Well it’s been one hell of a crazy 2018, with this past summer being one of the first jobs I ever had to cancel when I blew that car up! I had the opportunity to cover many great new events TWO NEW festivals Master Musicians Festival and for Day 1 click HERE. I was also fortunate enough to have been invited to cover Kickin It On The Creek for day 1 click HERE.
I was invited to cover Whitey Morgan At The Ryman on his first ever headlining show there. I had fun watching him grow as a national act, and you WILL SEE his album down there on the list. I covered Muddy Roots for both days of the event HERE is day 2 of the event. I also covered the Nashville Boogie on both days you can click HERE for day 1.
Mr. Joshua Wallace and I stay in constant communication and stay working to bring YOU THE BEST in Country Music, Red Dirt, Americana (which ain’t no part of nothin) Bluegrass, Newgrass, and many other communities of music like the Appalachian community and mid west K.C. and Denver area. Also, people like Mr. Dallas Moore are booming the Ohio community wide open while maintaining a Texas presence.
Now, I let Mr. Joshua RELEASE HIS TOP 50 before I release mine,and I do NOT impose any rules on him as far as what he prints. I allow him full creativity and control. Because I’ll be honest I HAVE NOTICED how mainstream Country radio has been omitting women from it’s forefront, and why not? It’s target market is women! Well folks I want to say there were SO MANY GREAT albums from Women in 2018 I could make a TOP 50 of JUST women, but I think your palate will be well satisfied with my list…
ONE THING AS ALWAYS I want to stress is that my number 50 and number 2 means NOTHING. If you made my TOP list your album spoke to me as a person, and I LOVED IT! I eagerly listened to over 500 albums this year, and I loved them all.
1. Joshua Hedley Mr. Jukebox
Oh yes by ALL MEANS this album was NUMBER ONE of 2018 for me! I mean it really does describe this man and his extensive plethora of songs he can perform live, you CANNOT stump him on classic Country Music. He knows the melodies and lyrics WORD FOR WORD, and will perform them with flawless precision.
It’s very unique to begin an album with a slow song like “Counting All My Tears”, however it’s such a well written tear jerker that it would be remiss to NOT have placed that song first. This man possesses an extensive arsenal of heartaches..get some Kleenex for this album.
This man deserves EVERY accolade he has earned in music, because he put in so many years playing the Honky Tonks of downtown Nashville. I got to cover him during the Nashville Boogie one year, and with his fiddle he entertained us readily. If you would like to read our review of this album click HERE.
He has the look, the attitude and demeanor to become a Country Music Legend like the ones I watched him perform with on Country’s Family Reunion. He has single hand-idly restored my faith in the future of Country Music with songs like “Weird Thought Thinker” which sounds like I took a time machine to the 60’s…and there isn’t a DAMN THING wrong with that.
2. Colter Wall Songs Of The Plains
My friends over at Young Mary Records outdid themselves on this project along with someone I shall mention several times on this article Mr. Dave Cobb ( I call him a modern day Mr. Owen Bradley). This album is easily his most believable album TO ME he has out now, simply because of his gritty baritone voice and his TRUE cowboy authenticity. He LOOKS like he came in off the range, and sounds like he just herded cattle.
He holds dear to his heart the likes of Mr. Wilf Carter and Legend Billy Don Burns which boasts a cut on this album called “Wild Dogs”. It also contains some GREAT story songs like “John Beyers (Camaro Song)” which I first heard on the square in Madisonville Kentucky. You can read about that HERE. Also he recruited the likes of steel guitar Legend Lloyd Green and MORE to play for him on this album.
You can read more about my thoughts on this album HERE. Now PLEASE don’t get me wrong his second album with Kate McCannon helped usher my father into heaven. My father had Dementia, and we used that album to ease him down the path of it. He LOVED the album and played it over and over.
3. Shooter Jennings Shooter
This album here was one of my favorite album Mr. Shooter ever put out! I had an ecstatic hunger for it ever since he played The Nashville Palace and I got to hear many of the new songs live. One thing I love about Mr. Shooter is that he holds dear many of the things I do from my youth like toys and Hee Haw, as he promoted the album with skits akin to the show. You can watch those HERE.
It begins like an 80’s Hank Williams Junior classic song, that reminded me of the old Jimmy Bowen produced albums he did. I thought “Bound Ta Git Down” was a great launch to an even better record, that I loved in every way. If you ask if you should buy this album it’s a NO BRAIN question like “Do You Love Texas”?
This album is a few songs shorter than his previous albums but I didn’t mind because I loved the direction this one went. One thing Mr. shooter isn’t afraid to do is share his creative desires with his fans, no matter who criticizes him. This album proves that very thing! I also love the closing song called “Denim And Diamonds”, the sound of the vocals were smooth and different, you can read our thoughts on the whole album HERE.
4. Whitey Morgan Hard Times And White Lines
Much like a few of these choices, this album is perhaps my favorite album this man has ever released. His band to me is sort of like The Texas Troubadors back in the day, it has begun to spawn some mighty fine side musicians that have gone their own way with Mr. Whitey’s blessings. In fact one of them is ALSO on this list here!
You cannot take away the fact this outfit tours relentlessly and plays one of the best live acts in local America right now. He just recently (see above) earned some headlining spots at the Ryman, and I’m sure he will make many more.
“Carryin’ On” was a song that related to myself, I never realized how brutal the road was until I myself began following these bands around America, and many have families. Yet, night after night they are miles from home and they do it with seemingly easy power.
This album began with a poignant song called “Honky Tonk Hell” which explores the dark side of Country Music, and continues with “Fiddler’s Inn” which features some truly fine steel guitar work in the back from Mr. Brett Robinson, and tells some awesome stories about a motel that is….quite busy….
5. Craig Gerdes Smokin’ Drinkin’ And Gamblin’
My friends at Sol Records have created many fine albums for us through the years, and as a journalist (actually I’m just a shlub with a website) and as a music patron I myself LOVE old timey Honky Tonk stuff that sounds retro. I love hard sounding steel, and I love Legends, and I LOVE Mr. Jim Vest. This album is choked full of all of those, along with a finely tuned vocal delivery from Mr. Craig.
HERE is my article from the album release party at the Nashville Palace from earlier this year. For Mr. Joshua’s review click HERE. From the opening song of the same title the fancy twisting steel guitar work dazzled my mind, as I listened to the background.
It’s also got that trademark foot stomping rhythm that you used to hear on those iconic Outlaw Country albums in the 70’s. It has well done covers like “Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets” , which Vest makes sound just as beautiful as when Paycheck cut it in 1977. I think Paycheck would be proud of the direction this young man is tasking his music!
6. Kayla Ray Yesterday And Me
Now here begins the point I was trying to illustrate to all of you, that 2018 was a STRONG YEAR for females that mainstream media ignores. They don’t want you to know about all of this fine music that is coming out of the woodwork on local levels, because it’s GOOD STUFF!
This woman’s background bears great evidence of her relevance within the Texas Country Music scene, and she has done more in her twenties than many artists I could name have done on their couch doing live feeds. In her young age, she managed Jason Eady WITH SUCCESS and also played with the Legendary Johnny Gimble Band.
This album is stuffed overflowing with shuffle melodies that ring true to the sawdust floor Honky Tonk of Texas and all across America. Including the fast paced KILLER SONG called “Pills”, it’s hilarious and probably one of the best songs I heard in 2018.
It has twelve songs on it, and all the songs are great length and accompany one another well. The listener is taken on a rocket ride of Honky Tonk bliss, with a twangy and unique vocal delivery that makes her distinguishable from her peers.
7. Brent Cobb Providence Canyon
This album would be a shame to omit off ANYBODY’S TOP lists of 2018, I mean honestly this man is one of the finest songwriters out there today. You can pick his voice out a HUGE GROUP of artists that exist today, and his music fits NO real genre to be honest. You can classify him as whatever you want as long as it’s good music.
The album is named after a nearby gully that he visited often as a young man, and is about life on the run. On the run is exactly what he spent 2017 doing touring with powerhouse Mr. Chris Stapleton and Miss Margo Price.
I think his cousin Mr. Dave Cobb is one of the most iconic producers of our time, and teamed up with Mr. Brent Cobb’s fine musicianship and songwriting skills this man is unstoppable in every way.
It drops upbeat songs like the title track and sways over to funkier styles like “.30-06” as well nine other fine songs to accompany those two, to read Mr. Joshua’s review click HERE. Whatever you do make sure you go out and catch his live show in 2019, because he is steamrolling forward!
8. Ashley McBryde Girl Going Nowhere
This is a phenomenal album in every way,and I think it’s downright shameful the way that mainstream media overlooks her and a few other females out there doing some damn fine Country Music on a hardcore touring basis. It seems no matter how hard they get out and work, they get NO attention from radio.
The opening song “Girl Going Nowhere” is amazing, and well written. It grabbed me right away, and shared her personal struggles with me. She’s evidently had a LOT of doubters and negative people putting her down.
Another good song was “Livin Next To Leroy” which is pretty much a truthful song about rural drug America and how things are around town. However the greatest song on this album was “Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” , this was truly a well written masterpiece and one of the best songs of 2018 in my opinion.
9. Loretta Lynn Wouldn’t It Be Great
Another album that could’ve easily been higher up on the list, but to be honest the numbers on this list mean nothing for importance. In fact I could have easily made a TOP 100 but for GOD’S SAKE I couldn’t build one that big ( you have NO IDEA how long 50 takes).
The title track was the last song she ever wrote for her late husband before he passed away, and to have this album be nominated for a Grammy was heavenly. Followed by the great song called “Ruby’s Stool” which was one of my personal favorite songs of 2018 as well.
The re make of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was vocally flawless and pure gold, despite her age Miss Loretta is one of the finest singers around. True she has had some health issues, but she remains quite active and honors her Opry membership with pride.
At thirteen songs this album was one of the finest album she has released since Van Lear Rose, and it contained more new music than anything she has released in a while. “I’m Dying For Someone To Live For” is a beautiful two step song full of mournful craving for a new loved one.
10. Sarah Shook And The Disarmers Years
Another damn fine album released by a damn fine gal, and I enjoy her live show just as much as anybody’s. Her band the Disarmers is an absolute well oiled machine, and once again we have an artist with a VERY distinct voice. Her style rivals nobody else but her own, and I loved the direction of this album here.
She played ONE HELL of a GREAT set at Muddy Roots this year, and IT WAS HOT, and she was RIGHT IN the sun. Regardless she banged it out and gave us one hundred percent, and one hell of a terrific show. Sometimes when I think of my past marriage I can flip things around and relate to “New Ways To Fail”. That’s a truly well written song of woe is me drama from a shit life. But I built myself back up now!
Another great song here was “Parting Words” even though many may regard her lyrics as negative and sad, I regard them as relatable and REAL. You know Miss Sarah isn’t afraid to speak her mind and support her passionate feelings, and that’s alright with me…it shows in her songs which makes her unique in a good way.
11. The Earls Of Leicester Live At The CMA Theater
I mean how can a Bluegrass super group like the Earls Of Leicester NOT get on the TOP 50? Not only a super group, but a super group modeled after a band like Lester Flatt And Earl Scruggs? See, this band is called The Earls Of Lester, just spelled like that.
From the very intro from the warm voice of Mr. Eddie Stubbs, they barrel right into “Salty Dog” and play many other well known Flatt And Scruggs songs. I just LOVE Mr. Jeff White who plays a few off of his solo album called “I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow”, which features all of their individual talents like the dobro work of Jerry Douglass.
This album boasts a vibrant twenty three song set, well over an hour of music. You get a lot of bang for buck when you buy this album on vinyl, it’s a biggie. It’s also filled with classics like “Rollin In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Black Eyed Suzy”..to read more click HERE.
12. Dallas Moore Mr.Honky Tonk
Although the initial title song here was actually a re make of his own song in a different tempo, many of his newer fans (including myself) didn’t know that at first. I sort of delved into his past to find that out, and then he told me more. To call him a local Ohio Legend would be a correct moniker here, he’s been at this for decades. To call him a road warrior would also be aptly correct, as he plays a whopping 340 shows a year. So when he sings “Home Is Where The Highway Is” he is correct.
This album also boasts songs like “Somewhere Between Bridges”, and my favorite on the album is easily ‘You Know The Rest” because I DO know the rest, he will melt your damn face off. The last time I went to see him, he surprised me with a rare Mr. Hoyt Axton song “Della And The Dealer”.
HERE is our review of this album, and HERE is an article from him opening for Mr Gene Watson.The only drawback was this was a short album, and I wanted a little more of Mr. Moore. Although the GOOD thing was I finally got to buy him on vinyl. This album is spot on fantastic in every other way possible.
13. John Prine The Tree Of Forgiveness
What can I say about Mr. John Prine that nobody has yet? Well, this year we spoke with our wallets as consumers, because this album was his most commercially successful album in over twenty years for Mr. John.
He told us all a story during his performance at Master Musicians Festival about the song called “Egg And Daughter Night Lincoln Nebraska 1967 ( Crazy Bone)”. I cannot print the entire thing here, but I did within the link article there.
Everybody loves the song “When I Get To Heaven” and it could easily become his anthem song along with “Paradise”. this album was recorded and mastered so beautifully that it captured the very essence of Mr. John with dignity.
Despite this album only having ten songs, they are very lengthy and it makes the album enjoyable. He wrote the songs in a motel room that he rented for the duration of the time he needed to write. He said he ate, and slept when he wanted while writing the songs.
14. Laura Benitez And The Heartache With All It’s Thorns
This album almost flew under even my radar, had it not been for Miss Kim Grant, one of my PR people that enjoy sending me clients albums for my opinions. Well here’s my opinion of this one, FANTASTIC. It starts right out of the gate with a toe tapping song with Cajun influence akin to a Mavericks tune called “Something Better Than A Broken Heart”.
The steel guitar work on songs like “Easier Things To Do” bring out the honesty in her vocals with a very warm and Country tone, and follows right into “Our Remember Whens” that anybody that has entered into a relationship can relate. When a couple can get together and reminisce on the good times…that’s a treat. Everybody can’t wait to have special moments like that.
‘Ghost Ship” is a poignant and darker song with some mighty fine fiddle work, and I thought that song showcased her voice better than any on the album overall. Every song was well over three minutes here, which made this album stellar on every level. To read more about this album click HERE.
15. Mike And The Moonpies Steak Night At The Paradise Rose
I must agree with other websites out there featuring real music about this band, THEY ARE the best Country Music band out there right now. They are a hard working “Road Crew” type band, with mind blowing instrumentals and toe tapping beats that inspire alcohol consumption on copious levels. This is one of those instances that number 50 isn’t ANY WORSE than number 2.
The title track itself is one of the best songs on the album, with a slower two step tempo that tells stories about real life. My father used to take me to bars when I was little also, and it inspired me to chase musicians around and write articles about them like I do now!
This band misses NO notes, and in my opinion is a well oiled machine in every way, and boasts some of the finest written lyrics I could find on the Texas scene from any band. With songs like “Getting High At Home” you cannot find on a mainstream level anymore. I’m older now, and my major partying is done, I enjoy getting drunk at home by myself…with music like this! To read more about this album please go HERE.
16. Josh Card With A Heavy Heart
This former member of Whitey Morgan’s backup band the 78’s reminds me of the Texas Troubadors type deal from long ago. When solo acts emanated from backing bands, and became Legends like Mr. Jack Greene and Mr. Carl Smith. I was first exposed to his music as he opened for Whitey Morgan in 2018 on New Years…read that HERE.
This young man boasts more promise than anyone on this list as far as breakthrough acts as far as I am concerned. I sent my right arm to Florida to cover his release party, and got good reports. It starts out with a fiddle double stop, that right there should make you buy this album! I asked myself many times why do I “Suffer’ over you?
“Won’t Chase Your Your Love” is a classic well written Country song that I brought tears to my eyes from hunger for hearing one like it. Just a touch of late 80’s shuffle and some 70’s feel, one can easily ascertain this young man knows his shit. He is like ME, he eats, sleeps and breaths REAL country from many eras.
The BEST SONG is ‘Unknown Legend” I know a few of them myself, this is a terrific story telling song. VERY descriptive and vivid in the picture it paints into my head, I highly suggest this album and catch this man’s live show. To read more on this album click HERE.
17. The Wooks Glory Bound
This Bluegrass band is one of the Appalachian community staples, and I was introduced to them from my buddy Mr. JJ Waters and his Honky Tonk Hero page on Facebook (please go check them out). I finally got to see them live at Kickin It On the Creek. Now initially I did NOT like them, but I kept listening and found I was WRONG.
This band is TIGHT and very energetic on stage, even though they are Bluegrass, they have their own sound. Quite a different niche like Jamgrass has, I mean you could place them with Greensky or Pert Near Sandstone and pull off a GREAT show. The title track ‘Glory Bound” brings forth a noble sound with obvious traditional harmonies that brought me goosebumps.
The vocals on this album are beyond terrific on songs like “Union Pacific” but the album shifts over to funky shuffles like “Little Sandy Queen” that features terrific banjo picking of older style with a new style of tempo. I myself heavily support the new evolution of the Jamgrass tempo, I know many of the traditional people hate it. This band truly has a bright and big future ahead of them.
18. John R Miller And The Engine Lights The Trouble You Follow
Here is another West Virginia, East Kentucky based member of that community that plays bass for another of my TOP list here Mr. Pat Reedy And The Longtime Goners, also he is a staple member of the Prison Book Club. The first song on this album is called “Holy Dirt” and is an absolute JAM, very uniquely written song with real meanings.
“Red Eyes” was another song I liked on this album with a good melody, to be honest every song on this album featured some mighty fine songwriting. Also, he delivers his lyrics with his own style of singing that differentiates him from his peers.
“How It Feels In The Light” is another cool toe tapping song with that steel sound I like as a fan, but when I got to “Whale Party” I found my favorite song on this album. That song just spoke to me as a person more than the rest, it was easily relatable to me. To read more on this album click HERE.
19. The Urban Pioneers Hillbilly Swing Music
This brings me to another mind blowing talented band The Urban Pioneers, one of the hardest working road warriors on the market today. This latest offering is by FAR their BEST album out to date, both songwriting wise and musically. Don’t get me wrong “Mary The Elephant” and other songs are good, and ALL their albums were good musically, however this one stood out like a rooster wearing socks.
This pairing of Miss Liz and Mr Jared was a blessing for local music like this, they understand each other and Mr. Martin on bass make this band even better. “Hillbilly Swing Music” launches this album right out of the gate at breakneck speed.
“Can’t Make You Love Me too” is a slow and sorrowful song about just what the title says, you can’t make someone love you. “Run Little Rabbit Run” is such a fast paces song I cannot even explain how they pick that fast! This band has garnered a plethora of success at many of the festivals I cover, it’s no surprise to see their names on twenty or so. HERE is my review of the album.
20. Cody Jinks Lifers
First off let me stress once again just because this album looks to be low on the list MAKE NO MISTAKE it makes no difference WHERE any of these albums are I enjoyed them all just the same. Now, this album faced huge criticism from fans due to the level of production on it, and I had no real complaint on that. Cody Jinks is growing on an exponential level, but that didn’t come easily. He spent MANY YEARS playing gas stations and small bars for 10 people.
Mr. Josh Morningstar’s song “Must Be The Whiskey” was one of the high points on this album for me, along with Mr. Ward Davis’s song “Colorado”. All of the songs on this album were really good, but they didn’t speak to me personally until the title track “Lifers”. I been banging away on this website for almost ten years, I’m a lifer.
I also liked the song “Big Last Name” it was well written and had some 80s influence to it for sure. Mr. Cody is a prime example of what hard work and proper networking can do for yourself. He didn’t use radio and major media exposure to get to his echelon. He beat and banged the road and endured a lot of pain, and sweat to get here! HERE is Mr. Joshua’s review of the album.
21. Josh Ward More Than I Deserve
This album from a young man in the Texas Music community absolutely enthralled me with so much delight, I heard it ten times before I decided YES that’s on my TOP 50. He isn’t exactly Red Dirt, but I can easily see how he could fit in there. I just liked his tempos and melodies on songs like “Ain’t it Baby”.
The more Red Dirt sound emanates forth on this album when the song “The Devil Don’t Scare Me” This album has many lows and highs of life in the songs, with relatable meanings and three chord truths that define Country Music as a whole.
HERE is another article we made for him, as he recorded the fiftieth Live At Billy Bob’s series (which I collect on vinyl). “Another Heartache” was a good old shuffle that was another song that took me back in time to better days, and past relationships I have had.
22. Pistol Annies Interstate Gospel
I waited for this album at Wal Mart at midnight and I bought it as the guy pulled it from the tote to stock the shelf. It is an absolute SHAME the major media has ignored and lambasted this album, and these three gals. HELL Gals in general!
This album just blazes out with their signature trio harmonies, some of the best harmonies I have heard since the Cactus Brothers and before that Marty Robbins! “Stop Drop And Roll One” is a prime example of their snarky songwriting. Here on their third offering we have some of their best songwriting yet, mainly due to where they were in their personal lives.
“Got My Name Changed Back” was hopefully Miss Miranda’s message to her ex, because I loved it. However, “Sugar Daddy” was the energetic rowdy song I expected this album to contain, and then follow that with a song like “Leavers Lullaby” which was slower and you have a MUST have addition for your collection. This album was exactly what Country Music needed! HERE is Mr. Joshua’s review of this album.
23. Jason Boland And The Stragglers Hard Times Are Relative
This album boasts what is most defiantly my favorite song of 2018, and it is the title track from the album “Hard Times Are Relative”. I mean, good Lord we NEED more of these story songs like this, ones that make you THINK and use your imagination. We do NOT have those good old time western tunes like that one anymore, and with Country Music it’s not always a happy ending like this one. That song is flawless masterpiece of perfection.
More of his master songwriting skills shine out with songs like “I Don’t Deserve You” featuring Miss Sunny Sweeney, and another good one called “Dee Dee Od’d” which was about the Ramones. Many of his albums have been features on my TOP 50 in the past, however this is by far his best album to date in every way…period.
The last few songs on the album were good, but more stellar songwriting shined out as the song “Grandfather’s Theme” came out of my speakers. As I previously said the writing on this album is exquisite, and this song was nothing short of amazing like the other ten songs. HERE is Mr. Joshua’s review of the album.
24. Jamie Lin Wilson Jumping Over Rocks
2018 was truly a year for the ladies in my opinion, as I stressed on here MANY TIMES. this album was also BY FAR better than her first album. Maaan that first note she sings just punched me right in the guts. Her vocal abilities exceed many of her peers, and reminds me of one of my favorite gal singers Miss Emmylou Harris.
“Oklahoma Stars” features Mr. Evan Felker a man who spent much of 2018 in the limelight, and despite that I truly admire his band and his voice as well.This album was produced VERY WELL and sounds perfect, and I didn’t want this album to end. “Everybody’s Moving Slow” was a good song on the middle portion of the album, and helped this album flow smoothly. If you need a good relaxing album after a shitty workday, spin this one.
The song “Death And Life” was a truly amazing song with realistic hard to swallow lyrics, that make you stop and think about what it’s all about. Basically it’s about death and life in circles, but it has a few hidden meanings if you think about it. “Run” was a song about running from an abusive relationship, which many can easily relate to I’m sure. HERE is Mr. Joshua’s review of this album.
25. The Tillers The Tillers
I have always admired and liked this band’s music, and if HAD TO name a favorite album by them I could not. Their precise musicianship usually makes many of their songs enjoyable in every way, and it accompanies songs like “The Weald And The Wild” to make it a wonderful song to begin an album.
I related very well personally to the song “Like A Hole In My Head” , which I was hearing during all of my summer festivals I was covering like Muddy Roots. As well as the next song “The Old General Store Is Burning Down” , which features some great fiddle.
Their signature sound can be heard vibrantly on the song called “Riverboat Dishwashing Song”, that beautiful string band flow paired with a story woven very eloquently within the lyrics of the song. The final song on this album called “Another Postcard” was another simple song that I enjoyed so much, I could sit back and enjoy this band all night. HERE is our full review of this album.
26. Blackberry Smoke Find A Light
There are many genres of music I support on this website, and the whole Southern Rock type movement is one I LOVE. I’ll tell you WHAT if there is one fantastic stage show it is Blackberry Smoke. “Flesh And Bone” is a steady gallop song with rocking beats, with an I don’t care message of being only human.
Thirteen songs make up this behemoth album with only “Let Me Down Easy” with Miss Amanda Shires the only one under three minutes. One of the high points of this one is the five minute toe tapper called “I’ll Keep Ramblin” with steel player Mr. Robert Randolph, and breaks into a choir in the background. It starts to sound like a true southern Gospel revival, complete with guitar licks from all directions. It breaks and makes you think it’s over..and starts again.
When I initially saw the song “Till The Wheels Fall Off” I thought it was a Mr. Bob Wayne song of the same name and album title. But it is their own song with a punishing beat. This album was produced very well, however it wasn’t their BEST album, STILL it was very deserving of being on my list.
27. Missy Raines Royal Traveller
This third record that Bluegrass bass wizard Miss Missy Raines has released was a true gem. The song “Fearless Love” with Mr. Tim O’ Brien was a good song, then it went into the fiddle and mandolin work of her peers Miss Sierra Hull, Miss Molly Tuttle and Miss Becky Buller. Just gorgeous harmonies and string punishing banjo rolling. Oh, the harmonies are just breathtaking and gave me goosebumps. If it’s ONE voice I LOVE it is Miss Missy Raines And The New Hip.
“Allegheny Town” was equally beautiful to me and described a quaint little escape I have up here in Kentucky when I want to go clear my head and relax. This album relaxes me and makes me STOP and take a deep breath and FOCUS, ALL Bluegrass does, however the slower more contemporary Bluegrass eases me more. “To Here From There” was another fine song on here, it makes you look in the mirror and say HEY SHE WROTE THAT SONG ABOUT ME!
Artists like Miss Missy make me answer the age old “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” adage for the Bluegrass community. You cannot retract the authenticity of people like her, or Miss Sierra Hull or ANY of her peers. Their musicianship and passion for tone make albums like this a favorite in my collection. “Goodbye Virginia” With Mr. Trent Wagler was a great throwback song with an Appalachian vibe that stood out apart from the others here, and that was a good thing.
28. Cliff Westfall Baby You Win
Every year I get what I call a “mail champion”on my TOP 50 list…please let me elaborate on this. I get albums mailed to me on a HEAVY BASIS, and I’ll admit sometimes THE COVER grabs my eye. As did THIS MAN, it just said STOP, PICK ME. Funny Story I was on my way to the Country Music Hall Of Fame for the Studio B movie that plays there, and other stories, when I got this in the mail. So I thought to hell with it and stuck it in my truck stereo. RIGHT OFF the first ten notes of the upright bass thump I had to STOP and take notes. This album has a touch of rockabilly influence with that J.P. Harris twang on the lyrics.
Tone wise and lyrically this man is all over the spectrum, and that’s what my palate has been STARVING FOR in 2018. I mean I love being thrown for a loop and Mr. Cliff left me amazed, the title track “Baby You Win” was amazing and had some classic pop and twang, and an amazing fuzzy guitar tone.
BUT the BEST songwriting on this album comes at the middle of the journey with a well written song called “Off The Wagon”. This had a toe tapping pop and twang tempo as well, but the lyrics…WOW. Probably one of my TOP 10 songs I heard all year, from a fellow Kentucky boy who was raised not far from me, but now resides in New York. The line ‘You know rock bottom sure looks good on you” was phenomenal word placement and is a terrific song about sobriety and lack of it. BUY THIS DAMN ALBUM!
29. American Aquarium Things Change
This album is aptly named for one reason, with this band things did change. In my honest opinion this album is BY FAR their best work, and it made NUMBER ONE with my trusty partner Mr. Joshua Wallace. To read more about that please click HERE. “The World Is On Fire” was kind of political song in it’s own way however I related well with myself, I don’t believe this is the world my grandfather fought for either, and I worried about the world as my child grew also. It’s a VERY positive song about strength and honor.
It’s been a few years since their last offering 2015’s Wolves however it’s been well worth the wait because this album shined like a bright beacon to me. “Crooked Straight” spoke to me like many songs this year, I was not quite sure WHO I WAS in my twenties either. I developed into one hell of a good journalist, and “Work Conquers All” folks. The steel guitar tone accompanied this song SO GOOD, and the Oklahoma music community is awesome.
This band is absolutely tight and right now they are on the pinnacle of their success if they continue in this direction for albums. They have a LOT more to accomplish in their career before ‘Till the Final Curtain Falls” and trust me they WILL, out of anybody on this TOP 50 list, they have the brightest future.
30. Randall King Randall King
This album is another classic three chords and the truth Traditional Country album, and it was top notch in every way. I see him on SO MANY Texas Music scene festivals, and I love that community. Songs like “Mirror, Mirror” are the good old fashioned George Strait type songs WE NEED in today’s mish mash of crap. The opening song “Freightline” was a good Honky Tonk thumping song that raised my expectations of this album, and he did NOT disappoint me.
‘Tuggin On My Heartstrings” was a good song many single men can relate to, accept the truck clean line. Mine is ALWAYS clean, you gotta love them women that tug on the heartstrings. I do NOT like change in my personal life so this song spoke to me.
I thought perhaps “Reason To Quit” was a cover of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson from the Pancho And Lefty album, however it was not. The closing song here was one full of heartbreak and sadness. HERE is our full review of this album.
31. Brandi Carlile By the Way I Forgive You
“Hold Out Your Hand” was a terrific song on this well recorded album.The production on this album captured her passion better than any of her previous albums in my opinion. The Devil don’t take a break indeed, and she hits the nail on the head here. I felt all of the songs accompanied one another quite well on this album, however most people would loose interest in the song length, I did not.
Even though this album only had ten songs on it the overall length of the those ten songs made it a good album, “Fulton County Jane Doe” is a GREAT song that I really liked a lot. You can read the full review of this album HERE.
“Harder To Forgive” was a good one to me I love a lot of the songs I hated as a kid too. I believe we all had wasted time in our youth, all souls are defiantly born kind in every way, innocent and pure. I had to stop and dwell on this song a while, and I loved it. I loved the concept and meaning of it, and I hope to catch her live in 2019.
32. Old Crow Medicine Show Volunteer
It’s not hard for me to dissect anything this band puts out, and it’s even more difficult for me to NOT like ANYTHING they do musically. I’ll be honest I LOVED Remedy the best out of any album BUT this album was absolutely AMAZING. These boys are like a modern day Nitty Gritty Dirt Band…they play EVERYTHING, you get a HUGE bang for your buck at live shows. You get FANTASTIC harmonies and LOVE of Country Music.
It starts out FAST and rowdy with “Flicker And Shine” which celebrates friendship, and showcases their harmonies they have as a band. This band is indeed a well oiled machine flawless in every way. This album has more of their signature harmonica playing on songs like “A World Away”, and goes into another epic song called “Child Of The Mississippi”, which has their signature dobro stomp and clap.
“Elzick’s Farewell” was one of my favorite songs here, with the swift Russian/ gypsy fiddle tempo and no lyrics. This type of musicianship is what I appreciate most from Old Crow than anything, however the song that follows “Whirlwind” was also fun. What a truly great story that paints a lovely picture in your mind, if you listen close enough, and care.
33. Dusty Rust Stolen Horse
This is one of my Kansas City scene friends, and he is a hard working artist, and a damn fine friend. This album starts out with the traditional sounding gallop song called “No One To Blame”, he could easily be placed on a lineup with Mr. Colter Wall or several others on this TOP list here. He has that baritone western voice that spins tales of the old west like many of his peers.
He is a staple presence at the beloved Westport Saloon, which if you love roots music as much as I do it is hallowed ground. YOU MUST watch their LIVE video feeds that take place EVERY NIGHT, you’ll eventually see this young man. “Don’t Wanna Go To Heaven” was another good point on this album, you will love the PARTY IN HELL lyrics.
It behooves me WHY more people in the Roots Music and Outlaw Music community cannot pay more attention to this man with songs like “Misery” it’s a complete NO BRAINER to put him on my TOP 50 list for the year. This album is perhaps one of the most underappreciated albums on my list…I hope this changes that, and it gets what it deserves.
34. Pat Reedy And The Longtime Goners That’s All There is And There Ain’t No More
Another album that I hope to bring more recognition to is this one Mr. Pat Reedy is a construction worker by day and Honky Tonker by night. He put on ONE HELL of a live show at Muddy Roots this year, and another man on this list Mr. John R. Miller plays bass for him. First off this album has twelve songs, and they are all well written. “Bloodshot Heart” is the album’s opener, and it’s your typical Honky Tonk jam complete with proper push from that steel and hard beat.
This man personifies the working man like many of OUR heroes did, I say OUR because I think we ALL pretty much looked up to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. I’m also just “Lucky I’m Alive”, the sound and the spin of the steel guitar make this a wonderful song. HELL there isn’t a bad song on this whole album!
HERE is my review of the whole album. “Conversation With Jesus”was one of the BEST songs I have heard this year as well. I feel the same way being a devout Christian myself, I think treating my fellow man with respect is setting a good example. I also had to laugh at the G Damn reference because I SURE THE HECK am guilty of doing it. “Funny Thing About A Hammer” hmmm it has a G Damn in it…I loved the lyrics on this album, and deem it an outstanding piece of music.
35. J P Harris Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing
What better to open a Honky Tonk Country album up with than a song about drugs and sweating the high out in a hotel room? “JP’s Florida Blues #1” and also “When I Quit Drinking” were full of good hooks I expect from this man’s songwriting style. I just LOVE his simple Honky Tonk slamming songs. When I quit drinking I start thinking about starting up again….what a DAMN GOOD line!
“Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing” is another complete masterpiece in my opinion, hoenstly if I did do a TOP 10 songs of the year, they would all be on here. That song would be on it for sure! “Hard Road” was a good rabble rousing song as well, it IS a hard road before you get back home for sure, I spent many a bloody nights broke to get where I am.
“I Only Drink Alone” was a good slow piano shuffle that I also relate to when I listen to Honky Tonk Country, and he followed that with another good drifter song called “Runaway”. He always gives off the perfect classic whiskey soaked hardcore hurt vibes on every song he sings, and that’s why I LOVE his music.
36. Adam Hood Somewhere In Between
This young man from Alabama was on my radar for quite some time before I finally got the chance to sit down with his album, and I REALLY enjoyed the writing on the opening song called “Heart Of A Queen”. Mr. Brent Cobb is also on this list, who appears on the song “She Don’t Love Me”.
However I stopped in my tracks when I heard the song “Alabama Moon” You know there are so many songs about Alabama now, but this song is such a different approach to his point here. It’s very descriptive and an overall good story about his youth, and if it’s a true story it’s a good one!
“Bayou Girl” was equally a good song about a Cajun gal, and I really enjoyed the dobro work on this song, it was well produced…probably one of the better produced albums on this list. HERE is Mr. Joshua’s review of his album. The slower closing song called “Confederate Rose” was absolutely stunning and descriptive, and I eagerly await to hear it live.
37. Town Mountain New Freedom Blues
If there was one thing I learned at Kickin It On The Creek this year it was that the band Town Mountain doesn’t play around on stage. This new album was nothing more than eleven songs choked full of Bluegrass greatness with banjo craziness and more. The title track is the first song “New Freedom Blues”, which sets the pace with wonderful fiddle work. The banjo rings true on songs like “Lazy River”, and “Underdog”.
“Underdog” is a terrific song about getting knocked down on the gambling tables, you know you cannot win if you don’t play. “Witch Trials” was a good one about injustice in life. When I finally got to see them live I bought all of their albums, and I would have a huge problem choosing my favorite Town Mountain album.
The songs are very lengthy so you know what that means…the songs are packed full of blazing instrumentals and plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the fiddles. It begins to close with a song called “Pamlico” which is a slow and lazy song with good harmonies. This band is amazing live for one thing, to read the full review of this album click HERE.
38. Jason Eady I Travel On
So now let me re illustrate this, NUMBER 50 AND NUMBER 2 are just as good. Because this album was amazing in it’s own right. Truthfully I enjoyed FM Country Hell as his best album overall, but this album DID have many high points on it for me. “I Lost My mind In Carolina” is a great song about life on the road, and a road warrior he is playing an amazing amount of road shows.
However one best songs I have ever heard him do was “Calaveras County” the melody and beat just grabbed my attention at first, and after I played it a few times, I loved the lyrics too. That fiddle break was also cool, it paints a really pretty picture for the listener.
A very self explanatory song is called “Always A Woman” I truly don’t have to illustrate any meaning here. “She Had to Run” was lyrically some damn fine trademark Jason Eady.A very dark and poignant song about an abuse victim finally getting free. Mr. Jason is one of those you can easily pick out of a plethora of other voices, and that makes him very unique and special. To read our full review of this album click HERE.
39. Nick Dittmeier And The Sawdusters All Damn Day
This Indiana band wowed me at Master Musician’s Festival this year, and was on my radar for months prior to that. Now, legitimately this really is their self proclaimed debut FULL album, but their previous one was long enough to be an album too. The opening song “Love Me like You Did” has a cool melody and just sounds great, it’s another song about a new girlfriend that just isn’t as good as the old one.
“I Can’t Go Home” was another vital song on this album that stood out to me, and was a good middle portion song. All of the songs here are upbeat and good to dance to, or just jam out on, or in MY case this is a good interstate driving song! The band itself is a strong unit, that has their own Honky Tonk twang, and this band brings that twang to many shows across America.
“O’ Bannon Woods” was a heavy rocking song towards the end, about making drugs. Time sure has a bad way of changing things sometimes, and I related with this one somewhat because the place I grew up is a war zone now. It just a downright shame what has happened to people in my past. You can go right HERE for our full review of this album.
40. Jason Sinkhorn Junction City, Kentucky
Don’t really care if I catch hell from my fellow media peers here about including acoustic albums on here, this album was amazing to me, as was this man’s vocals on this recording. From the very initial song “The Runaway Dorothy Gale” Mr. Jason had me at attention as a music fan. He is a great picture painter on my canvas mind with well woven tales of Wizard Of Oz references to another story..get it? BUY THIS ALBUM AND LISTEN CLOSE!
I first heard of this young man as he played for Mr. Coby Langham And The Citizen Band, and i was introduced to him further there. He is a prominent fixture in the West Virginia community of music, one that I usually keep a pretty close eye on, because you find many good albums there like this one. I had to go forward to “People Watching #42” just because the name intrigued me to delve into it, it made me giggle to hear him mention Milwaukee…I was raised there.
There are many good songwriting hooks and lines in these nine songs, delivered by a very unique voice and an even more unique style. “Flat Rate Heartbreak Blues” had me related as well, as I too work in a factory (ehh it’s a living).. I think all of us are Hank Williams fans. Thumping like a barn dance on Friday night was a VERY COOL line, I thought this song was the best of the album.
41. Hot Rize 40th Anniversary Bash
I LOVE Bluegrass, I LOVE LIVE Bluegrass albums, and I LOVE bluegrass Legends. Well on this album you have them all, I mean WHO DOESN’T love 40 years of Hot Rize? All of y’all who do not are worng. One of the interesting points of the album is the band introduction where they introduce Mr. Jerry Douglass, and they play Colleen Malone from the 1990 album called take It home.
On this album, you will learn some Bluegrass history as they invite Mr. Sam Bush out who previously played with Emmylou Harris to come out and play a Peter Kuykendall song called “Out On The Ocean”. Mr. Peter was the creator of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, I have studied a LOT about him. “Just Like You” features those well known Hot Rize harmonies, and note for note string discipline.
“Walk The Way The Wind Blows” was another high point on this album, as they played their 1986 hit song, that was also recorded by Miss Kathy Mattea. Toward the end the band appreciated the audiance for supporting live music, and the festivals. I STRESS supporting the festivals, because it’s a good resource to see multiple bands in one place.
42. John Howie Jr. Not Tonight
I love good old fashioned Honky Tonk albums like this one, I like steel guitar infused ballads full of feeling, and this album is bursting full of both of them. “Back When I Cared” is a well written song full of honesty that anyone can relate to. I am so excited to somehow find a way to see him play these songs live.
This man’s vocals are SO distinct and different it makes his album interesting to enjoy, and with songs like “When I’m Not There With You” that add some twang, you have a KILLER ALBUM THAT YOU MUST BUY. If you do not add this album to your collection you are WRONG!
There is so much feeling and soul in the song “Underground” that I had to stop at that track and listen about twenty times. This man poured out his heart to me, and I understood what he was going through as a man, and as a person.
43. Grassfed Moovin’ Down The Road
This Kansas City Bluegrass band was brought to my attention a few years ago, but I didn’t get to see them in full action until Muddy Roots this year. Not only did I enjoy their live set but their lightning fast dobro picking and picking overall just moved this album into my TOP 50. “Dear Lyla” was a good song off this album that I really liked.
“Gas Tank” was an awesome song that reminded me of a Split Lip Rayfield type jam, filled full of acoustic guitar solos and KILLER dobro work, the lyrics are pretty easy to understand and enjoy. You could EASILY dance and jam to these guys, and I can easily ascertain that they JUST HAVE FUN together. They understand one another musically, and they aren’t trying to be anything they are not.
“Little Maggie” is an old traditional cover tune, that they did a good job on, the album closes with a song called “Yard Work” which was nice to end the album with a toe tapper. If you like string bands filled with all kinds of harmonic solos you will LOVE this album.
44. Jesse Daniel Jesse Daniel
This young man is about to embark out on a short run with Country music Legend Mr. billy Don Burns, and by God he deserves it! ‘Big Fish” is a big song about small fish. It’s about paying dues and fake ass people, and it has a TON of good lines and hooks. This young man understands how to pay his dues and beat the road to get what he wants in life.
“Soft Spot (For The Hard Stuff)” was another good song on the album, and a good reassurance to me on the question “who’s gonna fill their shoes”, as this young man brings forth an mature older Honky Tonk sound while maintaining a younger approach to that sound.
“Killing Time Til Time Kills Me” was avery inventive title, and this song itself was filled with some damn fine Honky Tonk twang and shuffle. I liked the way this album was produced and the damaged goods vibe the songs gave off. Trust me, this young man will be garnering more attention form the underground community next year!
45. Dillon Carmichael Hell On An Angel
The song “Natural Disaster” on this album is beyond amazing, and at first I thought it was Mr. Jamey Johnson singing. This young man has been on the Opry, and upholds Traditional Country Music standards with songs like “Country Women” which is a total retro throwback type song.
Now if you have spotify I can tell you some interesting information about this album. There is commentary about each song from Mr. Dillon himself, on a seperate album you can listen to. With songs like “Dancing Away With My Heart” this album is even better with the suppliment commentary, where you can get an even better perspective on the songs and the artist.
” Hard On A Hangover” was another great old timey throwback song with that truly great melody and divorce lyrics, this song sounds like it was released in the late 80’s. Not that it’s a bad thing! Hey when you listen to a Country song you loose your truck…well…yeah. To read our full review on this album click HERE.
46. Felix Thursday End Time Jubilee
OK Folks you can click up there to buy this one digitally BUT if you want a REAL COPY contact Mr. Aaron “Dogbite” Harris over at Ruckus In the Records label. This man is an old journalist friend of mine from the Myspace era, and he released a DAMN FINE album here. He enlisted the help of some more of my old friends like Miss Lucy B. Cochran on fiddle and my buddy Mr. James Hunnicutt.
“Remington” is an anti politically correct song about a lost time when we went to school with firearms in gun racks in our trucks. We didn’t have nutballs shooting up schools because we had respect for firearms, and knives. Another GREAT song on this album was “It’s Hard Stayin Sober In Heppner”, I love his vocal delivery on that song. He’s got a very convincing voice and you can tell he sings with conviction.
The songs on this album are shorter than most of the others, but by God they were so well done that I couldn’t pass up acknowledging this album for what it was worth. I promise you it will stay in my constant rotation for all times, and I strongly suggest you buy this album.
47. The Travelin McCourys The Travelin McCourys
This huge massive article has a lot of Bluegrass album on it I know, but it has been a really good year for Bluegrass. Bluegrass Legend Mr. Del McCoury and his crew has made this awesome side project going called The Travelin McCourys. Early this year we heard their first album self titled. It kicks off with the toe tapping song called “Let Her Go” , about lost love. This album has the song Mr. Waylon cut for Mr. Steve young called “Lonesome Onry And Mean”, it was interesting to hear as a Bluegrass tune.
Mr. Del’s iconic vocals assist the song “I live On A Battlefield” ring out as a focal point song on this album, and I loved the banjo work on “The Shaker”. Like every one of the Bluegrass albums on this list, I chose this one because of the wonderful instrumental work.
“Days I Wish I Had” is a traditional sounding song with a steady melody, with good lyrics that make it a inspiring Bluegrass song, overall this whole album was a feel good Bluegrass album.
48. Trampled By Turtles Life Is Good On the Open Road
Trampled By Turtles is one of my favorite”Americana” bands…if you will…I just consider them good music and I don’t really fit anybody into genres. Not really Bluegrass but they do have a LOT of Bluegrass influence I found on songs like “Kelly’s Bar” which was a fast paced beginning to one of their best albums out yet.
These twelve songs here were enjoyable each in their own right, and I cannot wait to see them live once again. “Right Back Where We Started” is one of my favorite songs they have right now, as well as the title track ‘Life Is Good On The Open Road”. It’s been good to hear a new album from this band for the first time since 2014.
49. Cody Barnett
This album is one of my “last but not least” type deals, I mean if you want some DAMN FINE songwriting just go listen to ‘Cherokee Blood” it has a bunch of GREAT lines in the song. At first I wasn’t sure if I would have a short album of only seven songs on my list, but after I heard ‘Blood Moon” I found the importance of including this album.
This young man needs to be recognized and could be paired up with so many on this list, the possibilities were endless. His style and his songs are eloquently represented by his vocals on songs like “Back In Birmingham”. This song was fantastic and descriptive as hell…just what I like. He is from the Oklahoma music community, and is a nice local representation of his respected area out there.
This album closed with two fantastic songs one called “Mockingbird” which I was wondering if it was a cover of the James Hand song of the same name, but no it wasn’t. This was it’s own rocking song in his style that shows his more rock roots. The last song was a fast paced song laced with with fine steel called “Evil Woman”.
50. Bri Bagwell In my Defense
I knew this album would be on my TOP 50 list the second I got it in my hands. I LOVE the Red Dirt and Texas community, I love a good Country gallop, and I love female singers. You juxtapose all of those together and you have this album. It was produced terrifically and I love the band she has. “Asphalt And Concrete” was a good song about her being from the West Coast.
A slower song called “Cheat On Me” had a slower flow with tons of feeling, but accompanied the other songs on the album pretty well. “I Can’t Be Lonely ” was another good song with lots of twang, and her sultry and sassy vocals were captured really well on this song.
Another good song on this album was “Feel Like Home”, and it closes with a few other good ones. This album is by all means her best offering yet, and I see great things for her in the future. I have yet to see her play live yet, and I have to drive to Texas to see her play, I will.