Kevin's Top 13 Albums of 2017
1. Colter Wall – Colter Wall
Granted, producer Dave Cobb has an inexhaustible Midas touch. But you’d assume in situations like this one – producing the debut album from a star in the making from Canada – he’d largely just stand back. Listen to Wall’s deep, dark baritone and tell me he’s 22 years old; great golly, he is. Here’s the gold standard for folk albums in the twenty-teens, featuring the year’s best murder ballad, “Kate McCannon.” Tyler Childers’ singing harmony vocals on the traditional ballad “Fraulein” is the cherry on top.
2. Chris Stapleton – From a Room, Vol. II
This is the best pure country album for the last two or three years, from the man with hands-down the best voice in the genre. I had this playing in the background at work and a colleague asked, “Is this Waylon?” Well, yeah, pretty much. Take note, Nashville: Stapleton’s topping the charts, no thanks to you.
3. Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way From Your Heart
As I wrote on its debut, this album is wonderfully more of the same we’ve come to expect from these champions of the Red Dirt universe. Nobody writes a bittersweet broken-heart song better than Evan Felker, as evidenced in “The House Fire.”
4. Tyler Childers – Purgatory
Appalachia has passed the torch to its newest great storyteller; welcome to the big time, Tyler Childers. If anyone has doubts, ask yourself if Sturgill Simpson would produce this guy if he were anything but the genuine article. Childers has set himself an incredibly high bar here; but with a couple listens no one will doubt he’ll raise it higher on the next one. Here is the real deal, and he’ll be around for a long, long time.
5. Jeremy Pinnell - Ties of Blood & Affection
Fine storytelling, great vocals. More from this guy, please.
6. Texas Gentlemen – TX Jelly
A terrific breakout record from some of the finest musicians in the Lone Star State. Recorded over a handful of days in Muscle Shoals, this first group of 11 tracks fits together in a perfect yet random way. These guys are heavy hitters and make it sound easy. Much more to come.
7. JD McPherson – Undivided Heart and Soul
What this country needs is more rockabilly, and this Okie delivers in spades. This is just lots of fun. It’s got a dash of British pub rock, just enough to remind us of Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe. Shake your hips, Daddy-o.
8. Jason Eady – Jason Eady
The album gently grabs your attention with the song “Barabbas” and holds it throughout with some of the best songwriting of the year from a genuine craftsman. This Texan – by way of Mississippi – hits full stride with a fine album produced by the legendary Lloyd Maines and featuring the backing vocals of Vince Gill.
9. Gregg Allman – Southern Blood
I don’t think he ever made a better solo album, and it’s so just bittersweet that we get this one from beyond the grave. His covers of the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” and Little Feat’s “Willin’” add a sweet touch. Given all Gregg’s givens, let’s be thankful he was here for 69 years. Rest easy, man.
10. Zephaniah OHora – This Highway
This album is an authentic, organic tribute to the golden years of country music, recalling Hank Snow, Marty Robbins and Ray Price. Another hit for the so-called “neo-traditionalists.”
11. The Steel Woods – Straw In The Wind
A perfect balance of country and rock, and with some fine storytelling. Check your mirror, Blackberry Smoke; these guys are on your heels.
12. Son Volt – Notes of Blue
Jay Farrar decided to make a blues record and to the surprise of absolutely no one, it shines. He’s superman. He can do anything. Could we have a bluegrass album next, please?
13. Shinyribs – I Got Your Medicine
Just a fun album, start to finish. Adult-size portions of soul, real (as to what is today called) rhythm & blues, and gospel should keep this record in heavy rotation.