The Best Country & Roots Albums of 2024 So Far

As we reach the halfway pole of the musical year, it’s time to reflect back on the best albums that have been released so far. There are some great projects that you should make sure don’t slip under your radar, including the top ten listed below that should be considered early Album of the Year contenders.

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 section below. But nothing has been “forgotten,” and no list is illegitimate just because one particular album is left off, or a certain album is included. So be constructive with your comments.

Aside from the first ten being the top recommendations, the albums are presented in no particular order.

Kimmi Bitter – Old School

Few of the other artists we’ve experienced in the modern era stun with their reinterpretation and revitalization of the classic sounds of music from the early sixties like Kimmi Bitter, in the country genre and beyond. It’s just as much about era to Kimmi Bitter as it is genre, but the epicenter of her passion and influence are the sounds of Patsy Cline and early Countrypolitan country. This is what populates the tracks of her exquisitely-crafted and delicately refined album Old School.

These are no close approximations. Down to every last note, texture, and square inch of this album, it feels like 1963 all over again. From the way the music is written, to the instrumentation, to the The Jordanaires-style chorus singing and even the little percussive additions, Kimmi and her collaborators did their homework and then some, and deserve a slow clap for capturing the era perfectly, if nothing else. (read review)

Zach Top – Cold Beer & Country Music

There is perhaps no better sign of this country resurgence than the surging popularity of 25-year-old Zach Top. It’s not that traditional throwback ’90s-sounding artists haven’t been around for years. Many of the original artists from the ’90s are still going strong and releasing good music too. But with Zach, his music has caught fire like he’s the next new thing, even though his sound is older than he is.

Perhaps mostly importantly though, Cold Beer & Country Music is just the start, for both Zach Top, and where country music is headed overall amid a traditional resurgence. We’ve seen traditionalists pop up over the years. But few have captured the sound of traditional country so purely, along with the attention of the public so keenly as Zach Top. With the way things are headed, it feels like only a matter of time before Zach and traditional country both end up on Top in country music. (read review)

Shane Smith and the Saints – Norther

Perhaps no other band calls to mind the most defining and elemental moments of life than Shane Smith and the Saints. And perhaps no other album Shane Smith and the Saints have released accomplishes this better than Norther. Like the clashing of two atmospheric fronts causing an awesome upheaval of updrafts and downpours, the stormy and cumbrous moments encapsulated in this album send the soul reeling and dashing like the waves of the angry sea in the mightiest of tempests.

Instead of attempting to soften what Shane Smith and the Saints do, or trying to make excuses for it, or tempering its impact to try and widen the audience in a moment when their national recognition has never been higher, for better or worse, Norther unapologetically leans into everything at the essence of Shane Smith and the Saints. Though the “three chords and the truth” crowd may find it quite unusual, those well versed in the mythology of Shane Smith and the Saints will argue Norther definitely turns out for the better. (read review)

Jesse Daniel – Countin’ The Miles

Jesse Daniel brings a loaded down Peterbilt’s worth of full-tilt twang to this one, and puts all worries about “wHaT’s HAppeNeD To TOdAyS COunTRY mUsIc!” to bed. You want country music? Listen to Jesse Daniel. But just like Jesse Daniel has shown throughout his career, it’s not just the hard country sound he forwards, but the stories he tells, the characters he creates, and the wisdom he shares that makes his kind of country music the kind of country music you consider your favorite too.

As great as the writing is for many of the the eleven songs of Countin’ The Miles, it’s the steel and lead guitar work on this record that is super tasty, incredibly twangy, and makes this album worthy of spinning even if lyricism is something you rarely pay attention to.Whatever deficit mainstream country has accrued in the twang department over the last 20 years, Countin’ The Miles darn near balances it out. Jesse Daniel the producer was patently unafraid to call for more twang and more twang until it might be scientifically impossible to fit any more into these tracks. (read review)

Emily Nenni – Drive & Cry

Hearkening back to a time when country sounded country, and singers were required to come with a distinctive sound, Emily Nenni has released a fun, infectious, twangy, diverse, and career-defining album that will renew your spirits in the state country music. Whether you’re looking to commiserate over a broken heart or help cut through the monotony as the miles pass by on the highway, Drive & Cry is a deft choice in a crowded country landscape.

It all comes together for Emily Nenni on her third album. Choosing to handle all the writing herself, and embracing the classic themes that one encounters in life and the honky tonk scene as opposed to trying to be too involved results in ideal material for a country album. Then Nenni delivers it all with a voice that compels intrigue all itself, demanding your attention. (read review)

Pat Reedy – Make It Back Home

It’s the simplicity of Pat Reedy’s songs that’s the genius, not the sophistication. It’s the ease at which the melody and rhythms seep into your flesh that makes the music so immediately gratifying. And Pat Reedy delivers it all so confidently and assured because there’s no cosplay involved, and no insincerity to shield the audience from. He sings what he lives and he lives what he sings. Reedy is symbiotic with his music.

Pat Reedy is the kind of real deal that many of the country artists in east Nashville, south Austin, and other places try to emulate, but will always be at arm’s length from. He’s a born and bred road dog with more stories and miles than most. He’s a blue collar hero who’s bid out jobs and worn hard hats all across the country and a few places overseas, from the smallest repair, to working on skyscrapers. When Pat Reedy opens his mouth to sing, it’s like a ghost from 60 years past takes over. (read review)

John Moreland – Visitor

Music might be marked by the presence of sound, but it’s the music of John Moreland that compels the hushing of everything else to allow the quietest and most reflective of moments to prevail. In an era when everyone is talking over each other, the beeps and pulsations of push notifications pursue us during every waking moment, and the loudest and most ostentatious are often rewarded with the public’s undivided attention, John Moreland is a mandate to be subdued, to unplug, to slow down, and to listen.

This is a lesson that John Moreland had to heed himself before composing and recording his new album Visitor, released on April 5th without any run up or formal announcement. After his last album, 2022’s Bird in the Ceiling, Moreland was compelled to take a year off from touring, and a full six months away from his cell phone due to what he characterizes as “doomscrolling” through the world’s dire events. It was in these offline and unconnected moments that the brilliance of Visitor arose. (read review)

Joe Stamm – Allegheny EP

If you see a four-song EP featured here, you can be assured it equals something greater than the sum of its parts, and pulls off feats many of the 20+ song tomes of music released these days regularly fail to. Namely, it leaves the audience fulfilled, even if you thirst for more. Allegheny is one of those such works.

Steel your emotional equilibrium for the roller coaster of stimulus you’ll experience listening to this four-song gem that combines the songwriting prowess of Midwest musical superhero Joe Stamm, and the men that make the magic happen behind Charles Wesley Godwin, known collectively as The Allegheny High.

Allegheny is like that magical moment when you walk into the comic book store and see the latest edition of your favorite series finds your two most beloved characters joining forces, sending your little 12-year-old heart fluttering. (read review)

The Droptines – Self-Titled

For those looking for something a little more offbeat in nature, count yourself lucky if the debut album from The Droptines lands in your lap. This is a genuine alt-country work, meaning that it’s an amalgamation of country, rock, blues, and folk influences. It’s more indicative of the late 90s or early 2000s when alt-country was hitting its stride before it got folded into “Americana,” and the music lost much of its guts.

This self-titled album is an exploration into impulse control and the facing of moral conundrums, and often failing to fall on the right side of these decisions. Sex, drugs, and booze are regularly referenced in these songs as the protagonist pinballs between loose relationships, lapses from sobriety, and regular bouts of self-loathing. The watery effect on the vocals adds to the murky vibe this music emotes. (read review)

Sierra Ferrell – Trail of Flowers

If you follow certain primrose paths deep into the enchanted forest, or discover a portal to the past through an antique wardrobe in a house overgrown with vines, or forage on certain mushrooms growing out from the trunks of giant trees, you might stumble upon the realm of Sierra Ferrell.

It’s a world of gingerbread cottages with round doors, fairy tale meadows of singing birds and talking flowers, and creatures of mirth that speak in limericks. It’s beautiful place for sure, yet beguiling and potentially dangerous, leading some who don’t heed the wisdom and warning of the stories told there to their ultimate doom.

Similar to Colter Wall, Sierra Ferrell has taken entirely outmoded and archaic music, and through her weaving of magic, made it more wildly popular and appealing than anyone would ever have imagined it could be in the modern era. (read review)

Other Highly Recommended Albums

Wyatt Flores – Half Life (read review)

Charley Crockett – $10 Cowboy (read review)

Kelsey Waldon – There’s Always A Song (read review)

Sentimental Family Band – Sweethearts Only (read review)

Jayce Turley – Broke Down (read review)

The Mavericks – Moon & Stars (read review)

Cody Jinks – Change The Game (read review)

Blaine Bailey – Home (ᎣᏪᏅᏒ) (read review)

Tylor and the Train Robbers – Hum of the Road (read review)

Ellis Bullard – Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution (read review)

Scotty McCreery – Rise & Fall (read review)

Brady Lux – Ain’t Gone So Far (read review)

Bo Outlaw & Løiten Twang Depot – Bars-Brunettes-Big Rigs (read review)

Colby T. Helms – Tales of Misfortune (read review)

Sarah Gayle Meech – Easin’ On (read review)

Addison Johnson – Dangerous Men (read review)

Willi Carlisle – Critterland (read review)

Alex Key – Outdated (read review)

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers – Revelations (read review)

Luke Grimes – Self-Titled (review)

Casper McWade – Something for the Pain (read review)

The Wonder Women of Country – Willis, Carper, Leigh (read review)

Jonathan Peyton – Nothing Here’s The Same (read review)

Blackberry Smoke – Be Right Here (read review)

Carly Pearce – hummingbird (read review)

Swamp Dogg – Blackgrass: From West Virginia to 125th St. (read review)

Randall King – Into The Neon (read review)

The Castellows – A Little Goes a Long Way (read review)

Corb Lund – El Viejo (read review)

Shawn Hess – Wild Onion (read review)

Willie Nelson – The Border (read review)

Red Shahan – Loose Funky Texas Junky (read review)

Oliver Anthony – Hymnal of a Troubled Man’s Mind (read review)

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo – Philophobia (read review)

Ernest – Nashville, Tennessee (read review)

Other Albums Receiving Positive Reviews:

Kacey Musgraves – Deeper Well (read review)

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