My Top Ten Albums of 2017 so Far

Editor’s Note: Why didn’t I choose thirteen again? Actually, I was going to, but these ten just stand out above the ones I would pick for eleven, twelve, and thirteen, so they’ll just be in the Honorable Mentions. This has a little, but not much, to do with the original grades given to these albums; it’s more about music that holds up, so some of these might have lower ratings than you’d expect, and there are some that we rated higher that didn’t make this list because I simply don’t go back and listen to them, and for me, that’s what music is all about. It might be a 9 on paper, but if I’m not listening to it months later, that number is arbitrary, so don’t let the numbers factor into it too much at this point. Lastly, just like the songs, these are my picks, not necessarily those of Country exclusive as a whole, and these are, unlike the songs, in order for me.

#10: The Steel Woods–Straw in the Wind

Original Rating: 8/10
This honestly would be higher on the list right now because the first half is excellent, but it does drop off some for me in the back half. Still, it’s a very nice debut from The Steel Woods, tinged with Southern rock, blues, bluegrass, and country; in fact, I’d like to make the point that look how many of these entries are debuts, what a cool year for debut records.
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#9: Chris Stapleton–From a Room, Volume 1

Original Rating: 8/10
Some of you are going to hate me for ranking it this low, and others are going to hate me for saying it’s better than Traveller. But it’s a more consistent effort from Stapleton than his first record, and it’s still holding up nicely.
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#8: Shinyribs–I Got Your Medicine

Original Rating: 9/10
Yeah, okay, this ranks higher as an album than some others that will be higher on this list, and I still stand by that 9 too. It’s definitely the most fun album here. It doesn’t hold up quite as much as some lower-ranked albums coming up because you have to be in a certain mood to play it. But Shinyribs is the type of group you should just let yourself enjoy; they won’t be for everyone, but they should be.
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#7: Robyn Ludwick–This Tall to Ride

Original Rating: 7.5/10
All right, what is it about this one? Well, it just works its way in. It’s unique and cool, and no, the hookers and cocaine all over this record won’t be for everyone, but if you can get past the dark material Robyn writes and sings about, this is a great record. It’s definitely being underappreciated, and I underrated it, not necessarily because I undervalued the songs themselves but because I underestimated its mileage and ability to be replayed which it turns out has been great.
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#6: Jaime Wyatt–Felony Blues

Original Rating: 7.5/10
Yeah, I said this rating would be misleading when I reviewed it, and it turns out I was right. It’s hard to grade a seven-song project, and when four songs turn out to be excellent tracks, and the other three are good, it’s hard to question this. It’s short, sure, but there’s no filler like there has been on many albums this year. Jaime Wyatt’s is another debut record, and this is probably the most promising one I’ve heard all year. She’s someone you should definitely keep your eye on, and since February, this has gone from being a strong debut to one of the best albums of 2017.
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#5: Kasey Chambers–Dragonfly

Original Rating: 8/10
Please, stop caring that this is a double album, and do yourself a favor by listening to it. This has been massively underrated, both because Kasey is Australian and because it’s a double album, but it’s one of the most consistent and diverse releases of the year–there’s something here for everyone, from traditional to blues to folk rock to gospel to country pop. Go check it out.
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#4: Jason Eady (self-titled)

Original Rating: 9/10
This is going to be a dark horse for Album of the Year; Jason Eady is the only person who could make a completely stripped-back, acoustic record that could be played without electricity (except for some steel guitar) and have it compete with the best albums of the year based on his songwriting and melodies alone. This record grows on me every time I listen to it. Another somewhat underappreciated album, and definitely the best album to come out of the Texas/Red dirt scene thus far this year.
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#3: Angaleena Presley–Wrangled

Original Rating: 10/10
I know, some of you that know how I felt about this record are falling out of your chairs right now that this is #3. I still love it, and these top three are all excellent. The reason this has slid momentarily to #3 is that I come back to it all the time, but not as much to the entire album as to specific songs. But like I said, these top three are all almost interchangeable, and some of the songwriting here is the best of 2017 so far.
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#2: Colter Wall (self-titled)

Original Rating: 9/10
All right, so yeah, this has passed Angaleena. There are still a couple of boring songs, so I wouldn’t give it a 10–although I might change angallena’s to a 9 or 9.5 if I were reviewing her today–but man, what a timeless album. This pretty much blew me away on the first listen–which is the case with all the top three–and just like Jason’s, it’s very minimal, and all you need is Colter’s throwback voice and his stories and melodies. Excellent record. Another debut, by the way.
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#1: Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives–Way out West

Original Rating: 10/10
Back in March, nothing had blown me away in 2017. I remember talking about the fact that there had been some good albums, but not great ones. I was a little discouraged–and then this came along and blew everything out of the water, and I’m still waiting for something to top it. It’s been a much better year since, and 2017 will be an entertaining year waiting to see if an album can possibly top the musical genius Marty Stuart put into this album and depiction of the West. It’s not a lyrical masterpiece; in fact, none of its songs made yesterday’s list. But that’s what makes it even more special; Marty went into a genre that is lyrically focused and made a western album based purely off the musical styles and mood. It’s, at least for me, a flawless record.
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Honorable Mentions

  • Sam Outlaw–Tenderheart (would have been #11)
  • Kody West–Green (would have been #12, another debut)
  • Aaron Watson–Vaquero (would have been #13)
  • Nikki Lane–Highway Queen
  • Rhiannon Giddens–Freedom Highway
  • Sunny Sweeney–Trophy
  • The Mavericks–Brand New Day
  • Zephaniah Ohora–This Highway (this will probably make future lists, but I need more listens

Albums on the Radar, With Potential to be Reviewed

Being listed here does not mean Brianna or I will review these, it just means we’re aware, and they may be considered, but have not been reviewed yet.

  • The Infamous Stringdusters–Laws of Gravity
  • Lauren Alaina–Road Less Traveled
  • The Secret Sisters–You Don’t Own Me Anymore
  • Ray Scott–Guitar for Sale
  • Glen Campbell–Adios
  • Shannon McNally–Black Irish
  • Joseph Huber–The Suffering Stage
  • Tony Jackson (self-titled)
  • John Baumann–Proving Grounds
  • Jake Worthington–Hell of a Highway
  • Ags Connolly–Nothin’ Unexpected

8 thoughts on “My Top Ten Albums of 2017 so Far”

  1. Great list. There are a few I still need to check out. Jason Eady is definitely one of my top ones, as well. There is just never enough time to listen to everything. Ahhhhh.

  2. You write “it’s more about music that holds up, so some of these might have lower ratings than you’d expect, and there are some that we rated higher that didn’t make this list because I simply don’t go back and listen to them, and for me, that’s what music is all about. It might be a 9 on paper, but if I’m not listening to it months later, that number is arbitrary,…”. I agree. Excellent observation. I bought the hype and bought CS’s Traveller album and hardly ever play it. I’m still frequently playing Don Henley’s “Cass County”, Kree Harrison’s “This Old Thing”, David Nail’s “Fighter” and both Brandy Clark albums.

    Regarding albums released this year, I’m surprised that Alison Krauss’s “Windy City” is not included. Other favorites of mine that I would not expect to see here include Georgia Middleman’s “Plum” and Delbert McClinton’s “Prick of the Litter”.

    1. The Alison Krauss album is one we didn’t review in full. I think it’s very good in a technical sense, but for me, it was sleepy. Brianna sort of felt the same way, so we featured a song from it in “Memorable Songs from Overlooked Albums” because neither of us really had much to say about it. But it’s a good album. Speaking of This Old Thing, I did enjoy a good chunk of that record, thanks for making me aware of it.

  3. I tried the Steel Woods and Robyn Ludwick, but I couldn’t get into either.

    My top four (in no particular order) are Jason Eady, Sam Outlaw, Sunny Sweeney and Jaime Wyatt. I’m leaning towards Angaleena Presley for number 5, but Marty Stuart, Zephaniah OHora and Colter Wall are up there as well.

    I know it’s only an EP, but I’m loving “Wheels” by The Easy Leaves.

    1. I’ve never heard of that, I’ll give it a listen. Jason’s right, there’s just too much music 🙂 honestly, I enjoyed the Steel woods more at first. They still made the list, but I’m not sure they’ll make the end-of-year lists. Zephaniah’s I had actually only listened to once in full when I wrote this because Bri reviewed it, but I really enjoyed it, so I think it will make future lists. As for Robyn, I’m really surprised about my own reaction to that one. I’ll admit, when I first heard it, I only enjoyed a few songs, but it just kept getting better and better, and now I play it quite often. I’ve said to a lot of people that I wish I knew what it was about Trophy, because I love her, and everyone thinks this is her best album, for me, it’s my least favorite of the four even though it’s good, and I just can’t quite put my finger on why.

      1. I’d never heard of The Easy Leaves before either, but someone mentioned them on SCM, so I gave them a try and I’m happy I did.

        For Sunny Sweeney, my favourite of her four albums is “Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame,” but “Trophy” is second. I do like it a lot, but I find that I’m not going back to it as often as Outlaw, Eady and Wyatt. I just listened to “Wrangled” again yesterday and it keeps getting better and better, so it may very well end up higher on my list by the end of the year.

        I’ve only listened to OHora’s album once as well, so it might move up with repeated listens. Same goes for Isbell and Earle.

        1. I wanted to publish this before Isbell and Earle simply because I enjoy both of those so much, especially Earle, and they’ll probably both make future lists. I’ll try The Easy Leaves. As far as EP’s, I’ve only enjoyed three this year–Whitney Rose, Lindi Ortega, and Jake Worthington. I haven’t reviewed Jake yet, but he’s on the never-ending list lol.

          1. Yes I agree there’s not enough time to listen to all the good stuff.

            I’m not familiar with Jake Worthington, but I did enjoy both Whitney Rose’s and Lindi Ortega’s EPs (and I’m hoping to see them both at the Calgary folk fest this year!).

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