The Best Mainstream Country Albums of 2021
If 90% of mainstream country music is bad, then it stands to reason that 10% of it must be good, or at least decent. So under the philosophy of celebrating what stands out in hopes it sustains, the idea that mainstream country fans deserve good music too, and to not be independent music music snobs and act like non-radio country stars are the only ones creating quality country music, it’s imperative each year we also pay attention to the best releases in the mainstream as well.
Mainstream albums and songs are also considered for end-of-year accolades such as Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Single of the Year. But since they are commonly underrepresented, let’s take a moment to highlight the best stuff here.
Truth is, as time has gone on since the height of the Bro-Country era, mainstream country music seems to continue to trend in a more positive direction. That is reflected in many of of the artists and albums you see below. Please feel free to leave your own list of favorite mainstream albums below in the comments if you wish.
13. Midland – The Sonic Ranch
There is a reason this material has remained buried for six years, and stuff like this is rarely released widely by any band or artist trying to figure out their sound. Still, there can be a charm to crude work tape recordings, and The Sonic Ranch has its moments, especially if you’re a diehard Midland fan. “Fourteen Gears” has always been one of the band’s best songs, and there’s nothing bad about the more raw version of it here. “Cowgirl Blues” probably isn’t a bad song either, and hearing both Mark Wystrach and Jess Carson take their swings at it may be a fun exercise for hardcore Midland fans. “Champagne for the Pain” is a good song idea as well.
Ultimately, this feels like yet another COVID-19 pandemic release by bored musicians looking to keep their name in the media. But hell, they were sitting on the stuff, and decided now is as good of a time as any to let loose of it. It’s a snapshot in time whose greatest value may be as an archival work instead of a vehicle for great entertainment. But devout fans of the band will probably love it, and that’s ultimately who it’s for. (read full review)
12. Riley Green – Behind The Bar
Starting with his hit “I Wish Grandpas Never Died,” Riley Green has delivered one song after another that labors and often achieves to touch something deeper in the listener than just their vapid, passive-listening pleasure zone placed in the bullseye of the likes of 101.1 FM, while still staying very much within the mainstream fold of making lists of countryistic buzz words and delivering them rapid fire. Riley Green also avoids the pitfalls of electronic beats, hip-hop cadences in the lyrical phrasing, while favoring fiddle and steel guitar in songs when it fits.
If it wasn’t for the Bro-Country era wearing out list songs, perhaps Riley Green would be regarded even more favorably. Even with the striking emotional moments, his music just lacks the spontaneity and originality you want to hear in the best of country music. But it is country, no matter the protestations of traditionalists. And it is better than most in the mainstream. It’s just if Riley would work beyond the list-style of lyricism, even for just a few songs, he would find an even more appreciative audience beyond the gaggle of mainstream listeners hungry for the “something more” that Riley Green nonetheless delivers. (read full review)
11. Parker McCollum – Gold Chain Cowboy
Parker McCollum will probably never be for the deeper, darker, more twangy, and more Americana crowd, and this album likely won’t help his prospects with them either. But for a strong legion of disenfranchised country fans who find little to no favor with the ultra-polished and pop/hip-hop-influenced stylings of the country mainstream, and want music that speaks to them a bit more deeper—yet don’t necessarily want a dictionary to to be able to digest it—Parker McCollum sits right down in their wheelhouse, or may even marks the pinnacle of their musical pyramid.
In the end, the naysayers and the supporters are probably both right, and both wrong to some extent. For the package Parker McCollum comes in, he delivers more than you expect, but for some, less than they desire. And that’s where Gold Chain Cowboy rests—in a margin that’s better than most in the mainstream, but still mild compared to many others. But ultimately, it might be the bridge Parker McCollum presents between the two that makes his career and sound so paramount. (read full review)
10. Eric Church – Heart & Soul
The music of Eric Church is all about American nostalgia and restlessness. It’s Mellencamp, with a dash of Springsteen. Don’t take this assessment as a slight. This style of rock has taken just as much of a precipitous slide in recent years as mainstream country, and needs saving all its own since its earnestness is an important part of American music. And it happens to be that Eric Church is pretty superb at it when he gets a hold of the right song and lights into it, as is evident on numerous occasions during Heart & Soul.
With Eric Church, you take the good with the bad, and the bluster with the sincerity. He’s way more rock than country, but way better than the rest of the mainstream. He’s Eric Church. (read full review)
9. Canaan Smith – High Country Sound
Don’t even bother listening to Canaan Smith’s previous music. It’s like the songs of his good friends Florida Georgia Line, only not as good, if you can believe that. Canaan Smith was like the derivative, generic version of FGL. Only now that Canaan Smith is free from the Music Row system can his true career commence in earnest, and an honest assessment of his music be made. Co-writing all twelve songs, and producing many of them as well, Canaan Smith has emerged looking like a guy you’d buy a rebuilt carburetor from on Craigslist.
The transformation of this guy from pandering for radio play to a dude writing and singing good ol’ country songs is quite remarkable. There’s no drum machines on this record, and surprising amounts of fiddle and steel guitar fill the tracks. It’s not a traditional country record. But it’s not exactly pop country either. It’s Canaan country, meaning a mixture of traditional and contemporary influences, underpinned with decent writing, and something a world apart from most Music Row output, or Canaan Smith previously. (read full review)
8. Lainey Wilson – Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’
Move aside all you pop country prima donnas of both the the male and female persuasion, because a bona fide redneck warrior princess has just shown up looking to shake up the mainstream scene with unapologetic and boisterous modern country songs served with unabashed attitude and honesty.
This is supposed to be a fun record—young and brash in a way that brings the personality of Lainey Wilson to the surface. Sure, you wish it was more country in stretches, but it avoids snap tracks and drum loops, and still distinguishes itself from most of what we hear in the mainstream today. Lainey Wilson delivers a number of songs in “Things A Man Oughta Know,” “Rolling Stone,” and the final song, “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” that make the effort worthy of your attention, even if you cherry pick your way through it. The album also reveals a newcomer in the mainstream who is willing and able to make waves in a more positive direction, which is always welcome. (read full review)
7. Cody Johnson – Human: The Double Album
Cody Johnson is what mainstream country music in 2021 should be: country, but widely appealing and pragmatic, while being unafraid to make you think and feel a little too. Perhaps more than any other Cody Johnson record, Human: The Double Album feels organic. Compared to his first record after partnering with a major label, you can tell Cody is just recording what he wants. Sure, he’s no John Moreland or Hayes Carll. But he’s also not trying to smooth the edges off, or fit into a mold to appeal to an industry or to listeners that probably won’t ever find favor with his more traditional style of country in the first place.
Cody Johnson knows his fans, and knows his place. He’s a contemporary traditionalist who sings simple poetry set to appealing music for fans who don’t necessarily want to unravel the mysteries of life or grapple with existential questions. They simply want to listen to good music that reminds them of the gifts of life, and imparts simple lessons and rural wisdom. Oh, and they actually want it to sound country. And that’s why Cody Johnson is their guy. (read full review)
6. Travis Tritt – Set In Stone
Editor’s Note: Travis Tritt might be a bit past his “mainstream” prime and is no longer signed to a major label. But as a member of the “Class of ’89” and a mainstream player from the past, out of respect, he’s being included here.
Working with Brent Cobb and Adam Hood on multiple tracks, as well as Channing Wilson, Dillon Carmichael and others injects Set In Stone with a fresh and relevant perspective, along with bestowing an opportunity to these deserving songwriters. The early tracks had you worried this album may be monochromatic in theme and message, but it shows surprising depth by the end.
Undoubtedly though, this is a Boomer record, and in more ways than one. Even the cover feels a bit drab and outdated. But that is Travis Tritt’s clientele, both from those that first heard him in the 90’s, to those just now discovering that era in country for the first time. Yes, Travis Tritt’s legacy is already “set in stone” as he says in the title track. But this new album chisels in a few more details. (read full review)
5. Carrie Underwood- My Savior
God touched this particular soul with an incredible dollop of singing talent; that’s for sure. But where Carrie Underwood’s voice can sometimes come across as a bit much in country—almost too powerful when brought to what is supposed to be understated material—the soaring heights she is able to achieve is just about perfect for giving praise through timeless compositions that can act like launching pads.
This is not a country record. This is a Christian record. However, along with turning in her first volume of exclusively religious material, Carrie Underwood might have also delivered one of her most country records yet, not just from the nature of the material, but the rootsy aspect of some of the music.
It’s been long said that Carrie Underwood should make a straight up traditional country record someday, and would likely kill it if her cover performances of classic country songs live over the years are any indication. But on deck first was her expressing her Christian faith with a carefully selected group of songs she knew she could clobber, backed by surprisingly tasteful and rootsy production that makes My Savior not just another Gospel record running through the standards, but Carrie Underwood leaving her mark on this important portion of America’s cultural imprint. (read full review)
4. Hailey Whitters – Living The Dream (Deluxe Edition)
Editor’s Note: Though Hailey Whitters isn’t the typical “mainstream” artist, meaning one who receives big radio play, she definitely writes songs and rubs elbows with many of the mainstream set, and artists such as Trisha Yearwood and Little Big Town appear on this album. Plus, it’s just a good excuse to highlight a good album.
Deluxe editions of albums are often repositories for whatever might have been left on the cutting house floor after the original track list was finalized, with maybe one or two new songs recorded afterward that you don’t think are good enough to hold back for the next record. But with Hailey’s Living The Dream (Deluxe Edition), it’s so much more. The new songs fulfill the lingering desires we had for The Dream, including specifically more country-sounding material that we knew Whitters was capable of. It takes a really good album and makes it a great one.
All five of the new songs feel like home runs. They’re all songs that in a just world, would get their fair chance on country radio, while they also highlight just how revered Hailey Whitters is with the rest of her fellow performers and songwriters since each one is a collaboration. (read full review)
3. Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall, Jack Ingram – The Marfa Tapes
It would take a pretty cold heart to not recognize there’s a sweetness to this project, some really great songwriting, and a few really excellent performances regardless of the lo-fi and duct taped nature of the effort that renders The Marfa Tapes worthy of the rather strong praise it’s been receiving, regardless of its homespun nature.
If it wasn’t Miranda, would we be making such a big of a fuss about this? Of course not. But here we are. And a big fuss has been deserved to be made about Jack Ingram and Jon Randall in the mainstream for years and never really was, but now here it is. It’s just the latest example of Miranda championing worthy songwriters just like she’s done with her Pistol Annies side project, and like she’s done for years on her albums.
The Marfa Tapes is one of the increasingly-frequent opportunities for mainstream country artists to do something a little bit outside of the box. This wouldn’t work every time, but it works here. (read full review)
2. Carly Pearce – 29: Written in Stone
Apparently, Carly Pearce did not get the memo. Her career is going in the exact opposite direction than it’s supposed to be at this point. The script says that if you’re a mainstream country starlet that shows early promise in maintaining a little bit of country roots in your sound, as soon as you see some initial success, you’re supposed careen straight into full blown pop while denouncing country as limiting to your creativity, and break the hearts of all of your true blue country fans.
Now a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and once a prodigy singing traditional country and bluegrass at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Carly Pearce has successfully wedged a broom handle between the cogs of the Music Row machine, escaped the sausage factory assembly line, and successfully done what many of the young women who move to Nashville fully intend to do before they’re gobbled up by the system: become a country star. (read full review)
1. Alan Jackson – Where Have You Gone
You could say Alan Jackson is past his prime, but on Where Have You Gone he’s actually right where he should be, reminiscing on life, enjoying his semi-retirement, and showing fair concern about the direction country music is taking as a country legend with a conscience and an important voice. If Alan Jackson was out there trying to run down a late career radio hit, or trying not to show his age, that’s where he would run into trouble like so many aging country performers do.
Instead, Alan Jackson is being Alan Jackson—a constant, a rock, someone you can count on. It’s the legacies guys and gals like Alan Jackson have contributed to country music that have created the foundation from which everything else is built from. And on Where Have You Gone, Alan Jackson has added a few more stones to that foundation, while also trying to repair some of the cracks that have formed from the neglect and misuse in recent years. (read full review)
December 15, 2021 @ 12:37 pm
I kept scrolling thinking “where the hell is Alan” and glad to see he took the top spot.
December 15, 2021 @ 12:39 pm
Still no love for Morgan Wade?
December 15, 2021 @ 12:54 pm
I guess technically, that could be considered a “mainstream” release since she has since signed to a major label. But since that happened AFTER the album was released, that seems a little weird. I just didn’t consider her here. If I had, she probably would have ranked well. I don’t consider Tyler Childers mainstream either, even though he’s on a major label. I still consider Morgan Wade more of an Americana artist aspiring for pop. I’m not trying to snub her or anything. I like her and her album and I’m rooting for her. But I just don’t think her album is in the very top tier, or very “country.” I respect folks who feel different. It’s definitely been well-received.
December 15, 2021 @ 3:03 pm
How is it any less country than Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire from a few years ago? That one made the top mainstream country albums of the decade list, but it was less country and less mainstream (imo) than Reckless. I don’t mean that as a slight to Starfire – it’s a terrific record. But I think Reckless is better.
December 15, 2021 @ 4:59 pm
When “Starfire” came out, Caitlyn Smith had already written big songs for Rascal Flatts, Garth Brooks, Lady Antebellum and others. She was a mainstream country songwriter, and very much part of the mainstream industry. Morgan Wade played her first live show with a band at Mile 0 Fest this year right before American Aquarium.
That said, I definitely recognize that these definitions can be nebulous. I could have put Morgan Wade on here and justified it. I would just like to see how she ultimately fares on her major label deal, and where she fits moving forward.
Wilson Pick It
December 15, 2021 @ 12:54 pm
Midland also came out with a nice little EP, The Last Resort.
December 15, 2021 @ 2:12 pm
I guess Trigger is only considering full albums here and not EPs…but yeah, Midland’s “The Last Resort” is probably my favourite EP this year. I also highly recommend Sterling Drake “Roll the Dice”, another fantastic EP that came out this year.
December 15, 2021 @ 5:01 pm
I rarely feature EPs, especially from the mainstream since they very often feed into full LPs later just like “Carly Pearce’s 29: Written in Stone” did, and then I’m reviewing many of the same songs twice. My guess is we’ll get an LP from Midland next year.
December 15, 2021 @ 1:07 pm
I’ve been thinking about this for a week or 2 and as I looked back over the year there were very few mainstream albums that made my rotation. Out of these nominees Lainey Wilson is my absolute favorite even though I wished it was a little more Country but what she lacks there she more than makes up for it with swagger, style and ohhh that smile. Carly’s was another I enjoyed especially the full album once it was released. Both of these ladies put on great live shows here this year as well.
As for the fellas….. I like many of the songs on Cody Johnson’s album but it’s just a hair too long for me. This won’t be popular on here but early in the year half of Morgan Wallen’s was played quite a bit…..err the songs I liked. He’s easy to hate but good songs are easy to love. Dillon Carmichael’s Son Of A is #1 in the rotation right now I guess I’m the only one who likes it. I know we’re talking albums, but special mention to the Midland and Drake Milligan EP’s both getting tons of spins and left me wanting more.
December 15, 2021 @ 2:39 pm
I’ve been listening to Dillon Carmichael nonstop as well, I think it’s a great album and a lot of fun to listen to.
December 16, 2021 @ 3:05 am
Dillon’s my favourite mainstream country album this year together with Tritt’s
December 15, 2021 @ 1:22 pm
Thanks for putting Midland on here. Love them or hate them.I have caught 3 concerts & they’ve never let me down live. Old Dominion is the award show darlings, but I just don’t like the music.
December 15, 2021 @ 1:34 pm
I appreciate this article and its purpose. The whole “saving country music” thing is laudable. I have always thought that if country music is to be saved, it will have to come from the mainstream element. Of course, I have my doubts as to this ever happening, at least enough to move the dial.
The roots and independent artists have made significant inroads. But I do not feel that they can “out mainstream” the country genre. I do suspect they will continue to increase and deservedly so.
In my opinion, if country music is to be saved, it will need to have a transformational change within the mainstream itself. That has happened in the past with Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs among others of course.
Transformational artists, regardless of country cred, is what has shaped the past. For example, look what Alabama did for country group acts.
With the increased attention to roots and independent artists and the various ways of accessing music now, maybe it is entirely possible that country music “mainstream” doesn’t need to be saved at all. Just let them divulge into the morass of pop and leave the rest of us alone. We are doing fine.
Maybe a Cody Johnson? Who knows? Trigger calls him a “contemporary traditionalist” and I concur. Maybe a Carly Pearce for the female side? Quite possibly. But are they “transformational” yet? Not quite.
Regardless, I feel that the salvation will need to come from within the genre itself rather than the peripheral artists that many of us follow now. As of now, I do not have high hopes.
For all the crap he has received here and elsewhere, and deservedly so, Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous Sessions” shows a potential. Of course, his self-sabotage is widely noted. And so is his popularity. “Sand In My Boots” is a pretty good song lyrically and has decent arrangement. If he could grow up, take a harder turn towards a more traditional sound he could become a leading “contemporary traditionalist.” Don’t laugh, he has the chops and the fan base to do it. Will he? Again, I am doubtful. But it is that type of artist that could effectively lead a change from within the mainstream.
The cool factor of Marty Stuart. The swagger of Dwight Yoakam. The “it” factor of George Strait. Is someone out there lurking getting ready to explode? Who knows. If so, they will have to do it is spite of Nashcrap and not because of it. And one that cannot be ignored when they do.
Bill from WI
December 15, 2021 @ 2:24 pm
Excellent, especially paragraph 5. At what point is country music “saved”, how does one define that? Although for the more non-mainstream artists we know and love on here, it would be nice if they could share in more of the wealth and fame they deserve. Someone else can write that more eloquently…
December 15, 2021 @ 1:36 pm
If 90% of mainstream country music is bad, then it stands to reason that 10% of it must be good, or at least decent.
Nah. This is based on a flawed premise.
(Not) The Ghost Of OlaR...
December 15, 2021 @ 1:45 pm
Interesting list…the wanna-be cowboy with the gold chain & screamin’ Carrie with a “rootsy aspect” but not country-mainstream album…well…
The best “mainstream” albums (songs, sound, production) outside of AustralAsia are Dos Corazones (Jon Wolfe) & the self titled Triston Marez release.
For Australia…Catherine Britt with Home Truth, Adam Harvey with Songs From Highway One & Troy Cassar-Daley with his current ARIA Country AotY award winner The World Today.
Oh…& my AotY 2021: Felicity Urquhart & Josh Cunningham – The Song Club.
John R Baker
December 15, 2021 @ 2:28 pm
While I am usually not a Miranda Lambert fan “The Marfa Tapes” is one of my top ten records of the year all around. Aside from it being great Texas music in the tradition of Guy Clark it was a cool COVID era experiment in experiential listening. I felt like they were trying to share the experience of being out under the stars in Marfa. “I wish I was in his arms” was my personal favorite single of the year.
December 15, 2021 @ 2:42 pm
Good list. Said it at the time, but it’s worth repeating just how impressive it is that at his age, Jackson still writes his own songs, and has the clout to put out high quality music that could still be considered “traditional” in 2021. Hats off to him.
If you could trim Wallen’s Dangerous down to 10-12 tracks, it would probably be on here. The average quality of all 30 makes it prohibitive though.
Related note, Rolling Stone listed Church’s “Heart & Soul” at #3 of all Country/Americana albums in 2021, declaring it his “magnum opus”. Lmao.
December 15, 2021 @ 3:46 pm
I saw Midland last month with my wife daughter, sister-in-law, and husband and two sons in NYC at the Hammerstein Ballroom, have to say they were really good. They played some great covers and the vocals were spot on contrary to what I had heard, I’m a steel guy and there was plenty of that high up in the mix (Philip Sterk) which made me happy. Was good to see a large crowd out post covid crap and was the first show we saw since Flatland Cavalry and William Clark Green just at the start of the Wuhan Virus.
I’m looking forward to their next release, I also love Mike and the Moonpies!!
December 15, 2021 @ 3:58 pm
I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these picks, but I’m wondering how we’re defining mainstream in this day and age. Obviously radio and awards show presence are still important, as is being signed to a major label. But, for context, would you say Johnny Cash was mainstream in 1958? He had 9 top 10 hits by that point, which would seemingly indicate that his music was accepted by people who listened to, say, Ray Price or Faron Young. Yet he was signed to Sun, not a major label. George Jones also had several top 10s on Starday in the same timeframe. And there were other hits on Starday, Sun, King, etc.
You mentioned in a comment above that Tyler Childers is signed to a major label. So was Sturgill Simpson and others. There are artists not generally considered mainstream who are selling out arenas, racking up gold records, having their songs featured on the top television shows and films, and who my co-workers play every single day without fail (alongside Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, etc). The top Indigo playlist on Spotify currently features Combs, Stapleton, Carly Pearce, Alan Jackson, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Midland, etc. right alongside our favorite independent artists and I’ve heard none of them complaining that Spotify is categorizing them incorrectly.
And there are artists on the radio who have trouble drawing a crowd to free shows at a midsize county fair.
The way I look at it, Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, Sturgill, Zach Bryan, Billy Strings and Colter Wall are now mainstream artists by almost every conceivable metric and a strong case can be made for several others. If radio, Billboard magazine and country music-specific awards shows are behind the times, that’s their problem. But Spotify knows what’s up, the Grammys know what’s up, Luke Combs knows what’s up (ask Billy Strings) and any fan under 50 damn sure know what’s up.
December 15, 2021 @ 5:33 pm
Yes, mainstream radio play, mainstream awards consideration, and being signed to a major Nashville label are the biggest indicators here of artists I would consider mainstream. Now, just because an artist is signed to a major label, doesn’t mean they are signed to a Nashville major label. Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson weren’t, for example. That is one of the things that has kept them from being considered mainstream.
And yes, as independent music continues to gain market share, you’re going to have independent artists with a mainstream level of success. But 95% of Americans have never heard of Sturgill Simpson. 95% of Americans have definitely heard of Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood.
And yes, I agree that the mainstream’s narrowcasted view of “country music” is way behind the times. The Grammy Awards and streaming platforms definitely have it more right. But the point of this article is to make sure independent fans and media are also not being similarly shortsighted and acting like anything coming from the mainstream must be bad. There is a lot of great music there that we commonly overlook.
December 15, 2021 @ 4:17 pm
I’m also curious, for the purposes of the list entirely, since Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt were listed here due to previous mainstream successes, were the new albums by Loretta, Willie and Connie Smith considered under the same criteria?
December 15, 2021 @ 5:37 pm
The difference between the Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt era, and the Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson era are three decades. Tritt and Jackson were still being played on country radio in recent memory. Loretta and Willie are what I would consider legacy acts. That’s how their label Sony considers them as well, and that’s why the release music on Sony’s Legacy imprint.
December 15, 2021 @ 4:28 pm
The special olympics of country music.
December 15, 2021 @ 4:52 pm
Your insistent refusal to give Morgan Wade any credit on any of these lists is completely nonsensical.
December 15, 2021 @ 6:28 pm
Just wanted to say a major thumbs down to whoever engineered The Marfa Tapes. Seriously, so much background noise it clips an average set of speakers so badly. I get better audio on my phone. We get it, its an acoustic jam, that is still no excuse. Listen to the audio on Wealth of Sorrrow and compare, its just not in the same league.
Ok, cute, but also, just have another jam one day with a decent mic, or try to filter it a bit.
Wilson Pick It
December 15, 2021 @ 8:37 pm
I’d add Zac Brown Band as an honorable mention.
December 16, 2021 @ 5:15 am
Artists (and true ‘country’ musicians) like Alan Jackson are not “past their prime”. But rather, disregarded and denounced by commercial radio, star-making machines, and the long string of CEO’s in the music business.
It’s a big ol’ goofy world, as John Prine wrote.
Unfortunately the music business is also a career maker… and massive career breaker.
December 16, 2021 @ 4:14 pm
Nice to see Alan on here, top or not. It’s my favorite album in a long while though to be honest I don’t listen to or buy while albums much anymore. Personally I think wallens album should be on here as well. True it has some bro country stuff on there but a lot of really good music. But I guess he’s banned on here as well. Riley green deserves higher in my opinion. That church album maybe not even on here, the stuff I’ve heard sounds nothing like he’s done before. Carly pierce on the other hand deserves her praise. I need to listen to full album but she’s really good and I generally don’t care for most female country performers. But overall great job trigger! Don’t take my comments as negatives.
December 16, 2021 @ 7:17 am
This is pretty much the genre of country I listen to, with a bit of independent and other mainstream mixed in. I would add Brian Kelley, Sunshine State of Mind to the top of my list – I know, I know, but it really is so much better than any FGL, and this album is like the next generation Kenny Chesney to me, if you like beach country. My other top album would be Canaan Smith, and actually they have a ton of overlap in their records for songwriting. You mentioned a transformation of Canaan Smith away from the FGL sound, but did you notice Brian Kelley co-wrote half that album?
December 16, 2021 @ 6:46 pm
I’ll throw in for Eric Church here. Although these albums aren’t Mister Misunderstood quality, it was that record that opened my ears to country music and eventually to SCM and the treasure trove of amazing music I’ve found since through this website. I grew up with Springsteen and Mellencamp, not Waylon and Merle. But Eric’s music opened my ears to giving real country music a chance and now I am all in. Heart and Soul bridges those two worlds perfectly.
December 17, 2021 @ 7:55 am
Travis had the best album on this list, but the song “Heart Like Mine”, makes Parker’s album a very close second.
December 18, 2021 @ 5:55 am
You lost me when you put that self indulgent album Marfa Tapes at #3. That album only appeals to “certain”cm fans and Nashville music critics. I sure would not call it a “mainstream” album. I sure didn’t like it nor did most cm fans as the sales and streams of it were not good at all. No single song off the album made the mainstream charts or cm radio. The list I look at for the “mainstream” country albums of 2021 is Billboards the top country artists by album sales. Commercial success of an album proves it’s popular with cm fans cause they bought and streamed it. Critical success is just too biased and subjective for me especially in cm these days. I also don’t agree with BB’s “editors “choice for 2021 cm albums because it’s the same bias issue. Unfortunately the Grammys have the same bias and too subjective issues cause they don’t take into account what the vast majority of cm fans really like. That leads to cm fans thinking Grammy awards are corrupt and paid for by influence.
December 21, 2021 @ 3:04 am
Mainstream country music = Nashville Pop. Not a fan of any of it except Mafia Tapes which is ok.