Joshua Wallace’s Top 50 Albums of 2018

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Dec 232018
 

By Joshua Wallace

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the time of year where all music journalists put out their best of lists.  Gary Hayes will have his own list coming up soon.  This is my personal Top 50 Country Albums of 2018. I could probably double this list to 100 with all of the awesome releases that have come out in the past year.  It has been that good of a year. However, that being said, I feel like these 50 albums represent the best of what I heard over this year. I reviewed many of these during the year and you can find every one of those reviews on this website.  I will link a few of them here in this article. Every record on this list is worth your time, from number 1 to number 50. Gary Hayes will have his own separate list published later this month, check it out too. Let’s kick things off with the album of the year and Top 10, and then immediately following that will be 11 – 50.

**ALBUM OF THE YEAR** 01.  American Aquarium – Things Change  **ALBUM OF THE YEAR**

This album stuck with me the most throughout the year and thus, it is my number one record of 2018.  From the heartland rock politically inspired tune “The World Is On Fire” all the way to the country balladry of “‘Till The Final Curtain Calls”, this is the best album American Aquarium has ever put together.  I doubt you can find another band that can weave in and out of heartland rock and roll and country with the skill and ease this band does. I look forward to whatever comes next from BJ Barham and company. Check out my full review of Things Change from earlier in the year.

02.  Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere

This album had me last year with the single “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”.  That song was out well before the album and has stuck with me ever since. The album itself ads more great tracks to Ashley’s repertoire and there isn’t a bad cut on this one.  I predict big things for Ashley McBryde in 2019 and I’m looking forward to seeing her open for George Strait in Atlanta next year. Check out my review of this record here.

03.  Randall King – Randall King

Randall King is a throwback to an era of country we don’t have many throwbacks to.  He takes the best elements of 90’s country music and brings them to modern times. His songs “Mirror, Mirror”, “Tuggin’ On My Heartstrings” and “Cool Under Pressure” have stuck with me and this album is often played front to back when it comes on.  Check out my review of the record here.

04.  Josh Card – With A Heavy Heart

The sound on this record is perfect.  Everything is spot on and these are the best tracks Josh Card has ever put out.  Check out a couple of my favorites in “Suffer” and “Won’t Chase Your Love Anymore”.  Read my full review of the album here.

05.  Whitey Morgan & The 78s – Hard Times & White Lines

This is straight up the best live honky tonk band going right now.  This album is another great chapter of their music adding some killer new originals, some new Dale Watson and even ZZ Top to their live set.  Give this one a spin however you listen to music and read my review here.

06.  Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Years

This album is punk rock outlaw country at its best.  Sarah Shook put out her best record yet with Years. It has been high on this list all year and lands at number six.  Do yourself a favor and read my review of the record here, and then go out and buy a copy and see her live when you get a chance to.

07.  Belle Plaine – Malice, Mercy, Grief & Wrath

Belle Plaine has released some solid country gold right here.  I’m still digging on “Taxes, Death and You” and “Is It Cheating” featuring Colter Wall.  Do yourself a favor and give this one a spin. My full review of this record is here.

08.  Colter Wall – Songs Of The Plains

Colter Wall does not disappoint on his sophomore full length release.  This album has some great tunes with “Plain To See Plainsmen”, “Thinkin’ On A Woman” and the Billy Don Burns cover “Wild Dogs”.  This album could have been number one if this year wasn’t so stacked with awesome releases. Check out my review of this one here.

09.  Jamie Lin Wilson – Jumping Over Rocks

In her follow-up to 2016’s Holidays and Wedding Rings, Jamie Lin Wilson has put out her best stuff yet with tracks like “The Being Gone”, “Everybody’s Moving Slow” and a cover of Guy Clark’s “Instant Coffee Blues” featuring Jack Ingram sticking with me in heavy rotation.  Do yourself a favor and give this record a spin, you won’t regret it. Check out my full review here.

10.  Dallas Moore – Mr. Honky Tonk

I knew when I first heard Dallas Moore’s track “Mr. Honky Tonk” that this would be a killer record.  This album represents a high mark in Dallas Moore’s career and there isn’t a bad track on it. I’m still digging on “Shoot Out The Lights”, “Killing Me Nice and Slow” and “You Know The Rest”.  Do yourself a favor, check out my review and pick up a copy of this one.

The Best Of The Rest:

11.  Shooter Jennings – Shooter

12.  Caitlyn Smith – Starfire

13.  Cody Jinks – Lifers

14.  Pistol Annies – Interstate Gospel

15.  Joshua Hedley – Mr. Jukebox

16.  Bri Bagwell – In My Defense

17.  Brent Cobb – Providence Canyon

18.  Dillon Carmichael – Hell On An Angel

19.  Kayla Ray – Yesterday And Me

20.  Josh Ward – More Than I Deserve

21.  Josh Grider – Good People

22.  Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You

23.  Paul Cauthen – Have Mercy

24.  Blackberry Smoke – Find A Light

25.  Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Hard Times Are Relative

26.  T.J. Hernandez – Who I Am

27.  Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

28.  Old Crow Medicine Show – Volunteer

29.  The Brother Brothers – Some People I Know

30.  Ward Davis – Asunder

31.  Craig Gerdes – Smokin’, Drinkin’ & Gamblin’

32.  Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

33.  Courtney Patton – What It’s Like To Fly Alone

34.  John Prine – The Tree Of Forgiveness

35.  Ashley Monroe – Sparrow

36.  Pat Reedy & The Longtime Goners – That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More)

37.  Kyle Park – Don’t Forget Where You Come From

38.  Lori McKenna – The Tree

39.  James Scott Bullard – Full Tilt Boogie

40.  Adam Hood – Somewhere In Between

41.  Kristina Murray – Southern Ambrosia

42.  Chelsea Nolan – Chelsea.

43.  Abe Partridge – Cotton Fields and Blood For Days

44.  Mike & The Moonpies – Steak Night At The Prairie Rose

45.  Sara Morgan – Average Jane

46.  Jason Sinkhorn – Junction City, Kentucky

47.  Urban Pioneers – Hillbilly Swing Music

48.  Joe’s Truck Stop – American Dreams

49.  JP Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing

50.  Darci Carlson – Darci Carlson

Mar 042017
 

This article is going to cover several subject on some happenings in the music world all of them related to the honor of Country Legend Merle Haggard, whom as you know we lost last year. You know my style folks if I have several things that I can juxtapose together into one article I’ll do just that. I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy reading about what I have for you here.

Photo courtesy of my friend Mr. Gene Thorne.

I’d like to open this article with some words for the death of Country Legend Don Markham, one of the last members of Merle Haggard’s band the Strangers. Don Markham played saxophone on all of Merle’s albums from his debut in 1965 called “The Strangers”  on Capitol Records, and through 1977 when he released “Ramblin Fever” on MCA.

Don Markham spent his final days in the same mobile home where he spent the last 50 years residing in, and died Feb 24rth in California of undisclosed reasons. Merle Haggard was publicly known to visit Don Markham on a regular basis.

He spent many years playing in the Bakersfield club the iconic Blackboard, and he joined the Strangers full time while touring with Johnny Paycheck.  He once quoted this to the Hall Of Fame during the Bakersfield exhibit opening:

“I was starting to move around and thinking about going to work in country music,” Markham said in an interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville in 2012, during the opening of an exhibit devoted to the Bakersfield Sound. “It seemed like in Bakersfield not a lot was going on with what I played in pop and jazz. The country people were so much nicer and appreciative of you playing for them than other kinds of music that I just fell in love with it.”

“Don has played on every recording I’ve made since 1974, every single release,” Haggard said at the Hall of Fame Bakersfield exhibit opening in 2012.  “I’ve had different guitar players, and different musicians change around, but he’s been on every one of them. … It just was a little different and I liked it that way. I think Don was glad I liked it that way.”

Don Markham was one of the many Legends that came up through the Bakersfield area, however he came up thorough R and B and pop with a sound all his own. He brought a fresh sound to the Strangers and for it’s time it was proof to the Nashville establishment that horns could be used in Bakersfield Sound, even though some considered Merle Haggard to be a part of the Outlaw Movement.

From my books and studies it seemed that Don was having serious issues with Johnny Paycheck’s band and brothers and was being the teased for being a horn player, and when the bus pulled to a roadside diner Don approached Merle Haggard and asked for a job. He was granted a job right there on the spot and when he was hired he immediately got on Merle’s bus and drove off with them. Merle Haggard saw the addition of Don as an opportunity to emulate some sounds and styles of his own hero Bob Wills.

Now I would like to change gears and bring about a separate show but it still glorifies the Hag, and this will be held at the iconic Southgate House in Newport Kentucky on April 6th.  HAGFEST: Josh Morningstar & The Pickups, Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen, Joe’s Truck Stop, Billie Gant, The Harold Kennedy Trio, Chris Acker and the Growing Boys, Pat Hu & The Kentucky River Ramblers, Thorn County, Maria Carrelli
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP)
http://www.southgatehouse.com/event/1441303
DOORS: 7:00 PM / SHOW: 8:00 PM
$12.00 – $15.00
This event is 18 and over

Now I cannot make this show because two days later I have previously committed to other gatherings but I was informed of this event and I CERTAINLY endorse these bands and this event. I’ll link all the bands here:

Josh Morningstar And The Pick Ups
Billie Gant
Tod Day Wait’s Pigpen
Joe’s Truck Stop
The Harold Kennedy Trio
Chris Acker And The Growing Boys
Pat Hu And The Kentucky Rive Ramblers
Thorn County
Maria Carrelli

As many of you know Mr. Joshua Morningstar was my 2015 Artist Of The Year, and I recently covered Mr. Joe Macheret when he was playing with Mr. Scott from Buffalo Wabs And The Price Hill Hustle as Truckstop Waterfall.  You’ll all also be hearing from my website reporting on Mr. Billie Gant’s newest release with Nick Geise. This video is of Truckstop Waterfall from 2017.

Now once again I will change functions and still remain on the subject of Merle Haggard. This spring on April 6th at the Bridgestone in downtown Nashville many of Today’s more mainstream stars will gather to pay tribute to Merle Haggard by playing his songs and telling stories about him. Tickets for this event go on sale this coming Friday and I will update this article with a route to buy tickets.

Willie Nelson
Kenny Chesney
Miranda Lambert
John Mellencamp
Dierks Bentley
Loretta Lynn
Hank Williams Jr.
The Avertt Brothers
Alison Krauss
Ronnie Dunn
Warren Haynes
Jamey Johnson
Kacey Musgraves
Lynrd Skynrd
Lucinda Williams
Ben Haggard
John Anderson
Connie Smith
Bobby Bare

ABOUT THE SHOW

Sing Me Back Home: The Music Of Merle Haggard, an all-star concert event taping at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee will take place on Thursday, April 6, 2017 in honor of what would have been Merle’s 80th birthday and the one-year anniversary of his passing.

This one-night-only concert event taping will bring together fans, friends, and music icons to honor the life and songs of music legend Merle Haggard. Sing Me Back Home: The Music Of Merle Haggard will feature performances by Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, John Mellencamp, Dierks Bentley, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams Jr., The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Ronnie Dunn, Warren Haynes, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lucinda Williams, Ben Haggard, John Anderson, Connie Smith, and Bobby Bare. Additional performers to be announced in the coming weeks.

In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Merle Haggard racked up an astounding 38 number one country hits and every major award imaginable. Songs like “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee,” “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” and “The Fightin’ Side Of Me” continue to inspire new generations of artists and fans alike, and as we approach what would have been a major milestone, the time has come to celebrate his truly remarkable career. He was an iconoclast who refused to bend to country music convention and helped create the indelible Bakersfield sound. He gave voice to outlaws and outsiders in a way that few, if any, have ever equaled.