The Best Country Albums Of 2020
Ahh, that time of year again. Where we pretend the holiday chaos is actually the most wonderful time of year and not the most stressful.
Christmas shopping, family members we love (and hate), a shit ton of alcohol, Covid-19, Spotify 'wrapped' year end statistics, and, well, looking back on the good and the bad from this year's country music.
I'm going to start off with the best albums. Most of them you may know, let the ones you don't be something new and exciting to dive into. Let's rock.
Oh, and by the way, these are in no particular order.
Huser Brother Band - This Heart Of Mine EP
Straight out of Texas, the Huser brothers are one of my favorite up and coming acts and someone you should definitely keep on your radar. I can't predict when but I have a feeling these boys are going to be big. I first discovered them last year with songs 'Missing You' and 'Tired Of Runnin' and instantly became a fan with their rockin' sound and Josh Huser's smooth and passionate vocals. I know it's not a full length album, but it's still worth throwing on here.
Hailey Whitters - The Dream
With vocals that remind you a little bit of Kacey Musgraves, Hailey Whitters is one of the best new country singers out right now and on top of gaining a lot of traction without a major record label, this album was fully funded herself. Her small town story telling is what captivates you and makes every track special. Including other artists such as Ingred Andress and Kat Hasty, I'm excited right now for the females in country music.
She really is someone you have to listen to.
Chris Stapleton - Starting Over
Soft and still gritty, there's no one like Chris Stapleton. This is probably my least favorite record from him but still in my top albums of the year, that says all you need to know about him. His voice will never get old.
Josh Abbott Band - The Highway Kind
Maybe their best music to date, this album has it all. From rockin' songs like "Where I Wanna Be" and "24-7-365" to the vulnerability of "Women and Wishes" and my personal favorite, "Settle Me Down." The fun and creative lyrics from 'Real Damn Good' is well, real damn good. This is a no skip record.
Sturgill Simpson - Cuttin' Grass Volumes 1 and 2
There's no doubt that you no longer need a major record label in order to have success in country music. Just look at Tyler Childers, Zach Bryan, and Sturgill Simpson. Hell, Sturgill even appeared on Stephen Colbert last month to promote 'Cuttin' Grass Vol 1.' Giving us two bluegrass records is exactly what we needed, especially in 2020.
Kip Moore - Wild World
His second album with "Wild" being in the title, Kip Moore has one of my favorite voices in country music. It's rough, raspy, and smooth at the same time. Kip is still one of the more under-rated artists in the genre, even with getting airplay on mainstream country radio. This album is everything you would want from Kip, maybe a song or two like "Beer Money" or "Somethin' Bout A Truck," however, would be nice. I know a lot would disagree with me on that, but those were still heaters in the height of the bro-country era. "She's Mine" was one of my favorite radio singles this year. The chorus was catchy, upbeat, and I personally love when Kip gives us a little rock in his music. Other notable songs include "Janie Blue" and "Payin' Hard."
Randall King - Leanna
Titled after his late sister and his first release since signing with Warner Music Nashville, Randall King gives us a solid, traditional sounding EP. So solid, that even though its only 4 songs, it still makes this list. Randall King is smooth, George Strait kind of smooth, and his Impressive, sulky vocals and great production rank him up there at the top for me. He was my most played artist of the year.
Chris Colston - Bombs Away
Because country music still needs those small town, dirt road, beer songs. The whole "bro country" era, which I enjoyed by the way, became lazy, un-authentic and forgettable. Not for Chris Colston, however. His music is fresh, lyrically smart, and relatable. Some of it reminds me of earlier Cole Swindell, just vocally more impressive (no offense to Cole.) The guy has charisma, a great voice, and I only see him getting bigger.
- Self Defense
- Bombs Away
- Five Beers
Lee Brice - Hey World
After absolutely killing it in country music from 2012-14 and earning a couple 'Song Of The Year' awards , Lee hasn't had any huge hits that measured up since, in my opinion. This isn't a dig at "Rumor," I just don't think he's topped 'Hard To Love", "I Drive Your Truck' or 'I Don't Dance' but this year was pretty monstrous for him. After his huge hit 'I Hope You're Happy Now' with Carly Pearce, Lee had another #1 single with 'One Of Them Girls.'
Lee is one of the best performers in country music. Don't believe me? Just youtube some of his performances and you'll see how much fun he has and gives off to the crowd. You'll also see the passion and pain in his face and voice when he sings emotional songs. If there is anything you do today, listen to 'Save The Roses' and 'Sons and Daughters'. Thank me later.
Jason Isbell - Reunions
Jason Isbell is someone I regrettably over-looked for years. One of the best songwriters and guitar players out there, his 2020 album 'Reunions' is a record that, if someone leaves off their list, I'd encourage you to no longer follow their page or website.
"There are a lot of ghosts on this album. Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren't around anymore, but theyre also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself."
Ashley McBryde - Never Will
Ashley is a superstar. There's no other way to put it. With very limited radio spins until 'One Night Standards', she still has managed to be nominated and win many awards. While I don't necessarily consider winning CMA's and ACM's the making of a great career, it's still impressive.
Koe Wetzel - Sellout
I'll be honest, this isn't my favorite work from Koe Wetzel, but it still has a ton of great content. His first release as after signing with Columbia records, Koe stayed true to himself, despite his sarcastic album title, 'Sellout.'
While Koe usually has more rock influence than country in his music, that's something I personally like and appreciate from an artist as well. He is unique, raw, and doesn't really give a fuck what any one thinks about him. Just listen to 'Post-Sellout' or follow him on twitter.
My favorite from the record:
Zach Bryan - Elisabeth
Zach has always been raw, not just his voice, but the production of his albums as well and that's something that fans of his have found refreshing and come to love. If you've been living under a rock and have never heard of Zach Bryan, I'll start by saying any fans of Childers will be fans of him. He has charisma without trying and is an insanely talented song-writer.
HARDY - A Rock
An extremely talented songwriter who doesn't do anything other than what he wants to do. I'm pretty sure my first time hearing Hardy was from his song 'Throwback' but I could be wrong, it could've been 'Rednecker.' Regardless, Throwback is still one of his most under-rated songs to this day. Of course, that was back before he had even reached 2,000 followers on twitter.
Hardy has written songs for Blake Shelton such as 'God's Country' and 'Hell Right.' He recently also scored a number 1 with Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson for 'One Beer.'
Hardy is another guy who, in some ways, has brought back the "bro-country" era and has done it tastefully with creative lyrics. I love a good song about beer drinkin' so it's nice to have a revamp but not be lyrically lazy. Another reason I love Hardy is because, like Koe Wetzel, he infuses rock into a lot of the album with songs such as 'Boots', 'So Close' and 'Hate Your Hometown.' Love him or hate him, Hardy is just gettin' started.
Ingrid Andress - Ladylike
I can't say enough good things about Ingred Andress. I'm simply just excited, captivated and amazed by her from this album.
'More Hearts Than Mine' was simply one of the best songs released to radio this year. Probably top 5. And if we're doing the whole "female to male" type of thing, it was the best song from a female country artist, as well. That's a hell of a way to enter the scene.
She continues to show vulnerability, or lack there of, on 'Feeling Things' and 'We're Not Friends' which are probably two of my favorites. Sit alone in silence and put on this record and feel the bumps on your arms from her voice. Country music snagged a good one, ya'll.
Until next year. I'll be patiently waiting for new Jon Pardi and Morgan Wallen.