The Best Country Albums of 2015 So Far
So we’re close enough to the half way pole in 2015 to start thinking about what the best has been so far, and to get ready for what is sure to be a pretty exciting second half of 2015 for album releases. There’s been some big surprises, a few letdowns, but overall 2015 so far has been a pretty varied season for releases.
The first albums highlight should be considered early candidates for Saving Country Music’s “Album of the Year,” while everything else highlighted should be considered coming highly recommended.
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.
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 is “forgotten,” and nobody’s 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.
Also, the albums are listed in the order they were reviewed (mostly). No other order was implied, or should be inferred.
Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”
It’s a national embarrassment that an artist, singer, and songwriter like Chris Stapleton is just now getting his feet onto the ground floor of stardom while the morons he’s penning super hits for are out there starring in their own prime time televised specials. Forget the reams and reams of songwriting credits Stapleton’s accrued for a second; this dude can sing the pants off of anyone else mainstream country music can shove out on stage right now. Anyone. And yet he’s been pulling desk duty for the last half dozen years. Thank goodness Mercury Nashville finally pulled their head out of their ass and got this record out.
All the years of anticipation, all the showcases and live shows where people walked away in shock or in tears, all the stutter steps as Nashville tried to figure out what the hell to do with him, it was all fulfilled, and it was all worth the wait for Traveller. The only question left now is, with the raw power of Chris Stapleton finally captured and out there on a wide release, will the Nashville machine once again drop the ball, or will they do his talent justice and push him as the preeminent country music artist of this generation that he is? (read full review)
Whitey Morgan & The 78’s – “Sonic Ranch”
Of the underground and independent honky tonkers I’ve had the pleasure of covering over many years, nobody has worked harder, and nobody has put in more miles than than Whitey. There’s been some that have shot to major fame seemingly overnight like Sturgill Simpson, others that seem to ride a boom and bust pattern like Leon Virgil Bowers, but Whitey Morgan is a case study all to his own.
Like rolling Buick sedans off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan one after another, day after day, year after year, not stopping to take breaks or reveling in little victories, but winning fans over one at a time, night after night, tour after tour in America’s derelict honky tonks until the word of mouth grew into a rumble, the crowds went from nearly empty to nut to butt, Whitey Morgan is now like a locomotive at full speed barreling down the tracks. Get in his way, and you’re liable to get trucked.
Named for the legendary studio compound outside of El Paso, TX known for coaxing some of the best recordings out of artists in their career, Sonic Ranch is the missing piece in what was already a well-apportioned arsenal of honky tonk firepower. (read full review)
Yelawolf – “Love Story”
So what is Saving Country Music’s interest in this new Love Story record? The serious threat of country rap seems to have waned significantly in the rise of Bro-Country, and country music faces much bigger problems now. But what Yelawolf has done with Love Story is pulled the curtain back and exposed the sheer lack of talent in the ranks of country rappers and other misguided genre benders by putting out an album that sets a creative high watermark, and bucks the narrative of commercial pandering and derivative clichÃ© in the space between country and hip-hop. Love Story is bursting with creative vision, respect for art forms, and most importantly, it is an album that tells a very personal, self-reflective, and at times vulnerable and self-deprecating story. It is Yelawolf’s opus.
Yelawolf’s Love Story could very well be a landmark American album, and could go on to influence countless other artists and albums in the coming years. And in this transfer of influence, there will be the bits of traditional country that are instilled in this record. I cannot assign a grade Love Story because I’m not a hip-hop critic, and therefore am not qualified to rate it on certain merits or against its peers. But will this record still be standing at the end of the year when the entire recording industry gathers to consider who released the most important and influential works? There’s a chance it might be overlooked or misunderstood. But it probably deserves to be. (read full review)
Rachel Brooke & Lonesome Wyatt – “Bad Omen”
Granted, this is not your everyday listening fare, and a familiarity with Rachel Brooke, Lonesome Wyatt, and the approach of Gothic country is important, if not required for the listening experience to reach the full fulfillment level, if not just for the music to be fully understood. This is an artistic expression of the classic American experience, not rhythm candy or catchy grooves, though with the right calibrations of the mind, you will find this music nothing short of overwhelmingly immersive in a way most music beyond classical or jam band epics could never come close to achieving. Bad Omen will make you feel moods you’ve forgotten in the recesses of your memory, if you’ve ever felt them before.
Aside from some warnings about feyness, this album comes very recommended, and might set the standard for country music artistry in 2015 after all applicants have been heard. Rachel Brooke and Lonesome Wyatt uphold the standards they set with their first record, while evidencing growth as part of the new effort as well. (read full review)
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “Hold My Beer”
Boy howdy did Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers absolutely clobber the ball out of the park with this one. When I first heard they were making a studio version of their laid back, and sometimes poorly-promoted and hastily-booked “Hold My Beer and Watch This” acoustic shows annually embarked on between bigger tours, I thought we’d get a bunch of stripped-down covers, a few acoustic collaborations, and maybe a studio track or two; something more for the serious Red Dirt fan as opposed to a wide swath of the country music population. Instead we get a completely fleshed out album full of original songs that rival or potentially surpass the work either of these Texas country stalwarts have done on their primary projects, or any traditional country album released in a while.
And when I say traditional country, I’m not speaking in hyperbole or close approximations. I’m talking steel guitar and fiddle, I’m talking twang and texture, with really no departure from the traditional approach at any point. But if you come for the music, you stay for the songs, and Hold My Beer Vol. 1 showcases some of the best writing you can find in the achingly bereft country music landscape of today.
Beyond whatever assurances to prospective country music purchasers of this music that I could convey, or whatever superlatives might be levied in support of this effort, what Wade Bowen and Randy Roger do in Hold My Beer Vol. 1 is offer hope for the future of authentic country music, and once again prove that Texas does it better. (read full review)
Roo Arcus – “Cowboys & Sunsets”
So far 2015’s biggest surprise!
Beneath the surface of Australian country, traditional artists still fight for attention and find it amidst both Australian and international listeners. Roo Arcus is one of those traditional country artists, and one who can quiet American naysayers arguing an Australian can’t birth authentic country songs, and not just from the songs that his life has inspired, but the country lifestyle Roo Arcus leads.
Beyond the authenticity and the clear rudimentary study of country music that Roo displays in his music, Cowboys and Sunsets is remarkable in how it sounds just like some lost album from the sweet spot of the career of Alan Jackson or George Strait, or even a little bit of James Hand when they were still young and hungry and trying to prove themselves.
Forget the country of origin, Cowboys and Sunsets is one of the best traditional country albums released so far this year, and reminds you of a time when country music gave you a warm feeling, not just from nostalgia, but through speaking straight to your heart about life’s joys and obstacles in a manner that will never go out of style. (read full review)
Brandi Carlile – “The Firewatcher’s Daughter”
An injustice has been done friends and neighbors. Though there’s nothing but happiness flowing towards Brandi Carlile for finding herself with the #1 album at the top of Billboard‘s Top Rock Albums chart, and having arguably the most successful release of her career despite making the switch from major label Columbia to indie label ATO, still this unapologetic country music advocate is left wondering why Carlile’s services have been abdicated from the country realm when she clearly resides more firmly in that world compared to others, and could be such an asset to this crestfallen and female-deprived genre.
The Firewatcher’s Daughter may not be classified as country, but it could be, and probably should be, or at least should set a standard for how to take country and roots music in a new direction without clipping the ties to the original roots of the music, and doing so in a way that inspires and enhances the feelings of life, instead of automating them into mundane audio patterns. (read full review)
James McMurtry – “Complicated Game”
Venturing into ramshackle dive bars and overturning the stones of socioeconomic depravity to unearth the forgotten refugees cast off from the American dream and escaping the enslavement of technology by hammering out livings on the outskirts of society, Texas singer and second generation writer James McMurtry pens odes to the marginalized inhabitants of the margins, meticulously chiseling out curvatures with such intimate understanding and attention to detail that he eventually reveals canonized demi-heroes of everyday forgotten life tied to the land and living like prose in their tacked together existences while the masses speed past on the highway unbeknownst.
Six long years it took, and it may be six more before a fresh new batch arrives. But James McMurtry delivers on the promise of being one of our generation’s preeminent songwriters who can say the things that twist the rest of our tongues, create characters we never knew but feel hauntingly familiar, and fill us with and appreciation of life, both the good and the bad, and understand it is all part of the brilliant tapestry we’re all embedded in and unrolling before us. (read full review)
Ryan Bingham – “Fear & Saturday Night”
Fear and Saturday Night might be Bingham’s best album yet. This is an album of all peaks and no valleys. As the perfect experience for the classic rock buff hiding in every country and Americana fan, Bingham scrapes the grime off the sweaty denim of 70’s Stones and douses it with a little Dylan poetry set to grooves left in the residue of a Faces studio session and articulated with riffs that awaken the spirit of a freer time in music. Though more interpreting than original musically, Bingham puts a personal stamp on the material by bringing his own experiences to the lyricism, while the infectiousness of the guitar licks make just about everything hard to hate.
It’s hard to not think of Ryan Bingham as new because he comes from the next generation of Americana performers. But he’s proven over the last eight years, he’s not an upstart anymore, he’s a stalwart of the subgenre. (read full review)
Other Albums Highly Recommended:
” Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays & Wedding Rings (read review) – Great songwriting.
” Charlie Parr – Stumpjumper (read review) – Deep blues at its best.
” John Pardi – The B-Sides (read review) – Best of the mainstream.
” The Honeycutters – Me Oh My (read review) – Songwriter Amanda Platt’s coming out party.
” Them Duqaines – Star Spangled Rodeo (read review) – Not to be overlooked honky tonk from Texas.
” Mandolin Orange – Such Jubilee (read review) – Sweet Americana.
” Todd Grebe & Cold Country – Citizen (read review) – Alaska country via east Nashville.
” John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat (read review) – Despite the morons who will tell you they read my review and I panned this record, it still remains one of the best songwriting efforts so far this year in my opinion.
” William Clark Green – Ringling Road (read review) – Excellent Texas country. He’s one to watch.
” Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart (read review) – Dwight is back!
” Pokey LaFarge – Something in the Water (read review) – Great throwback record. Pokey’s best!
” Sarah Gayle Meech – Tennessee Love Song (read review) – The new Queen of Lower Broadway blossoms.
” Grandpa’s Cough Medicine – 180 Proof (read review) – Excellent high octane bluegrass. Fun album!
” Steve Earle – Terraplane (read review) – Steve Earle’s got the blues.
” The Mavericks – Mono (read review) – Solid effort from an SCM Album of the Year alumni.
” Aaron Watson – The Underdog (read review) – Extra credit awarded for hitting #1 on the charts, and sending reverberations throughout the mainstream.
” Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses (read review) – Best Southern rock album so far this year.
” Jim Ed Brown – In Style Again (read review) – It’s Jim Ed Brown for crying out loud.
” Slackeye Slim – Giving My Bones to the Western Lands (read review) – For those looking for that lonesome, Western sound, from another former winner of the SCM Album of the Year.
” Kay Berkel – You Erased Me From Your World (read review) – Throwback EP produced by Daniel Romano.
” Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions (read review) – Excellent album sitting right on the bubble to be considered an Album of the Year candidate.
” Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers (read review) – Justin Townes Earle at his best…again!
” Roger Alan Wade – Bad News Knockin’ (read review) – Wade can’t be denied. Released in late late 2014, but will be considered with the 2015 class.
Other Albums Recommended But Not Reviewed Yet
Note: Just because an album has not been reviewed yet doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.
- Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune
- Robert Earl Keen – Happy Prisoner
- Woody Pines – Self Titled
- Bloody Jug Band – Rope Burn
- Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin – Foxes in June
June 1, 2015 @ 10:45 am
i was about to complain about not even an also-ran mention for Happy Prisoner, but then I read the end.
June 1, 2015 @ 10:48 am
Aaron Watson’s new album.
Once, Josh Turner’s new album is freed and Alan Jackson’s release arrives, please make some room.
June 1, 2015 @ 11:01 am
Programed 13 of 28 here. On the top list I would go with Stapleton
June 1, 2015 @ 11:11 am
Ray Wylie Hubbard’s new record is called The Ruffian’s Misfortune. The Grifter’s Hymnal was his previous efforts (Thumbs up).
June 1, 2015 @ 11:25 am
I’m an idiot.
Every year there’s one or two albums I recommend by can’t find words for. Last year it was Hurray for the Riff Raff. This year it’s “The Ruffian’s Misfortune.” They will come to me at some point. Hopefully.
June 1, 2015 @ 11:17 am
My top three albums of the year so far in this order (and from any genre):
1. Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Ruffian’s Misfortune”
2. Brandi Carlile’s “Firewatcher’s Daughter”
3. John Moreland’s “High on Tulsa Heat”
Chris Stapleton’s album felt to me like they included a few filler songs, and James McMurtry’s record is finely crafted but a little too tame to listen to on long stretches. I found a lot to like with Ryan Bingham’s latest, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t connect with me like the others did.
Can’t wait to hear the new albums from Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves. A lot of good music to stay on top of this year, which is a nice problem to have. Thanks for the list, Trigger. I’ve got some catching up to do.
June 1, 2015 @ 11:23 am
” there”™s nothing else to label Traveller than traditional country. ”
I bought this album after reading the review, and listening to the tracks you linked, I really like the album, but I don’t agree with this at all.
There are tunes on the album that are fuzzed up guitar, loud drums, rock tunes. And there are tunes where Stapleton sounds like he’s been listening to Sam Cooke more than a little bit. Listen to his rendition of “Tennessee Whisky” then listen to some Sam Cooke.
Obviously that’s a compliment.
And there are some straight country tunes. Really good ones.
But it’s not just a country album. It’s pretty diverse actually.
June 1, 2015 @ 8:21 pm
Well, you know, country music has to “evolve” 😉
June 1, 2015 @ 11:23 am
Traveler, Bad Omen, and Fear and Saturday Night are my favorites from these lists, with Traveler taking the award. Not in their class but Will Whitmore’s Radium Death is a grower… Need to check out this Roo Arcus – missed that review somehow. Can’t wait for Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin review!
June 1, 2015 @ 11:41 am
Just realized why I didn’t hear the Arcus album. I use Amazon and don’t have spotify.
June 1, 2015 @ 11:27 am
You’re still THAT drunk after the weekend?! Cody Jinks doesn’t rate as high as Yallwoof?! William Clark Green doesn’t either? I don’t know why that tripe would even be mentioned on this website, much less on this list. Stop the internet and let me off.
June 1, 2015 @ 11:29 am
no William Elliott Whitmore huh?
June 1, 2015 @ 11:43 am
It hasn’t been eliminated from review consideration. Many many albums, so little time.
June 2, 2015 @ 5:14 am
i try to like this guy but his voice is so affected to me.
June 2, 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Not one bit
June 1, 2015 @ 11:45 am
The Mavericks and Randy/Wade ones were fun. 🙂
My personal faves so far (any genre):
1) They Might Be Giants, ‘Glean’
2) Gretchen Peters, ‘Blackbirds’
3) Dar Williams, ‘Emerald’
Honorable mentions: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, ‘The Traveling Kind’; Rhiannon Giddens, ‘Tomorrow is My Turn’
June 1, 2015 @ 11:58 am
I’m pretty sure American Aquarium had a new record out this year….just sayin’
June 1, 2015 @ 12:07 pm
And arguably the best album they have ever put out.
June 1, 2015 @ 12:15 pm
And I gave it a positive review, despite having some serious concerns about it.
I don’t want to convince anyone to feel differently than they do, but I just thought it wasn’t their best effort. Since I wrote the review I’ve seen them live as well, and it sort of validated all of my concerns. I still think very highly of American Aquarium. I just don’t get the approach with their latest one.
June 10, 2015 @ 1:25 pm
I love “Wolves”. Honestly, in the beginning I didn’t though. It was one of those albums that may take time to grow on people.
June 1, 2015 @ 11:58 am
Stapleton’s “Traveller” is a nice album, and Rhett Miller’s “Traveler” isn’t too bad either. Not exactly country, but Black Prairie gives it some nice flavor.
June 2, 2015 @ 4:15 pm
I’ve often said that someone in Nashville could make a killing by having artists cover songs from the Rhett Miller/Old 97’s songbook. That guy can write a hook.
June 1, 2015 @ 12:08 pm
Heck ya, Bingham and Smoke, 2 guns up!
June 1, 2015 @ 5:24 pm
I love Bingham and Smoke. Two of my favorite artists/bands. But no way in hell am I believing either effort compares to their early stuff. Some of the Bingham songs on the last album are a huge stretch to even call roots let alone country. They’re more shitty soft rock. He tossed all the steel guitar, dobros, banjos, fiddle, etc. I think its an average album at best.
Smoke’s is better, but the bar is so high on them it’s hard to top their first three albums.
And holy shxt on the Yelawolf. Just f-in stop. That mentality is why Grandmaster Flash is in the R’n’R HOF.
June 1, 2015 @ 12:10 pm
So far this year, Stapleton and Whitey take it for me hands down. Im gonna give a slight edge to “Traveller” just for the more varied variety but Sonic Ranch has that awesome 70s tele-twang that i love. I believe the only other artist who might could top the Ky native, is another Ky mountain boy in Sturgill Simpson. I gotta say hes got his work cut out for him though. Heck even if it doesn’t top Traveller, id sure love to hear him try. Thanks guys, rest of 2015 looks good!
June 1, 2015 @ 2:09 pm
I could not agree more. I have worn out those 2 albums.
June 1, 2015 @ 12:19 pm
My top 11 at the halfway mark:
“Wolves” – American Aquarium
“Still the King” – Asleep at the Wheel
“Keep Right Away” – Daniel Meade
“Gill Landry” – Gill Landry
“Little Neon Limelight’ – Houndmouth
“Jake Xerxes Fussell” – Jake Xerxes Fussell
“The Ruffian’s Misfortune” – Ray Wylie Hubbard
“Fear and Saturday Night” – Ryan Bingham
“Terraplane” – Steve Earle & The Dukes
“Radium Death” – William Elliot Whitemore
Willie/Merle and Isbell is out there to be pirated. They should replace two albums on my list, but to be fair I’ll wait until their official release date.
June 1, 2015 @ 2:34 pm
Gill Landry should be on that not yet reviewed pile.
June 1, 2015 @ 12:26 pm
Sam Lewis – Waiting on you
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors – Medicine
Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight
June 1, 2015 @ 12:50 pm
I don’t understand the “no (insert album title here) mentioned?”. Trigger said that there were a ton of albums still to get to, and even the ones that didn’t rank high, it’s his opinion. Hell I wouldn’t even have know about half of these if it wasn’t for Trigger, so thank you for that Trigger, also very nice list!
My top 10 in alphabetical order by artist
Allison Moorer- “Down To Believing”
Blackberry Smoke- “Holding All The Roses”
Chris Stapleton- “Traveller”
Dwight Yoakam- “Second Hand Heart”
Steve Earle & The Dukes- “Terraplane”
The Lone Bellow- “Then Came The Morning”
Wade Bowen/Randy Rogers- “Hold My Beer Vol. 1”
Whitey Morgan and The 78’s- “Sonic Ranch”
William Clark Green- “Ringling Road”
Will Hoge- “Small Town Dreams”
Jon Pardi- “The B-Sides (2011-2014)”
Glen Campbell- “I’ll Be Me Soundtrack”
Ralph Stanley & Friends- “Man Of Constant Sorrow”
Aaron Watson- “The Underdog”
Albums I still need to hear/haven’t heard enough (actually if someone wants to recommend albums that you’d think I’d like based on this list, please share!)
Ryan Bingham- “Fear and Saturday Night”
Jamie Lin Wilson- “Holidays and Wedding Rings”
The Mavericks- “Mono”
Houndmouth- “Little Neon Limelight”
American Aquarium- “Wolves”
I love mid/year end lists so much so thanks for letting me share mine!
Also, am I the only one who found Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “The Ruffian’s Misfortune” to be lackluster? Not trying to stir up a fight or anything, just curious.
June 2, 2015 @ 6:53 am
With respect to Ruffian’s Misfortune, that was my initial reaction, but the album has grown on me with each listen. The Grifter’s Hymnal was my favorite of 2012 and I thought his previous one (A. Enlightenment B. Endarkment……….) was a giant of an album. So, maybe Ruffian’s Misfortune suffers when compared to those two. Sort of like John Hiatt’s fine 1990 album Stolen Moments, which succeeded the two classics Bring the Family and Slow Turning.
June 3, 2015 @ 11:03 am
Yes! Allison Moorer put out a great album!
June 1, 2015 @ 12:56 pm
No hippielovepunk by Cody Canada and the Departed?
June 1, 2015 @ 11:31 pm
Their worst and most forgettable album. I bought it right away. I’ve probably listened to it three times. *Yawn*
June 2, 2015 @ 7:35 am
Agreed. I am a big fan. Thought the album was terrible. Sounded like Cody just made up the songs on the spot. This is the biggest disappointment of the year.
Truth No. 2
June 1, 2015 @ 12:59 pm
Also, am I the only one who found Ray Wylie Hubbard”™s “The Ruffian”™s Misfortune” to be lackluster?
No. Lackluster is the perfect word for it.
June 1, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
Where’s the new Mikel Knight album???
June 1, 2015 @ 2:13 pm
One record I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is Andrew Combs “All These Dreams”
I really thought it was a great album, however I think In the midst of all these big name releases it sort of fell through the cracks. Its a shame too, really could be a career album for Mr. Combs if it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
June 1, 2015 @ 2:23 pm
There’s been a ton of great releases so far this year! Some of my personal favorites include Blackberry Smoke, Gretchen Peters, Randy & Wade, Whitey Morgan, Chris Stapleton, Will Hoge, Ryan Bingham, and Jamie Lin Wilson.
June 1, 2015 @ 2:32 pm
Jon Pardi’s B-Sides may be an EP but it sure as hell is better than anything else up there. Back On The Backroads is the best new country song I’ve heard in awhile. Guy is the real deal.
Yelawolf? Give your head a shake.
Once Alan, Kacey and Josh release theirs, your list is in the toilet.
June 1, 2015 @ 2:39 pm
Jon Pardi’s B-Sides is up there. An EP will likely never be an Album of the Year candidate unless it is something so far and away groundbreaking that it can’t be denied.
In the toilet?
June 1, 2015 @ 3:03 pm
It’s a solid list I’m just being a dink. Traveller sure is a hell of an album.
June 1, 2015 @ 2:49 pm
Hold my beer will be the best album of the year, no doubt. And I think John Moreland should be higher up there, although production wise he was lacking, it was raw and hard hitting as anything on that list
June 1, 2015 @ 3:12 pm
Been a pretty good year so far for a lot of these albums that are mostly unknown to majority of the world. Especially since mainstream has been so bad. My order would be: 1. Randy and Wade 2. Whitey Morgan 3. Stapleton 4. Blackberry Smoke 5. Will Hoge 6. Cody Jinks 7. Dwight 8. William Clark Green. Still haven’t listen to Jamie Lin Wilsons. Although I do like the song her and Wade Bowen wrote and performed , and the one she wrote with Adam Hood I believe ” you left my chair “. Plenty of good options coming up the rest of the year too. But that’s my top ones I’m still jamming regularly.
June 1, 2015 @ 3:21 pm
We shpuld have our new album for your review soon
The HIllbilly Muslim
June 3, 2015 @ 6:55 am
You always have the best stuff Eric. Hope he gives you some love to it! Also where is the Freightshakers at on this list. I see Dallas Moore is missing.
June 1, 2015 @ 4:09 pm
A few others (from Australia & New Zealand) that are among my faves of the year so far:
Marlon Williams – Marlon Williams
Ruby Boots – Solitude
James Thomson – Cold Moon
June 1, 2015 @ 4:14 pm
Been a good year so far. Lots I like on that list. The Randy/Wade, John Moreland and Blackberry are probably my top 3. The Jason Isbell is going to be up there for sure. A little birdy told me it is damn good.
June 1, 2015 @ 4:19 pm
I can’t think of anything country that hasn’t been mentioned either in the original article or the comments. But if anyone is interested in something outside the genre, here are my recommendations:
Black Star Riders – The Killer Instinct. If you like Thin Lizzy, this is the band that grew out of the remnants of Thin Lizzy and when they decided to record new music, changed the name in deference the late, great Phil Lynott.
Striking Matches – Nothing But The Silence. They are being marketed as country, but they’re not. But they are very good. A male/female guitar playing duo with good songwriting sensibilities.
Butch Walker – Afraid of Ghosts. It’s a little dark and you need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to it.
Delta Rae – After It All. I have given up on trying to categorize music. It’s fruitless. I just like this record.
Halestorm – Into The Wild Life. Readers here may know lead vocalist Lzzy Hale from her performances with Eric Church. This record borrows from so many different sources and genres that it’s hard to call it a hard rock/metal album, though that influence is definitely there.
I like a diverse spectrum of music. I come here for my country fix.
June 1, 2015 @ 4:43 pm
Completely and resoundingly agree with you on Striking Matches and Delta Rae most notably. Haven’t listened to Black Star Riders yet, but you’ve piqued my interest now.
Eh, the new Halestorm record didn’t do much for me. My issues with “Into The Wild Life” were much the same with Eric Church’s “The Outsiders”: it was too unfocused and lacked cohesion. Lzzy Hale is still, bar none, one of the best vocalists to emerge on commercial rock radio in all recent memory, and I also credit her for stepping out of her Active Rock comfort zone and the band is trying their hand at swampier rhythms, blues and even hints of country influence……………but the album sounds uneven way too often and the songwriting also largely fails to keep pace with their more ambitious stylistic pursuits (their current single “Amen” one such example). It’s just Hale bragging about how badass she is on the edgier offerings, and then aiming for pseudo-inspirational platitudes on the more melodic ones, and not much more beyond that. Which is a shame, because I see so much untapped potential in Halestorm and want to like them more than I actually do.
Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” would EASILY top my essential albums list outside of country so far this year.
The Wombats’ “Glitterbug” is brilliant, too.
June 1, 2015 @ 5:11 pm
I totally get your take on Into the Wildlife, however, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one. As I listened to it, I was just waiting to hear what the next song would bring. I don’t know if it lacks cohesion as much as it lacks stylistic uniformity. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I also don’t think it’s as incohesive as the Eric Church or Zac Brown offerings. But that’s just my opinion.
June 1, 2015 @ 6:37 pm
I am not as into country as you all, but i do love Traveller by Stapleton. I also can’t stop listening to the new Will Hoge release. Like each of his releases, its just put genius, and should be on the list of best releases of 2015 thus far. I am replying to this particular post to second your props to Killer Instinct by Black Star Riders. I loved Thin Lizzy, still do in fact, and I ignored BSR’s first release, thinking it just could not compare, but when I heard the song Killer Instinct, I was instantly sold. Man, do they ever channel Phil Lynott and all that was great about Thin Lizzy on that song, and on the whole album, and yet it does not seem derivative, they somehow make it their own. That caused me to go back to the first BSR release, which is only marginally less awesome. If you liked Thin Lizzy and miss good rock and roll, check out Black Star Riders, you will not be disappointed.
June 2, 2015 @ 6:28 pm
That kind of explains my confusion about all the love about Hoge & Stapletons albums. I am a country fan (& it’s many subgenres), but after listening to both of these a few times I was underwhelmed. It’s like a blend of dad rock & 90s alt radio rock with a dash of mainstream country polish. About as gritty as Luke Bryan…
June 2, 2015 @ 7:05 pm
Well, isn’t that sweet! I am really feeling the love and now feel included as part of the community here. I did not realize a love for Thin Lizzy qualified one as a dad-rocker, I just thought it showed good taste. I now stand corrected. I guess I should just piss off to The Saving Dad Rock Music site where i belong because I like the Will Hoge release and the Chris Stapleton release. …despite the fact that there are plenty of other people on this site who obviously have expressed their very strong positive reactions to both the Will Hoge and Chris Stapelton releases (including Trigger).
June 3, 2015 @ 9:27 am
Chill Marky Mark. I’m well aware that I’m in the minority when it comes to those two artists. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. I’ve simply tried to hear what everyone else hears when they are touting them both as amazing artists and I’ve never caught it.
Also, I was referring specifically to those two albums with my term dad rock, not your like of Thin Lizzy, although they are from my dad’s era & I couldn’t name a single song from their discography. I would think that they are maybe too rocking for the dad rock label though, it’s more in line with Wilco, which is where I see Stapleton fits.
Again, I wasn’t specifically trashing your taste. Just my own confusion about why everyone is lauding them as amazing albums. Feel free to enjoy what you enjoy, music is subjective. I was reading about them on country sites and was confused by the love, but your comment that you aren’t a country fan, yet love them, makes complete sense to me.
June 3, 2015 @ 7:41 am
…or maybe the problem is that you just don’t know good music.
June 3, 2015 @ 9:29 am
To be fair, Google suggests that Thin Lizzy are indeed dad rock.
I also realize that I do recognize a bunch of their songs.
June 3, 2015 @ 10:33 am
Well, then. That settles it.
Seriously, though. Thin Lizzy? Dad Rock? I think not.
June 1, 2015 @ 4:25 pm
Wow, what a list it’s already shaping up to be for year’s end! =D
I know I’m not known for commenting on glowing reviews of the good stuff here and rather, for better or worse, tend to focus my energies on dissecting why the worst of the mainstream IS the worst. And, to be candid, I regret that prioritizing of energies in retrospect. I suppose if I had any excuse as to why I seem to spend too much energy on the negative reviews instead, it’s because it comes across my ears so much easier due to the accessibility of radio, whereas with many of the albums reviewed here, I sadly am unemployed and can’t go out of my way to hit the record stores routinely, nor can find many of them on Soundcloud or Pandora. So I only get to enjoy select tracks from all of these compelling releases until I’m able to expand my listening experience.
That said, I DO regularly “Like” and add select tracks from so many artists mentioned on this site, Engine 145, Country Perspective, Farce The Music and other legitimate outlets………..and they truly put a smile on my face. From what I’ve heard thus far this year, Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen’s collaborative album, along with James McMurtry’s latest, would rate as my two favorites, though Whitey Morgan dropped a winner of a bombshell last month too! =)
June 3, 2015 @ 11:02 am
Dusty45, perhaps i took your meaning the wrong way, so i apologize as well, no need to jump down your throat. i didn’t realize “Dad Rock” was even a thing (maybe i need to come out of the cave occasionally), but now that i have googled it, i in fact do like most the bands identified as Dad Rock, so there you go. i am a dad, with a 25 year old daughter, so if the shoe fits….. i do wish to clarify though, i did not say i wasn’t a country fan, i said i was not “as into country as you all”. i actually love country, and much of what i like seems to fit into the core group of artists people on this site like. i have every Dwight album and every Steve Earle album. I like old Hank Williams Jr., The Mavericks and Johnny Cash by way of example. but i also do like a lot of guitar in my country, and lean towards the more rocking stuff because i grew up on hard rock and heavy metal. i did come to country late, and i don’t have the depth of knowledge of the country music history the same way i know rock music, thats all i meant when i said i wasn’t into country the same way you all seem to be. but i am learning, especially from this site. That said, i also often feel i am in the minority here because i am one of the few vocal supporters of Jason Aldean and Eric Church on this site, choosing to focus on the many good things he has recorded and opting to ignoring travesties like 1994 and My Beds on Fire (or whatever it is), so i guess i did think you were attacking my musical taste. Thanks for clearing up your intent.
June 1, 2015 @ 4:53 pm
For how much I talk about the worst songs out there, I definitely dont read about the best music enough. I suppose it’s easier to say why something is broken than why it runs. That being said, this site introduced me to a lot of great artists who aren’t in the spotlight. I wouldn’t know about most of these if not for this site,
If I had to rank my top 3: number 3 would be Jon Pardi’s EP for showing off some good music that may make waves on mainstream radio. 2 would be Traveller, and number 1 would easily be Hold My Beer Vol. 1, for being the first album I bought whole in some time instead of picking and choosing songs. Seriously, I don’t have any complaints with it; there’s not much else to say.
Here’s to hoping Josh Turner and Alan Jackson make something even better than Hold My Beer Vol 1!
June 3, 2015 @ 11:09 am
I hate the term dad rock. Like men become lame when they become dads. That’s so not true.
John Wayne Twitty
June 1, 2015 @ 5:32 pm
Yelawolf’s album is fantastic, and I’m not ig on rap (or many things made past the mid 90s, for that matter). There is a clip of Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves, a song named Johnny Cash, and more steel guitar than Luke The Puke and droopy faced Aldean’s records combined. In a time of dead rock, club rap, and dying country, he shows how rock, rap, and country should be made. He clearly put effort into this album, and humiliates any and all “country” “singers” attempting to rap. Give it a quick listen and you will hate everything about modern male country more than you did before. I’m glad to see this album on here, because it’s so much more than rap.
June 1, 2015 @ 5:51 pm
There has been a so much amazing music released this year! It’s almost overwhelming! Great list Trigger. All the ones you mentioned that I’ve heard are really good. I’ll have to check out the rest sometime. Here’s a few of my favorite albums that I would add (they’re not all necessarily country and some aren’t at all): Small Town Dreams by Will Hoge, Before the Sun Goes Down by Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, The Phosphorescent Blues by The Punch Brothers, Hippiepunklove by Cody Canada and the Departed, Tomorrow Is My Turn by Rhiannon Giddens, What A Beautiful World What A Terrible World by The Decemberists, Bob Wills Is Still the King by Asleep at the Wheel, Medicine by Drew Holcomb and Neighbors, For the Taking by Elenowen, Via Portland by The Mulligan Brothers, The Traveling Kind by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Everything That Brought Me Here by Kym Warner, Della Mae by Della Mae, Down To Believing by Alison Moorer, and Sundown Over Ghost Town by Eillen Jewell. There’s also many more I’m looking forward to, a few being Lindi Ortega, Watkins Family Hour, Alan Jackson, Jason Isbell, Willie/Merle, Dawes, and The Black Lillies. Earlier in the year I heard that Turnpike Troubadours, Jason Boland, Sierra Hull, and Josh Turner were supposed to have albums coming out this year but I haven’t heard anything for awhile.
June 1, 2015 @ 5:57 pm
Scrolled the list and comments. No John Anderson Goldmine? Was gonna buy tonight. Either sucks, or no one has it. why? A legend drops music and no mention from any of the folks here?
Have allot of Trig’s list, sure to get more. But, I am and getting Goldmine now. Let ya know.
June 1, 2015 @ 6:09 pm
“Goldmine” was just released so I still need to give it a few more listens. My first impressions were it was great to hear John Anderson, but the songwriting was quite weak.
” A legend drops music and no mention from any of the folks here?”
Everyone needs to appreciate the volume of music released. Whenever a list like this is published, more times than less individuals focus on one album, either a perceived omission, or something included that they feel doesn’t belong, and feel it is a travesty. In the end, it is just an exercise to attempt to turn people on to good music.
June 1, 2015 @ 6:24 pm
No dis intended. Just an observation of the discussion as a whole. Just odd that it was not mentioned.
June 1, 2015 @ 7:57 pm
Trigger I’ll concur. I would have passed over it if it were not a free download.
June 1, 2015 @ 7:29 pm
My top 10 so far, listed alphabetically by artist. It’s been a fun five months.
The Firewatcher”™s Daughter ”“ Brandi Carlile
Create Your Own Mythology ”“ Kristin Diable
The Sacred Heart Sessions ”“ The Lowest Pair
Blue Healer ”“ Jimbo Mathus
Complicated Game ”“ James McMurtry
High on Tulsa Heat ”“ John Moreland
Blackbirds ”“ Gretchen Peters
The Rose of Roscrae ”“ Tom Russell
Traveller ”“ Chris Stapleton
Second Hand Heart ”“ Dwight Yoakam
The best of the bunch is the Tom Russell release. While I’m a longtime Russell’s fan, the advance publicity on this was troubling. Two CDs, 145 minutes and 52 tracks. A play/concept album about a 19th Century Irishman who comes to America with dreams of becoming a cowboy. A lengthy guest list that includes such deceased “contributors” as Johnny Cash, Lead Belly, Tex Ritter and Walt Whitman. Tracks cobbled together through song fragments and spoken word parts. I was convinced Russell had lost his marbles, and was anticipating a mess that I’d listen to once and file away forever. Instead I wound up with one of the most extraordinary listening experiences of my life, and a record that I revisit with alarming regularity. The two hours and 25 minutes fly by when listening to ‘The Rose of Roscrae,’ which is not only entertaining but runs a full gamut of emotions. The biggest surprise is not that I find myself listening to it often, but that it actually sounds good in the car. This may not be the Russell album for beginners to start out with (that would be 2009’s ‘Blood and Candle Smoke’), but it’s a great place to end up. A marvelous album.
June 1, 2015 @ 8:24 pm
1. Whitey Morgan “Sonic Ranch”
2. Cody Jinks “Adobe Sessions”
3. Dallas Moore “Dark Horse Rider”
4. Blackberry Smoke “HATR”
5. Randy/Wade “Hold My Beer”
The HIllbilly Muslim
June 3, 2015 @ 6:53 am
Yup where is the Dallas Moore love. But yall can keep that randy rogers and wadeblowhim pop songs.
June 1, 2015 @ 8:37 pm
Since most haven’t heard of them and they’re fairly new – I’ll throw some “honorable mention (people’s choice)” cred towards Deer Run Drifters 2015 release, Restless Youth. Very unique country/bluegrass/folk/blues. Worthy of a listen. Their previous release is even better.
June 1, 2015 @ 10:00 pm
Aside from all the amazing albums already mentioned, I would add
Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year.
It’s fantastic. Check it out if you haven’t.
I don’t know why but I haven’t listened to the Chris Stapleton album yet, so that will be my next pick-up.
June 1, 2015 @ 10:03 pm
heres the top 3 for me personally
1. Aaron Watson- the underdog
2. Chris Stapleton- the traveller
3. Willie and Merle – django and Jimmie.
June 2, 2015 @ 5:03 am
I’ve been enjoying many that have already been mentioned, especially Drew Holcomb, Ralph Stanley & Friends, JTE – Absent Fathers, Ryan Bingham, Brandi Carlile and James McMurtry.
Others that I’ve really liked have been Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley – Before The Sun Goes down, and Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line – Wake.
My special shout-out is reserved for Suzanne Jarvie – Spiral Road. A wonderful debut album.
June 2, 2015 @ 5:30 am
Great list. Would like to see a little more love for Cody Jinks though, him and whitey have been putting on some killer shows together. Cant wait to see them again at the Southgate house in Newport ky!
June 2, 2015 @ 5:49 am
My favorites so far:
James McMurtry – Complicated Game
Jimbo Mathus – Blue Healer
Steve Earle – Terraplane
Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart
John Moreland – High on Tulsa Heat
Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers
Rhiannon Giddens – Tomorrow is My Turn
June 3, 2015 @ 5:50 am
A couple of recent purchases to add to my list:
Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch
Eilen Jewell – Sundown Over Ghost Town
June 4, 2015 @ 4:59 am
I just got Eilen’s, Sundown Over Ghost Town, too. ( Great title, I think )
Only played it a few times, so far, but absolutely love it.
June 2, 2015 @ 7:42 am
Two more great albums that have dropped this year:
Teea Goans – Memories to Burn – Crosswind
Riders in the Sky – Salute Roy Rogers – Riders Radio
These are two that have been played on my show to great review!
June 2, 2015 @ 8:19 am
I’ve got Chris Stapleton and Whitey Morgan’s albums at the top for me. I will say one album that I play probably more than those however is Cantina Del Diablo by Jackson Taylor and the Sinners. Its nothing groundbreaking but it’s feel good music that is fun on a drive in to work.
June 2, 2015 @ 8:30 am
Have listened to and downloaded a lot of the artists noted above. When I’m driving 101 Whitey Morgan and the 78s Sonic Ranch is on the stereo. Thanks Trigger I never heard of them until your review.
June 2, 2015 @ 8:30 am
Your forgot THE DAD HORSE XP, BEST OF – vinyl only
June 2, 2015 @ 2:20 pm
Been a great year so far ….. add in the new releases by Dale Watson and Willie & Merle and it looks like 2015 will be a bumper year for country fans!
June 2, 2015 @ 5:59 pm
The Malpass brothers new record just came out and is great. Produced by Doyle Lawson, out on organic records.
June 3, 2015 @ 2:49 am
Indeed. A very nice sound!
June 2, 2015 @ 6:16 pm
Great list, my personal favorite is Adobe Sessions by Cody Jinks. Also REALLY dig Small Town Dreams by Will Hoge.
June 2, 2015 @ 6:22 pm
Binghams latest is fantastic, but that’s the only one I’ve heard yet from your top list. Most of my personal favourites are in your back up list though.
I love American Aquarium’s latest & think Morelands sitting at my top spot for the year so far.
I’d add in Tom Russell & Ian Tyson, who both put out great Americana/Canadiana albums that lean more to the folk side of things.
June 2, 2015 @ 6:47 pm
The best cd’s of 2015 are Chris Stapleton, Dwight Yoakam, and Aaron Watson.
June 3, 2015 @ 6:44 am
I would like to add another album, as i don’t think many people have probably heard of them. Country Perspective covered these guys and there’s a good reason why. Their name is The Malpass Brothers and their self-titled album just came out on the 26th and i have to say it’s probably the most country album you’ll hear this year. There are a ton of covers on there, but they tackle them so effortlessly that they don’t even feel like covers. It is another album (and duo) that i highly recommend checking out. I swear it sounds like something out of the 50’s or 60’s.
June 8, 2015 @ 5:02 am
They sound awesome, hard to believe I had not heard of them until recently.
June 22, 2015 @ 7:42 pm
Thank you to those who have mentioned The Malpass Brothers!
Yes, they are cooler than the other side of the pillow and they ARE “Saving Country Music”!
The HIllbilly Muslim
June 3, 2015 @ 6:51 am
Randy Rogers is for Texas music what Billy Ray Cyrus is for mainstream country. Horrible that he is in there with wade blowhim. While no mention of a brilliant album like Dallas Moore’s Dark Horse Rider! With brilliant songs like “Beats All Ive Ever Seen.” Sigh at least Sarah, the Mavericks and Dwight Yoakam got a small shout out.
June 3, 2015 @ 7:17 am
Listen, whatever ideas you have about Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers, you need to put those to bed and actually listen to the album. I know what they’ve put out in the past, but if you’re going to go around telling folks that “Standards” is pop country, you’re going to look the fool. I would strongly, strongly encourage you to listen to this album before you speak ill about it. Whether you like it or not, it is aggressively incorrect to call it pop country. “Standards” is about the exact opposite of pop country and country song can get.
The HIllbilly Muslim
June 3, 2015 @ 7:03 am
One thing for sure I need to start buying more albums this year. I missed out on too much good stuff looking at this laundry list.
June 3, 2015 @ 8:26 am
Personally, I am looking forward to Jason Isbell’s new album (Something More than Free) and whatever the Hard Working American’s new album is. They were working with Guy Clark on a song (saw pics on facebook). An awesome song has to spawn from Todd Snider and Guy Clark hanging out. Also, I am hoping for a new album to drop from Jamey Johnson….
On a side note, Chris Stapleton’s Traveler is number one on my mid year list thus far.
June 3, 2015 @ 3:32 pm
I’ve only listened to maybe a half dozen of these records. I’m bookmarking the page so I can refer back, I’ll never remember all of the ones I want to hear.
Of the ones I have listened to, Whitey Morgan’s album is my favorite. As great as his live shows are, I’ve always felt like there was something uninspired about his studio efforts. This one lives up to his potential.
June 4, 2015 @ 11:37 am
Hard to argue with that list. I’d probably add the Wrinkle Neck Mules album somewhere into the mix. As for Stapleton, I can understand the criticism re: it’s flow, but the tunes are there. What a talent.
Given that I’m a metal-head, I gotta expound on some countrified finds that might appeal to some folks around these parts. First, Goatsnake’s “Black Age Blues” is a must listen for those who dig heavy blues, country, soul and even R&B – all filtered through blown out Orange amps. Such a fun album. Second, Midnight Ghost Train’s “Cold Was The Ground” is Clutch-influenced tunes with a definite Americana influence in the lyrics. Third, Wovenhand “Refractory Obdurate” is David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower taking his immense talent to the next level. It’s far more intense than anything 16 Horsepower, did but the country and Americana influences remain. A Wovenhand/Sturgill Simpson tour would be a dream come true.
June 7, 2015 @ 10:56 am
Thanks for the recommendations. Digging Midnight Ghost Train very much.
June 4, 2015 @ 1:51 pm
The problem with this list is the fact that I have almost none of these CDs.
I aim to fix that and get all of them next week.
June 8, 2015 @ 5:00 am
Shocking to me is that the most spun album in my house lately is Jamie Lin Wilson. I love this album.
June 28, 2015 @ 8:26 am
I’ve recently had more time and money to focus on more albums since I made my list here. Granted, there’s still a ton I’d like to check out but so far I’ve heard over 40 albums and I think this is my new top 15:
1. Gretchen Peters- “Blackbirds”
2. William Clark Green- “Ringling Road”
3. Brandi Carlile- “The Firewatchers Daughter”
4. Chris Stapleton- “Traveller”
5. Whitey Morgan & The 78’s- “Sonic Ranch”
6. Blackberry Smoke- “Holding All The Roses”
7. Steve Earle & The Dukes- “Terraplane”
8. Houndmouth- “Little Neon Limelight”
9. Dwight Yoakam- “Second Hand Heart”
10. Ryan Bingham- “Fear and Saturday Night”
11. The Lone Bellow- “Then Came The Morning”
12. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard- “Django and Jimmie”
13. The Malpass Brothers- “The Malpass Brothers”
14. Will Hoge- “Small Town Dreams”
15. Kacey Musgraves- “Pageant Material”