steel Blossoms
Aaron Lewis – State I’m In
The Steel Woods – Old News
Tylor and the Train Robbers – Best of the Worst Kind …….hung around for awhile but has faded.
I’m still listening to all 3 Sarah Shook albums incessantly….. can’t get enough. Looking forward to July 3rd show. Dillon Carmichael-Hell On An Angel is still in heavy rotation, he’ll be here June 22. Ward Davis’ Asunder will be here on the 14th and of course Lifers and Hard Times And White Lines. What would a summer be without Cody & Whitey?
June 5, 2019 @ 5:14 am
3 Sarah Shook albums? Besides Years and Sidlong, what am I missing? Are you including the live Audiotree album?
June 5, 2019 @ 8:18 am
The Sarah Shook and The Devil EP “Seven” she made with her guitarist Eric Peterson before they formed The Disarmers. I’d ordered it from her website just to hear what it sounded like and I ended up loving it just as much as the other 2. Songs are acoustic and great! Smoother vocals. Eric is very tasteful too. Damn You Sarah for being so distracting! 🙂
June 5, 2019 @ 2:47 pm
JB, where’s the bar that you’re talking bout? I’m only bout 1.5 hours south of Chicago.
June 5, 2019 @ 3:49 pm
Not sure if you’re talking about Sarah or the others but Sarah along with Mike And The Moonpies although not playing the same night are playing at this 3 day festival at Fitzgeralds in Berwyn. July 3-5 Sarah is playing in the big tent prime time on July 3rd! Mike And The Moonpies are playing the late after fireworks slot on the 4th @ 10:30 in the bar. Mike’s already playing new tunes live. Tickets are pricey!
Ward Davis is playing Joe’s On Weed St – June 14
Dillon Carmichael is opening for Scotty McCreery at The Taste Of Joliet on June 22
June 4, 2019 @ 11:40 am
Good list. Though, I’d have Hayes up higher. Some of your list I need to listen to more.
Trigger – honest question for you. I know he isn’t exactly country, however, I’m curious if/when you’ll ever have Josh Ritter on your radar? To me, he’s a modern day John Prine – which I’ve always considered more folk/Americana than country. Thanks!
June 4, 2019 @ 12:08 pm
Yes, Josh Ritter is on the radar.
June 4, 2019 @ 12:16 pm
Great to see Charles Wesley Godwin getting a lot of well deserved credit and coverage here but honest question for anybody with intel (or theories) – how is he crisscrossing the country doing free shows this year, and surviving? I saw him do a show in DC for free earlier this year and a buddy of mine just saw him in Denver for free last weekend. As far as I can tell, he’s not getting any label or brand sponsorship.
He recently signed to True Grit Talent (same agency that does Cody Jinks, Whitey Morgan, Sunny Sweeney, Ward Davis etc.) so what’s going on? I know a new artist has to crawl before they walk and run, but he should be doing paid gigs with a full band by now right? I know he’s doing an opening set tour with William Clark Green this month, but tickets are way cheap. Just want to see my man get paid, before he (potentially) burns out. So much talent there.
June 4, 2019 @ 6:20 pm
Someone is paying him he isn’t working for free or somebody is paying for the shows that really believes in him. It may not be what he’s worth. Either a front from the label or possibly the booking agency doing it on the cheap and hope for more later when it’s lucrative.
June 4, 2019 @ 8:57 pm
He’s not on a label (the album’s self produced and self released) and pretty sure he was booking all his own gigs, at least up until getting signed to True Grit very recently (like in the last couple months).
When I saw him in DC earlier in the year he’d just driven himself in from WV with his dogs in the back of his car and played for about twelve people for free. Man’s hustling.
June 5, 2019 @ 7:39 am
I’m fairly positive the venues are paying him out of pocket for his performance. The tickets may be free or non-existent. But the venue’s are paying Chuck directly.
June 5, 2019 @ 2:30 pm
I hope so, but I have my doubts. Was thinking maybe he gets a cut of the bar, but I can’t imagine he’s a big enough draw for a bar to agree to that. Most bars/venues don’t pay virtually unknown artists to perform, without charging admission. In fact, a lot of bars have “pay to play” policies which is the opposite. They actually charge artists for the pleasure of using their stage.
June 6, 2019 @ 11:59 am
Where did he play? Would have loved to have seen that one.
June 6, 2019 @ 12:05 pm
Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge, in Georgetown. I think he’ll be playing there this coming October, too. Before then, at the end of this month, he’ll be doing an opening set at Union Stage on the Wharf.
June 6, 2019 @ 12:10 pm
Tex Hex – awesome, thanks for the reply! Apparently I can’t reply to your reply, so I’m replying here. Assume you saw that Ian Noe is playing Songbyrd on 10/5.
June 6, 2019 @ 12:45 pm
Oh, no way. Didn’t know. Thanks for the heads up! On the calendar. Songbyrd is one of those venues I totally forget about. FYI, similarly, Logan Ledger is playing in Warrenton, VA, in a couple weeks. Probably too long of a haul for me, but it’s a weekend so we’ll see.
Big FYI – I just checked Charles Wesley Godwin’s tour page, and he’ll be doing three gigs in and around DC next week! He’s playing a “secret show” in DC (gotta sign up in a lottery via something called “Sofar”), a show in Frederick, MD, and another in Winchester, VA.
Plus that Union Stage gig at the end of this month, plus an opening gig with Ward Davis in early August at Pearl Street Warehouse on the Wharf. Not to mention that other gig at Gypsy Sally’s in October I mentioned, which went missing from his tour page (who knows?)..
Anna N Bynum
June 4, 2019 @ 12:39 pm
Good Old Fashioned Pain
June 4, 2019 @ 12:40 pm
Have listened a little to a lot of the ones listed, but only listened a lot to a few so far. Too busy diving into back catalogues. Here’s my top 4 at this point.
1. Ian Noe – Between The Country: simply the best so far this year. Haunting and timeless. Great writing. Great sound. Great voice. Great arrangement.
2. Taylor Alexander – Good Old Fashioned Pain: was #1 before Ian Noe came along. Love this album, it’s hard to put down.
Just below the top:
3. Weldon Henson – Texas Made Honky Tonk: checked this out and ended up grabbing his whole back catalogue. Great on repeat, with a honky tonk energy that can’t be denied.
4. Charles Wesley Godwin – Seneca: sleeper pick that’s growing on me. It seems to get stronger as you progress through the album and on subsequent listens. Haven’t listened enough yet.
Bill "100%" Wood
June 4, 2019 @ 12:55 pm
I was pleasantly surprised by the Aaron Lewis record. I fully admit I went in with a sour attitude based on his earlier work, but the first two songs I heard totally won me over. Quite the surprise.
June 4, 2019 @ 1:07 pm
I need to be following your posts more closely, Trigger. I went and listened to Charlie Marie’s EP after reading this one, absolutely loved it, and looked up her tour to see if she plays anywhere close this summer… whaddaya know, she played in my town in New Hampshire last weekend and I frigging missed it!
June 4, 2019 @ 1:26 pm
There hasn’t been much this year that has really stood out to me. So far my favorite album of the year has been Shovels and Rope – By Blood.
June 4, 2019 @ 1:48 pm
It obviously missed this list by a couple weeks, but Matt Woods’ next album is the one I’ve been waiting for all year. Who knows if it will have the same kind of punch that With Love From Brushy Mountain had though.
June 4, 2019 @ 1:50 pm
My favorite albums so far this year are:
Todd Snider – Cash Cabin Sessions Vol 3
Ian Noe – Between the Country
Matt Carson – No Regrets
Taylor Alexander – Good Old Fashioned Pain
Gabe Lee – farmland
King George and Reba also had great records.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:29 am
I was very surprised to see Reba not mentioned. Solid record.
June 5, 2019 @ 5:20 pm
absolutely , derek ……reba really delivered on this one . so did the musicians .
a welcomed treat ..
June 4, 2019 @ 1:57 pm
It may all change with Red Bandanna by Aaron Watson coming out June 21. The early release songs have been great.
June 4, 2019 @ 2:00 pm
Roger Alan Wade
Emily Scott Robinson
Joshua Ray Walker
June 4, 2019 @ 2:02 pm
Lots of great talent mentioned in this article. Love most of the bands you present and my top 5, in no particular order, would be:
The Delines – The Imperial
Charles Wesley Godwin – Seneca
Ian Noe – Between The Country
J.S. Ondara – Tales of America
Bob Sumner – Wasted Love Songs
Looking forward to the second half! /Andreas
June 4, 2019 @ 3:00 pm
Good picks. I’d also add Ben Dickey. He did such a great job in the movie Blaze too. Glad to see Dale Watson here.
June 4, 2019 @ 3:20 pm
June 5, 2019 @ 5:24 pm
….and i am so looking forward to her next one . THIS is a terrific young vocalists writing solid material and delivering it like a veteran
June 4, 2019 @ 4:29 pm
Hayes Carll ~ What It Is
The Delines. ~ The Imperial
Steel Woods ~ Old News
Ryan Bingham ~ American Love Song
Josh Ritter ~ Fever Breaks
Shovels & Rope ~ By Blood
Justin Townes Earle ~ The Saints of Lost Causes
Jack Ingram ~ Ridin’ High…again
Steve Earle ~ Guy
George Strait ~ Honky Tonk Time Machine
June 5, 2019 @ 7:12 am
That Ingram song – Alright, Alright, Alright – is the most annoying song since Achy Breaky Heart. I turn down the radio every time it comes on. I originally thought it was a Matthew McConaughey spoof. I won’t listen to that album because of the terrible song.
June 5, 2019 @ 8:05 am
I turned it off 30 seconds into that song as well. Didn’t go back to the album until a friend said I should give it a chance. I’m glad I did, the rest is pretty great – the originals.
June 4, 2019 @ 4:43 pm
Much like Lindi Ortega’s album of last year, LIBERTY, I am putting Alice Wallace’s slice of Southern California-based and inspired Americana INTO THE BLUE up there, not just for the first half of this year, but as one of the best of 2019, period. Its revival of the region’s classic folk/country/rock sound, as personified by Alice’s heroes Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, is something to behold (IMHO).
June 4, 2019 @ 4:57 pm
Danny Burns – North Country
Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here
Charles Wesley Godwin – Seneca
The Delines – The Imperial
Justin Townes Earle – The Saint of Lost Causes
Ian Noe – Between the Country
Tom Russel – October in the Railroad Earth
Song of the Year so far:
Joshua Ray Walker – “Lot Lizard”
June 4, 2019 @ 8:43 pm
Every song on Joshua Ray Walker’s album is a winner for me. Not a bad one in the bunch. The guy’s got a real knack for colorful, heart breaking wry, witty lyrics – often in the same song. His might be AOTY for me.
That said, Charles Wesley Godwin’s “Seneca Creek” is my song of the year so far. Just a beautiful epic song about the love story, and life story, of the guy’s grandparents. Great steel and fiddle in there too.
June 5, 2019 @ 12:55 pm
I agree about Joshua Ray Walker. That last song is devastatingly sad and hilarious at the same time.
“Seneca Creek” – the song is the definition of haunting. I catch that inflection with which he croons “creek” resonating in the back of my mind all the time. Without a doubt one of the best this year.
June 5, 2019 @ 1:35 pm
Yeah, “Last Call.” Oh, man. Hilarious and devastatingly sad is right.
The lyric “when I take my leap, your standards are so low, you shed a tear”, not the cleverest one in the song but maybe its saddest and most confessional, crushes me.
June 5, 2019 @ 1:52 pm
You hear that as “leap”? To me it sounds like “leave”. I see they’ve got “leave” with a question mark on Genius Lyrics.
I love it when he sings “I’m pretty sure you think my name is Paul.” That just so captures that situation, you can pretty much touch it.
June 5, 2019 @ 2:15 pm
A lot of great lines in this one. I hear “leap” because he’s taking a leap to bed this random girl, despite the fact that she obviously doesn’t care about him (she even sheds a tear ’cause she’s virtually repelled by him, but will likely go through with it anyway to cope with her own loneliness) while “leave” implies he’s leaving the bar when at that point in the song he’s still trying to make things happen with her. I dunno, I could be wrong.
June 6, 2019 @ 10:16 am
Forgot about Joshua Ray Walker. That album should definitely be in consideration for AOTY at this point.
June 4, 2019 @ 6:46 pm
So far, I think Traveling Mercies has been the best overall record released. The songwriting is absolutely amazing, and it really floored me the first couple times I listened to it. What it is, is likely my second pick, but nothing else has really hit that same level yet, though Taylor Alexander may be a close third
The Golden Roses
June 4, 2019 @ 7:18 pm
Some real good’uns on there, tough competition this year.
June 4, 2019 @ 8:20 pm
I’ll add my voice to the Steel Woods crowd. It’s a well done album top to bottom with some great songwriting, with “Wherever You Are,” “Rock That Says My Name,” and the title track as standouts.
Another great album is one slghtly out of the focus of SCM. The latest from the Infamous Stringdusters, “Rise Sun,” is outstanding and highly recommended.
June 5, 2019 @ 12:56 pm
“Rise Sun” and “Truth and Love” have been on repeat the last several months for me. The album as a whole seems more inconsistent than their previous albums, though.
June 4, 2019 @ 9:54 pm
I thought I’d been paying attention but I missed a lot of these albums. These lists are invaluable to me, thanks Trigger.
June 5, 2019 @ 6:51 am
Folks. If you attend a “FREE” show, that’s only free for you. The artist more than likely has a guarantee with the venue for a couple to a few hundred bucks. Hopefully. That “FREE” show allows you to spend more of your hard earned dollars on their merchandise & maybe have some spare 1 dollar bills for their tip jar.
June 5, 2019 @ 7:08 am
For all the hype this year, I’ve only got 6 candidates to date:
Trouble Times – Ben Jarrell
Between the Country – Ian Noe
Pinkville – Rod Melancon
Old News – Steel Woods
Guy- Steve Earle
Good Old Fashioned Pain – Taylor Alexander
Guy surprised me. Earle doing a tribute to Guy is more predictable than vanilla ice cream and I had zero expectations (especially coming off Townes), but the arrangements of these songs are cold, hard country (not sleepy dad folk). New Cut Road took on a whole new life for me! I was very surprised. I didn’t even listen to the album at first; I threw a bunch of tracks on a playlist, then kept being surprised when they took their turn.
June 5, 2019 @ 7:49 am
Rod Melancon’s Pinkville has been in heavy rotation for me too. “Westgate” is a banger.
June 5, 2019 @ 8:01 am
I hit ‘repeat’ after Westgate is played.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:44 am
Reminds me of the band Bona Roba.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:48 am
June 5, 2019 @ 9:45 am
Have you ever heard Bobby Bare’s version of New Cut Road? Its the best cover of that song I’ve ever heard.
June 5, 2019 @ 8:10 am
Did you then watch “Dazed and Confused?”
June 5, 2019 @ 8:58 am
You talking about “Westgate” having some lyrical similarities with the plot of the movie “Dazed and Confused” (like, the protagonist quitting the football team, ’cause he’s just L. I. V. I. N?). I made that connection immediately too.
Stop me if this is already known, but Rod Melancon was originally a bit-part actor in LA, before doing music. I think movies and movie references factor heavily in his lyrics and overall aesthetic. He covered Waits’ “Going Out West” on Pinkville too. Waits’ original was used in the movie Fight Club, and Melancon’s recent tour poster is a spoof on the Fight Club movie poster.
June 5, 2019 @ 9:17 am
Yes exactly. I listened to it at your and hop’s endorsement. Cool song, and immediately reminded me of that movie. The football, the hanging out, the weed, etc. I knew nothing about him so no stopping necessary. Will check out more though.
I loveTrigger’s recommendations, but the comment section on these is also usually gold.
June 5, 2019 @ 12:17 pm
Best album of the year so far is Josh Ritter’s “Fever Breaks”
Other top notch albums:
Randy Rogers Band “Hellbent”
Jack Ingram “Ridin’ High…Again”
Tyler Hilton “City on Fire”
Rob Thomas “Chip Tooth Smile”
George Strait “Honky Tonk Time Machine”
Tyler Hilton “City on Fire”
Hayes Carll “What It Is“
Sean McConnell “Secondhand Smoke”
June 5, 2019 @ 4:28 pm
Don’t think it would be jumping the gun to declare Country Squire the 2019 album of the year right now, even though it’s not out yet. Inevitably it’s going to kick ass.
June 5, 2019 @ 8:18 pm
Lots of major AOTY contenders yet to be released until the latter half of the year: Tyler Childers, Logan Ledger, and Willie Nelson’s album is shaping up to be pretty good based on the singles so far. I’m particularly looking forward to Gethen Jenkins’ forthcoming album (still no drop date on that). Mike and the Moonpies will likely put out another album this year too. In retrospect, think Steak Night was my AOTY for 2018.
June 5, 2019 @ 8:41 pm
My favorites so far are definitely the albums by Emily Scott Robinson, Caroline Spence, and Reba! All of them have songs that deeply move me.
June 6, 2019 @ 12:12 am
I’m getting lots of enjoyment from re-examining all the AOTY candidates and finding many I (somehow) missed and perhaps a few I didn’t appreciate properly in the first place. This year’s crop seems to be another level of quality and quantity – as if a renaissance is starting to happen. Great to see (and hear).
June 6, 2019 @ 12:26 pm
A little late to the party here. Just listened to both Steel Woods albums today, and damn they are just what I needed. What a great band, vocals, lyrics, and musicianship. If you are a fan of Skynyd, Stapleton, Blackberry Smoke, The Outlaws, Whiskey Myers, or even ZZ Top, then you simply must give Steel Woods a listen. They borrow and blend all the elements from the best. I’ll be there when they visit my neck of the woods next month.
These guys will get you thru the Turnpike hiatus. Although they are a bit darker and heavier — not a bad thing.
June 7, 2019 @ 8:48 pm
That Ian Noe album is a beast!
June 10, 2019 @ 5:43 am
Heckuva list, Trigger.
The only album I would add to it is the new one from the Vandoliers. Those dudes might technically be classified as country, but they are as good as they make ’em these days….both on album and live.
H.P. @ Hillbilly Highways
June 12, 2019 @ 1:37 pm
I haven’t listened to most of these, but Between The Country, Seneca, and Karly Driftwood’s Too Mean To Die are my standouts. Maybe Old News too.
June 12, 2019 @ 10:33 pm
So happy so hear someone else loves Karly as well. Awesome debut album! 💕
June 15, 2019 @ 3:56 pm
Really love Karly Driftwood on first listen, thanks for the recommendation!
June 15, 2019 @ 3:33 pm
I have been listening and listening again to Ian Noe for days, and now I must gush forth: my, my. From the very first chords of “Irene” – what a way to announce, “I’m here, so all of you better listen up!” How great to wake up in the morning craving to hear again that record you’ve had on repeat for days already! Albums like this (alas, so very few and far between) always make me wonder that, with so much music already in existence, it is still possible to come up with a beautiful new way to say important things with song (the funny thing here is that Ian’s new way is so old-sounding – like young Bobby Dylan was living again). Not since Sarah Shook has anyone had the “it” like this young man. Overtook the rest of the AOTY competition by a county mile for me.
June 19, 2019 @ 1:01 am
Yes! I love that this list always comes out around this time.
Thanks @ SCM for all the work y’all do.
July 11, 2019 @ 11:19 am
I’d like to throw up the suggestion for BB Palmer’s Lee County’s Finest. One of the absolute finest I’ve heard yet. Pony Bradshaw’s Sudden Opera belongs on the list too in my opinion.