Category Archives: Playlists

My Top Twenty-Five Albums of 2017

And now for the list you’ve all been waiting for, for the one I’ve been preparing for all year, and for the one that represents the heart and soul of what we do here. I debated much on how far to extend this list…should it be ten, or twenty, or follow suit with several of my lists this year and be thirteen? IN the end, I found that after reviewing seventy-eight albums so far in 2017 and featuring twenty-seven so far in Memorable Songs, not to mention others I’ve heard and did not include in that feature, that eight stood out above everything else and should be considered most essential on this list. Another fifteen stood out a little under that, and then it became a question of whether to cut the list of twenty-three down to twenty or search for two deserving others to round it out to twenty-five. I opted for showcasing more music, but as you’ll see, I’ve separated the most essential from the rest because those eight still stand proudly above the rest and should be recognized as such. One more note for any of you who might be newer, this list reflects the evolving, changing nature of music and my reactions to it throughout the year, so rating should not be considered a huge factor at this point–a factor, yes, but second to how well the music has held up over time.

Essential Albums

25. Kody West–Green

Standout Tracks: “Green,” “Ledges,” “Ogygia”
This album starts off an exciting trend here–a good amount of debut albums making this list. It’s been a great year for debut records, and Kody West is certainly the most interesting thing to come out of the Texas/Red Dirt scene this year. Not the best album from that scene, but something new and refreshing, blending the traditional and the modern, the country and rock influences, into something cool and promising. Check this out while you can still say you were ahead of the curve with West.
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24. Nikki Lane–Highway Queen

Standout Tracks: “Jackpot,” “700,000 Rednecks,” “Highway Queen,” “Forever Lasts Forever”
So many boring, mid-tempo albums in the independent/Americana scene in 2017. This is fun and vibrant, a breath of fresh air and personality. This is an artist coming into her own and being herself in the best way possible. It stands out above many others simply for the jolt of energy and life it offers, proving that you can make a good album in this scene and write smart hooks without being so serious all the time.
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23. Robyn Ludwick–This Tall to Ride

Standout Tracks: “Freight Train,” “Texas Jesus,” “Bars Ain’t Closin’,” “Lie to Me”
I’ve been saying this since it came out, but if you can get past the hookers and cocaine all over this record, it’s a great listen. The melodies are engaging and the sentiments relatable, and credit to Robyn Ludwick for exploring these subjects, so often ignored in country, and giving a voice to these characters. Her knack for portraying people usually so ignored and misunderstood by society is remarkable, and though not as blatant a form of social commentary as say, the next album here, this one still has a lot to say and does it in a really interesting way
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22. Rhiannon Giddens–Freedom Highway

Standout Tracks: “At the Purchaser’s Option,” “Julie,” “Better Get it right The First Time”
While we’re here, I’d like to say that not including “Better Get it Right the First Time” on my Spotify and Apple Music playlists was a complete oversight, and it should have been there, though I have no idea what it would have replaced. That said, this album is better all the way through, as a whole, as it tells the story of African-American history and heritage that is more story than song, more reflection than sermon, and teaches the past while still looking hopefully into the future. Some might wonder why it isn’t higher on this list, and that goes back to a rating thing–this album is not perfect, but it’s very good and received an 8.5 here. Yet it’s just something you respect more than you enjoy, and while it’s a great album, it’s not the album you’re going to pull out and listen to over that much. Still, it’s got something to say, and it does so in fine fashion.
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21. Turnpike Troubadours–A Long Way From Your Heart

Standout Tracks: “Pay no Rent,” “The winding Stair Mountain Blues,” “pipe Bomb Dream,” “A Tornado Warning”
I know, I know, it’s Album of the Year for a lot of people. Turnpike did receive Album of the Year here in 2015 for their excellent self-titled release, and while this is still a great album, in the spirit of honesty, I have to say it’s not the best of their material for me like it is for a lot of people. Brianna and I reviewed this together, and she’s got a considerably more favorable opinion of it than i do. That said, the songwriting here is in some places the best of the band’s career. They’re consistently churning out good quality country music, and you can’t go wrong with any of their albums.
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20. Shinyribs–I Got Your Medicine

Standout Tracks: “I Gave up All I Had,” “Trouble Trouble,” “I Don’t Give a Shit,” “Tub Gut Stomp & Red-Eyed Soul”
This is the exact opposite of Rhiannon Giddens’ album before it–it’s the antithesis because it’s bright and fun, and you’ve got to be in a certain mood to appreciate it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s nearly perfect for what they’re trying to accomplish here. I hold back slightly because again, you aren’t going to pull this out quite as much as some others, and also there’s only really a smattering of country here, but this is just warm, infectious music that puts a smile on your face, something we all need these days. Give this a chance.
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19. Steve Earle & the Dukes–So You Wannabe an Outlaw

Standout Tracks: “Walkin’ in L.A,” “Fixin’ to Die,” “This is How it Ends” (ft. Miranda Lambert)
I’ve had a strange relationship with this record–at first I loved it, then several people pointed out the pretty much sloppy production on the album, and I grew to not like it as much despite not being able to hear all the production issues myself. When reviewing albums I loved this year, I went back to this and found what I loved again–so I get it if you don’t like this album because of the production, but honestly, I enjoy the hell out of this and think it’s one of Steve Earle’s best in a good long while.
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18. Dori Freeman–Letters Never Read

Standout Tracks: “Cold Waves,” “If I Could Make You My Own,” “over There,” “That’s All Right”
The album to check out for that long-lost Appalachian sound. For me, not quite as good as her outstanding debut–tied for unofficial Album of the Year in 2016–but still a solid collection of tunes. Dori didn’t change much, or anything really, with this approach, but why should you when it worked so perfectly the first time?
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17. John Moreland–Big Bad Luv

Standout Tracks: “Love is Not an Answer,” “No Glory in Regret,” “Sallisaw Blue,” “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before”)
Some of this is the best songwriting of the year. And it’s not just his lyrics, it’s the production and, most of all, the warm, engaging melodies that keep you coming back and listening. In fact, a lack of accessibility may be this record’s only flaw, as it’s almost too deep, and he’s almost writing too much on another level. That said, this is poetry at its finest and set to melodies that really allow it to shine and grow over time.
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16. Jaime Wyatt–Felony Blues

Standout Tracks: “Wishing Well,” “Wasco,” “Stone Hotel”
Another debut record, and one of the most exciting of the year. This is easily the project that has grown the most for me throughout the year, as Jaime’s music only continues to get better. A nice little album that draws on her own experience in the best way possible to tell a story of second chances and starting over, and to actually create something I’d call outlaw country, if that were a style.
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15. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit–The Nashville Sound

Standout Tracks: “Last of my Kind,” “Tupelo,” “If we Were Vampires,” “Something to Love”
And here it is, the album that produced the 2017 Song of the Year. Once again, Jason Isbell delivers with a slice of that incredible songwriting, and on this album, it also gets backed up by more interesting and diverse production. Not a perfect album, and I still don’t know what the hell “Chaos and Clothes” is supposed to be, but this is his best and most accessible album to date.
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14. Kasey Chambers–Dragonfly

Standout Tracks: “Ain’t NO Little Girl,” “Jonestown,” “Shackle and Chain,” “Talkin’ Baby Blues,” “Summer Pillow,” “Golden Rails”
More standouts here because we’ve got a double album on our hands. Much like Dori Freeman, Kasey Chambers isn’t necessarily breaking any new ground here, and this isn’t quite on the level of her excellent 2015 record Bittersweet, but this is an expansive showcasing of all her styles, from more traditional to rock to bluegrass to pop. She can do it all very well, and it continues to baffle me how little love we give her in the States.
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13. Travis Meadows–First Cigarette

Standout Tracks: “McDowell Road,” “Sideways,” “First Cigarette,” “Pray for Jungleland”
This album has to get Production of the Year, not necessarily because it’s the most impressive display, but because it is the album where the production contributes most to the overall story and general enjoyment of this record. It’s a little journey through his life, nostalgic for the past but content with the present, and the extra care taken to do things like make all of the songs flow into each other so that it’s as if you’re taking the trip right along with Travis, makes this a special listen.
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12. The Infamous Stringdusters–Laws of Gravity

Standout Tracks: “Freedom,” “Black Elk,” “This ‘ol Building,” “Maxwell”
Well, I didn’t get to nearly as much bluegrass as I’d have liked this year, but this is one badass bluegrass record and the best one I’ve heard in 2017. It’s got all the wonderful instrumentation we expect from this genre, but it’s also got great storytelling, not to mention a youthfulness and vibrancy permeating the whole thing. This is the album to send people’s way who think bluegrass is stuffy and boring and old-fashioned, trust me.
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11. Crystal Bowersox–Alive

Standout Tracks: “A Broken Wing,” “The Ride,” “Marlboro Man,” “Let me Walk Away,” “NO Mistake,” “Mine all Mine”
I don’t know why more people didn’t pay attention to this throughout the year, but now’s your chance. This is a live album, but it’s not your typical one recorded for a huge audience and just providing live versions of previously released material. This was recorded in an intimate setting for sixty people over the course of three shows and features mostly new songs. It’s a unique album about being alive that captures perfectly her current state of mind and explores all the joy and pain that being alive has to offer. And this is, without question, the best album vocally of the year.
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10. John Baumann–Proving Grounds

Standout Tracks: “Old Stone Church,” “When Ophelia Comes to Town,” “Here I Come,” “Holding it Down,” “The Trouble With Drinkin'”
This album is the perfect balance between both sides of the Texas scene–the side with more depth and incredible songwriting, and the side with cool, vibrant songs that would sound awesome in a live setting. And if you wonder why only one of these songs made my Apple Music and Spotify playlists, it’s honestly because I could have picked almost the entire album and decided to limit myself.
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9. Justin Payne–Coal Camp (EP)

Standout Tracks: “Miner’s Soul,” “Piece of my Life,” but it’s better as a whole
Yes, I know, an EP actually made it this high on the list. It’s because Justin Payne’s very special love letter to the coal region of West Virginia is just right at six songs. Plus, it’s got the added awesomeness of actually being delivered by a coal miner. This blew me away the first time I heard it, and it still does.
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Most Essential Albums

8. Zephaniah Ohora–This Highway

Standout Tracks: “Way Down in my Soul,” “High Class City Girl From the Country,” “She’s Leaving in the Morning,” “I Do Believe I’ve Had Enough”
And now for the eight that were impossibly hard to rank. This one is certainly the most country and is a near flawless representation of the countrypolitan sound. And it’s by some guy from New York City, thoroughly walking all over the stereotype that you have to be “authentic” to make good country music. The sheer genius of this is that he doesn’t try to hide anything or be something he isn’t, and that in turn makes it authentic. Also, this is another debut, so imagining where Zephaniah Ohora can go from here is pretty exciting.
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7. Jason Eady (self-titled)

Standout Tracks: “Barabbas,” “Black Jesus,” “NO Genie in This Bottle”
So, Jason Eady produced two of my top five songs of the year which is pretty impressive and insane. It’s also pretty insane that in a year of mid-tempo, boring country/Americana releases, Jason released a completely stripped-back, acoustic affair, and yet because of the sheer beauty in the songwriting and the warmth of the melodies, it manages to rise above everything else and be one of the best albums of the year.
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6. Tyler Childers–Purgatory

Standout Tracks: “Whitehouse Road,” “Lady May,” “Honky Tonk flame,” “I swear (to God),” “Tattoos”
This is my most played album of 2017, and it gets better each time. I wrote all these standouts here, but this one, like some others here, is better as a full listen, as you go on Tyler’s journey of finding love, screwing it up, and turning to vices. And although this isn’t a debut, this is his second album and his first major moment, and it’s a moment that has been very well deserved.
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5. Suzanne Santo–Ruby Red

Standout Tracks: “Best out of Me,” “Better Than That,” (ft. Butch Walker), “Ghost in my Bed,” “Love Fucked UP”
Another solo debut. This, although it’s certainly got some acoustic, country-leaning moments, tilts more toward the rock side of things, and I debated whether to include it this high on a country list for that very reason. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the best records of the year for me and another one of the few that blew me away from the very beginning. A hard-edged album that talks of drinking and sex and vices, it’s definitely got something to say. Probably not for everyone, but definitely for me.
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4. Ags Connolly–Nothin’ Unexpected

Standout Tracks: “Haunts Like This,” “Do You realize That Now?”, “Neon Jail”
My only regret here is that I wish it hadn’t taken me till July to hear this because I could have been enjoying it since February. This is nothing flashy, or “unexpected,” but it’s a case of everything just working–the extra touches of instrumentation like the piano and accordion, the wonderful melodies, the lyrics that sink in more and more each time you hear it. This is another one I’ve loved from the start. The definition of a nice, easy listen. And to top it all off, this guy’s British, so he joins Zephaniah Ohora in proving that just being yourself and singing in your own accent about your own stuff can produce the best music.
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3. Angaleena Presley–Wrangled

Standout Tracks: “Dreams Don’t Come True,” “Wrangled,” “Good Girl Down,” “Mama I Tried”
Yep, another one that had me on first listen. This is Angaleena Presley’s self-proclaimed “f you” record to the industry, and in candid, sometimes subtle, often angry and inappropriate, ways, she delivers just that. She addresses her struggles in the business and the discrimination against women, and does so in engaging and entertaining ways that keep this album playable and interesting despite the importance of the messages being conveyed.
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2. Colter Wall (self-titled)

Standout Tracks: literally everything here except “You Look to Yours”
Another debut, another one that throws the authenticity debate out the window, as Colter’s from Canada, and another one that absolutely blew me away from the beginning. Colter Wall and his astounding, throwback country voice have a ridiculously bright future ahead of them, and when you combine that voice with tales like these, of hopping trains and sleeping in lonely hotels, of murdering your girlfriend and spending your days in prison for it, this record captures another time and place in a way that makes it, well, timeless.
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Album of the Year

1. Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives–Way Out West

Standout Tracks: “Please Don’t Say Goodbye,” “Way Out West,” “Air Mail Special,” but really, it’s about the album as a whole
And speaking of capturing another time and place, enter Marty Stuart and this album…only instead of capturing it in the throwback way of Colter Wall, this is done in a vibrant, fresh, forward-thinking manner. It’s an almost psychedelic record, an exact representation of country evolving in 2017 in a way that still respects the roots of the genre. I’ve said this before, but in a genre of lyrics and stories, the risk that Marty Stuart took by delivering this in a thematic way that connected the songs by their music and mood should be commended. It’s almost cinematic, and in an era where the album concept is being lost in the mainstream, and in the independent scene where it’s thriving, the albums are still basically just collections of good songs, this record literally has to be played all the way through to be fully understood and appreciated. A concept record and a fine one, the most impressive one of 2017.
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P.S. Honorable Mention to Kesha, who couldn’t qualify for this list because of genre, and her album Rainbow for being far and away the best non-country album I’ve heard in 2017.

Spotify and Apple Music Best of 2017 Playlists

Yesterday, I published what I consider to be a list of the absolute best songs of the year, but I also promised a more extensive list of some of the year’s best songs. Here are links to both Spotify and Apple Music versions of this, and thanks to Zack, whom we like to call our visual consultant, for making the Spotify version. Keep in mind, these are not ranked or in any particular order other than a good musical order for a playlist.

For Apple Music:
Click Here

For Spotify:

My Top Thirteen Songs of 2017

This was an incredibly hard list to make cuts from, and I already have a playlist ready to publish which includes sixty-six of the best tracks from this year and can be accessed on Spotify and Apple Music. But this is here to highlight the absolute best of the best, and in a ridiculously strong year for songs, that’s even more of a distinction. If you’re wondering why this isn’t trimmed to ten or lengthened to twenty, well, I had to stop somewhere, and this was the number I chose on the midyear list, so…

Very Honorable Mentions

  • Natalie Hemby: “Cairo, IL”
  • Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters–“Eden”
  • Ags Connolly–“Do You Realize That Now?”
  • The Secret Sisters–“Carry Me”
  • Kasey Chambers–“Jonestown”–
  • Colter Wall–“Kate McCannon”
  • The Steel Woods–“Straw in the Wind”

#13: Chris Stapleton–“Scarecrow in the Garden”

From From a Room, Volume 2

This song perfectly explains the reason we wait until mid-December to publish these. An incredible story song of a family farm started by an Irish immigrant and then passed down through generations, through seasons of prosperity and hardship, until the current narrator, the grandson, is faced with seeing the land he loves deteriorate around him. There are also biblical undertones to this, underscoring possible sin haunting the family, as the grandson sees Lucifer in the scarecrow in the garden and reads Revelation with a pistol in his other hand.

#12: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real–“Forget About Georgia”

From Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

What a brilliant way to write a song, linking the name Georgia with the state and his father’s song “Georgia on my Mind.” Of course he can’t forget Georgia because he’s forced to say her name in the song each night; it makes perfect sense, and even though it’s specific to this woman and that song, it’s universal because we all have associations like this that will forever make us think of certain things and people. “I pray I’ll forget about Georgia, but a part of me hopes that she’ll never forget about me” is right up there for Lyric of the Year. Also the guitar outro is definitely the Instrumental of the Year.

#11: Turnpike Troubadours–“Pay no Rent”

From A Long Way From Your Heart

Written about Evan Felker’s late aunt, but also written in that universal Evan Felker way that makes it somehow relatable to anyone who has ever lost someone. It’s even ambiguous enough to mean a former friend or lover, but at the same time, it’s the detail and unique turns of phrase that elevate this above so many other songs about loss. It’s at once grieving and reflective, sad over the loss but looking back fondly at the memories. And “in my heart you pay no rent” is up there for Hook of the Year.

#10: Angaleena Presley–“Wrangled”

From Wrangled

This is a gorgeous song both melodically and lyrically, and yes, wins Melody of the Year. There are a lot of frank moments of honesty on Angaleena Presley’s latest record, but this one is delivered in such a subtle way. The woman in question is not angry so much as tired, defeated, sick of her life and her husband and perhaps most underrated about this song, sick of the church women around her who seem to enjoy all of this. I think Presley is saying so perfectly what so many women are feeling and probably would like to say, but she’s also not saying it with hatred or in a polarizing way, just a quiet, calm resignation that ultimately speaks more.

#9: Sarah Jane Scouten–“Acre of Shells”

From When the Bloom Falls From the Rose

This one I’m actually struggling for words to explain, as it’s just the beauty in hearing it. A brilliantly written love song; I know in that department this year, we’re all focused on “Vampires,” but this is just as hard-hitting. And the actual Lyric of the Year goes to “How could I ever love somebody else? IN an acre of shells, you’ll find just one pearl. And how could I ever love somebody else when I know that you’re in the world?” What a perfect illustration; stand on the beach and think of the infinite number of shells around you. Hell, think of the number of shells just within your reach or field of vision…and in all that space, you’ll find just one pearl. What a special and simple way to describe someone you love.

#8: Jaime Wyatt–“Wishing Well”

From Felony Blues

I wish I could give this Opener of the Year, and if it weren’t for a song coming up on this list, I would award it. You think we can’t have fun songs up here in the top ten of the year? Well, Jaime Wyatt can. And it’s because despite this one being easily the most playable and fun, even almost radio-friendly, of the bunch, it’s a deep and personal song to Jaime about second chances and starting over in life. And we can all relate to it, maybe not to her exact circumstances, but to that feeling of praying for better days but learning to deal with what we have–“bought my ticket for the rainbow, but it just hasn’t come through” is another incredible lyric and something we can all understand.

#7: Shannon McNally–“Banshee Moan

From Black Irish, featured in Memorable Songs

If you’re saying: “who?” right now, please listen to this ridiculously underrated song. This is why we have the Memorable Songs feature, as this gets the honor of being the only one here not from an album we reviewed. This is what Keith Urban couldn’t say with “Female” and what Margo Price could have said with “Pay Gap,” but the former was made for radio, performed by a male, and written by committee, and the latter was too shallow for these kinds of sentiments. This is a beautiful, subtle, yet timely and honest portrayal of the discrimination that women do face in the workplace and in society, as well as a call to those women to mourn for all their sisters, past and present, who have gone through this.

#6: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit–“If we Were Vampires”

From The Nashville Sound

What a beautiful and terrifying way to look at love, knowing you or your lover will one day be gone. It’s both a morbid way to look at things and a reminder to treat each day as if it were your last; indeed, as Isbell sings, “maybe time running out is a gift.” Another thing that hasn’t been praised enough about the song are the little details in the first verse that he lists off; he’s saying “it’s not” to all of these things before explaining that “it is” the fact that one day one of them will be gone which gives him urgency. We get to that part and forget the specificity and the beauty in all of the “it’s nots,” as he lists unique details that could only be specific to Amanda Shires and speak of a love deep and familiar. Add the fact that she sings with him here, and this is just a brilliant song through and through.

#5: Jason Eady–“Barabbas”

From Jason Eady’s self-titled record

IN terms of sheer idea for a song, this has got to be the best of the year. It’s written about the man who was set free in order that Jesus might be crucified, yet nowhere, aside from the title, do we hear Barabbas or Jesus mentioned. It’s both deeply personal to those of faith and universal to all, and this speaks to the subtlety in the storytelling of Jason Eady. Also, we like to talk about Amanda shires and Morgane Stapleton adding a lot to their husbands’ records, but Courtney Patton’s harmony here adds a gorgeous element to this as well.

#4: Aaron Watson–“Clear Isabel”

From Vaquero

This song is the perfect explanation for why we have to separate songs from albums, and even songs from artists. Yeah, Aaron Watson made a pretty light, fun record–and then there’s this, the best story song of the year. It’s the tale of Mariano and his daughter, Isabel, who flee to Texas to escape the cartels of Mexico. It ends happily for Isabel, as she ends up married to the narrator. But Mariano is deported and ends up shot in the back before he can come to America legally. Another timely song that speaks to issues facing us in 2017, but again, not told with hatred, but rather told in the form of a story, to educate and unite as only music can. Add in the instrumental prelude, “Mariano’s Dream,” and this song gets even better.

#3: Angaleena Presley: “Dreams Don’t Come True”

From Wrangled

Well, this definitely gets Opener of the Year. Who opens a record by telling their audience dreams don’t come true, and not only that, “don’t let anyone tell you they do?” It’s 2017, we’re all supposed to be living our lives to the fullest and such; there are so many songs telling us we’re perfect how we are, and if we believe in ourselves, our dreams will certainly come true…and then this comes at you like a complete reality check. Instead of making hit records, Angaleena wound up pregnant. Instead of being famous for three chords and the truth, she’s struggled in the industry to get the recognition she deserves. And it’s sadly a reality much truer for many of us than the platitudes we hear so often these days. Yet this song is told with enough humor that it lightens the blow a little and is delivered as fresh, candid honesty that sometimes not even our closest friends and family can give us.

#2: Jason Eady–“Black Jesus”

From Jason Eady

This one was only an Honorable Mention on my midyear list, but it has come out of the blue over the past few months to earn its place here. This is exactly the song we need in 2017, not dividing us into races and classes and sexes, yet not preachy and judgmental and ultimately accomplishing nothing with its message. Its subtlety was the reason it hadn’t earned a top spot by the middle of the year, but that’s the exact reason it has earned this now–Jason Eady simply tells a story of two men, one white and one black, coming together, side by side at work, bonding over music. We need more songs like this, spreading unity and peace, and yet at the same time, there are a lot of them that just come off preachy. This song has been covered on two other albums that I know of in 2017, and that speaks to how it’s impacting many people in its own special, subtle way.

Song of the Year: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit–“Last of my Kind”

From The Nashville Sound

This, as I say, was a ridiculously difficult list to make, but I kept coming back to this song. It’s a picture of nostalgia for days past and people now gone, something we can all relate to, but it’s the aforementioned details in Jason Isbell’s writing that blow me away here. The narrator is unhappy with life in the city; seems like an ordinary theme, but a line like “nobody here can dance like me, everybody clapping on the one and the three” is just insane. It’s a sentiment many of us can understand, yet it also seems to be personal to Isbell, reflecting the dichotomy he experiences as a Southerner with often very different views from those around him. It’s that feeling of being caught in the middle, of never belonging, of life seeming to have passed you by. It’s ironic that he feels like the last of his kind because so many of us feel this way too. Ultimately, this is that perfect balance of personal and universal, specific and timeless, and this, in a very strong list, is the best song of 2017 and the one that has affected me the most.

Memorable Songs From Overlooked Albums: November 20th

Well, during my last one of these, I said we’d probably have another soon because I already had a few in mind, but after that, I took a break, and also there weren’t as many forgettable/mediocre albums from which to draw material. This time, I think there will be another one soon, as I wrap up the year. You might even see some next time that came out before these songs, as we go through the back burner and try to get to things we’ve missed throughout the year. For now, we’ll get to some of the more recent ones and throw in a couple that have been waiting their turn for awhile. Y’all know the routine: songs from albums we didn’t cover due to time constraints, good songs from mediocre and forgettable albums, and songs from albums neither of us had much to say about but which we still felt deserved a feature.

Margo Price: “Don’t Say It”

Yes, I found Margo Price’s second album, All American Made, incredibly boring most of the way through. This was a great opener, and I also enjoyed “Weakness,”–not featured here because it was covered in Brianna’s review of her EP–but after that, it was just so sleepy. As someone who enjoyed her debut record, I was looking forward to this, and it just didn’t resonate with me. I know I’m in the minority here, and that’s part of why these features exist, to provide a space to highlight stuff I otherwise couldn’t write about and give you an opportunity to fall in love with it if you so choose.

Margo Price: “Pay Gap”

One rare moment of energy on Price’s album came here, as she candidly explored the problem of unequal pay for women. The upbeat atmosphere contrasts with the seriousness of the lyrics in a way that really works and serves to elevate the message.

Lee Ann Womack: “The Lonely, the Lonesome, and the Gone”

This one is a decent album, it’s just one I don’t have much to say about, and with the time constraints as we near the end of 2017, I don’t have time to think of words. It seemed like for every good track on her latest record, the next one or two lost me. Still, there are more good ones here than the two I’ll showcase, and of the albums listed here, this is the one I’d recommend checking out over the others. The title track is one of the strongest and also one that seems to be getting a bit underrated in terms of the songs that we’re, you know, supposed to like here.

Lee Ann Womack: “Mama Lost Her Smile”

As I say, there are others worth checking out here besides the tracks featured–most notably, the cover of “Long Black veil”–but this one is certainly deserving of all the attention it’s received. Probably the universal favorite, this one describes looking at old photographs and wondering just when and why her mother started to look unhappy. Lee Ann’s interpretive ability is on full display here.

Christian Lopez: “Swim the River”

Once again, probably in the minority here, but I just cannot get into Christian Lopez. This isn’t a terrible album, it falls into the mediocre category as well, but one thing Christian can do very well is love songs. This opener is a good example.

Christian Lopez: “Silver Line”

Another place where the potential and personality in Lopez shines forth on Red Arrow; not coincidentally, also another love song. There’s also some cool fiddle here which makes everything better.

Lindsay Ell: “Worth the Wait”

And now to the mainstream for a couple songs that I almost didn’t include here because they’ve been out since August and indeed, would have made that list that was supposed to happen shortly after the last one. But then I told myself the whole point of this is to highlight stuff that’s been overlooked, so I should do that anyway, even though it’s November now. First is the final track on Lindsay Ell’s debut album, The Project, and it’s one of the only times she actually seems to be being herself, not to mention one of the only moments you can sort of call country.

Brett Eldredge: “Cycles”

Brett Eldredge isn’t the problem with the mainstream, but he’s also not the solution, and this is honestly the only thing I can remember from his self-titled album. That said, this is a really nicely written song that explores the on-again, off-again relationship thing quite well.

The Lone Bellow: “Deeper in the Water”

Okay, so best for last, as always. I knew nothing by this group until I put on Walk Into a Storm and fell in love with this song. And then? Not much happened after that. But this one is the one I’ve been most looking forward to putting on this list.

Memorable Songs From Overlooked Albums: August 22nd

Man, these have been really piling up with my two trips and slight break from writing, so although I haven’t written one in awhile, you can probably expect another one quite soon. For new people, here we have songs from forgettable/mediocre albums, songs from albums we didn’t cover due to time constraints and/or out of deference to artists, and songs from projects we didn’t have much to say about but still felt some tracks deserved a feature. These appear when there are enough songs sliding through the cracks to make one, and as I say, you probably won’t have long to wait before the next one.

Carrie Elkin: “New Mexico”

This Carrie Elkin record, The Penny Collector, goes in that category of not giving me anything worthwhile to say about it. It’s been out for awhile, and I’ve given it several listens, and it isn’t that I don’t enjoy it–in fact, I think she’s been underrated considerably–but my review of the album would be uneven. It’s very dark and moody, having been inspired mostly by her father’s passing. I advise people who lean toward darker material to check this one out, but I’m not getting into the whole thing. This song is a lovely ode to Carrie’s homeland and a nice opener for the whole thing, and you can see where she drew the inspiration for this record.

Carrie Elkin: “Always on the Run”

This is one of the more interesting tracks in terms of production here. It’s kind of hard to describe really; the song is reflecting on how in life, we’re constantly running, and the lyrics and the melody add a hurried feel to everything that enhances it.

Carrie Elkin: “Live Wire”

This is easily my favorite of the album, as it’s a little more lighthearted, and the production is a little more interesting. If there were more production moments like this one, it would have really added a lot to this record. Having said that, it doesn’t really fit in with the tone of the album, and that’s what makes it a great song for me. I’ve heard Carrie Elkin’s voice compared to that of Linda Ronstadt, and it’s never more apparent than on this song. As a huge fan of Ronstadt, this is easily the standout of the album for me, even if it might seem out of place on this particular record. I can’t argue with the brilliant lyric, :life half empty is a life half spilled” either. If you liked the other two, you may not enjoy this one; equally, if you found the other two too dark or boring, check this one out.

Whiskey Shivers: “Cluck ol’ Hen”

And now we switch gears from a dark, depressing affair to a punk/bluegrass album that arguably has too much energy for its own good. I’ll give it this; Some Part of Something has stellar instrumentation throughout. But this album is just a little too crazy to be taken all that seriously. This one is a nice interpretation of an old bluegrass tune.

Whiskey Shivers: “Fuck You”

Yep, not much to say about this, the song speaks for itself. It’s a final farewell to an ex who, according to the singer, “always asked me for a song.” Be careful what you wish for I guess.

Whiskey Shivers: “Liquor, Beer, Wine, and Ice”

Here it is: the proof that you can make a small-town partying song and actually have it be catchy and yes, intelligent. Nice, fun song.

Jim Lauderdale: “Sweet Time”

For any of you who know me well, you know that I have a propensity to listen to new albums on a Friday or Saturday afternoon in the background while I play online poker. Why? Because it gives me something to do other than just stare into the distance contemplating the album, and also because if a record can hold my attention while that attention is divided, I know it’s worth giving more listens and possibly a review. Admittedly, sometimes I get distracted, and I have to give some records more listens to make sure I gave them a fair chance. This usually happens with deeper albums, but these require several listens anyway. All that to say, after the first listen to this London Southern album, I thought it was my fault that I couldn’t remember a single thing after the opener. No, it’s simply the fact that this is, hands down, the most boring record released in 2017. So, here’s the opener, which is really quite a nice song. But don’t use it as a stepping stone to possibly check out an album I didn’t review because I promise you, after that, there is nothing noteworthy here whatsoever.

Joe Nichols: “I’d Sing About You”

I intended to review this album actually, but time got in the way. If I did review Never Gets Old, it would probably get a 5, maybe a 6. Lots of mediocre material on the record, nothing awful except “Tall Boys” which is truly atrocious. But there are also some highlights, and even though this is probably the one most people know since it’s been released as a single, it deserves to be featured here as a bright spot on Joe’s album.

Joe Nichols: “WE All Carry Something”

Probably my favorite on this record. Joe Nichols’ sincerity shines through this song as he sings about real-life situations and the burdens that we all must endure. This would have been a radio hit ten years ago.

Joe Nichols: “Billy Graham’s Bible”

That sincerity I mentioned before really carries this track, as Nicols sings about being made for someone just like Billy Graham’s Bible and Willie Nelson’s guitar. It’s a shame this album didn’t have more like this one and “We All Carry Something” because tracks like these really show the potential in Joe Nichols. Who knows if he’ll ever live up to it on a whole album, but at least we can hope for a few songs like this sprinkled throughout his records.