Well friends, it’s that time of year when everyone and their grandma pulls out their notebooks and looks back down memory lane. It’s been a year of success in much of the independent country world as we have witnessed more of the mainstream look towards our favorite talents more closely. The noise has become louder from the Texas and Red Dirt scene as well as in the traditional side Nashville. With that, and in no particular order might I add, I give you my favorite albums of 2017.
Aaron Watson – Vaquero
Aaron Watson continues to be a beacon of hope for anyone out there with a dream and the passion to see things through. His 2015 release, The Underdog, pushed him further into the spotlight and ultimately laid the final groundwork to help him reach mainstream status before Vaquero released back in February. While Vaquero undoubtedly flirts more towards the mainstream appeal – make no mistake. This is not pop country and it’s right in line with Texas Country. After 18 years of pounding the pavement, having success on country radio is well deserved and Aaron is utilizing his “fame” to help his Texas and Red Dirt friends gain some attention.
Favorite Tracks: One Two Step At A Time, Big Love in A Small Town, They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To.
Deryl Dodd – Long Hard RidE
Deryl Dodd is someone who took a dated concept of a Greatest Hits album, invites all his buddies over, and creates one of the best tributes to one’s career that I can safely say is one of the best I have heard to date. It’s part greatest hits, part collaboration. Even more so? It’s a standout album that is executed so damn well. He brings along names like Cody Jinks, Cody Johnson, Bonnie Bishop, and Stoney LaRue and re-imagines some of his best songs over the years. The most incredible part of this album is how it doesn’t feel like just a rehash of some old songs or even just some thrown together album. It is a strong album through and through and one that is deserving of a place in your library.
Favorite Tracks: Good luck choosing. Exceptional cast. Exceptional album.
James Carothers - Relapse
I had the pleasure of talking with James Carothers earlier this fall about his start in music and his current place in Nashville. If there is someone out there that is working to keep that old time sound alive, it’s Carothers. When you hear those baritone vocals come through your speakers in such an impressive fashion, you’ll understand why James has the widow of George Jones, Nancy Jones’, stamp of approval. His 2017 release, Relapse was recorded digitally then transferred to tape, resulting in that throwback sound that compliments his voice and true country style so well. I expect his name to continue being brought up in conversations in the coming years. If you “believe in Nashville,” you better believe in James Carothers.
Favorite Tracks: Back to Hank, Choices, and Relapse
Jason Eady – Jason Eady
Jason Eady is the guy that every songwriter wants to be someday. His music is consistently strong and while he may not be soaking up the glory of some larger names, my gut tells me he isn’t as concerned about being the most popular guy as he is being true to himself and fans. He’s a true songwriter – something he is known for amongst his peers. When you hear a song like AM Country Heaven from his 2013 album, you realize just what Eady is all about. Off his 2017 self-titled album, I have thoroughly enjoyed Why I Left Atlanta, Black Jesus, Waiting to Shine and the incredibly emotional Not Too Loud.
Hunter Hutchinson – Keep Rollin' On
There are some young guns in the Texas scene that have been digging their boots into the dirt to make a name for themselves. Among that crowd is recent Texas Tech grad, Hunter Hutchinson and he really knows how to make an album that will appeal to a wide range of people. You can tell his youth in his songs as there are songs of chasing girls around, having a few beers and just an all around good time. However, songs like Grandpa’s Saddle really show the depth that Hutchinson can bring to the table. It’s a fun album from beginning to end that has received a lot of plays on my end. I think he has a bright future ahead of him in country music.
Favorite Tracks: Keep Rollin’ On, Good One Comin’ On, and Grandpa’s Saddle.
Tyler Childers – Purgatory
If you have been living under a rock this past year, then you might just be unfamiliar with one of the fastest rising names in the indie movement: Tyler Childers. While 2017 bought this young talent to my attention for the first time, I instantly was able to realize why he is becoming so popular. Purgatory plays so smoothly with just enough flair to be interesting without relying on amped up energy as a crutch. With a producer like Sturgill Simpson, there is little doubt that the album will be anything less that stellar. I found myself being drawn to I Swear (To God), Feathered Indians, and Whitehouse Road.
Casey Donahew – The Wild Ride
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
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