Some Second Impressions of 2017 Albums

Before I get to the flurry of year-end lists, I’d like to address a few things I’ve got significantly different opinions on now than when they were first reviewed. The rating is not the important thing to focus on with these year-end lists because certain things hold up over time better than others, and you will find some albums high on that list that weren’t rated as highly originally. Music changes over time, as do our reactions to it, and there are albums I’ve both overrated and underrated in 2017. This post will reflect these and hopefully shed some light on the upcoming albums list.

Albums I’ve Underrated

Robyn Ludwick–This Tall to Ride
I even said this during my midyear list, but the main reason for the underrating of this was I doubted its ability to be replayed over time, but it holds up quite well and continues to get better. Originally a 7.5, this would get a strong 8 now.

Tyler Childers–Purgatory
This just gets better with each listen. Some albums this year were great at first but had no sustainability (see below.) This still really doesn’t have one defining song, but it’s great all the way through and is one of the best albums of the year. It’s also my most played, with the possible exception of Colter Wall’s self-titled release.

Crystal Bowersox–Alive
I don’t care that this is a live album. I don’t care that a bit of the material appears on Crystal’s previous records. If there is one album I could recommend to all you critics that I see getting criminally overlooked, that I wish you would pull off your back burners and give a proper review to and consideration of in your endless lists, it’s this one. And I’ll go ahead and say it–this is the best album vocally of the year, bar none.

Zephaniah Ohora–This Highway
This one was done by Brianna, and she gave it a 9, as it rightfully deserves, but I have to say, it took me months to come around to this. And this is a brilliant album, definitely one of the best of the year.

Albums I’ve Overrated

And now for the controversial bits of this piece…

Willie Nelson–God’s Problem Child
Still a great listen, but it doesn’t have much staying power or relatability. I don’t really know what else to say.

Sunny Sweeney–Trophy
Look, I know this is high on a lot of year-end lists, and it’s a good record. It’s just, for me, not her best record. It was the album I was most looking forward to in early 2017 because I am a huge Sunny Sweeney fan, and taken as an album, there’s not much to criticize. But it hasn’t held up at all…I wish I could say more, and I did enjoy some of these songs better live, but this just didn’t stay with me.

Chris Stapleton–From a Room, Vol. 1
I’ve said it already, but if Stapleton had combined these releases, this would be a different story. As it is, we’ve got two decent albums, both with some filler, and neither with too much longevity.

Angaleena Presley–Wrangled
This is still one of the best albums of the year, but I would not give it a 10/10 if reviewing today. Still one of the top 5, maybe 3 albums of the year, but I’d have to pull back slightly from that perfect grade.

I’ve got some slightly different opinions on several other albums this year, but these are the most significant and will be most reflected in the year-end list. Above all, music is meant to be enjoyed and played, and these ratings ultimately mean nothing if the music doesn’t hold up throughout the year. I’ve tried to be less rigid in my opinions this year than in the past, and these changes are honest reflections of that. I look forward to sharing all the year-end lists with you all!

Collaborative Review: Chris Stapleton–From a Room, Volume 2

Our collaborative reviewing began with Chris Stapleton, and it seems, due to the ill-advised releasing of this album in December, our last joint effort for 2017 will also be Chris Stapleton. December is notoriously horrible for album sales, and I can only guess at why we’re getting this release now…but anyway.


Megan: So, before we talk about Volume 2 itself, how are you feeling now that you’ve heard both albums? My biggest takeaway from this whole thing is that 1 and 2 together would have made a great single album, maybe trimmed down some. As it is, these are both just decent albums. Also, we collectively gave Volume 1 an 8, and I’d be interested to know how it’s holding up for you at this point.

Brianna: I think they would have made a really good album combined and trimmed down, too. As it is, these are really just too short, and I think they suffer for that. I still feel the same about the songs, but I don’t think Volume 1 was his best work. Or, for that matter, Volume 2.

Megan: Volume 1 just hasn’t held up at all for me despite it being a really good listen. There’s not too much to point out that’s wrong with it, but you’re right, it’s just too short. It wouldn’t even be top 25 for me at this point for albums this year, and it was on my midyear list. That’s how much it’s fallen off. No staying power long-term. I see less consistency in Volume 2, but I also see a few much better songs and more variety in terms of production.

Brianna: I just go back and listen to individual songs off of Volume 1, so I have to agree. As for this one, I do like all the variety in the song production and in the tempos. But yes, the songs are somehow just more forgettable this time around.

Megan: The production for me is a plus. We didn’t have something upbeat like “Midnight Train to Memphis” the first time. It was all just kind of mid-tempo. That song is one of the highlights for me here.

Brianna: That’s what i like. A lot of songs on both Traveller and Volume 1 were mid to slow tempo. This one’s got all different kinds, and I really enjoy that a lot. It’s great because he shows off how he can do blues, rock, and country.

Megan: Yeah. So, what were the biggest highlights for you as far as individual songs? I know we agree on at least one of these.

Brianna: “Scarecrow in the Garden” is one of his top songs to date. I love the melody, the production, the lyrics…My second favorite is “Millionaire.” It reminds me a little bit of “Broken Halos” because of how much the guitar leads and the tempo, but the lyrics make them two very different songs. “A Simple Song” is amazing because I love how it gives little snapshots of life’s sadness, but he’s got his family, so everything is ultimately all right.

Brianna: Ooh, and I like “Drunkard’s Prayer” too. It’s ultimately a heartbreak song, and I love the acoustic production. It lets his voice shine. What about you?

Megan: I definitely agree on “Scarecrow.” For a little more detail, it’s the story of a family farm passed down through generations that is now basically falling apart. I also think this one is made better by the fact that Stapleton for once isn’t belting, and his telling of the story is nuanced and respectful, keeping you focused on the most important part. I’d echo you on your other three pretty much word for word. If I could have these four plus “Midnight Train to Memphis” plus some of Volume 1, this would all become miles better.

Megan: Another note on the belting…that singlehandedly distracts me from “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight” here because in the chorus, I can’t always understand what he is saying since he is too focused on well, belting. He can sing the phone book in a technical sense, but much like “Death Row” from Volume 1, his delivery kind of ruins that song for me.

Brianna: You know, I think the fact that he just sings the lyrics on “Scarecrow” without any real embellishment makes it that much better. I’m glad you pointed that out. “Friendship” has a nice melody and message about being good friends, but it’s otherwise not memorable. “Midnight Train to Memphis” is a nice rock song about a prisoner, but it just doesn’t do it for me like it does for you. As for the rest…I can’t lie, they really bore me and don’t stick out. Like you, I’d combine about half of this album with some of Volume 1 to make one great album.

Brianna: And I agree on his singing of “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight.” I mean, yes, he can sing, but the world knows that by now. He’s got a great voice, but I do wish he wouldn’t overdo it sometimes.

Megan: As for “Friendship,” I actually found that song to be pretty much God-awful, lol. It just says nothing, other than some ultra sappy crap about being friends. The rest of the album is just boring and forgettable. “Hard Livin'” is very cool instrumentally, but unlike “Midnight Train,” it doesn’t stick melodically or lyrically. “Tryin’ to Untangle my Mind” I actually really enjoyed live, but the recorded version just lacks something.

Brianna: NO, “Hard Livin'” definitely doesn’t stick for me at all. I have to go back and listen just to refresh myself, and that’s not a good thing. “Tryin’ to Untangle my Mind” somehow manages to bore me. I should like both of these songs because they’re different from all the others production wise, but still, there’s something missing. I guess for me, Chris Stapleton either has songs that are really awesome or songs that are just kind of forgettable.

Megan: This is really hard to rate because of its size. As an album, I would give it a 6.5, but I will also come back to it more than Volume 1, at least as far as individual songs. Personally, I gave Volume 1 an 8.5, and speaking today, I would lower that to your grade of 7.5. The difference is that Volume 1 is a more solid, consistent effort, and this one has some infinitely better songs mixed in with some complete filler. The good songs here are usually much better than those on the first volume. But it’s a nine-song effort, and there’s not any room for error. And as an album, it’s just not that memorable. That said, if I could take the best from both albums and combine them, it would be an 8 or a 9.

Brianna: I think I have to give it a 6.5 as well. I’d even go so far as to just give it a 6, but since the production and song tempos vary so much, 6.5 is probably better. I’m sad to say that only four out of the nine songs are ones I’ll come back to. Like you, I really, really wish he’d taken the best songs off these two albums and combined them, trimming the least memorable ones along the way. I think an album like that would have been pretty amazing.

Collective Rating: 6.5/10

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