Tag Archives: Courtney Patton

Album Review: Courtney Patton–What it’s Like to Fly Alone

Rating: 9/10

I know, I know, this record isn’t available on Spotify or Google Play, at least for the time being. There aren’t even any videos up on YouTube. It makes arguably even less sense, then, that it can be streamed on Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, as opposed to just being a record available only for purchase through digital download or by buying physical copies. The merits, or lack thereof, of exclusivity can be debated, but that’s not going to change the fact that if you want to hear this new Courtney Patton release, many of you are going to have to look somewhere other than your favorite streaming outlet.

And you know what? Frankly, that’s a real shame, because this new Courtney Patton album deserves to be heard, indeed is probably worth supporting via a purchase rather than simply streaming it–but so many people are going to overlook it instead because that’s just how this often works in 2018.

So don’t be one of those people who misses out on the best record of 2018 so far because of silly things like this.

“This record is full of songs about people who have had to fly alone in some way, whether through grief, loss, life choices, addiction, or love,” says Patton about her latest effort. She goes on to say that it’s not always a depressing thing, that sometimes flying alone can help us figure out who we are and our destinies. It’s evident in this album as well, as there are definitely some melancholy moments, but the whole thing is far from a sad, lonely affair. There’s also a sense of hope and purpose running through this album which connects these characters and their stories.

For each character, flying alone seems to be slightly different. Many of them are here because of their own choices, as Patton explained. There’s the narrator of “Round Mountain,” a woman who abandoned her family after finally admitting that she wasn’t cut out for a life of raising babies and being married to a man she didn’t love. The woman here has made some mistakes and bad choices, like sleeping with another woman’s husband, but she neither apologizes for herself nor makes excuses. She’s not trying to run from what she’s done, and she’ll admit that it was wrong, but it’s also not something she’s sorry for; rather, she’s just stating the facts. It’s the same with the woman from “Devil’s Hand,” as she states that she wanted to see if his hand “felt as warm as it looked,” and that she understood what she was doing when she walked down this path. The narrator of “Open Flame” is self-aware as well, but she’s trying to walk away before the choice of adultery ruins her life and hurts her husband. She won’t be alone physically because she’ll go home to her husband, but she’ll be lonely because, as she says, she wants and needs this man instead of the one she married.

“Words to my Favorite Memory,” which first arrived in acoustic form on Patton’s duets album with Jason Eady, appears here again to explore the grief/loss side of flying alone. This song does a nice job of illustrating the connections we all have to certain songs and stories; the narrator here can’t play “My Favorite Memory” by Merle Haggard anymore because she was spinning the record when she received a call that her lover had died. “Fourteen Years” is a personal one for Courtney, written about her sister, who died tragically in a car accident and is referenced briefly in Courtney’s song “So This is Life.” “Red Bandanna Blue” was inspired by the loss of Kent Finlay, formerly the owner of Cheatham street Warehouse, although this one is written somewhat ambiguously and could be seen as a song about simply missing someone. Similar to “This Road to You,” it could be taken as a song about missing a friend or lover who simply isn’t present at the time.

Speaking of which, “This road to You” is a good example of a character still flying alone, but only for a time. This narrator is simply alone because of distance, and doing her best to get back to the one she loves. It adds a nice moment of levity to some of the darker material here. “Shove” is another one that adds a brighter moment to the album and sees a character admitting to needing some help, not being able to do it all by herself anymore. This one certainly works better in the context of the album than it did as the lead single, and really, all of these songs except possibly the cover of “Gold standard” really fit together lyrically to paint one overall picture, a picture that comes together in the title track.

As great as its lyrics are, however, this album’s strongest points lie in its instrumentation and production. Traditional through and through, this record can’t be labeled Americana or even mistaken for the Texas country sound that one might attach to this artist’s name. This can’t be called anything but stone cold, three-chord country. There’s plenty of fiddle happily contributing here, especially on “Round Mountain” and the title track. Steel guitar cries out in “Devils’ Hand,” “Red Bandanna Blue,” and “Fourteen Years,” making the last three songs of this album the place for steel enthusiasts to start. The piano makes its presence felt in several places as well, particularly on “Open Flame” and “Fourteen Years.” Instrumentally, this is an improvement from Courtney Patton’s last record; while that one was traditional throughout also, this one explores more variety within those parameters, adding texture and color to certain songs. And eat your heart out, Americana artists, this is beautifully, cleanly produced, without any ridiculous attempts to sound retro or throwback or you know, like shit just for the sake of sounding like shit. Courtney produced this herself, and she did a fantastic job with it.

So yeah, in short, there’s not a lot wrong with this record at all. The only thing I can maybe say is it could have had perhaps another upbeat moment, but that’s me being very nitpicky, as this also is an improvement from her last album in terms of variety in tempo and mood. IN fact, I’d have sooner taken out a track like the “Gold Standard” cover that doesn’t add to the theme of the album than added anything to what feels like a complete story. The lyrics and stories work very well together to paint this picture. The production is tasteful and pretty much nearly flawless. You can tell a lot of care went into this album both lyrically and musically, and the result is the best record yet to grace our presence in 2018. Courtney Patton should be proud of this.

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Reflecting on: Jason Eady–Daylight and Dark

I commented during my review of the new Jason Eady record back in April that it has to be one of my biggest regrets about starting Country Exclusive in June 2015 that I never got the opportunity to talk about the masterpiece that is Daylight and Dark from this platform. But hey, now we have a category for it, so I’ll take any excuse. This may be my favorite album of all time–don’t lock me into that, because it’s a close race between several, and these things are very subject to change, but it’s up there.

Release Date: January 2014

Style: traditional country/Texas country

People Who Might Like This Album: fans of really traditional country with lots of steel, people who like darker lyrical content

Standout Tracks: This is hard to do but…”Daylight and Dark,” “The Other side of Abilene,” “Temptation,” “Lonesome Down and Out,” “OK Whiskey,” “Liars and Fools,” “we Might Just Miss each Other” (featuring Courtney Patton)

Reflections: I remember the exact day I heard this…sort of. Not the exact date, and not much about the day itself prior to discovering this album, it was just one of those days back when I was first getting into this scene and before I started here where I was discovering all kinds of new music. I kept being flooded with new names to check out, and some of them were good, some of them boring, but all a cool discovery process. The thing I remember about the day I found Jason Eady was it hadn’t been an easy day for me personally, and we all know those albums and songs that connect with us and send us back to emotions and feelings long ago. It wasn’t a good time in my life when I found this album, and maybe that’s why, though dark stuff usually isn’t what I gravitate toward, something about the depth of sorrow and uncertainty in this album, coupled with all that traditional instrumentation in a time when my ears were starved for it, and topped off with the raw emotion in Jason Eady’s vocal delivery, just made me stop what I was doing and sit there and listen to this whole album. And then a good chunk of the rest of his discography. I don’t think I’ve ever done that for any artist unless I meant to sit and listen to them for review; with Jason, I heard one song and then made it the priority of my day to hear the rest. It brought me comfort and healing in a way that only certain things can–there’s a lot to be said for music that can cheer you up, and I’m a real proponent of stuff like that, but this just connected with me in a way that’s undeniable.

So now that I’ve rambled on about that, I guess I should actually talk about the songs and why it’s so great. “Daylight and Dark” is just excellent, capturing perfectly the state of mind of someone caught both literally and metaphorically between daylight and dark and not sure where to go in his life. The same sentiments echo in “Lonesome Down and Out” and more subtly so in “Late Night Diner,” even though that’s an Adam Hood cover. There’s a cleverness in the writing here that is just unmatched; even now, I hear cool new underlying things in the lyrics. That’s true on his newest record too, although not quite to this degree. He doesn’t just have “one too many” in that song, he has “one, two…many.” Also, “one becomes tomorrow.” And “we might just miss each other” means they might barely miss running into each other and not have to dredge up old feelings, they might only miss each other and not get the chance to run into each other and see where those feelings lead, and they might, after all, though they didn’t want to admit it, miss each other. This one, sung with Courtney Patton, gave me my first clue that a duets album from them would be great. These are just two of many cool examples of subtleties in the writing; in fact, the two I’ve illustrated are more obvious ones. It’s also just really country, and just a comfort to listen to. I could go on and on, but for multiple reasons, not the least of which that I am procrastinating packing for my trip by writing this, I will conclude this by saying that nothing I write will do it justice, and if you haven’t heard this, you’re missing out on one of the best and most traditional albums released in the past ten years.

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Album Review: Saints Eleven–Coming Back Around

Rating: 8/10

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows it is one of my personal favorite things to highlight the Red Dirt music coming out of Texas and Oklahoma. Growing up, I heard it all the time on my local Oklahoma stations, and when it began to virtually disappear from the airwaves a few years ago, I marked it as just another instance of quality country music being forsaken for the sake of commercial success. It wasn’t really until I started this blog that I realized many country fans all across the nation and the world had never heard the Red Dirt music which was a part of my heritage. One of my proudest moments running this site was last year when I reviewed the self-titled album by the Turnpike Troubadours, helping to introduce people for the first time to a band I’ve known since the beginning of their existence. It’s true that Texas country/Red Dirt can claim its fair share of bad music and radio-friendly singles, but highlighting the tremendous amount of quality music it produces has become of special importance to me. With that in mind, I come to my thoughts on the third studio album from Saints Eleven, a Texas-based band who have been making a name for themselves within this scene for several years. Lead singer Jeff Grossman promised a return to their roots with this record, and I came in eager to hear it.

The album opens with “My Heart,” and right away, I have to point out the fiddle. Turnpike Troubadours fans, this might satisfy your need for fiddle until they release their next album. The actual song is a nice love song about a man proposing to a woman and telling her that nothing will ever keep them apart. The title track, “Coming Back Around,” brings the signature blend of fiddles and rock guitars so familiar in Texas music. The narrator here is seeking redemption and apologizing to God and everyone for everything he’s done in the past. He knows he’s done a lot of things wrong, but now he is changing and “coming back around.” “Heartbreak Songs” is an ode to the classic country songs about cheating and drinking that seem to have disappeared. There are lots of songs lamenting this, but this one stands out because the man needs the songs to help him through his loneliness; Bring back those old lonesome heartbreak songs, they make me feel better, and not so alone.”

“Shelter Me” is a contradiction; it’s an upbeat, fun song about hard times and pain, and needing a shelter through life’s struggles. It reminds me of “Seven Oaks” by Turnpike Troubadours in the fact that both songs make you smile about otherwise depressing things. An album highlight is “For Those Who Came,” a song in which a dead man is addressing his family and friends, all those that came to his funeral. He seems more upset for them than for himself because he knows he is going to a better place. The piano and acoustic guitar blend really well in this song, and I almost wish drums hadn’t come in in the middle. “Sunday drive” is the antithesis of “Shelter Me,” the former lamented all of life’s hardships while this one embraces the little things in life like Sunday drives, spending time with family, and making a difference in the lives of others. It’s interesting that they are separated by a song about death because they represent vastly different ways of going through life. Track placement is important, and I think these three tell a bigger story together than individually.

The only song not written by Grossman is a cover of “Crying Time” by Buck Owens. This is vastly different to the original, and I much prefer this lighthearted version of a heartbreak song. “Strange Round Here” tells the story of a married man who leaves town to find work and has an affair with a waitress, who mysteriously goes missing after telling him she’s pregnant. I am a fan of story songs in general, although this one ends a bit abruptly and could have been slightly more developed. “Almost Home” seems to be autobiographical; it’s a song about a man on the road trying to console his wife and children. “Let Them Go” features Courtney Patton, a name that immediately gave it promise. The man turns to alcohol for comfort while his wife prays to God and wonders why her husband can’t reach out to her instead. He never quits drinking and eventually dies. It’s definitely another high point of the album, and Courtney Patton’s voice certainly adds to it. The album closes with “The Same,” a nice love song that ends the record on much the same note as it began. This one features some excellent steel guitar and tells of a couple who enjoy spending time together regardless of what they are doing.

This is a really solid album and a nice introduction to Saints Eleven. It’s definitely country throughout, and the instrumentation is certainly the record’s greatest strength. The songwriting is solid, and the music seems to come from an honest place. The strongest tracks are “My Heart,” the title track, “For Those Who Came,” and “Let Them Go.” There’s nothing really groundbreaking about this release, but it’s a good album from start to finish and a nice place to begin with Saints Eleven.

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Album Review: Something Together by Jason Eady and Courtney Patton

Rating: 8/10

Music can and does touch all of us in different ways. Whether we’re playing it or singing it, or just simply listening to a great song, it connects with all of us in a way that nothing else can. For those of us who get to make music, that connection is even deeper. But few of us get the joy of what husband and wife Jason Eady and Courtney Patton have found, the gift of making music with someone we love. It is why duets can be uniquely powerful forms of expression, and it’s why fans of the two Texas artists have been anxious for a duets album from them for years. It would bring two incredibly talented artists and regular touring partners together, but more than that, it would be a timeless and personal display of the love and the music they share.

Last October, we all got our wish when it was announced an acoustic duets album, mostly of covers of songs previously recorded by each of them, would be available in early 2017. Then, with very little fanfare, the album dropped in December on iTunes and Amazon and is now available in physical copies. This is my first experience reviewing an album mostly of covers, but I feel that this one deserves my attention.

I won’t go through each track here because most of them are songs previously recorded by Eady or patton. These were selected by their fans, and they did a nice job highlighting some of the best of each artist’s individual work. If you are unfamiliar with one or both of them, this is a great place to start. Jason Eady’s “Cry Pretty,” a heartbreaking song about a man running into his ex and remembering how she looked when she left him, is arguably even better as an acoustic song with Courtney Patton’s backing vocals. Patton’s “Twelve Days,” a song she wrote for Eady about missing him on the road, means even more here with him harmonizing. Another excellent choice was “where I’ve Been,” a song written by Jason from the point of view of a woman and recorded by Courtney on last year’s So This is Life. The woman is lonely in her current relationship and telling the man that she’ll be there physically, but she isn’t committed to trying anymore because he is ignoring her; “If you ever decide that you ever wanna try again, I’ll be here in the morning, just don’t ask me where I’ve been.” It was a great solo, but it resonates even more when you hear it sung from both sides, the lonely woman and the man she’s addressing.

There are lighthearted moments on the album too. “Man on a Mountain,” first recorded by Eady, is a fun, upbeat song about a “mountin man” and a “valley girl” who would love to be with each other, but they can’t agree on anything. IN the end, they decide, “let’s meet in the middle, let’s never meet again.” “Move it on Home,” one of the few songs that neither had performed before, is another fun moment. The man is staying out late drinking in a bar while the woman is at home heating and reheating dinner. Eventually, he decides to go home “where heaven on earth and love is at.” Easily the most infectious part of the whole album is the closer, where Courtney takes the lead on the traditional “welcome Table.”

As I mentioned, not all of these songs were revised versions of the artist’s individual material. Eady takes the lead on a great rendition of Merle Haggard’s “My favorite Memory,” followed by a Patton-led track called “The words to My favorite Memory,” where she sings about playing the Haggard song when she found out her lover had died. The album highlight, written by eady and fellow Texas songwriter Adam Hood, is “Suffering Fools.” Here, a couple are staying with each other simply because “we know it’s the right thing to do.” They sing, in chilling harmony, “Why don’t you go your way, and I will go mine, and we won’t be suffering fools.” The harmony here, and in several other places throughout the record, is something special and showcases the musical and personal chemistry between them.

Jason Eady and Courtney Patton are each great artists in their own right, and a duets album from them is truly special. I do wish there had been more original songs, and some of the songs felt a little less like duets than just an acoustic version with backing vocals. But there is no doubt that these are excellent song choices and that the two are excellent together. If you don’t know one or both of these artists, this is a great place to start for good Texas country and authentic, honest songwriting. for fans of one or both of them, this is a good addition to each of their discographies. either way, it is definitely worth checking out.

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Country Exclusive’s Most Essential Albums of 2015

It must be noted that Country Exclusive did not come into existence until halfway through 2015, so many albums were not reviewed. Others may have been considered for this list if this site had been in existence longer. Having said that, when I thought back over the albums I’d reviewed, ten stood out to me, and two stand out which I didn’t review but which it would be criminal not to mention on a year-end list, so Country Exclusive is declaring twelve albums “most essential” for 2015. It should also be noted that some of these albums have had more sustainability for me than others, and therefore albums that were reviewed higher earlier in the year may still not have made this list.

#12: Courtney Patton–So This is Life

This album seems to be getting overlooked in a lot of year-end lists, and that is unbelievable to me. This album has some of the best songwriting I’ve heard this year, and many songs that stood out above everything else this year. A couple tracks kept it from being one of the best albums of the year, but the songs on So This is Life are truly some of the best of 2015. From one-night stands to prison to divorce, Courtney Patton tells the real stories of life and relationships, all in simple acoustic arrangements. This is country music at its finest. I mentioned sustainability, and this album has it–I find myself going back to Courtney Patton’s album more than many which are ranked higher on this list.

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#11: Jason Boland & the Stragglers–Squelch

From the Texas country/Red Dirt scene came an album filled with politically charged material and social commentary. Jason Boland & the Stragglers have been a mainstay in the Red Dirt scene since 2001, and this album proves why. Much like Courtney’s album gave us some of the best songwriting, Squelch delivered some of the best instrumentation and production, making the political lyrics come to us in excellent ways. Even if you don’t like such material, you will find much to appreciate here, like the upbeat “Heartland Bypass” or the beautiful ballad “Bienville.”

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#10: Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves didn’t do anything spectacular with her second album–she just continued on a path that earned her success and plenty of hardware the first time. Though she has all but been blacklisted by country radio, Kacey Musgraves remains an important ambassador to the mainstream, and though Pageant Material is not the best album of 2015, it is certainly one of the most important. Kacey symbolizes the few artists still carrying a torch for traditional country and still being allowed to do so with mainstream success. It’s a solid album, and more than that, it’s the album Kacey Musgraves wanted to make. Not only that, but most artists these days are covering things like “Uptown Funk”–this album unashamedly features Willie Nelson and Kacey on a duet on one of Willie Nelson’s least-known songs.

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#9: Blackberry Smoke–Holding all the Roses

This album is more rock than country–in fact, it only features a couple of straight country tracks. But that is part of what makes this album wonderful. It is an album that does not seek to blend genre all the time at the expense of the music. It knows what it is and does not pretend to be something else. Some songs are rock; some are country. Both styles are done flawlessly. When the styles are blended, such as on the title track, it is a sound unique to Blackberry Smoke. This album had the distinction in February of becoming the first album by an independent artist to top the Billboard Country Albums chart, and its importance here should not be overlooked. It’s not the album to buy if you want fiddle and steel, but it has still earned its place–also, this album was the first to earn a ten by Country Exclusive.

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#8: Whitey Morgan & the 78’s–Sonic Ranch

This is the polar opposite of Blackberry Smoke’s album. If you want an album that is “stone cold country,” I refer you to this one. People who think Sturgill Simpson sounds like Waylon have obviously never listened to Whitey Morgan. Others would probably rank this album a bit higher even, and if you want an example of the best “country”–not Americana, not country rock, not pop country–album this year, it would probably be this one. Unfortunately, this was one album I did not get a chance to review–but if you miss the truly classic country sound and raw, honest songwriting of “outlaw country,” it is an album that should not be overlooked.

#7: Don Henley–Cass County

2015 has been the year of the washed-up rocker jumping on the country band wagon. In fact, I declared “B.Y.H.B.,” the first single from the “90’s supergroup” Uncle Ezra Ray, to be the worst song I’d ever heard. But then there’s Don Henley. He came to country to make an actual country record, one that would stand the test of time. This album features Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, and interestingly, Mick Jagger–and all contribute to make Cass County a standout country album. This got a nine when I reviewed it, but I was reviewing the deluxe version–the original Cass County would have received a ten. Thank you, Don Henley, for showing all the rockers and most of mainstream country what country really should be.

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#6: Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen–Hold my Beer, Volume 1

From the world of Texas country came a collaboration album in April. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are both forces to be reckoned with within the Texas country scene, but many underestimated this album–until the first single, “Standards.” “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards” they sing–and the song became an anthem for Texas and independent artists and fans everywhere. This album is just fun to listen to. The friends have great chemistry throughout the record. And then when you think it’s all lighthearted fun, “El Dorado” comes on and takes your breath away. The best thing about this record is the “volume 1”; I look forward to many more of these collaborations.

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#5: Chris Stapleton–Traveller

This is another album which I did not get a chance to review–but what would 2015 have been without Chris Stapleton? Traveller is an excellent album filled with influences from country, soul, and blues. Chris Stapleton’s voice is remarkable, and his songwriting is what made him this name in the first place. Tracks like “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore” and “Whiskey and You” simply speak for themselves. And then there’s all the CMA nominations–Chris Stapleton is forever changing the course of history with his wins for Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Top Male Vocalist. If there was ever a time when the comments, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist,” rang false, it was the night Stapleton swept the CMA’s. Traveller is an excellent choice for Album of the Year, and the impact its success is having on country music only adds to the justification for it being on this list.

#4: Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free

Before everyone starts freaking out that Jason Isbell is fourth, let me say that any of the top seven of these could have easily claimed the top spot. Jason Isbell gave us an album full of his always excellent storytelling. This album, in my opinion, was miles better than Southeastern, as it is much more relatable. However, there are times when the beauty of the songwriting sacrifices relatability or the melody, and that is why I have ranked this album fourth. However, Something More Than Free, is, in some respects, the best album of the year, celebrating life and love in a raw, honest way. It went #1 on the rock, country, and folk charts, proving that Jason Isbell transcends genre. This is the album that made me, and will make many, a believer in Jason Isbell.

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#3: Kasey Chambers–Bittersweet

Perhaps the most underrated, but one of the most relatable and sustainable, albums on this list. Kasey Chambers is Australia’s hidden gem. She’s been selling platinum records and winning awards there for over a decade. It’s time we appreciated her music worldwide. Kasey went into Bittersweet wanting to make an album with a live feel. She wanted the album to be “real” and “raw”–and that is what she delivers. It’s a simple album, with a banjo backing many of the tracks, and Kasey’s voice shines through beautifully. Her lyrics are some of the most honest I’ve seen; many of the tracks focus on what seem to be personal reflections on and struggles with God. “Real” is the best word to describe this record–we hear about love, heaven and hell, prostitution, etc. Kasey’s not afraid to say “whore, “bitch,” and “fuck” on this album either, and there’s something to embrace about the honesty of that. The best music makes you feel and relate, and that is simply what happens when you hear this album.

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#2: Maddie & Tae–Start Here

Now, the same people that freaked out for Jason Isbell being fourth are going crazy that Maddie & Tae are higher. Well, I have spent many words on Maddie & Tae, and I’ll keep doing so. Maddie & Tae may have a slight pop influence, but that is simply it: it’s slight. When I listen to Start Here, I notice this: here is a debut album, by a young female duo, with mandolins, fiddles, steel, and banjos. Maddie & Tae are actually making it on the radio. They are the ones who can turn the tide of mainstream country back. In a world where the established acts like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton can’t speak for themselves and sell out to trends, Maddie & Tae are carrying a torch for traditional country the size of Texas. They are doing it in a genius fashion; without a slight pop influence, their music wouldn’t have a prayer on country radio. Yet here they are, two new artists, females even, calling out the sexist lyrics of the bros and the use of drum machines. And Start Here proves it’s not just talk. With harmonies akin to the Dixie Chicks and relatable lyrics for today’s youth, Maddie & Tae are a force to be reckoned with.

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#1: Turnpike Troubadours–The Turnpike Troubadours

This album is simply the best of 2015. There is quite simply nothing to complain about. The instrumentation is excellent, and I’ve never heard so much fiddle on any other album. The lyrics are incredible as well, from the five-minute opener, “The Bird Hunters” to the heart-wrenching “Fall out of Love.” “you bet your heart on a diamond, and I played the clubs in spades”–what a line! I would be hard-pressed to pick the best song on this album, and it has only gotten better with time. I don’t know what else to say, it’s just an excellent album from start to finish.

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