Steve's Top 15 Albums of the Year

2017 was quite a year for country music. Not on the radio, but the music was definitely out there. Since our podcast launched in March, Kevin and I have been introduced to over a hundred new artists. We've gotten to talk with various artists and to preview and review fantastic albums.

That being said, here are the albums I loved and listened to most in 2017. I tried keeping it as different from Kevin's list as possible, but there were a few too good to leave out.

15. Luke Pitney - Without You (EP)

Illinois native Luke Pitney released his debut EP in May and it's 5 songs pure country goodness.

Favorite Track: Needle Meet the Vein

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14. My Politic - 12 Kinds of Lost

There isn't a sign of writing for the audience on this album. As music should be, it's writing for Kaston Guffey himself and hoping others can relate. Music is just as much of an escape for the artist as it is for the audience. 12 Kinds of Lost is a must for any bluegrass and traditional fan.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: Bored Young Ghost


13. Brandon Rhyder - Brandon Rhyder

Every other year, an artist will come out and say, "This new album means a lot to me! It's the best album I've ever written. It comes straight from the heart." This is typical PR talk to try and sell their record so consumers think they're buying something different. More times than not, when the album hits the shelves, it's either the same ol' same ol' or it's just more generic laundry list music that was pushed by their label. That is not the feeling you get when you listen through Brandon Rhyder's newest 10 tracks.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: No Time For That


12. Travis Meadows - First Cigarette

Travis Meadows has one of the most interesting life stores of any country artist, and it always manages to show through in his songwriting. Whether he's tearing out your heart or mending his own, Meadows' lyrics hit close to home to me.

Favorite Track: Better Boat


11. Mike Mangione & The Kin - But I've Seen the Stars

Mike Mangione & The Kin add another branch to this enormous country tree. Rock meets folk meets an orchestral backing. And let me tell you, it's great. This album from start to finish has a unique sound unmatched by any music to my knowledge.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: Riding Down


10. Ray Scott - Guitar for Sale

Ray Scott is one of the most genuine country artists out there right now, and sticking to his traditional guns led to him releasing one of the best albums of 2017.

Favorite Track: Soberin' Up


9. Blake Berglund – Realms

If you want a new and original sound, feeling, and sub-genre of country music, Blake Berglund's Realms is perfect for you. 2017 has been a powerhouse year for independent artists. The originality of how the album is built, the psychedelic/traditional country sound, and the ten quality Berglund-penned tracks add up to one of the most unique albums of the year.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: Crooked Old Earth


8. Harper Grae - Break Your Crowns

Harper Grae's debut album is close to a masterpiece with her traditional sound and fantastic voice. From her genuine cover of Thunder Rolls to the heart-wrenching Good in Your Goodbye, this album is country music gold from start to finish.

Favorite Track: Good in Your Goodbye


7. Chris Canterbury - Refinery Town

After moving to Nashville in 2013, the Louisiana native could have replaced the steel guitar for a DJ and heartbreak songs for party anthems. Instead, he stuck to his guns and recorded one of the best albums of 2017. Refinery Town is so country it hurts, and you can feel the pain where it's meant to be felt. Chris Canterbury is an artist that should be on everyone's radar, because once the radio gets its heads out of its ass, I think Canterbury could be gracing the radio waves country-wide.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: Back to You


6. Drew Kennedy - At Home in the Big Lonesome

11 tracks, including 10 written by Kennedy himself, explore many areas of emotion, from break ups to being on the road away from your love. I like to think that I can detect a bullshitter on an album, when it's obvious that an artist was given 15 tracks to record because they make them sound pretty. Drew Kennedy's blood and tears are felt in every piano ballad, acoustic finger-pick, and steel guitar solo.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: House

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5. Sam Outlaw – Tenderheart

The artist that hardcore traditionalists like to call fake because he's from California, Sam Outlaw released one of the most pure country albums of the year. From the sad to the happy, every song is beautifully built and delivered.

Favorite Track: Bougainvillea, I Think


4. Aaron Watson - Vaquero

It's hard to believe that this album came out this year, since it's been one of the six cds in my car since the day it came out. Aaron Watson had critical and commercial success with The Underdog, and took his sound to a new place with a Mexican-inspired sound.

Favorite Track: Run Wild Horses


3. Ira Wolf - The Closest Thing to Home

Ira Wolf doesn't sugarcoat any emotions on this album. In quite possibly my favorite track on the album, Pictures On A Wall, Wolf explores the idea that she wishes she could settle down and have the opportunity to hang pictures and to sleep in the same bed, but the road is always calling to her. She wants to be able to create a connection with a lover and friend, but it's impossible to do so when she cannot stay in the same place for an extended period of time.

Each track shows raw, emotional talent, reminding us that not everyone has it good. From loneliness to depression, just because she's living her dream of performing the songs she wrote to people who understand the meanings of the lyrics, it doesn't mean it's all glitter and gold. She asks if she can stick around a familiar feeling in Can I Stay, realizes she can't in Leaving Soon, and navigates the inevitable failure of each relationship in Skin & Script

The Closest Thing to Home is not an album for the faint of heart, but for those who are not afraid to listen to the truth come from the mouth and guitar of a brilliant singer/songwriter, you will not be disappointed.

Read the entire review here.

Favorite Track: Pictures on a Wall

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2. Sunny Sweeney - Trophy

Sunny Sweeney is a badass. An artist that has hilarious stage banter and songs like Whiskey Richard (yes, really) and songs as ungodly sad as Bottle By My Bed and Unsaid, Sweeney is an all around country artist. She can make you laugh on one track, then bring you to tears the next. 

Kevin had this album (and Ira Wolf's) on his list, but I've listened to it so many times in the 9 months since its release and have also seen her twice in concert since then, so I had to include it. This album has helped get me through some hard times and it's made me smile on a Friday night when I'm cracking some cold ones.

Favorite Track: Unsaid


1. Mike Ryan - Blink You'll Miss It

Probably the only album I've binged start to finish more than Sunny Sweeney's, Mike Ryan released my favorite album of the year. While it's only 7 tracks and technically an EP, every single track is pure gold. The Rewrite made me and Kevin laugh out loud the first time we heard it live over the summer, and as someone who had some major life changes and moved more times than I care to admit for one year's time, New Hometown hit me so close to home that it almost brought me to tears the first time I heard it.

Favorite Track: All of them, but for the sake of posting one song, I'll say New Hometown.