I’m physically and mentally tired from all of this year’s pitfalls. It took me many weeks to catch up on everything here at Gary Hayes Country, and I had to spend many countless hours on the keyboard to do this. Part of that task has been the literally HUNDREDS of albums I had jotted down, in my email box and word of mouth, of all which are always considered for my ever popular TOP 50.
ONE THING I NEED TO STRESS HERE : IF YOU see something new or hear something new PLEASE BUY IT on the links below. ALL OF THESE folks have been out of work for the year…I don’t believe I need to elaborate on that fact any more ardently than I already do.
ONCE AGAIN I also need to establish that none of these “positions” are better than another ( accept my TOP 5 ). I REALLY ENJOYED these 50 albums in every way, and they contained songs that spoke to me more than others. I am not including all of the albums that make me ” look cool in the scene “, nor did I forget such and such albums. These are what I LIKED, and I’m NOT trying to be a benevolent dictator or shove anything down your throat. These albums satisfied my palate and my longing for real Country, Bluegrass, Rockabilly and a few more genres.
We have a BUNCH of new projects that will emanate out of 2021, and in the next few weeks I have SO MUCH to share with you. I certainly hope you enjoy these albums as much as I did and do. As always, I want to take the time to THANK YOU my dear friends, for reading my website. TIME….Time is very precious and it is indeed a special gift. Thank you for yours, from the bottom of my heart.
Album Of The Year
1. John Anderson Years.
OK I’m going to write about this album more than the others for many reasons, but the main one is the absolute immutable beauty of Mr. John’s vocals. Time has not faltered his pleasant but soaked in sin signature vocal style on this album. From the very first note he sings, you can immediately ascertain…”That’s John Anderson”.
There is a passionate desideratum in my heart and soul for this man and his ilk, and it should also exist within Country Music itself as a whole. With as many stars as 2020 has eradicated from us, I feel it is VERY integral to not only hold this man dear..but to let him know he IS NEEDED RIGHT NOW.
He physically labored to finish the vocals for “Years” because he has been having some surgical issues going on ( they haven’t divulged any information ) but he almost didn’t wake up. In fact, his wife stressed the fact he in fact flat lined three times. During his health scare, his website states that he lost his sense of pitch, and the ability to recognize his own songs on the radio. If you don’t mind I’d like to include some from his own website:
During his period of recovery, Anderson got a phone call out of the blue from Auerbach, who was simply calling as a fan, inspired by a conversation with David Ferguson (co-producer) about great singers. When Anderson later met them both in person at Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville, they clicked as a unit immediately. On the spot, Anderson – a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee — accepted an invitation to write the next day.
That first co-write yielded “Years,” an emotional centerpiece of the album sung from the perspective of a man with some miles on him. “I recall thinking to myself, ‘This is a pretty good song,’” Anderson says. “But we know there’s a lot of good songs that get written, and a lot of them never get heard. Nevertheless it was off to a good start.”
Auerbach kept setting writing dates with collaborators like Joe Allen, Pat McLaughlin, and Paul Overstreet. At Anderson’s request, Auerbach sang the work tapes. Instantly recognizing the caliber of the songs, Auerbach offered to make an album with studio players like Gene Chrisman, Dave Roe, Russ Pahl, Billy Sanford, and Bobby Wood. Although he had produced or co-produced his own albums since 1981, Anderson put his trust in Auerbach.
“I booked the session and here I’ve got a room full of musicians, and I really didn’t know if he was going to be able to hear in the headphones,” Auerbach remembers. “But we got him behind the microphone, he started singing and it was pure magic. His voice is like caramel magic coming out of those speakers.”
Listening to Anderson’s vocals on Years, it would be impossible to guess that anything was amiss. Delivered in that distinctive, rich baritone, “Celebrate” provides a perspective of gratitude while “Slow Down,” “All We’re Really Looking For” and “You’re Nearly Nothin’” are some of the most eloquent love songs he’s ever recorded.
Meanwhile, “I’m Still Hangin’ On” conveys the realities of a soldier living with PTSD, while “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone” – a breezy duet with good friend Blake Shelton – captures the joy of just getting away from it all. The rambling vibe of “Wild and Free” and irresistible rhythm of “What’s a Man Got to Do” feel like they’ve been in Anderson’s repertoire all along. Beyond Years, the sessions also yielded a rewarding new friendship between the artist and producer.
“John will sing it as many times as you want. He wants it to be great, but the thing is, once he starts singing, it’s almost right there, right from the first lick,” Auerbach says. “I feel incredibly lucky that I even had to the opportunity to make a record with John Anderson, let alone have all this meaning to it.”
Anderson adds, “We went in the studio, and I remember saying, ‘I’m going to do this like it might be my last.’ It still could be, but now the chances of that are getting slimmer and slimmer every day. I’m doing better so I’m not hardly thinking that way anymore. That’s a blessing, too.”
So now you might see just how integral this album is.
I’d like to take this portion of this to write my sentiments on the album as a whole. I truly loved 2015’s “Goldmine” And it made my TOP 50 of 2015. But he topped his last studio album with flying colors here.
It opens with a slow and poignant ballad called “I’m Still Hanging On”, about a soldier with PTSD. He makes the song believable, and he portrays the subject VERY well..you think he is singing about himself, and reflecting on his numerous fugatious peers of the 80’s.
When I finally heard the song “Years” on this album, I had to pull over and cry. I have crept past 50 myself, and the years have decayed my body along with diabetes. However my mind is sharp, and my memory is remained.
“What’s A Man Got To Do” is a song that came straight out of his prime here. I mean the lyrics and the twang on his vocals is just absolute gold. This male driven song that touches on our appetency to have their attention, spoke to me as a person.
“Slow Down” also sounds like a classic 80’s slow dance song. This album has an absolutely perfect ending here, and the only overall complaint from me was the length. At just over 30 minutes, it was a short but integral piece of 2020, and I thank Mr. John from the heart for being such a big part of my youth, and my life. It’s people like HIM that inspired me to build THIS WEBSITE.
2. Chris Stapleton Starting Over
This album is not aptly named, it should be called rocketing forward, in my opinion he started over on “Traveler”. It’s a perfectly done 53 minutes of heaven, that is embraced not only in the realms of mainstream music, but it has trickled into the underground as well.
I mean produced by Mr. Dave Cobb, and includes Mr. Paul Franklin on steel, simply supports my personal theory of what encapsulates a perfect Country album. Those three pillars are songwriter, producer and steel guitarist, as Mr. Willie Nelson does on “Red Headed Stranger”. ( Which if you read further you will see ).
“Devil Always Made Me think Twice” truly spoke to me as a recovered addict, whom is still struggling to roll into my one year chip mark. I’m not going back into the drug life again, but the Devil is always whispering in that ear about how great the high was. No matter your personal choice, that demon is always there.
“Arkansas” is another high fueled song that embellishes this album as the true gem it is. This is not a traditional Country album per se, rather a rootsy soul filled volume of tales of stray dogs like “Maggie’s Song”. In today’s times of doom and gloom, society really needed this album.
He co wrote 11 of the 14 total songs, and he included a really neat pun within the entire song list, combining the 2 songs “You Should Probably Leave….and Nashville Tennessee”. I think those sentiments combined with the album’s arrangement propelled him onto Mr. Sturgill Simpson’s radar, where he joined him on Saturday Night Live…speaking of Mr. Sturgill..
3. Sturgill Simpson Cuttin Grass volumes 1 and 2 .
I had so many choices here in 2020, I didn’t feel the need to separate the two albums at all. However in this two album match up I felt volume 2 was by far the better of the two, accept for volume 1 containing my favorite song of all from High Top Mountain…”Old King Coal’. If you ask me of my personal opinion, that was his best offering to date…however, to hear these songs from a whole new echelon is simply genius artistically AND from a marketing standpoint..I mean WHY NOT sell the same song TWICE?
The other quandary I had was how would ( or would he even try ) he pull off turning songs from Sound And Fury into this? Even though he didn’t he still amazed me, and satisfied my desires of selections from the first 3 albums. He totally revitalized his classic songs like “Railroad Of Sin” and “Turtles All The Way Down”, with an all star cast of Bluegrass heavyweights:
- Mike Bub – upright bass
- Stuart Duncan – fiddle, background vocals
- Mark Howard – background vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
- Sierra Hull – mandolin, background vocals
- Miles Miller – percussion, background vocals
- Tim O’Brien – background vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
- Sturgill Simpson – vocals, rhythm guitar
- Scott Vestal – banjo, background vocals
So, with an all star cast like that, WHY WOULD these albums NOT BE successful from a marketing standpoint? Well it was..IN FACT as of right now he has 2 albums simultaneously on the charts.
I cannot really tell you anything different about the meaning of the songs, that I haven’t already said about these individual albums. Just that I got to hear them all from a different musical arrangement, and that was exciting!
4. Elizabeth Cook Aftermath.
I think the world of Miss Elizabeth Cook, and what she means to local Nashville. In a way I consider her to be a local Legend, along with folks like Mr. Greg Garing and Mr. Boo Ray ( whom she has made GREAT music with ). Her ardent love for the Opry and for the local bars that I love, and for the city that no matter how others view it, is adored by me.
I’m going to completely honest here, my favorite album she has made was “Balls”..but this album REALLY rivals as her best offering to date. Aftermath gives me a good prospicience to her future, and I will continue to scream at the Opry to induct her, and a few other ladies into it’s fold. It’s my onus as a father to leave my daughter with a solid Country Music regime, as my elders left for me.
I know that some people may be critical of my choices here, out of saying many of my choices aren’t Country…and I could care less. This album painted a LOT of pretty scenes into my mind, when I sat back and just LISTENED to the stories on here.
This past February I had to check into a rehab center for a pill addiction, and the song “Bad Decisions” gives me goosebumps. I was slipping away from my website here, and I lost all of my fire. I felt like she was signing about ME on the song there, and I personally relate to ALL of those that suffer from dependency.
“Daddy, I Got Love For You” showcased the signature Elizabeth Cook vocals I know and love as a fan, and the most cleverly written song on the album for me was “Stanley By God Terry”. All of these songs here are pretty long to listen to, so unless you are an ardent music lover like me, it may divert your attention. But if you love a damn good story song, this album is loaded with gritty stuff!
The last song “Mary, The Submissing Years ” was one of the most beautiful songs she has ever put out, and I would love to hear her sing this one on the Opry. I know she would, because that is what’s in her heart.. stories and love for the tradition of Country Music.
5. Joshua Ray Walker Glad You Made It.
Every Country Music website I read speaks very highly of this young man, and justifiably so. He has been busting his ass in the Texas music scene for over a decade now, playing a whopping 250 shows a year, solo and as a sideman.
He and his producer Mr. John Pedigo brought us one ball buster of a Country album here, complete with beer joint tunes complimented by the sweet tone of Mr. Adam Kurt’s steel guitar. I’ll admit, he has become one of my favorite songwriters today.
He possesses a signature lonesome twang in his vocals, that differentiates him from others in the scene. You juxtapose that with habile songwriting, and you have honky tonk thumpers like “Bronco Billy’s”. It’s chocked full of bull riding stories, old fashioned drinking songs and tanned up floozies selling boats…like a redneck statue of liberty…what a line!
This album has some overall veridical stories of the darker side of life, and the cream doesn’t always rise to the top…sometimes the cream is just foam! “Play You A Song” talks about just that, however the song that GRABBED ME was “One Trick Pony”. That gorgeous piano work along with the two step thump, along with the fact that ( like me ), he is a janissary of Traditional Country Music.
6. Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger Live From Austin City Limits.
Country Music Legend Mr. Willie Nelson is one of the few Legends that still remain with us today, after all of the crap 2020 has dealt us here. Time has taken a plethora of our Legends, so like my number 1 pick, this album is integral to my TOP list. In fact I will go so far as to say that this album in it’s studio form is the greatest album in Country Music history.
This album was released on TWO BIG DATES. One of those dates was one of the three Record Store Day drops of the year. Due to the virus this year, there was not only one entire day. Instead there were three different drops throughout the year, and this was one of them. The second date was the fact that it was released in 1975, so in today’s day, it is 45 years old.
Willie Nelson has appeared Austin City Limits more than any other artist, and this entire album’s performance was captured in 1976, as he performed the album complete from front to back onstage. It also encapsulates his classic family band in their prime, and on their highest echelon of talent.
Even though I have an acute appetency to talk about the songs of this album piece by piece, I do not feel the need to at this time other than some rare facts about the songs themselves. The title track was not even originally intended for Nelson, but instead was written for Perry Como. The rest of the album was originals and old songs mixed together to form a concept album about a preacher turned killer after his wife leaves him for an old flame.
Despite the pleas of MGM Records, Nelson decided to go against their wishes and the album was released as he recorded it. The gamble turned out to be an astronomically historic event, as it earned gold sales, and huge critical acclaim for it’s time.
7. Ashley McBryde Never Will.
This year had quite a few albums turn up on underground lists, that are more mainstream than anything else and this young lady is no exception to that rule. Fortunately, she has become a mirific beacon of hope to thousands like me that wish to bring the real music to a much larger audience.
This album came into fruition early in 2020, but right away when I heard the song “First Thing I Reach For” , which she wrote with Mr. Randall Clay and Mr. Mick Holland , quickly became one of the year’s BEST songs for me. It’s just a damn fine old fashioned honky tonker about all those wonderful sins of the flesh.
One of the first singles from the album was “Martha Divine”, which was an uptempo murder ballad, directed toward her father’s side lover. However I’m going to be honest here..her best vocals on this entire album were on the song “Velvet Red”. I enjoyed all of these 50 albums on this list equally, and not one is any more or less equal in value to me.
8. Rachel Brooke The Loneliness In Me.
I have been doing this website for about 12 years now, and very few of these on this TOP LIST hold the history with me, like Miss Rachel does. My love of non mainstream music began culminating long before I discovered her, however she heavily proliferated my love for it when I did find her. She sings like an angel, as fierce as a lion, and will weave poignant tales of misery…in a heavenly manner.
This album opens with a real kick in a man’s privates, as she croons about making her man cry in a seductive, but poignant fashion. This entire album is once again classic Rachel Brooke, and it is quite possibly her best album to date.
Although I equally enjoy her work with Lonesome Wyatt ( of Those Poor Bastards), the lapse in her last two albums had me salivating for new music. There are old time two steppers like the middle song “Picture On The Wall”, complete with some downright amazing piano work to compliment it.
Another high point of this album is the song “The Awful Parts Of Me”, funny thing about a line like “down at the bottom of your dried up wishing well” being a high point, right? Well it’s just that songwriting mastery combined with her signature vocals that make this album nothing short of amazing. In my opinion she will always be the queen of local music!
9. American Aquarium Lamentations
This was another album by a band that I hold in high regard, that is their finest album to date. The first song fades into a grand picture of rural America, and any middle aged person can easily identify with it..I mean WHO DOESN’T wonder if God has abandoned them? WHO HASN’T heard these politicians promise false jobs? I know I have, and I thought “Me And Mine ( Lamentations)” is one of their best songs ever. I loved it that much!
A lot of good feel good songs adorn this album like the song “Starts With You” which barrels right into “Brightleaf And Burley” which REALLY spoke to me as a middle Kentucky resident. Those farmers are getting screwed over every chance the Government gets, and hell I LIVE IN tobacco town U.S.A.
Another fact that makes this album so very good, is the fact that Ol Mr. Shooter Jennings produced it..in fact he produced A BUNCH of good albums this year. He is accumulating a TON of accolades for his work he is doing, and their combination is ringing true on songs like ‘the Luckier You Get”.
This band has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and right now they are a well oiled machine cranking out some of their best tunes yet. “The Day I Learned To Lie To You”, as an addict this song makes me stomach sick. I can not fathom ever hearing this one live. I lied to so many people I loved, and took working the steps several times to make up all those shortcomings.
10. Jesse Daniel Rollin’ On
Now, for anybody that knows me and knows me well..just KNOWS I LOVE Country Music. I love most forms of it, and this young man is a loyal follower of the subject like I am. His albums are basically stripped down beer drinking music, and that is an endearing quality in my opinion. I want to publicly say that I have copious amounts of love and respect for this man and his music.
This album goes right into truck driving songs and twang filled drinking songs, that would have been equally accepted 40 years ago, as I accept them now. “If You Ain’t Happy Now (You Never Will Be)”, is a modern day masterpiece about not lamenting in the past. It is a good lesson in being content in the moment, but it is also the musicianship that makes this song…and album so good. And the fact that Mr. Tommy Detamore produced it, makes it an echelon better.
“Rollin’ On” is a rowdy ass classic Bakersfield sound truck driving song, or it can be taken as a true old fashioned road dog song. It makes me want to plug in the album, start my car and drive…..really….really…fast. It even has a good old instrumental.
BUT HEY It has a song that opens with a fiddle filled double stop, called “St, Claire’s Retreat”, and an in the doghouse song called “Bringin’ Home The Roses”. How many times have us husbands and boyfriends stayed out drunk, and had to come crawling home with flowers? There’s a good line in there that he might need those flowers more for himself ( meaning his gave ).
11. Tami Neilson CHICKABOOM!
It’s time once again for me to divert away from the more Traditional Country, and steer your attention over to some of the choices I made that were more Rockabilly and Country derivatives. Now, in 2008 I remember her first album Red Dirt Angel, and in these years it has been cool to watch her evolve..and to be honest I think this album has been VASTLY overlooked by everyone else.
“Call Your Mama” is one of my favorite female songs of 2020, but so was “Ten Tonne Truck”. It contains a clever line that when the pie gets bigger, everybody wants a slice…but I been cooking since back in 89. I mean, that is a terrific line about hard work. She is defiantly not afraid to sing about how hard she has paid her dues to get here.
“16 Miles Of Chain” was another good song in the middle of this album that stands out to me. As a divorced man of many years I truly related to this song here, and her vocal range was outstanding on this as well. It steam rolls right into a song called “Tell Me That You Love Me”, a true Rockabilly anthem, but yet it meanders into a wistful ballad like “Any Fool With A Heart”. This album will leave a sapid flavor into anybody’s vinyl collection.
12. Ward Davis Black Cats And Crows.
Ever feel so down on your luck lately? Ever listen to a song that describes someone whom is under the ball and chain of addiction? Well TO ME “Black Cats And Crows” is. I am not totally sure if he meant it to speak to me about my past addiction ( I’M ALMOST ONE YEAR CLEAN), but I felt like that on pills. There was no light and no way out, the Devil wanted me to believe I could not escape the clutches of the pills…but it did. This album came out right after my rehab, and I used it to help me.
“Colorado” is one of his trademark songs that has quickly been embraced by all of us as a local music anthem. But let me tell you what it means to me..a few years back I was supposed to go to Colorado to meet my birth mother ( I am adopted), and I think of Colorado often. Days before I was supposed to go, she changed her mind and didn’t want to meet me. So once again, I know that he has a different meaning for this song…it makes me cry.
One of the songs he began playing live at shows that ended up on this album is called “Papa And Mama”. This one is about an abusive father and husband, seen through the eyes of their son. As time passes the man continues the abuse, until the son has enough and kills his father. The song comes to a close during a visit to the prison between the son and the mother.
Mr. Ward is one of the most overlooked songwriters today, and if Nashville had any brains it would be more kind to him and his ilk, because he is well on his way to becoming a Legend. These 14 songs on this album are reminiscent of many of the Country albums we grew up with, and the wonderful writers that penned those songs. Mr. Ward is along that caliber of a writer, and delivers his cuts in his own fashion making his version of his song unique.
13. Steve Earle Ghosts Of West Virginia
There are a few artists out there as multi sided to me as Mr. Steve Earle and his antics. Equally unpredictable is his music with me, it’s either hit or miss. This time he hit the mark with me on an anthem for coal miners. As a father, my heart goes out to him, and I cannot begin to fathom the loss he feels. NO PARENT should bury their child..EVER. I have always been a fan of some of his music, and this album which was a concept album of sorts, was one of his best overall.
It focuses on the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that transpired in 2010 and killed 29 men. All of these songs together examine the historical role of coal in rural communities, and the political aspects of why many of them voted the way they did years ago. He wanted to speak to them on their own terms, in his own way.
It was a short album at only 30 minutes, but it was extremely redolent of regular life in the Appalachian region of the United States with songs like “Union, God And Country”. See the coal miners have a true brotherhood about them, and this album boasts of that honor, as he mentions all of their names passionately as he continues on “It’s About Blood”.
“Black Lung” two words every miner wants to avoid, and it laments the sorrow and pain behind laying around dying of it. Black Lung is caused by breathing the air in the coal mines, deep beneath the Earth. Mr. Steve’s gritty vocals on this album compliment the poignant subject matter here, and make this album pure gold.
14. Jaime Wyatt Neon Cross
Usually with many artists I do not enjoy their second album as wholeheartedly as their first, but in this instance, Miss Jaime knocked it out of the park the second time around. It starts out kind of slow with “Sweet Mess”, and I had to listen really close to get sucked into it…but it happened. We all have shattered breakup songs like this one, where we know we are forgotten.
“Neon Cross” was an amazing asking to be released song, so her soul can gravitate to the neon lifestyle she identifies with as a Country singer. Pitiful perfume, dark glasses, gold liquor and alligator shoes,” describes Miss Jaime quite well I think.
“Just A Woman” is one of the slow songs that adorn this album, filled with wonderful guest stars, like Miss Jessi Colter and my buddy Mr. Shooter Jennings who produced this album. Another of the songs that she is merchandising heavily off of is “Rattlesnake Girl”, which is indeed one of the high points of the album for me.
She has grown in her songwriting skills, and her vocals are also evolving quite well. She has found her niche in Country Music now, and I hope in the future she capitalizes on all of this, to become a juggernaut…after all SHE IS a rattlesnake girl!
15. Corb lund Agricultural Tragic
I personally LOVE Mr. Corb Lund’s music..I love it all. I relate to the “Old Men” that I love to learn from, they make the best corn liquor and can teach the best lessons. The duet on here with Miss Jaida Dreyer “I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey” is a downright heart raising honky tonk thumper that is sure to quench your thirst for good Country Music.
“Grizzly Bear Blues” is a good old fashioned jam, his lyrics are not very complex, just good old fashioned Country from the great white north (Canada to be exact). These 12 songs are nothing short of amazing, choked full of stories about famed western author Mr. Louis L’Amour. I spent many a nights reading his paperback books, not ever gunfight was won by the good guys for sure!
I love to just sit back and dwell on his western stories and prairie dog tales. They make me happy, and I listen to them when I don’t want to journey into things that are extremely complicated. When I just want to be a part of nature, whether it be as a predator or an observer…Mr. Corb never fails to disappoint me and I admire him for that.
16. Porter Union Loved And Lost
These two are a rare overlooked treasure for sure, and to begin with the song “Laundry” was one of the best songs of the year, right off the bat. A well written, twisted plot tale of cheating…and checking your pockets. Now, mind you these two have kind of gone on a hiatus for personal reasons. That by no means makes this album any less integral, and I pray with all my heart they return. These are two genuine good people sing genuine good music.
They don’t necessarily make music in a “duet” from per se, they kind of flip all over the board with songs like “We Got It Right”. I took this song from the stories of them meeting one another, but you can change it to speak to you as well.
To me, this album starts with “Loved And Lost”. Even though I do not have anybody to really love me as a man, and sometimes I am past that need where you accept the fact you are alone. It has a song called “Pennies” that I compared to an old Porter Waggoner song, but these lyrics are WAY deeper..and I KNOW that Mr. Porter himself would have LOVED this album.
And then we have the guest spot by a former TOP lister Miss Kayla Ray. Yes, this album is choked full of amazing, well written songs. Once again I MUST RAVE about how the song “Laundry” makes me cry some honky tonk tears. MEN GET CHEATED ON TOO, and secretly many of them don’t want to admit it…but they hit us too.
17. Brent Cobb Keep ‘Em On They Toes.
This young man couldn’t make a bad album or write bad songs in any way. “Shut Up And Sing” is a good answer song to the people that complain of politics in the music. It talks heavily about the current state of affairs in society. I just flat out enjoy this man’s vocals and it makes me RELAX and slow down, and sometimes that’s what a record is supposed to do.
“This Side Of The River” is another one of those songs that introduces him to us as a person, as the other albums mentioned places he grew up at. Miss Nikki Lane makes this album a true gem as she adds her vocals to the song “Soapbox”. He illustrates the need to vocalize your opinions are not as needed as to get off the soapbox and get along.
“The World Is Ending” was a good ending to a good album, it’s a good calm and easy feeling type song. Lastly, it goes into a good one called “Little Stuff”. It’s just a simple song about simple things in life, more often than not we let life overwhelm us, and all of the stress of our problems drive us off the deep end.
18. Zephaniah Ohora Listening To The Music.
Parts of this album I got to hear in the early stages, during the Ameripolitan Awards and I got to chat with him about it as well. I knew quite a bit about this album before it came into fruition. It was produced by Mr. Neal Casal and amazingly enough it was recorded in New York, and shortly after they finished the recording Mr. Neal passed away.
“Black And Blue” is a song about the stubbornness of lovers, and it goes right into the “It’s Not That Easy Today”. I guess going into old troubled relationships were easier the first few times, “like a worn out pair of shoes”. Once we REALLY look at ourselves into the mirror we sometimes see our true honest selves.
The title track here is a veridical perception of some of life’s ups and downs growing up in a place you weren’t really born and raised in. I did the same thing as a young adult. I would sit and listen to those old records, and lament that I was born too late to meet these heroes.
Songs like “Living Too Long” showcase his influences, as he sings his own songs in the style of a few old heroes I can hear. At the same time I always try to base my opinions on their own artistic ability, not just who they are influenced by. The steel guitar work on the song “You Make It Easy To Love Again” was amazing, and the words are nothing short of stunning.
19. David Adam Byrnes Neon Town
This album was a late entry that was sent to my email, and I am blown away by this one here! It truly is a genre crossing project that could be embraced by Traditional Country or Red Dirt, with well written songs that target all the right audiences. I can easily see today’s ladies enjoying the song “I Can Give You One”, while a guy like me can enjoy the up tempo beat, and the steel guitar work.
A good lost her breakup song on here is “She Only Wanted Flowers” made this album stand out above the rest of them, but the song called “Signs” was hands down one of the top 10 songs of 2020. I mean, I played it so many times my buddies at work know the words by heart.
If today’s Country could ever pull it’s head out of it’s ass, it could have this young man and folks like Mr. Jon Pardi filling the radio with songs everyone can understand like “Tequila Salt And Time”. If he ever outdoes this album “I Ain’t Seen It Yet”..
20. Dalton Mills Dalton Mills
This is another album that almost slipped under my radar, and I got a heads up from my buddy Mr. W.B.Walker, as he and I always swap music we know each other will admire. Boy, was he correct here..we have an up and coming dynamo here…let me tell you why.
This one starts out with “Tornadoes” now as a factory worker of 15 years, the first line grabbed me. As a recovered addict, I know VERY WELL about the company I kept bared a lot on me. When you loose faith in yourself, you cannot win. “John On The Run” was full of gravely vocals and quick hammer on notes, but it had a hidden meaning to others out there. It’s not easy to love or support an addict, this song suggests that, but it has a poignant end.
This album is full of well written tragedy and pain. “Outta Tune” is a very good picking tune with some good flow to it. It teaches us to look at both the good and the bad, but it flips to songs like “Too Many Dreams”.
That song is outstanding in every aspect, and is a classic story of a hard working man that destroyed himself. A story of a farmer with lots of dreams and even more demons, and some damn fine guitar work. I relate well with this song as well because I know my job is killing me as well.
21. Southern Culture On the Skids Kudzu Records Presents.
This is a breakthrough album in history, as they release their VERY RARE 2003 45 RPM box set (only 1000 exist). This new remastered album has been expanded to 12 songs…6 are new. This band is one of the few I BEGAN this musical journey with, and I owe them a big deal of gratitude. This band is just as integral to me as Split Lip Rayfield, Robbie Fulks and The Old 97’s.
All of the songs here are recorded quite well, and the opening song called “Whip It On Me”, brought me right into the feel that I enjoy from their music. Now, right off the bat I’ll begin by saying I do not collect 45s. I’m not really sure what songs were in the box set.
To a serious collector, this will not be a new album..but as of now I haven’t heard most of these yet. “Lost Weekend” was a great middle of the album song, every regular American waits for the weekend so they can wasted all weekend. If you keep drinking at the bar, you cannot afford a wife alright!
“Just Like I Treat You” is another one of them I liked a lot as it spirals toward the end of the album here. It’s just your typical relationship song, common sense male and female stuff. The album closes with “Jesus Took My Burden”, even though it had a few covers, I STILL LOVED this album and I bet you will too!
22. Clint Black Out Of Sane.
The amount of great albums that came out this year from some of the stars of the 80s and 90s was plentiful. Now, this album was one of those that amazed me. I did really like this album and to be honest it was one of his finest albums in some time.
“Hell Bent” is a great song to begin this ride with, and it displays his flawless vocals. Trust me, I am so very excited to see this, and hear this album. It makes me so very elated to see these names back onto my TOP lists. This is his first album in over 5 years, and his 23rd studio album.
“America (I’m Still In Love With You)” is another high point of the album, along with the toe tapping “Can’t Quit Thinkin'”. It immediately took me back to the days of all of the denim and dusters of my own local Country bar…my much younger days.
23. Arlo McKinley Die Midwestern.
Mr.Arlo was the last artist that Mr. John Prine and his son Mr. Jody both signed on Oh Boy Records, and this album was produced by Mr. Matt Ross-Spang. Now, if you have ever been to one of his shows, you will remember some of these songs. I myself heard him perform “Bag Of Pills” many times.
These ten songs were recorded in Memphis, and as I stated he has been playing most of them for many years. As a recovered addict, I myself have always related to “Bag Of Pills”. As 2020 passes, one of the greatest accomplishments was my sobriety from a pill addiction.
“Gone For Good” is another song that he has been playing for some time now live. He must have wrote that one after a long relationship, that must have had an abrupt ending. Right now, he is in his prime of everything and gaining steam every day. This album is by far his best offering yet, and I REALLY enjoyed it.
“Die Midwestern” is about his town of Cincinnati (which I myself love to visit being a Bengals fan), and the ups and downs of living there. It’s interesting to hear these songs from his perspective.
24. Mike And The Moonpies Touch Of You: The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart.
Most people that ardently love Country Music know whom Mr. Gary Stewart was and how he embellished the genre as the King Of Honky Tonk. He is often vastly overlooked and unknown by many, and this album features 10 songs previously slated to come out at a later date.
Mr. Gary committed suicide in 2003, while mourning the death of his wife from pneumonia. His death rocked the Country Music realm, and left a gaping hole in the honky tonk area there. He wrote so many wonderful songs that he recorded, and many others cut as well.
Trying to place Mr. Gary’s vocals into these wonderful songs is the other half of the fun. “Bottom Of The Pile” is a song about a bar that workers go after the work bell rings for the day. However, the best song on this album for me was “The Gold Barstool”. The album was released on his May birthday, and produced by Mr. Adam Odor.
It features many other names on it like Miss Courtney Patton, Miss Jamie Lin Wilson, and more on some of the songs. The band itself did wonderful justice to the songs, and I’m quite sure Mr. Gary would have been so very proud of this album. I have gained a LOT of respect for mike And The Moonpies for their passionate gesture toward such a beautiful legend.
25. Jeannie Seely An American Classic.
Once again we encounter another true Country Music Legend among the ranks of my TOP 50 list. Not only is it important to enjoy and promote these albums, but I find many of them better than what is “popular” in the underground scene. We just do not have many of the Opry Grand ladies left, and I hope the Opry rekindles that spark here.
So many other big names adorn this album here like The Whites and Mr. Steve Wariner on the powerful song called “If You Could Call It That”. Anybody that does the regular work life can identify with this one. At the same time she is going through the motions of a breakup. Her vocals and ferocity in her tone were just flawlessly captured here on this album.
“When Two Worlds Collide” was one of her classic duets songs with the great Legend Mr. Bill Anderson. Everybody knows the subject and style of this song here, followed by a good song called “Old Flames (can’t Hold A Candle To You)” with another up and comer named Mr. Waylon Payne.
This album closes with so many good old fashioned two steps and ballads, and ANY TOP LIST that omits this album is foolish. It stands out like a shining beacon of true Country Music bliss in a modern day dumpster fire of “modern country music”…enough said.
26. The Panhandlers
This is Red Dirt’s biggest super group, and one of the damn finest albums that came out in 2020, the songs were well chosen and well written. “West Texas In My Eye” is about the life of a musician, and they take turns on the verses like many 4 member bands do. That fact doesn’t make me loose sight of the meaning of the song, which was what I was afraid of.
“The Flatland Life” is another good toe tapper with smooth vocals and even smoother fiddle work. The fiddle and banjo push this song forward quite nicely, as it goes into songs like “West Texas Girl”. That is a slow moving waltz with more well written lyrics. It painted a truly awesome picture in my mind of a ride with a honky tonk queen, a SINGLE one at that, and a fan of the jukebox. This song was perhaps one of the top 10 songs of 2020..just amazing.
This album is filled with truly amazing story songs that I love myself to be honest, I’m hoping you do too. “Cactus Flower” was a good one but it’s the almost 5 minute long closer called “Caprockin'” that is a grand finale.
27. Billy Don Burns The Country Blues.
Just like Mr. Arlo, I got to hear many of these songs before this album culminated. This is another terrific album from a Country Music Legend…folks, I’m going to proclaim this from the highest mountaintops. WE MUST pay mind to these few Legends we have left NOW. WHEN are we going to WAKE UP and acknowledge their contributions to this genre?
These 12 songs that were recorded and released this year from Mr. Billy were absolutely timeless classics, and I enjoyed this album ever so much. It has a bunch of songs he wrote with Songwriting Legend Mr. Mack Vickery like “No Shortage Of The Blues”.
He also cut the Billie Gant song called “No God In Juarez” , that we all have been enjoying all of these years. However, one of the songs that hit me here was “The Prison Song”. I remember VERY well when Mr. Billy went on his vacation. WE ALL wrote him and visited, and he wrote me back.
Another song on this album that spoke to me was ” You Lied Our Love Away”, when you were involved in a bad marriage like I was this song will ring true. Nobody can sing breakup songs like Mr. Billy Don Burns. Nobody will ever compare to his relevance or his importance to me, and to history in general.
Well, look what I found here…a debut album from someone new I found while digging one day. She and producer Mr. Luke Wooten have compiled a cache of 10 original songs here that are sure to please any hardcore Country Music fan.
“Your Forever Will Never Say Goodbye” is just amazingly transpicuous and her vocals are just heavenly. “Why Do I Still Want You” is a secular song that uses Bible themes do get her point across. That human wanting for someone that hurts us every time..this is a masterpiece of pain. This entire album is a total masterpiece of pain.
“Somebody’s Drinking About You” was another well written song about sneaking out and cheating. It is sung from the woman’s point of view as she stays home and drinks over him, and his antics.
‘Busy Counting Bridges” was another perfect honky tonk thumping song, about accumulating past mistakes in leaps and bounds. It’s full of guitar twang and holds a steady raging beat, with more easy to relate to lyrics. She has a spectacular voice with an even more spectacular range..you’ll be hearing more of her soon.
29. willie Nelson First Rose Of Spring.
I told you guys that my TOP list was going to be filled with many Legends of Country Music. Mr. Willie appears TWICE on my list, and brings his 70th (yeah you read that right)..album to us, produced by Mr. Buddy Cannon.
Ironically my favorite song on this album was one that Nelson did not write called “Stealing Home”. Yeah, father time stole my home from me too, it took all my relatives and my childhood play areas. Where I grew up is gone, replaced by things I no longer recognize.
It opens with a slow and pleasant “First Rose Of Spring”, that captures his vocals so passionately that you finally see why Mr. Willie Nelson is the strongest Legend we still have with us now. We aren’t going to have many more albums from these people like this, and we MUST hold them like treasures NOW.
“We Are The Cowboys” left us by the late Mr. Billy Joe Shaver, he worked a miraculous wonder on this song. He ran through several cover songs here, from a few of his fellow Outlaw buddies like Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell Momma Ever Raised”.
30. Doc Watson Doc Watson And Gaither Carlton.
I wrote a big article about this one back in August of this year. I KNEW then and there it would indeed be in my TOP list. I just LOVED ALL 50 of these records, and I have been spinning these albums all year. This whole performance was captured and preserved with as much love and care, as I had for in listening to it.
Many of the songs on here were wordless fiddle tunes, save for a few songs that have lyrics. “Willie Moore” had some lyrics, and had a story within the song. You can read more about this album up top on the link.
31. Saints Eleven This Town.
This one is another album that almost slipped past my radar, given to me by a PR company. It’s a short one, but it’s a good one, and you’re going to see a bunch more of this band on here in the future for sure.
“My Home Is” is a true road dog song, about watching kids grow up while you are away and working. You can view this one from a musician point of view or a truck drivers view, whichever speaks to you more. This Texas based band has three previous releases, and this album pretty much solidifies their sound and style.
“This Town” the title track of this album is a toe tapping song about meeting a past love, and past memories about days long ago. His ex girlfriends family, old houses and others. It goes into a song called “The Crown” with a bunch of Southern Rock flare mixed with other influences.
I thought the ferocity of their music mixed with their intense songwriting made this album one of the best new finds of 2020 for me. I’m glad I was turned onto their music and look forward to seeing them live soon.
32. T.J. Hernandez Destination Unknown.
I have been a huge fan of his for some time now, and this album here is his finest work to date, with 11 well done songs. One of them being “Desperate Men” by Mr. Billy Don Burns. Overall this album was done very well production wise and it sounds damn good.
Songs like “Catch Me If You Can” were well written story songs that paint an overall picture in your mind. Equally good was ” A Writer’s Mind”. Working two jobs and leaving the family behind for gigs, the fun, the hurt and the gamble of making no money haunt the writer’s mind. The songs these people leave behind will live on long after they pass away, and that fact alone should be the best reward.
“Ditches” was a good song with enough twang to fill your ears and challenge your rehabilitation attitude. Whatever demons haunt you if that road gets you in it’s ditches you are in trouble.
“Right All My Wrongs” was one of the better songs that closed out this album, along with the song “Blaze Your Own Trail”. A fight to stay sober was my 2020 fight and I am finally on my way to a bright and clean future.
33. Andrea And Mud Bad news Darlin’
And now it’s time for my friends from the Atlanta area Miss Andrea and Mr. Kyle Mud Moseley, whom once again released a damn fine new album this year. I’m not sure if many other media outlets even had this one on their radar..but I say they are foolish.
“Hellhounds” was classic Andrea And Mud shock rockabilly stuff, which is what I was looking for when I got my hands on this album. That GOOOOD smooth baritone voice of Mud on songs like “The Reasons Why She Cries”. Together these two make up a spooky but marvelous juggernaut duo.
You just cannot lump these two into a genre, or style at all. Folks I just list stuff I loved and stuff I thought spoke to me as an individual more than the rest. “Little Blue Truck” is a good steel guitar filled little ditty that pretty much sealed the deal for me here.
The last song on this album started out to be an old Skeeter Davis song, damn I miss her being on the Opry and the WSM dial. Followed by some damn fine surf type Rockabilly stuff. You need to have a different type of palate to enjoy all of my TOP 50 choices, and that is what I strive to do and what I strive to promote.
34. 49 Winchester III
Another album that I found by accident was this one by a band I found a year ago, these five guys can tear up some Country Music. This album might be a surprise to many, but once you finish reading and delving into this band..you’ll ascertain why I placed it on here.
“Long Hard Life” was a good opener, full of that familiar twang that I look for in a Country album. I think every guy can pretty much relate to this song, raising kids and you gotta pay bills..long hard life, and don’t end up in jail.
“Hays, Kansas” was one of the middle songs that spoke to me the most, with some fine guitar tone work. It’s followed by a damn fine toe tapper called “Chemistry” which clearly describes this band. They have a certain chemistry between them that made them different to me, I found them last year but their album came out too early to include them in 2019.
One of the best songs they have is on this album, and it’s called “You Never Did Love Me”. This is a typical bar banger that these honky tonk bands all too often pump out into the pipeline, and that is by no means a bad thing…if this band isn’t on your radar, you need to fine tune your radar!
35. Johnny Falstaff Lost In The City Lights.
Hey ONCE AGAIN y’all knew it…Legends adorn this TOP 50 list. Much like Southern Culture On The Skids and others THIS MAN ALSO began my descent into the halls of Texas Country Music. He’s been destroying stages for so many years that it would be ludicrous to omit this album.
The title track here opens on a marvelous note with a life lesson song, I been lost in many a city’s lights to be honest. After the first song you will easily tell that this will be one hell of a classic Falstaff album, with precise note for note guitar wizardry.
This was actually one of the albums on my TOP list that I LOVED every song on the album for sure. I only gave each album on here 4 paragraphs ( so I can publish it easier) so I couldn’t rave about this entire album part by part. “Move A Mountain” is another high point on this album.
‘Tonight” is a old time sounding toe tapper filled with Rockabilly twang and a high paced beat, you can cut a rug to. Hell any night is a good night to fall in love. So I hope that YOU fall in love with this album as much as I did.
36. Colter Wall Western Swing And Waltzes And Other Punchy Songs.
I simply would be remiss if I did not include this young man from Canada Mr. Colter. He means a lot to me, because his second album contained a song that my father pretty much passed away to. He had dementia very badly, and thought Kate McCannon was Marty Robbins. As soon as I heard his song “Big Iron” which REALLY WAS one Mr. Marty recorded, I loved this album.
“Henry And Sam” was one of the songs I heard him play live before, but many of the songs on this album are newly recorded by him. Some of them I do recognize as cover songs, and others I do not. This isn’t necessarily a “studio album”, but the song “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” was a funny story about being approached by a hipster in a hat.
He makes the kind of music I truly love the most, those old western tales. They take me back to being a kid…a young kid watching Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger. He brings back some cherished memories to me about my Dad, and I drift off to dream during his music all the time.
“Diamond Joe” was a story about working for a man named Diamond Joe, and the album closes with a song called “Houlihans At The Holiday Inn” about the road and the singer life. There’s a good line in this song “staring through a dirty, cracked windshield”.
37. Kyle Nix Lightning On The Mountain And Other Short Stories.
Another album that will end up on a LOT of best of lists, is this one by former Turnpike Troubadour member Mr. Kyle Nix. In fact the band here are the Turnpikes, but make no mistake..this album solidifies his identity as a solo artist quite remarkably. I’ll admit I was kind of wary about this being an outlet to continue as Turnpike….how WRONG I WAS..and how happy I was about being wrong.
“Manifesto” is a bad ass song about how his Grandpa fought the nazis, and how he hopes his Grandpa loved his music. This whole album is full of that recognizable fiddle work, double stops and the warm flow of that tone that sticks out like a rooster wearing socks.
These 17 songs were a whopping 59 minutes, and that solidifies it as a top notch album with songs like “Blue Eyes”. Love and losing sure beats not living at all is correct. Love is a gamble you sometimes need to bet on. “Shelby ’65” is a rowdy one that it thunders into about teenagers in a fast fast car that evolves as they grow up. This whole album was so well written that I cannot stop spinning it, and I skip albums in my rotation to play this one again.
The overall length of this album prevents me from elaborating on it as a whole, but “Women Of Steel” is amazing….just beyond amazing..Mr. Wes Sharon did a downright outstanding job of capturing these tales of sorrow. This album moves him up to a whole new echelon in the music community.
38. Wade Bowen And Randy Rogers Hold My Beer Volume 2.
Many of the artists in the Texas Music community have side projects ( like my Panhandlers pick), and for years these two have knocked it out of the park here. They have a modern day Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley type format here, and that is not something anybody else really has out there.
“Rodeo Clown” is a downright amazing and cleverly written song about a woman who left him for an actual rodeo clown. The chorus has a terrific hook in it, and the steel guitar work on this song make it absolute GOLD. It goes right into “Habits” a drunk and high honkies in a honky tonk song, as they make references to Haggard and Jones in this one.
“Ode To Ben Dorcy” is a song to the best roadie that ever lived, it has Mr. Waylon and Mr. Shooter on it. I wrote a big article on him at one time, you can read that here. He was indeed a living Legend just as much as the stars were.
“Speak To Me Jukebox” was one of the closing songs here, which makes many references to old Country songs, is a self explanatory song about finding solace in the jukebox. Music can indeed heal many things indifferent ways, and sometimes you need that beloved jukebox.
39. TN Jet The Country.
I was introduced to his music a few years ago while he opened for Cody Jinks in Nashville.Since then he has been evolving and growing in leaps and bounds in the music community. He has gone from a one man band to full band, and back to one man band format..he does it all.
“Stray Dogs” displays this man’s mirific ability to write some truly amazing songs, and you juxtapose that with a full band, you have an amazing album here. “The Raven And The Dove” is about good and bad days in life, the ups and downs of life that everyone can relate to.
“Hands On You” is a good song about seeing your ex being held by another. It’s a sorrow filled, but upbeat song about a jealous ex lover. “Someone To You” has a clever twist to it about rather being a no one if you aren’t someone to you..that is ingenious and well composed.
This album closes with “Sparklin’ Burnin’ Fuse” a slow song about a crazy roller coaster ride love, and many other meanings. You can listen to it, and gather whatever meaning you want out of it. That is the beauty of music…you can take whatever meaning speaks to you and use it for your own therapy.
40. Waylon Payne Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher And Me.
This one was interesting to me, and I do not care who likes or dislikes the fact I added this one. This man faces many challenges in the business and the game given whom his parents are, topped with the fact he has come out as a gay man. Once you listen to songs like “Sins Of The Father” you have fist pumping Country songs about picking up bad habits from your father.
Drugs and drinking, hatred for men and women, not wanting to have kids…it’s all on this album here. He pulls no punches and holds nothing back, given the title of the album. I think it took a lot of courage to put this album out, and I’m glad he did. He did some damn fine work on the Jeannie Seely album, he wrote some terrific songs for others and he has contributed so much to Country Music that I couldn’t overlook this album.
As a recovered addict myself of heroin and pills I used “Back From The Grave” as my anthem for being 10 months clean and sober. I wanted him to know how much I admired his album, and what he has done for Country Music has not gone unnoticed.
Many people have no idea he even has another album out, and they have used the moniker ‘debut album”…but in a slightly weird way it is. I think this is being used as a catalyst for a whole new beginning, and that’s not a bad thing at all…nope.
41. Craig Gerdes Tough As Nails.
I feel the need to constantly reiterate to you, that number 41 is no less as liked or no less as good as number 3 or 4 here! I loved ALL 50 of these choices equally, and there was no specific reason I ordered them as I did. “If Guitars Were Guns” was one of the ones that opened this album here, about Jesse James, and being a seasoned road dog.
Throughout both of his albums, Mr. Craig has been paying his dues out there on the road, and in the smoke filled dive bars all over America. Filled with a ton of amazing twang filled guitar wizardry, this album has tons of rowdy songs like “Between The Cradle And The Grave”.
If you love steel guitar pushing a slow song into your head than you need to hear “Pennies, Feathers And Dimes” In my opinion it was one of the better songs on this album, it had everything a savant of Country Music could want.
“Tonight’s Not The Night” was a good doghouse song, about us men and our refusal to change. We go out and drink and come crawling home to our wives and girlfriends, promising to change….later. If that sounds like YOU, then YOU need this album in your collection.
42. Victoria Bailey Jesus, Red Wine And Patsy Cline.
A few of these last album were new finds for me, ones I got turned onto by others or I found by rabbit holing around on research. This one in fact is a debut album produced by Mr. Jeremy Long, it is 9 songs of whiskey soaked smooth and vibrant pure Country.
“Honky Tonk Woman” instantly displays her angelic vocals, and overall format of the album. It sets the tone up for some off the grid Traditional Country, that you need to find in websites like this one. She has an ardent passion about her music and a different demeanor than most I encounter.
“Homegrown Roots” was a more twangier almost Bluegrass tune, and I caught the shout out to the Station Inn. But more over all this song brings us closer to what makes her tick inside. Picking all night, many references to Hank Williams and Patsy.
One of the last good ones on this album was the song called “Skid Row”, a rolling and smooth dusty song about history. You know Country Music came from the poor and destroyed areas of the world. She even mentions the great Mr. Ralph Mooney! This young lady has all the right ideas and a DAMN FINE Country album.
43. India Ramey Shallow Graves.
I knew of this name before, but never delved into her last album, and I stumbled upon this one in fact just a few weeks ago. Almost right away I was swept away by her unique sound on songs like the title song “Shallow Graves”. Her vocals have been captured by producer Mr. Mark Petaccia with precision. The foggy guitar work makes this a poignant honky tonker, about having skeletons in the closet…we all have them that can bury us!
“Up To No Good” is an awesome and upbeat song about getting rowdy out there, from a local artists point of view. This isn’t an easy life at all, and it is not for the weary or weak. I been following these people around for years….she makes it clear that she won’t be used, but on the same token wants to be rowdy.
“You And Me Against The World” is one of the middle songs here, where she met a guy that got her attention by being an outlaw. But it has a few hidden meanings and twists..at least it did to me.
“Montgomery Behind Me” was one of the best songs on this album here, it is a good song about leaving your past. She didn’t exactly fit in or was accepted so she left her past. She closes the album with a haunting and poignant version of the Hank Williams song “Angel Of Death”.
44. Ali Harter Near The Knuckle.
This is another one I found in a late night of just browsing around for new bands from Oklahoma. She is popular in th Oklahoma community, but new to this website. It starts out with “Near The Knuckle” about a server who is picking for tips, down on her luck. She has some gravely vocals that have a totally different quality about her, ONE SONG will show you that she means business.
“Brandy And Joe” was a true honky tonk anthem about a trashy couple, and when Joe died, Brandy was happy..but he made it out alive. Started slashing tires and getting back at her. It’s a wild ride about huffing gasoline fumes and living on the edge.
“Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty” is a damn masterpiece. Its one of those slick songs you have to really listen to, to get the whole meaning. You can use it to apply it to whatever work you do. Do what you love and do it well. “Great State Of Oklahoma” is one good way to get to know her as a person, and how they love to make fun of Texans.
The album starts to close with “You’re Crazy”, man I related to this one well. How do they drink all night and go to work in the morning like that? Well, 20 years ago, I could do that. This album has some bad ass songs on it , and when you mix it up with her unique vocals, you get one of the finest honky tonk albums I have heard all year.
45. Brandon Jesse Second Wind.
You want to find a VERY unique album, then you need to check into THIS ONE. It opens with a song called “85 Yards Behind”. This man has a RARE baritone voice, that you just don’t find anywhere else. You been sleeping with the wrong red headed girl buddy….cause he is a lot more scary and he is 85 yards behind!
“Gone Forever” is another good one about all of the good Outlaws being gone forever. If he is singing about Nashville then he hit it right on the head there, even though there are indeed some terrific albums coming from there..the big dogs are gone.
Many of his songs are fast paced high volume Country thumpers, until you get to the ballad called “Life Of Mine” which proves that not only can he master fast paced songs, he can croon a slow ballad just the same.
“Songwriter Song” is a warning to people that THINK they are ready for this business, and asks what about the ones that fail? It talks about the liars and the cheaters, sharp and poisoned tongues. This entire album was a pleasant ride around a different world all together.
46. The Dillards Old Road New Again.
I bet you wouldn’t even think of having the Dillards (AKA The Darlings) on my TOP list, did you? Well this album was much too awesome to NOT list on here. Mr. Rodney Dillard is in my opinion a Legend in his own right, and they were a big part of my youth.
‘Common Man” was a good smooth song about living under a lagom state of mind. But not only does this album have good songs, it has timeless feeling behind the vocals. “Always Gonna Be You” was a prime example of the fiddle work I’m looking for on a Bluegrass album.
This album boasts a plethora of big name guest stars like Mr. Don Henley, Mr. Sam Bush and Mr. Ricky Skaggs, as you hear on the song “The Whole World Round”. it goes into a song called “Tearing Our Liberty Down”, about the state of things in society right now. The amber waves of grain aren’t waving anymore…good line.
“Old Road New Again” was a good title for this album, and it sure was a pleasant feeling to hear some new recordings from this beloved man, and his band. I may face more criticism for including this one too….but I simply could care less. It is a good good album.
47. Margo PriceThat’s How Rumors Get Started.
Well we all have those people that every time their lips are parted, that’s how rumors get started…right. This was indeed one of the many albums I was really looking forward to. She did not disappoint me on this new album, choked full of fantastic songs.
I personally enjoyed her first album more than anything yet, however this one was really good in it’s own right. on “Twinkle Twinkle” I too remember the headphones in my mom’s car..and getting busted with underage liquor. Oh MAN did some of this one evoke some memories.
“Prisoner Of the Highway” is a good song about those rolling wheels, and being a road dog. She spent many years playing in dive bars and anywhere she could to get to where she is now. She overcame a lot of hurdles to become the Miss Margo we all know and love now. I mean, she even goes so far as to refer to her unborn child as she laments about being a prisoner of the highway.
“I’d Die For You” finished this album up here, now I used this song to speak to me in a different use, as I thought of my daughter. Every time I listen to this album, I discover something more I enjoy about it.
48. The Jensen Sisters Yellow Frames.
Here is another one I found in a night of searching for new bands. These two young ladies are from Minnesota, but they have been touring all over the nation together for a few years now. Despite a big push to them to become more radio friendly, they refused and chose to stick to their hearts…and THAT IS where they gain the attention of people like me.
“Beat Of A Bad Habit” sure brings you to an appreciation of their harmonies, and their sound. They stuck so ardently to their decision to remain this Country, and in time I fully think that it’s going to pan out for them!
“Matches” once again displayed some terrific vocals overall, and it was one of the better songs on the album. Again, we find another well written song on a rare find album here.
“Lightning Rods” is close to the end of the album, with a more modern sound to it, but it remains a traditional song. As long as they keep this formula, I am very sure they can keep gaining momentum here. It closes with “Yellow Frames” which was a REALLY cool song about glasses, but you can see a few other meanings if you really listen.
49. Charley Crockett Welcome To Hard Times.
“Welcome To Hard Times” is just a good old honky tonk song, I would be absolutely wrong if I did not include this man’s album on this list. I mean his very demeanor is as country as it gets. Even when he does cover songs like “Blackjack County Chains” his albums are still outstanding.
You can hear his style remains on this album, see many artists develop a certain style through time. I think that Mr. Charley already had his own style long ago, you can defiantly pick out his voice out.
On songs like “Paint It Blue” where we have an upbeat tempo, and an outstanding band accompanying his vocals here, you can listen and let the songs speak to you for your own meaning.
“The Man That Time Forgot” man have I felt like that before, many times..many times. Just one of those black cloud over my head songs, I know all of you can relate to this one at times.
50. Hellbound Glory Pure Scum.
I think this is another band that I love every album they make. I think not only did Mr. Shooter do an outstanding job of producing the last few albums, but Mr. Leroy has always been one hell of a songwriter to me. THIS IS SCUMBAG COUNTRY FOLKS!
The song “Neon Leon” is the song that sealed the deal for me, and once you listen you too will see what I mean about his spectacular songwriting skills. Flipping around to songs like “Hank Williams Lifestyle” you’ll find all kinds of sorrow filled Country songs here.
It comes with a disclaimer before going into “DUIORDIE” which is a song not for the skiddish or easily offended. I guess it is his own way of telling us NOT TO drink and drive. Their songs have always been full of drug references and bottom of the barrel sides of life, and that is part of the reason I enjoy it!
It may not make total sense to many of you why someone in recovery would enjoy songs like these, but you may not see the relevance or mastery of songs like ‘Damned Angel”. Maybe you never tried to love a broken woman before, maybe they just use broken as an excuse…who knows. Well…..Mr. Leroy does.