Joshua Wallace’s Top 50 Albums of 2020

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Dec 202020
 

By Joshua Wallace

By all measures, 2020 was an insane year, however it was an amazing year for country music releases.  I could have made a Top 100 list this year, but I stuck with tradition and did a Top 50.  With that in mind, some of your favorites might be left off here.  Don’t fret, they’re still good albums, it’s just that there were a ton of good releases this year.  It seemed like every band was releasing their best work even when they weren’t able to fully tour on it.  I could make a case for every record in my Top 10 to be my album of the year, however I went with American Aquarium’s Lamentations.  Lamentations was my most anticipated album going into 2020 and it’s still my favorite album here in December.  It’s no secret that American Aquarium is one of my favorite bands and when they release an album this good, it’s going to be hard to top.  I’ll give my thoughts on each of the Top 20 and provide links to listen to the rest of the list.  I encourage you to check out every record on this list as you might just find something new and that is my biggest goal in doing all of this.

 

**ALBUM OF THE YEAR** 01.  American Aquarium – Lamentations  **ALBUM OF THE YEAR**

When American Aquarium announced late 2019 that they were going into the studio with Shooter Jennings producing, I knew this album would be something special.  I just didn’t know how special it would turn out to be.  Songs like “The Long Haul”, “Starts With You”, “A Better South” and even the tear jerker “Six Years Come September” helped define my 2020.  It is worth noting here that their last album which was 2018’s Things Change was my favorite record of that year too.  I can only imagine that the next album they release will either top or come close to the top of this list in that year.  This band is very consistent in that they keep getting better with every release.  I can’t wait to hear what is next.

 

  1. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

Chris Stapleton has quite possibly the best voice in modern country music.  This album further solidifies that with performances like “Cold”, “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice”, “Watch You Burn” and more.  This whole record is great top to bottom and it came very close to being my number one album of the year.  It features Stapleton’s signature mix of rock, blues and country anchored by his amazing guitar playing throughout.  This record features guests like former Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and the amazing pedal steel player Paul Franklin.  I highly recommend giving this album a good listen as Chris Stapleton is 4 records in and only shows signs of getting better.

 

  1. Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times

There was a period this year where this album was slated as my #1 record of 2020.  It’s that good.  Charley Crockett put out the best record of his career with Welcome To Hard Times and it hit all the right buttons with the psychedelic bend to it’s sound and a neo-western theme.  The title track is one of my favorite jams of the year and I still love that piano riff that opens it.  Check out “Welcome To Hard Times”, “Run Horse Run” and “The Man That Time Forgot”.

 

  1. Muscadine Bloodline – Burn It At Both Ends

I have been a fan of Muscadine Bloodline since “WD40” was making the rounds as a single a few years ago.  This highly anticipated debut full length album delivers on all of the promise the band showed early on and then some.  As for their sound, they kind of straddle the line of being polished for country radio and rough around the edges for the independent country crowd.  It also helps to feature the likes of BJ Barham, Brent Cobb and Adam Hood on your debut record to give you a bit of a boost.  Check out “Ain’t Just A Van”, “Good Chunk Of Change”, “After Midnight” and “Drunk Tattoo” for a few choice cuts from this one.

 

  1. Mike and The Moonpies – Touch Of You : The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart

Mike and The Moonpies have released another great album with this collection of lost Gary Stewart songs.  While you won’t get a cover of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” on this set, you will get some awesome Gary Stewart tunes that have never been recorded before.  You can hear Gary Stewart’s influence on Mike and The Moonpies music and when you do, you will know that they were the perfect band for a project such as this. The band worked closely with Stewart’s daughter, Shannon Stewart, and his best friend Tommy Schwartz to compile the tracks for this project. The finished product is a great Moonpies album that slides in at number five in our countdown.

 

  1. Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions) & Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2 (The Cowboy Arms Sessions)

   

I told you this was an insane year.  We got not one, but two great Sturgill Simpson albums this year.  I’m lumping them together here because they’re essentially one long piece split into two.  Sturgill promised fans that if they hit a certain goal on a charity drive he was doing that he would cut 2 albums this year.  He came through with two sets of bluegrass versions of practically every song in his solo catalog.  The only things missing are the covers from each album and “It Ain’t All Flowers”.  He also threw in some Sunday Valley tunes and a new song he wrote with the late Merle Haggard titled “Hobo Cartoon”.  I highly recommend giving these records a spin as a lot of these aren’t just re-recordings in a different genre.  There are some new arrangements of old favorites here that I think anyone would enjoy.

 

  1. Ward Davis – Black Cats And Crows

Ward Davis has finally given us the follow up to 15 Years In A 10 Year Town and it was well worth the wait.  This is a darker collection of songs with lots of heavy guitars setting the mood throughout.  There are a couple of murder ballads on this record that I highly recommend.  We also get Ward Davis’s version of Colorado a couple of years after Cody Jinks released his version on the album Lifers.  Give this album a listen and you won’t be disappointed.

 

  1. Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs

Colter Wall is finally giving us a full band western swing record and I am here for this.  From amazing covers like “Big Iron” to originals like “Henry and Sam”, this record is all killer from top to bottom.  This record puts Colter Wall up there with some of the premier western acts going today.  Check it out.


 

  1. Ashley McBryde – Never Will

Ashley McBryde is back with her second major label album and another major hit with “One Night Standards”.  This album is full of great songs and I highly recommend the murder ballad “Martha Divine”.  Throw in some traditional country cuts like “First Thing I Reach For”, “Sparrow” and “Velvet Red” and you have one amazing album.  I can’t wait to hear what is coming next.


 

  1. Zach Bryan – Quiet, Heavy Dreams EP

I initially had Zach Bryan’s Elizabeth record in this spot, but this EP is Zach Bryan’s first professionally recorded music and I had to include it here.  With songs like “Birmingham”, “Crooked Teeth” and “November Air”, Zach Bryan is certainly going to be around for a long time.  I hope to be able to see him live sometime in the near future, and with albums like this, I have no doubt he’ll be able to tour widely once it is safe to do so again.


 

  1. Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It

Joshua Ray Walker’s sophomore record Glad You Made it improves on the working formula he created with 2019’s Wish You Were Here.  Songs like “Voices” show off his incredible vocal range while deeper tracks like “D.B. Cooper” show a bit of experimentation with the soundscape Joshua Ray Walker is using on this record.  Give it a listen and see why it’s in at number 11 on this list.


 

  1. Hailey Whitters – The Dream

Hailey Whitters album The Dream took a bit to grow on me, honestly.  But it grew on me and I came to really enjoy a few tracks from this record.  Check out “Janice At The Hotel Bar”, “Loose Strings”, her version of Stapleton’s “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice” and her version of “Happy People” which was also recorded by co-writer Lori McKenna on her 2018 album The Tree.  This record is a fun album that deserves to be heard by more people.  I hope I get the chance to see her live very soon.


 

  1. Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes

Brent Cobb has released another great album in Keep ‘Em On They Toes.  I really love the title track and it quickly became one of my feel good favorites of 2020.  Other highlights include the timely “The World Is Ending”, “Soapbox w/ Nikki Lane” and “Good Times and Good Love”.  This album is a nice change in pace back to the slower country and folk songs of 2016’s Shine On Rainy Day.


 

  1. Kyle Nix – Lightning On The Mountain & Other Short Stories

While this year was rough for fans of Turnpike Troubadours, we got a bit of a reprieve in the form of a Kyle Nix solo album.  I had a feeling this one would be special from the moment it was announced and I was right.  Some favorites include “Graves”, “Shelby 65”, “If Ruby Ain’t Happy” and “Lightning On The Mountain”.  This album is highlighted by some great fiddle playing and good songwriting.  I really hope Kyle Nix gets to tour on this one soon as I would love to see these songs live.


 

  1. The Panhandlers – The Panhandlers

When I first heard about this super group of Texas Country talents, I knew we had something special coming.  All four of these men are great with their own bands, but together they are a force to be reckoned with.  “West Texas In My Eye” and “This Is My Life” are two highlights on this one for me.  Give this one a listen if you haven’t, you won’t be disappointed.


 

  1. Parker McCollum – Hollywood Gold EP

Parker McCollum had a strong 2020 with some great single releases leading up to this EP.  “Pretty Heart” actually got a lot of radio play and I really dig “Like A Cowboy”.  I knew Parker McCollum was one to watch after 2017’s strong Probably Wrong LP.  This EP is so good and it solidifies my opinion that he is destined for bigger things.  Be on the lookout for his next full length as I belive that one will go places.


 

  1. Josh Abbott Band – The Highway Kind

I have been a fan of Josh Abbott Band since 2012’s Small Town Family Dream album and it has been a fun ride watching this band grow.  They get better with every release and The Highway Kind is no different.  Highlights include the title track, “Settle Me Down”, “24-7-365” and “Real Damn Good”.  Give it a listen.


 

  1. Aubrie Sellers – Far From Home

While I wasn’t as much of a fan of Aubrie Sellers’s 2016 record New City Blues, this album blew me away.  I dig the mixing of grungy garage rock and country music and it works here.  Check out favorites like “Glad”, “Troublemaker”, “My Love Will Not Change w/ Steve Earle” and the title track.


 

  1. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 2

With Hold My Beer, Vol. 2, Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen have put together two amazing country duo albums.  This record is full of solid country gold.  I love the comedy of “Rodeo Clown” and we finally get a title track for this collection with “Hold My Beer”.  Also check out “Mi Amigo” with Asleep At The Wheel and “Speak To Me Jukebox” for more highlights.

 

  1. David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town

This record from David Adam Byrnes was one of those unexpected gems that you hear about and when you finally get around to listening to, it blows you away.  Neon Town is just good Texas country and I can’t wait yi hear what is next.


 

  1. Corb Lund – Agricultural Tragic

 


 

  1. Waylon Payne – Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me

 


 

  1. Bella White – Just Like Leaving

 


 

  1. Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross

 


 

  1. Scott H. Biram – Fever Dreams

 


 

  1. Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red

 


 

  1. Brennen Leigh – Prairie Love Letter

 


 

  1. Lori McKenna – The Balladeer


 

  1. The Wilder Blue – Hill Country


 

  1. Tennessee Jet – The Country


 

  1. Elizabeth Cook – The Aftermath


 

  1. Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started

 

  1. Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring


 

  1. Dalton Domino – Feverdreamer


 

  1. Zephania Ohora – Listening to the Music


 

  1. Marcus King – El Dorado


 

  1. Sunny Sweeney – Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio


 

  1. Brandy Clark – Your Life Is A Record


 

  1. Chase Crawford – The Neon Lights Go On Forever EP


 

  1. Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern


 

  1. Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On


 

  1. Rachel Brooke – The Loneliness In Me


 

  1. Caleb Caudle – Better Hurry Up


 

  1. Kyle Keller – All It Does Is Rain


 

  1. Lilly Hiatt – Walking Proof


 

  1. John Baumann – Country Shade


 

  1. Daniel Donato – A Young Man’s Country


 

  1. S.G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling


 

  1. Kody West – Overgrown


 

  1. Katie Pruitt – Expectations


 

Top 20 Albums Of 2020 So Far

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Jul 022020
 

By Joshua Wallace

This has been a strange year to release a new record in, but that hasn’t stopped folks from releasing some great albums.  Here is a list of my Top 20 Albums of 2020 So Far.  I know I could have included more artists here, but I am working on a Top 50 list that will be published at the end of the year.  I have included links to previous coverage of albums when we have it.  Check these records out and support these bands while they cannot tour for their new records by buying merch or tipping during a livestream.

 

1. Kyle Nix – Lightning On The Mountain And Other Short Stories

Review

 

2. Mike and The Moonpies – Touch Of You : The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart

Review

 

3. American Aquarium – Lamentations

10 More Albums We Are Looking Forward To In 2020

 

4. Hill Country – Hill Country

 

5. Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer Vol. 2

 

6. Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red

Review

 

7. The Panhandlers – The Panhandlers

Review

 

8.  Ashley McBryde – Never Will

Review

 

9. Aubrie Sellers – Far From Home

Review

 

10. Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross

10 Most Anticipated Country Albums Out This Summer

 

11. John Baumann – Country Shade

10 Most Anticipated Country Albums Out This Summer

 

12. ROOKIE – ROOKIE

 

13. Hailey Whitters – The Dream

 

14. Kyle Keller – All It Does Is Rain

10 Most Anticipated Country Albums Out This Summer

 

15. Zach Bryan – Elisabeth

 

16. Hellbound Glory – Pure Scum

10 Most Anticipated Country Albums Out This Summer

 

17. Sammy Brue – Crash Test Kid

 

18. Chancey Williams – 3rd Street

 

19. Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On

 

20. Whitney Rose – We Still Go To Rodeos

 

10 More Albums We Are Looking Forward To In 2020

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Feb 202020
 

By Joshua Wallace

When I previously released a list called “10 Albums We Are Looking Forward To In 2020”, that list contained albums where we knew the release date and all of the details.  Well, here’s a list of 10 more albums we are pretty sure are coming out in 2020 that we are looking forward to. Some of these albums have release dates and some of them just have a very early pre-release single and nothing else.  Keep an eye out here for more on these albums as info comes available.

 

American Aquarium – Lamentations – May 01st

American Aquarium is gearing up to release their new album Lamentations.  This record was recorded late last year with Shooter Jennings producing. The band just announced a release date of May 1st and the first leg of the album’s tour.  Look for new music soon.

 

Randall King – TBA – TBA

There isn’t much to go on for Randall King’s first album from major label Warner Music Nashville.  He’s released 4 singles since signing with them including a Christmas tune. While the Christmas tune might not make an album, the trio of other singles probably will.  Keep your eyes out for more info coming soon.  Check out his latest song titled “Hey Cowgirl”.

 

Zach Bryan – TBA – TBA

Zach Bryan has stated that new music is on the way.  While this independent artist tends to release things on his own time, he has recently entered the recording studio with famous producer Dave Cobb.  This is purely speculation here, but we hope to hear something out of that recording session sometime down the line in 2020. In the meantime, check out his newest self released song, “Rest, Rose”.

 

Logan Ledger – Logan Ledger – April 3rd

Logan Ledger has had a rough time getting his self titled debut LP out, but it is finally coming to us on April 3rd.  We have been big fans of the songs that have slowly trickled out over the past year and I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.  With five tracks already available, this one is an early album of the year candidate.  We recommend checking out “Imagining Raindrops”.

 

Porter Union – Loved & Lost – March 6th

We were big fans of Porter Union’s 2017 debut LP.  That album did well on our year end Top 50 lists that year.  Their new record is called Loved and Lost and is looking to be just as good.  They already have a single out called “I’ve Got You Covered” that you can check out now.  Look for this one in March.

 

Pat Reedy & The Longtime Goners – Make It Back Home – Summer

Pat Reedy is gearing up to release the follow up to his 2018 Muddy Roots Records release titled That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More).  This record will be called Make It Back Home and out sometime this summer. If the first single and title track is any indication, this new record is picking up where the last one left off and will be one to look forward to in 2020.

 

Corb Lund – Agricultural Tragic – April 24th

Corb Lund is back in the saddle with a new release titled Agricultural Tragic.  There is already a new song out called “90 Seconds Of Your Time” which I highly recommend checking out.  This one is due out in April. 

 

Craig Gerdes – Tough As Nails – Mid March

Craig Gerdes is releasing his second album in mid March titled Tough As Nails.  We were big fans of his first release Smokin’ Drinkin’ and Gamblin’ and if the single “Between The Cradle and The Grave” is any indication, this one will be a rocking good time as well.

 

Bob Wayne – Rogue – Unknown

Bob Wayne has announced a new record called Rogue.  There is no current release date though he is taking pre-orders.  This record will be his first all acoustic album and he is pairing it with a huge tour that looks to break the world record for most shows in a tour cycle.

 

Jon Stickley Trio – Scripting The Flip – April 3rd

If you have never heard Jon Stickley Trio, I highly recommend checking out their music.  They have a new record titled Scripting The Flip coming out in April and it’s going to be a good one.  They are an instrumental group that pairs bluegrass with jazz, folk punk and other genres of music. The group consists of Jon Stickley who is an amazing flat picking guitar player, Lyndsay Pruett on fiddle and Hunter Deacon on drums.  This record has 3 pre-release singles out and I recommend checking out “Don’t Slip”.

Album Feature – Zach Bryan – DeAnn

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Sep 062019
 

By Joshua Wallace

I discover new artists in a lot of different ways these days.  I first discovered Zach Bryan from a tweet from Parker McCollum. It read  : “Sitting at a bar in Nashville with my agent telling him about this Zach Bryan kid…. “fucking sign him… just trust me””.  That was a ringing endorsement if I ever saw one. So I looked him up. I didn’t find much. No website, no promotional Facebook page.  Just a personal Facebook, a Twitter account and some YouTube performance videos. Then I found this album DeAnn. It just came out on August 24th, 2019 but the numbers on Spotify are what got me.  His songs are climbing to over 100k listeners fast and as of this writing he’s got 41,759 monthly listeners. That is impressive for a Spotify account that didn’t even have music 2 weeks ago. So what is it about this album that is drawing people in? Let’s take a deeper dive and find out.

The first highlight of this album is “God Speed”.  It’s a song looking inward at Zach’s wants and needs from love, life and everything between.  It’s a great song that sends the message that no matter what you want in life, you’re moving at God’s speed and “Only God and my mama know what I need”.  Another favorite is “Doing Fine” which is a well written track where Zach laments about people he used to know and places he used to go. Songs like this live on the imagery and descriptions and Zach does a good job of painting a picture and taking you back. Whether it’s people he let down or good times he had, this song takes you there.

“Shivers Down Spines” is a great love song on this record.  This is one of the songs where Zach gets to showcase some of his range in both vocal ability and songwriting.  He can be intimate when the song calls for it. I also love the sudden stop at the end of this one as it’s done to a great affect with the song.  Another great love song on this record is “Moon In Oklahoma”. This is another track where the imagery shines. Zach’s lyrics paint a picture that takes you back to scenes from his past.

I could say something about every song on this record, but it’s worth it to seek this one out and listen.  It is raw, rough around the edges and straight up acoustic. Just a man and his guitar. Zach even kept the outtakes like the fit of laughter that ends Condemned.  Zach Bryan shows some skills here and while there is room for improvement, this is a very impressive record for a debut. I cannot wait to hear more from this young man.  He currently does not have much social media presence, or even a website, but you can find his music on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and other digital services. I highly recommend seeking this record out.  It is available as of August 24th, 2019.        

Favorite Tracks : God Speed, Doing Fine, Shivers Down Spines, Moon In Oklahoma

Zach Bryan – DeAnn (2019)

  1. Flying Or Crying
  2. Hope Again
  3. God Speed
  4. Don’t Give Up On Me
  5. Doing Fine
  6. Letting Someone Go
  7. Shivers Down Spines
  8. Snow
  9. Man That’s Never Known You
  10. Moon In Oklahoma
  11. Condemned
  12. Sweet DeAnn