Well folks 2015 has indeed been a good year for real Country Music, and it has brought my website to many states and places. It brought me to a bunch of festivals and introduced me to many individuals and many bands. I truly enjoyed discovering all the new bands and music I have this year, and I hope this list I made will help you discover some new music, or maybe you already know most of these 50 choices. Now also I would like to include some high ranking suggestions that came close to my list.
Now I want to clarify something this is NOT A FIGHT or competition and if YOUR band or favorite is “ranked” higher or lower than another is NOT an indication of any sort of bias by me in ANY way. I do my best to remain neutral in any drama or fighting of ANY sort and I do my best to not “cross mention” any festivals that I deem wouldn’t want it and that goes for labels and artists too.
I’m also going to include the label most of these albums are on because I feel that to be VERY important and essential to bring you the best possible information I can.
50. Sarah Shook And The Disarmers- Sidelong-
I was turned on to this band by the well loved Miss Billye AKA The Hip Hillbilly Chick if you don’t know her go over and check her out, she’s a smart cookie. She KNOWS her stuff and when she suggests a band or album to me I LISTEN. It’s not beneath me to give total credit to anyone for pointing me in any directions. I’m glad she did, you MUST MUST MUST hear this album. It may be my number 50 but it’s NOT low on ANY list by any means!
49. Taylor Shannon- Home And Tennessee- Broke Spoke
This man and his band are from the Cincinnati area, and I met him some time back. I truly liked his music and this album was a good offering of what he does best. If you are ever in the Ohio area I would highly suggest his show to you. You need to check out this album folks you will not be disappointed!
48. Kinky Friedman- The Lonliest Man I Ever Met- Avenue A Music
Kinky Friedman is a smooth singing Country singer that can be as rough and raunchy as ever and on the other side of the coin he can perform some truly Traditional Country Music. The cigar smoking liquor drinking hero of the underground Texas music scene is often lambasted for his controversial comedy tunes. You either love him or hate him but either way you cannot say he isn’t noteworthy of a top spot.
47. Tim Atwood- Buy This Piano A Drink- Hart Street Entertainment
This Country Music Legend has been super busy after being done wrong by the very entity that he helped build..the Opry. Honestly he was done wrong by MANAGEMENT and not the Opry itself. He raised me as a young adult, he and Hoot Hester and Jimmy Capps and many others that played for years in the Opry band. Right now he is touring with Teea Goans and Mandy Barnett and more. GET THIS ALBUM NOW!
46. Ryan Bingham- Fear And Saturday Night- Axter Bingham Records
Everybody is loving on Ryan Bingham right now and justifiably so. He has a distinct sound all his own like many others, I truly think “mescalito” was his finest album yet but this one was not bad either. It’s in my constant rotation as well.
45. Mike And The Moonpies- Mockingbird-
I love love love this Honky Tonk band from the texas area, and they aren’t very well known in this region right now. Hopefully with more media attention they will be, as they have a sound all their own and their music makes you want to drink….a lot.
44. Cody Jinks- Adobe Sessions- Late August Records
“Cast No Stones” is my favorite Cody Jinks album to date. This album is BY FAR his finest offering I have ever heard and he is steamrolling forward to performing some of the best live shows in local music today. I recently saw him play in Bowling Green Kentucky and the show was worth every penny.
43. Rob McNurlin- The Gospel Guitar
Rob McNurlin released TWO good albums this year but this Gospel album was by far his greatest effort to date. He recorded this album with an acoustic guitar given to him by Chance Martin who got the guitar form Cash himself.
42. Pearls Mahone- Echos Of The Prairie
Her second album truly was good and I finally got to see her perform a whole set at the Nashville Boogie this year. She writes some pretty cool vintage music and does a lot of good covers on both her albums. It’s always a pleasure to get to see her and Mr. Dave too, GOOD PEOPLE! This album sounds GOOD on vinyl!
41. John king And The Mud River Revival- Write The Wrongs
If you have never heard of this local band from Bowling Green Kentucky area you now have, and you need to pick this album up for sure. This band’s debut album has so far spawned two really fine music videos and they have been playing many live shows in my area.
40. J.P. Cyr And The Radio Wranglers- Hillbilly Swing Favorites
I met this man J.P. Cyr in person early this year at the Muddy Roots Nashville Boogie. I am BEYOND impressed with his knowledge of old obscure Country music and their sound. WOW…..wow…I can’t put their album down. It’s just a short album but it’s QUALITY over 20 songs of mediocre “ok” music. This band has a quality steel and fiddle player and they have the LOOK and FEEL of a distant time of long ago that purists and history buffs like me long to revisit.
39. Drive By Truckers- Live- It’s Great To Be Alive- ATO Records
This album is another long whopper of music, I had to have a whole weekend off to enjoy it to it’s potential. This live album spans their entire multi-album catalog with an awesome performance of “Box Of Spiders” off their second album “Pizza Deliverance”. It includes really good stories by frontman Patterson Hood and I enjoyed the books included with the vinyl set. it’s NOT CHEAP but it’s worth EVERY PENNY.
38. The Legendary Shack Shakers- The Southern Surreal- Alternative Tentacles
Colonel J.D.Wilkes and his gang put out their best album since “Cockadoodledon’t” and “Sin Eater” in my opinion. This band is one of the many that got me into more obscure bands from the last few years. I like the different sound of this album and it’s in my constant rotation.
37. Justin Trevino- Sings songs Of Johnny Bush- Heart Of Texas Records
I like anything Mr. Tracy Pitcox and Heart Of Texas Records puts out as well, and Justin Trevino is no exception. This Johnny Bush Tribute album is SOOOOO GOOD. I promise you if you like obscure Johnny Bush songs with Justin’s classic sound you will also enjoy this album. A+!
36. Crybaby Ranch- Boom Boom Boom- Little Class Records
I stumbled upon this unique band by accident one night just putzing around on here. This is a debut album by a band that needs more attention then they garnish. Little Class Records has been releasing some truly quality music in the last two years and I am enjoying this album for many reasons. For one the songwriting is inventive and Traditionally influenced.
35. The Damn Quails- Out Of The Birdcage- Swomp Fyst Records
I didn’t like their first album very much but this one really showed me their good guns. This band is on my top must see bands in 2016 to cover more of their shows on my website and I shall be doing just that! I promise you more to come on these guys.
34. Dale Watson- Call Me Insane- Red House Records
I’ll be honest I’m not biased….I automatically LOVE anything Dale puts his name on, he’s like the Stephen King of Country music to me. Right now he’s busy doing his Ameripolitan Music Awards deal and even though he doesn’t get out to my area as much he still sells out venues all over. He represents tradition in it’s purest form with raw unapologetic Honky Tonk Music.
33. Cody Canada- Chip And Ray Together Again- Underground Sound
The member of Cross Canadian Ragweed does it real good with this live mostly acoustic album with Mike McClure “Together Again For The First Time”. This album is a WHOPPING long one folks but it’s worth the hour plus time frame spent listening to it. I wish they would do a show in the Nashville area when I wasn’t working!
32. Justin Townes Earle- Absent Fathers- Vagrant
Justin Townes Earle is the son of Steve Earle and I haven’t covered him on this website as much as he deserves it. He has a unique sound and style all his own much like Pokey LaFarge and a few others I can name. I really liked this album a whole lot and I think his direction puts a new light on his ability to put out honest good Americana music.
31. Colter Wall- Imaginary Appalachia- Soccermom Records
I found out about this man from my good buddy in West Virginia W.B. Walker on his podcast. This man’s music just tops my charts in every form. I cannot stress how good this album is from a fan of good songwriting to good musicianship. He sells out shows all over his area and after you hear this album you’ll find out why. If it’s not evident maybe you are a pop country fan!
30. The Turnpike Troubadours- The Turnpike Troubadours- Bossier City Records
This band is on top of my AWESOME list. ALL of their albums just absolutely kick major butt and I don’t see them releasing a bad album ever. They are described as a Red Dirt Band from Oklahoma but some people call them Americana..whatever you call them just go out and get this album!
29. Lindi Ortega- Faded Gloryville- Last Gang Records
This is by far my favorite album she has put out yet. I been loving her music for some time now and I truly enjoy her style and her voice. In fact for not having a steel guitar on this album I amazed I love it as much as I do. It is in fact on my top ten rotation in my truck CD player.
28. George Strait- Cold Beer Conversation- MCA Nashville
Let’s face it he is King George, and this album is a noteworthy feature but he is never going to beat his Dean Dillon and Rich Fagan penned hits. He doesn’t have to run around and blow stuff up on stage and we are all content watching him standing in corners playing in one spot. I wouldn’t tell you to not get this album, in fact if you don’t I’d call you crazy.
27. Blackberry Smoke- Holding All The Roses- New Rounder
I like their older albums better but their newest addition to the list isn’t bad. In fact I enjoyed listening to it and I have been missing their live shows for some time now. They are more mainstream than most of the bands on my list and honestly the fact that mainstream people consider them an “underground” band is ridiculous. This album is solid and has pretty good songs but that hungry lamenting sound isn’t on this album like previous ones.
26. The Eskimo Brothers- Two- Dance Monkey Records
This band has TRULY topped their game with their latest album, I am completely amazed by their sound and tone. This IS TRULY a Honky Tonker folks, in October they released this album in town at the 5 Spot where they play sometimes. This band BURNS UP my local circuit and plays a TON of shows. They play like a well oiled machine.
25. Eric Strickland And The B Sides- Revelate-
Eric Strickland and the B Sides ARE Honky Tonk in every form. The man just absolutely commands the stage during his live shows. In the past his music has been really good but he has outdone himself with this album. In fact it is one of my MUST HAVE albums from 2015. “I’m Bad For You” was my favorite song he did but “John The Revelator” and “Aces And Eights” come close to whupping it. And the duet with Kendra Hope is truly an upcoming classic song.
24. Rex Hobart And The Misery Boys- Long Shot Of Hard Stuff- Little Class Records
Ok folks much like the Tillers and Split Lip Rayfield this band is one of the pioneers of Underground music. This band has not offered a new album for several years and here comes Mr. Jody Hendrix to bring forth an iconic band and offer this fine album that pretty much got ignored. It deserves TOTAL attention and got a high review on this website.
23. Charlie Daniels Band- Live At Billy Bob’s Texas-
This album was truly a fine addition to the long going series of live albums coming from America’s largest Honky Tonk, this album is FULL of truly awesome instrumentals one would expect from CDB. It is also full of classic Charlie Daniels songs we were raised with. This whole album just flat out kicks butt.
22. Jim Ed Brown- In Style Again- Plowboy Records
Probably one of the most important Country Music Legends we lost this past year Jim Ed Brown released his first album in many years before his death. He and his sisters Bonnie and Maxine were inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame and it was a truly good offering.
21. Daryl Singletary- There’s A Little Country Left- TMF x 4
This album was a breath of fresh air in today’s awful state of hokey mainstream crap. This album boasts a never heard before duet with Country Legend Johnny Paycheck on a song was all know. And the song “Get Out Of My Country” is becoming an anthem for Traditional Country Music lovers.
20. Allison Moorer- Down To Believing- Eone Music
This is perhaps her finest album in the last few years, and is chocked full of personal songs about her divorce from Steve Earle and her autistic son. “Mama Let The Wolf In” was one of the finest songs I have heard in 2015, and this album will remain in my constant rotation.
19. Ray Wylie Hubbard- The Ruffian’s Misfortune- Bordello Records
This is certainly not his finest album but It does contain some noteworthy songs. This man performed one of my top 3 sets of 2015 Muddy Roots festival, whipping the entire festival into a frenzy. His gritty blues style of Country music has always been honest and stripped down and I like that about him. He has the most unique writing ability out of anybody on this list.
18. Urban Pioneers- Vehicle In Transit- Muddy Roots Records
Nobody puts on a live show quite like the Urban Pioneers, and nobody plays on the fiddle better than Miss Liz Sloan.
In fact in my humble opinion she is one of the most talented musicians in the underground circuit right now, and I was truly sad when Jayke Orvis disbanded the Broken Band. I have high anticipation from this band in the future, and this label too. Muddy Roots Records is currently putting out good solid product.
17. Sarah Gayle Meech- Tennessee Love Song
The second album from this little songstress that works more than any local artist I could ever mention hit the nail on the mark in many ways. Anything produced by Andy Gibson to me is gold right away before I hear it, but I still have to listen to the album to confirm that. She plays many festivals and venues all over the country, when others are promoting their album from a couch on twitter, Miss Sarah is playing shows seven days a week.
16. Jason Isbell- Something More Than Free- Southeastern Records
This former member of the most iconic lineup the Driver By Truckers ever had is a man destined to harbor continued major media attention to his solo work. In fact pretty much every real Country Music website out there regarded this album in their Top 50 as well. I was impressed by the way this album played out, I was not sure what to expect from him given his newfound sobriety and other personal accolades. This man consistently sells out venues all over the country, and will only get better.
15. Joshua Morningstar- Songs For Fools With Broken Hearts- Little Class Records
I just got off the phone with Mr. Joshua, and I can truly say with great pride that out of all the artists on this article none is closer to me than him. This album is a concept album and plays out in portions to combine into one solid album of Country Music greatness. It’s a fine recording that was well produced and sounds astounding and has more feeling than any mainstream album you will ever find.
14. Peewee Moore And The Awful Dreadful Snakes- American Outlaw- Rusty Knuckles
This artist’s third installment is in my opinion his finest release to date, now that is certainly not meant to demean his other albums. He is another road warrior out there burning up the highways with Honky Tonk music, some of the best I have witnessed. He is the organizer of the Great American Honky Tonk Tent Revival, and I will be seeing him soon.
13. Ashley Monroe- The Blade- Warner Brothers
Another fine example of a major label release of a non promoted album that got no airplay but was terrific. Now in my opinion it started out kind of slow and got better halfway through the album. It had to grow on me and the more in depth I went with it the better I liked it. She has some of the best songwriting abilities of any female artist on this list and the only negative thing I can say is that if they keep having such tremendous results on their own the Pistol Annies may never reunite.
12. Dallas Moore Band- Dark Horse Rider- Sol Records
I’m going to see this man is just a few days and I cannot wait. He is a prominent member of the Cincinnati local music scene and he is another artist with one hell of a good backup band. I have been a fan of his for a few years now, and he puts on one of the best live shows on this list. He is one of the best guitarists I have ever witnessed having education in many genres of music including classical and incorporates them all into a REALLY good instrumental.
11. Jason James- Jason James- New West Records
A fellow left handed guitarist like me, this man’s debut album REALLY amazed me in many ways. It’s just plain out simple Traditional Country Music like I enjoy. I could NOT believe the way I stumbled upon this man’s album on I tunes, and some friends also turned me onto it. I truly hope to see him on some festival bills in 2016 and I highly doubt he will ever be able to upseat this album with a better one. If he ever does I will eat my hat with delight because it will rival the most heralded classic music. This man is destined to be a legend of the craft.
10. Lexi Len And The Strangers- Your Favorite Things
This album was already one of my Top ten choices and it was only January! I mean she knocked it out of the ballpark with a short album chocked full of REAL Country Music the likes of which is almost non existent of others her age. She just pours out her soul on this album and the song “The Junkie’s Wife’s Blues” was one of the truest songs I have ever heard since I was ten. And her band is a true gem among independent musicians.
9. Jason Boland And The Stragglers- Squelch- Proud Souls
The tenth album from underground Texas powerhouse Jason Boland was truly one of his finest to date. It had a sense of Honky Tonk direction and precise delivery of solos from all the areas of his band. This man sells out local shows all over his home turf and is successful despite not nationally touring. “Holy Relic Sale” was almost his finest song in my opinion to date.
8. Kasey Musgraves- Pageant Material- Mercury
My GOD this album truly stays on top of my rotation and the song “Good O’l Boys Club” is pretty much my TOP SONG of 2015. It has a steel guitar tone that sets it above all the rest of this album, and I like the pop pop pop of the snare drum on several of the songs. This album was not as good as her first one BUT a few of the song are her BEST work yet, she has incredible songwriting ability. This album breaths life into the stagnant state of mainstream Country Music…period.
7. Chris Stapleton- Traveler- Mercury
Well I was impressed with this album before all the bandwagon jumper mainstream people got exposed to him on the awards show, honestly do I have to elaborate on what I am referring to? I thought not. This man’s version of Dean Dillon’s “Tennessee Whiskey” is soooo good. I tell you what 2015 truly surprised me that a major label would release two Traditional Country Music albums and never promote them or give them any radio play, and despite the lack of airplay they both become commercially successful and get high acclaim from internet sites.
6. Dwight Yoakam- Second Hand Heart- Reprise Records
I truly enjoyed this album and it was well produced and full of toe tapping Honky Tonk songs one would come to expect out of a typical Dwight album. Despite his age he is still shuffling his way across stages all over and his live shows have not lost their luster in any form.
5. Whitey Morgan And The 78’s- Sonic Ranch
I’d pay to see the 78’s play by themselves, these days not too many artists have backup bands as talented as them. Whitey Morgan reminds me of the Country artists of old that had those stellar backup bands. This is by all means his finest album he has ever released and the steel guitar is beyond remarkable.
4. John Anderson- Goldmine- Bayou Boys Music
This album is exactly what the title says…A goldmine. The song “Back Home” was so well written and touching I literally had to pull my vehicle over to cry. I cannot understand WHY this album didn’t get more media attention.
3. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard- Django And Jimmie- Legacy Records
This album also just amazed me not only because of all the guest star spots but because neither of these two icons have lost one smidgen of musicianship in any form. The amount of creativity in songs like “It’s All Going To Pot” and others showcases their well known love for cannabis. Despite the year long health problems Merle is having this year they still delivered a noteworthy album.
2. Waylon Jennings- Live Volume 2- BCR Records
This past black Friday which has turned into another record store day Waylon’s youngest son Shooter Jennings released another volume of his famous fathers never been heard before concerts. This album was only released on white vinyl and it completely blew my mind, while volume one brought us a closer grasp of Waylon’s rare humor this volume brought us footage of some songs not often heard live. The quality of recording of this concert is beyond great, and thanks to J.D. Myers for helping to bring out the recording.
1. Alan Jackson- Angels And Alcohol- ACR Records
I tell you what folks, it WAS a close fight for number one but I just couldn’t bring myself to put down this album ever since I got it. This is perhaps Alan Jackson’s finest work in the last ten years, and he is currently one of the most prominent Opry members of his generation. This album has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from one of his albums without any “filler” songs, every song on the album is classic AJ style and it features some of the best steel guitar I have heard all year.
Highly suggested albums that I wanted to include as well!
Pete Berwick- The Legend Of Tyler Doohan
Kyle Park- The Blue Roof Sessions
Clint Black- On Purpose
Cold And Bitter Tears- The Songs Of Ted Hawkins
Statesboro Revue- Juke House Revival-
Johnathon Tyler- Holy Smokes
Whitney Rose- Heartbreaker Of The Year
Corb Lund- Things That Can’t Be Undone
The Bottle Rockets- South Broadway Athletic Club
The Malpass Brothers- The Malpass Brothers
Emmylou Harris And Rodney Crowell- The Traveling Kind
Teea Goans- Memories To Burn
Lonesome Wyatt And Rachel Brooke- Bad Omen
Pokey LaFarge- Something In The Water
Aaron Watson- The Underdog