10 Favorite 2017 Albums

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Over the course of 2017 there were plenty of albums that I listened to (over 20,000 minutes of music) according to Spotify. However, there were plenty of great releases that slipped through the cracks during an extremely busy and complicated year for me. That’s why instead of doing a best of 2017 list I thought it would be more appropriate to list my favorite albums of 2017. Here are my favorite albums of this year, 1 year after I created Critically Country.

Very Honorable Mentions: Puxico (Natalie Hemby), At Home in the Big Lonesome (Drew Kennedy), Hell of a Highway Ep (Jake Worthington) and Canyons of my Mind (Andrew Combs

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10. The Nashville Sound (Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit) My favorite Jason Isbell project that tackles topics like politics, love and race. Sharp, honest songwriting and a lively sound.

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9. Purgatory (Tyler Childers) Many people’s pick for album of the year, this album has sharp songwriting and represents traditional/independent country well. I love the instrumentation on this album.

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8. Rule 62 (Whitney Rose) I have yet to hear a bad song from this Canadian born artist through 3 albums and an ep. A throwback sound with a modern spin.

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7. Chris Stapleton (From a Room Volumes 1 and 2): Chris Stapleton is one of the top vocalists and songwriters in all of music. My biggest criticism of these albums is that there aren’t enough new songs and it would have been better to just have one album with the best of Volumes 1 and 2.

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6. Vaquero (Aaron Watson) Pleasant is the best word that comes to mind when discussing Vaquero. The albums lead single “Outta Style” is also Watson’s first career top 10 song on the Media Base country chart.

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5. Trophy (Sunny Sweeney) My number 1 album for much of 2017 Sweeney delivers her best album making the album that she wanted to. Sweeney’s cover of “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight” is one of the best songs of the year.

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4. On The Rocks (Midland) I couldn’t care less about any authenticity concerns. Midland’s music is the real deal traditional country sound that is completely missing from the airwaves in 2017.

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3. A Long Way From Your Heart (Turnpike Troubadours) Was there any doubt that this would be an absolute masterpiece? A Long Way From Your Heart further cements the Troubadours as country musics best and most consistently great band.

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2. Silence in These Walls (Flatt Lonesome) This Bluegrass group gets better with each album. This heartbreak album came out during a particularly difficult time of the year for me making this album so relatable.

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1. Tenderheart (Sam Outlaw) My favorite album of 2017 and without a doubt one of my all time favorite albums. This smooth California country album never gets old despite being released way back in April.



Top 10 Current Country Artists

Since I am currently all caught up with the albums that I want to cover this week (next week is another story) I was thinking about different lists that I could make. I think lists can be fun to make and can be useful for the readers. So, I decided to make the least objective list that I could possibly come up with and do a top 10 list of current country artists. Now, I don’t want this to just be a list of all time greats like George Strait and Dolly Parton. I understand that they are still making music however, I wanted this to be a list of more current artists. For the purposes of the list, whether or not the artist is mainstream or independent is irrelevant. The only qualification is that they are a country artist who is semi current. This is just my personal top 10 artists at the moment so there was plenty of artists who could have been swapped. Feel free to comment, agree/disagree. Enjoy!

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10. Josh Turner: One of my all time favorite artists. The mainstream has certainly chased it’s share of trends over Josh Turner’s career however he has stayed true to his neo-traditional sound through it all.

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9. Miranda Lambert: Before The Weight of These Wings was released I would not have had Lambert on this list. However, when you combine her past work with the Weight of These Wings, it’s hard to argue that there are many better artists in the mainstream.

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8. Eric Church: Is there an artist in the mainstream that releases as many quality singles as Eric Church? Sure he’s not a traditional artist but, he makes great, modern country music and he actually has something to say!

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7. Aaron Watson: Perhaps the biggest country artist in Texas and for good reason. Watson does a fantastic job of combining radio sensible songs and powerful songs with a message in his albums. Even in his more modern sounding songs you can still hear tons of country instrumentation.

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6. Kacey Musgraves: Radio doesn’t deserve Kacey Musgraves. A fantastic neo traditional artist who refuses to compromise her art for the radio machine.

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5. Flatland Cavalry: The closest comparison to Flatland Cavalry would be the Turnpike Troubadours and boy is that a hell of a compliment. After only releasing about an album and a half’s worth of songs, they have already established themselves as one of country’s best groups.

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4. Sunny Sweeney: It’s hard to argue Sunny Sweeney isn’t one of country music’s best after her most recent masterpiece Trophy. The neo traditionalist is extremely honest and relateable in her music with loads of traditional instrumentation.

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3. Chris Stapleton: The biggest, most important moment in country music in recent memory was Chris Stapleton performing alongside Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards. Stapleton has since become the biggest selling star in country music with perhaps the greatest voice in the genre. He has helped to prove the irrelevance of radio and the fact that people will pay for good music.

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2. Cody Johnson: Cody Johnson is country music. It’s rare that I go a day without listening to a Cody Johnson song. A true cowboy who mixes heartbreak and uptempo tracks with an undeniable country sound.

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1.  The Turnpike Troubadours: The Turnpike Troubadours are the greatest group/artist in country music. Their songs are written so brilliantly it makes you wonder how anyone could have written such brilliant songs. Musically lets just say if you don’t love the fiddle you may want to stay away from this Oklahoma based group.

Top 10 Cody Johnson Songs

10. (I Wouldn’t Go There) If I Were You: A man attempting to reason with his heart about a woman that broke his heart. This woman sets a fire in him that is irresistible but, his brain is trying to remind his heart about the last time she put him through hell.

9. Dance Her Home: My favorite boot stomper in Cody Johnson’s collection. A beautiful woman walks into a bar and the guy is picturing how incredible it would be if she would give him a chance to “Dance her Home.” Throughout the song he is trying to work up the courage to tell her what is going through his head and get her to dance with him.

8. Proud: The two people in this song are in a great relationship that the two of them can both be proud of. The man gets up every day before the sun comes up and works like a dog till the sun goes down. What gets him through it is getting to rest his head next to the most beautiful woman in the world.

7. Me And My Kind: In a bar with a friend the man sees his ex girlfriend walk in. The man’s friend points her out and asks if it’s okay if he buys her a drink. The man tells his friend it is okay but, warns him that she is over cowboys. He ruined it for his kind when he treated her like crap and left her alone.

6. Holes: Holes describes the literal and figurative holes that this man has made in his life. It is a part of who this man has been but, we are left to believe that he recognizes all of these mistakes and is going to try and change.

5. Guilty As Can Be: This song is flat out bad ass. The narrator walks in on the love of his life and the mother of his two children having an affair with another man in their bedroom. The narrator loses his mind in anger and shoots the guy and kills him because someone had to pay the price for this betrayal. When the judge asks him if he is guilty he states “If murdering a man who didn’t understand, just what she meant to me, means i’ll rot here in this cell for eternity, than mister i’m as guilty as can be.”

4. Every Scar Has A Story: Johnson describes all the physical pain that he has gone through in his life. All of those experiences have left scars but, none have hurt him as bad as the pain that a woman he loved put him through. He believes that the pain from her leaving him will last forever while his physical wounds will all eventually heal.

3. I Don’t Care About You: The man in this story is at his wits end in a relationship. The woman is constantly starting fights with him and her friends are planting ideas in her head about how much of a jerk he is. Finally, he tells her that he refuses to fight with her tonight and he tells her that she can walk out the door if she wants to.

2. The Only One I Know: One of the things that makes country music great is the honest and relateable storytelling. This song serves as an autobiography of Cody’s life as a rodeo man. It was a lonely and painful life in pursuit of living the cowboy life but, it was the only life that he knew.

1.  Walk Away: Cody Johnson’s best song comes from his most recent album Gotta Be Me. The man knows that his wife has been cheating on him and he invites the guy she has been cheating with for a talk at a bar. Neither the man’s wife or the guy she has been cheating with know that her husband knows. During the talk he explains to the other guy that he knows what has been going on and he wants it to stop. He still loves her and would like to give her a second chance. It is taking a great deal of control for him to not lose it.

Josh Turner:Top 10 Songs

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Josh Turner’s music has always connected with me in a way that no other artist ever has on as consistent of a basis. Whether it is Turner’s incredible voice, his traditional sound or the lyrics in his songs, you cannot go wrong. Josh Turner was signed by MCA Nashville in 2003 and has released 6 studio albums including the hit songs Why Don’t We Just Dance and Time Is Love. The 10 songs that I have chosen for this list are what I deem to be Turner’s best songs which include a mix of singles and album cuts. This is simply my opinion so I would love to see what everyone else’s top 10 songs are for Josh Turner!

10. Your Man: Your Man was the title track off of Turner’s second album. The song is about a man wanting to be alone with his women. He has wanted to get her alone and have a romantic evening. It was his first career number 1 hit.

9. Would You Go With Me?: Another number 1 hit for Josh Turner which also came off of the album Your Man. This is about a man asking a woman to marry him. He asks her if she is willing to stick by him through thick and thin and make him the happiest man in the world. There is some great bluegrass influenced instrumentation in this song.

8. Cold Shoulder: An album cut from Josh Turner’s most recent album Punching Bag about a troubled marriage. The man wishes that his wife would tell him what is wrong instead of simply giving him the cold shoulder. If she is going to leave him he wishes that she would just get it over with however all he is getting tonight is a cold shoulder.

7. As Fast As I Could: Showing up on Turner’s Best of Album this song is about the journey that it took to find the love of his life. There were some stumbling and bumps along the way but he found her as fast as he could.

6. The Longer The Waiting (The Sweeter The Kiss): A song that most people who are not Josh Turner fans would be aware of but this is an absolute gem. The song has a real throwback feel to it with the main character sailing away in search of treasures. He promises the women that when he gets back he will never leave her alone again and he asks her to wait for him. The time apart will make it that much sweeter when they are finally reunited.

5. Long Black Train: Turner’s second single from his debut album Long Black Train is a very religiously influenced song. The song uses the long black train as symbolism for the devil and a life of sin. It preaches the idea of redemption and finding meaning through god.

4. I Wouldn’t Be A Man: I Wouldn’t Be A Man is actually a cover of the song that was originally recorded by the great Don Williams. Turner sings about how strong the love is that he feels for his wife and how he wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t feel the way that he does for her.

3. Another Try: One of Turner’s best songs was a single from his Everything is Fine Album. The narrator recognizes his mistakes that cost him the love of his life. He promises that if he ever gets another try at love he will hold on tight and not make the mistakes that he made before which included not communicating and not showing his emotions. I did an extensive throwback review of this song and the accompanying music video that can be found here.

2. I Had One One Time: This is an incredibly powerful song about a man who has lost literally everything in his life. The man is homeless and he has lost his job, his friends, his home, his wife and very possibly his mind. He meets a man on the street that reminds him of his former self and the life that he used to lead back when he had it all. It is an incredibly sad song and a reminder of how we could all lose everything.

1. She’ll Go On You: Josh Turner’s first song also happens to be in my opinion his best song. This is a song about how all of the women in your life can eventually leave you and how you shouldn’t take them for granted. The first women to leave him is his daughter who grows up and goes away to college. He states that you should take every opportunity to play with her before she grows up and leaves you. The next women is his wife who could leave him if he doesn’t treat her the way that she deserves. Leave her notes on the refrigerator, send her flowers and be there for her when she needs you. Finally, his mother will eventually leave him when she dies. The message is to appreciate your mother for all the things that she did for you like taking care of you when you were sick and staying up late when you went out to make sure you were okay.

Top Ten Songs: Turnpike Troubadours

Lately I have had the itch to make some lists since I didn’t make any for 2016. I put up a poll on Twitter Tuesday night and the Turnpike Troubadours edged out Cody Johnson. The Turnpike Troubadours are my all time favorite band with so many phenomenal songs so picking just ten was a challenge. Below you will find my 10 favorite TPT songs which include songs from each of their first three albums. I will include a few sentences for each song to serve as a description. Some Turnpike Troubadour songs can be difficult to dissect so they could mean different things to me than they do to you.  I hope you enjoy and if you have any opinions on this list be sure to comment!

10. Good Lord Lorrie: This song is about two people who are in love. The girls parents in the story are not fond of the boy and even go as far as to threaten him with physical violence. At the end of the story Lorrie tells the guy that he’s not good enough for her and he admits her parents were right about him.

9. Down Here: Down Here is about two friends talking to each other after the one friend has lost it all. He took risks and ran with a wilder cast of people and now regrets it. The other friend assures him that everything will be alright and that he will help him any way that he can.

8. Ringing In The Year: In this song, the narrators spouse informs him that she is leaving him by leaving a letter for him. He begs the question of whether or not she will miss him the way that he misses her. At the end of the song he states that if he had tried harder they would still be together but now he will just try and forget he ever knew her.

7. The Funeral: The Funeral is a song about a man returning home for his father’s funeral. Jimmy (the main character) feels out of place being back at home and admits that he feels more alone in the presence of family. His mother is crying and asks Jimmy why it took a funeral for him to finally come home.

6. Gin Smoke and Lies: This is a classic country cheating song. The man in the relationship suspects that his spouse is cheating on him. He believes that his spouse has been lying to him and he can smell the gin, smoke and lies on her. He tells her that if she hasn’t been cheating on him to look him in the eyes and tell him.

5. Every Girl: Every Girl is a love song where the man is describing what the girl he loves is like.  This song has an incredibly fun sound with classic TPT fiddle play.

4. Long Hot Summer Day: My all time favorite summer song is about hard work on a summer day. The narrator describes what he does after work mentioning things like his girl and what he had for supper. What makes this such a great song is again the musical element of the song.

3. Long Drive Home: This is a song about what the narrator believes to be true about love. His spouse has left him like everyone has before. He doesn’t believe people have staying power any longer and if you really want love to work you have to fight for it.

2. Come As You Are: The only song TPT released in 2016 also happens to be one of their best. The man in the story awakens to the sound of his spouse leaving him. In the end he decides to go duck hunting to clear his mind with a friend. He comes to the conclusion that he is going to do whatever it takes to change the girl’s mind so that she will come back to him.

1. The Bird Hunters: My favorite all time TPT song. The introduction to this song is as good as it gets with the extended fiddle play. The song is about 2 men (Jim and Dan) going duck hunting and 1 of the men (Jim) dwelling on a failed relationship. His girlfriend who is from Tulsa did not appreciate the country life. At the end of the song Jim kills a bird and determines that yes he loves the country life but, he also doesn’t want to give up on his relationship. The listener is left with a cliff hanger as to what will happen.