Oct 31, 2019
Jan 8, 2019
Last one! I promise. ~Trailer
by Scott Colvin
1. Larkin Poe – Venom & Faith
Rebecca and Megan Lovell (formerly of the bluegrass band The Lovell Sisters with older sister Jessica) are mostly “known” as touring musicians for the likes of Kristian Bush and Elvis Costello…among others. On their fourth full-length album, the sisters absolutely hit the sublime with their powerful brand of roots rock and blues. Rebecca’s sultry and soulful vocals blend perfectly with Megan’s hot bluesy slide guitar licks for one of the finest albums in recent memory.
2. Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You
Brandi’s finest album since The Story (which will always be in my Top 10 of all-time). “The Joke” is simply gorgeous and a song of the year contender. This Dave Cobb produced platter got some serious Grammy nom love and for good reason.
3. Jamie Lin Wilson – Jumping Over Rocks
4. Whitey Morgan and the 78s – Hard Times and White Lines
5. Lindi Ortega - Liberty
6. Joshua Hedley – Mr. Jukebox
7. Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere
8. Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive
9. Shooter Jennings – Shooter
10. Blackberry Smoke – Find a Light
11. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – Years
It’s not often I can look to my hometown for music pride. Let’s be honest, until Sarah Shook came around Foreigner’s Lou Gramm might be Rochester, NY’s most notable artist (C’Mon, admit it, “Jukebox Hero” and “Urgent” were freaking awesome). Shook is a total badass and this album proves it.
12. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
13. Dillon Carmichael – Hell on an Angel
14. Eric Church – Desperate Man
15. I’m With Her – See You Around
16. Muncie Girls – Fixed Ideals
17. Thunderpussy – S/T
This female foursome delivers with some serious 70s rock goodness. To be honest their debut EP Greatest Tits was a tighter effort, but since those songs are all on this LP it makes my list.
18. Rhett Miller – The Messenger
19. Cody Jinks - Lifers
20. Holly Golightly – Do the Get Along
May 11, 2018
By Scott Colvin
Lindi Ortega’s penultimate concert on the U.S. leg of her world-wide Liberty Tour came to the intimate Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD on April 25th. While the venue wasn’t at capacity (it was a Wednesday, so let’s cut the artist and venue some slack) the fans who were there were presented with a thrilling performance by the Canadian country torch singer with one of the finest albums of 2018.
While the majority of the show focused on songs from her striking new album Liberty, Ortega led off the night with a pair of tracks from her “recognized” debut album Little Red Boots -- “Dying of Another Broken Heart” and “All of the Angels.” Both songs (hell, one can say this about most of her songs) were flush with Ortega’s aching vocals and steadied by drummer Ryan Brewer and “Champagne” James Robertson’s jangly guitar playing. “Demon Don’t Get Me Down” off Cigarettes & Truckstops came up next and was a rollicking ride of country attitude and featured a fantastic slide guitar solo by Robertson.
Among the songs from Liberty, Ortega played “In The Clear,” a reflective song about weathering a personal storm, the head-bobbing title track with very western guitar licks, and the slow and sweet “Lovers In Love” a song she said was “one of the first real love songs she’s written” (marriage will do that).
She also played Liberty’s musically and vocally intense “Comeback Kid,” the album’s first single, featuring Brewer’s ominous drumming which added a certain danger to the song. Ortega celebrated her Mexican/Spanish speaking heritage with “Pablo” and the lovely “Gracias a la Vida” by Chilean composer Violetta Parra which was the encore’s first song.
Ortega closed out the set with a song about “backstabbers,” “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me” where she slinked and slithered on stage, selling the song while showing her fun side.
Two of the finest moments of the night came when Ortega sang the brilliant Nashville underdog song-writer song “Tin Star” and probably her most known song, the transcendent “Cigarettes & Truckstops.”
Lindi Ortega is an adept storyteller in melancholia. There is a pain, power and lucidity in her voice that is absent from today’s party-hardy, feel-good scene (which has nothing to do with real country music) and is certainly welcome and admirable.
|Obligatory shot of Scott and Lindi|
May 5, 2018
Mar 2, 2018
by Robert Dean
When you do what we do, there are folks you consider “the home team,” the musicians we’ve watched grow over the years. The artists we were begging readers to check out long before they broke out or hooked up with a super producer. Tyler Childers and Colter Wall made their way onto the national stage. We’re always rooting for Justin Wells, and we want Lindi Ortega to do well. Jason Isbell is slowly taking over everything, and some of us can remember when Sturgill was playing rooms to 100 people. There are so many great bands out there grinding, The Quiet Hollers, Two Cow Garage, Shovels and Rope; we tip our hats to all of them.
We take pride in seeing these folks bloom, which in some cases, submitted a few scratch tracks or sent us a tweet to check out their music. These once obscure artists are getting a shot at real success.
Another one of those folks we love and are unbelievably proud of is Caleb Caudle. On his newest record, Crushed Coins, Caleb Caudle is making noise that’s booming louder than his critically acclaimed Carolina Ghost.
Crushed Coins feels different than Carolina Ghost in that the body of work is less reliant on the big and bright late 80’s/early 90’s country overtones, and instead feels personal and more “Americana” than strict, by the book country and western.
Crushed Coins features straight-ahead songwriting and a strict reliance on mastery of craft instead of studio trickery or layers of instruments designed to muddle the message. There are some heartbreakers, some good time jams and some beer drinking tunes, which as about all you can ask for in a straight ahead country record.
If Randy Travis or Garth Brooks is on your Spotify playlist, be sure to check out everything Caleb Caudle has released, he’s one of the best dudes putting in the work. He’s skillfully adept at harnessing that clean, powerful and hooky sound those guys pulled off back in the day. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, Caleb Caudle is an artist that appeals to older country fans, but can also bring in a lot of new people. He’s got an immediate likability, but also listenability that many artists, no matter how great just can’t foster.
As Pantera taught us on the home video: KEEP THE SCENE ALIVE, MAN.
Grab Crushed Coins from Caleb's Bandcamp site or find it at all the other usual places.
Feb 9, 2018
Jun 8, 2017
Nov 2, 2016
When your stepson says he's a huge Big Smo fan
When you try to make your friend stop listening to Lindi Ortega
Riding with your Brantley Gilbert fan cousin like...
Did you know Dave Cobb is Brent Cobb's cousin?
When your girlfriend walks in after
you just listened to Turnpike Troubadours
When you meet Hunter Hayes
Dec 30, 2015
For the first time, our best albums list is a composite voted on by Trailer and FTM's 4 most frequent contributors (Kelcy Salisbury, Kevin Broughton, Jeremy Harris, and Matthew Martin) along with a tiebreaker vote from Trailer's concert buddy/friend with good taste in music, Chad. We hope this will add validity and weight to the results. It was another great year for music, as you'll see clearly below.
11. (Tie) Jason Boland and the Stragglers - Squelch
Boland & a slightly reworked Stragglers lineup provide proof that country music can evolve without sacrificing its identity. Not many artists are turning out this kind of work nearly two decades into their career, but the proof is in the pudding as The Stragglers have put out a rollicking rock-tinged album with a subversive, punk rock type aesthetic throughout. If you like smart, socially conscious lyrics with a bite, this is the country album for you. -Kelcy
11. (Tie) William Clark Green - Ringling Road
It may head towards the pop country direction a few times. I don’t care. It may contain a few songs that are catchy but don’t contain much substance. I don’t care. It may be from someone that a lot of you had never heard of. I don’t care. I chose this as my top album because it’s my top album. How can you argue with that logic? I don’t know or care. All I know is this is by far my favorite album of this year and it wasn’t even something that required much thought. -Jeremy
11. (Tie) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Indie-pop is a sub-genre I usually avoid due to the twee nature of its typical fare. Father John Misty doesn't do twee. He infuses his catchy pop tunes and lounge rollers with a strong dose of balls. His lyrics are clever, biting, and frequently downright asshole-ish. These songs comfort, provoke, enlighten, and annoy, often at the same time. Our narrator is a jerk, but a jerk that you have to stick around to see what he'll do or say next. This is a record that will gnaw at you and stick with you, each song taking its turn being an earworm or soundtrack to some odd moment. -Trailer
10. Jonathan Tyler - Holy Smokes
It’s astounding when you realize all the things this guy has accomplished by his 30th year. Out of a contract with the suits at Atlantic Records, Tyler combines songwriting chops and a top-flight vocal range to express his newfound independence in impressive fashion. Expect more great things from this prodigy. -Kevin
9. John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat
It's not an album you may want to listen to over and over because it's so heavy. But, whether you want to or not, you'll be compelled to continue to listen. It's catchy. It's a bummer. But John Moreland sings with the conviction of a man who has no choice but tell you about the pains of life. Moreland's voice is so powerful and strong. If you don't own this album, stop everything you're doing and get this album. Listen to it. Then, listen to it again regardless of your gut feeling. This album will hit you, and hit you hard. By the time you get to "Cherokee" on the last half of the album, you'll realize how special Moreland, and this album, is. -Matthew
8. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian's Misfortune
The Wylie Lama has released his best album in years, and we are lucky enough to witness it. "Stone Blind Horses" is as good a lyric as anything released all year, "Bad On Fords" is about as much fun as anything Hubbard has ever put out, the whole vibe is great & the results are fantastic. -Kelcy
This seasoned, wry songwriter really can’t make a bad record. “Chick singer, Badass Rocking” has the kind of driving, tribal feel as a RWH standard, “Snake Farm.” And the record closes with “Stone Blind Horses,” which would make my top 5 list of singles from 2015. -Kevin
7. The Yawpers - American Man
If this were a list of the top rock albums, Nate Cook and his band would be at the summit. The songs confront a range of social/societal issues head on, but what blows you away is how much sound the Yawpers get from two acoustics and a drum kit. Buckle up; this one gets you by the throat. -Kevin
Rock & Roll isn't dead, you just can't see it from the highway or hear it on corporate radio, but there are still some bands keeping it alive. This album is at once sprawling, messy, smart, cynical, homesick & rebellious. It's a good thing. -Kelcy
6. American Aquarium - Wolves
To say the musical arrangements are daring & a departure from past albums is true. Yes, the same basic structure is there, the skeleton is intact enough to keep the loyal fans sated. But BJ Barham & the boys take risks here. The lush "Man I'm Supposed To Be" could be something Chet Atkins produced, but the darkness that lurks in this most honest of love songs somehow makes the song even more powerful. -Kelcy
5. Whitey Morgan - Sonic Ranch
How does an album with a bunch of covers make a year end list? By making you forget they’re cover songs. Whitey hits a home-run with this one and his vocals should’ve made this album more talked about than it already was in 2015. -Jeremy
As strong a "real country album" as you'll hear in 2015. It's refreshing to hear such unfiltered honky-tonk music in this day and age of contrived edge and softened edges. Morgan and the 78s' version of modern outlaw country is a comparable sound to what Sturgill Simpson is doing, but with a blue collar approach and a more pronounced low-end. This album may not drive Morgan to acceptance/hype in the same circles as Jason Isbell and Sturgill, but it's a big statement album that will bring in new fans and make old ones very happy. -Trailer
4. Chris Stapleton - Traveller
Chris Stapleton has been around the scene for a long time and I think many folks have had
a feeling that one day he'd get the recognition due him. I'm glad that day has come, and this
album is completely worthy of all the praise it has garnered. Stapleton's voice is as strong as
ever and the songs are perfect showcases for his style. The slower, sadder tunes on the
album are the real highlights though and the song "Fire Away" is far and away my favorite
track on the album. -Matthew
3. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
The only thing keeping this one out of my top spot is the fact that it was just a year since his last tour-de-force, Southeastern. As I wrote here, this record lets your emotions off the mat a little bit, and allows you to breathe. I think it’s his best to date, but the dude keeps raising the bar. -Kevin
2. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
The first studio album in six years from the dean of Texas songwriting. McMurtry turns a phrase better than most, and injects an extraordinary pathos into his everyman characters. He didn’t miss a beat during the half-dozen year delay, and this one is well worth the wait. -Kevin
I'm not sure there is anyone out there today who can write songs about everyday scenarios as perfectly as James McMurtry. On his latest effort, McMurtry strips down his songs to their basics and lets the focus be on the stories within each song. The incredibly heartbreaking song "You Got To Me" will leave you missing something- whether that be home, a past relationship, or just earlier years will be up to you. The song and the album stuck with me for weeks after listening to it. -Matthew
1. Turnpike Troubadours - Turnpike Troubadours
On this record, the Troubadours let a little color and light in, and it's just enough to fully realize the absurd potential of this group. There's space, separation, and vividness in the sound. The slower songs soar, the rockers punch, and there's fiddle and steel galore. On a good set of speakers, this thing is stunning. Their writing was already excellent, but they've even upped their game in that department. "The Bird Hunters" tells the tale of a man coming to terms with an ended relationship over the course of a quail hunt. This could come across as hokey or forced in the hands of a lesser act. The Troubadours make it a song-of-the-year candidate, epic, cinematic, and immersive. -Trailer
Other popular selections:
The Pollies - Not Here
Lindi Ortega - Faded Gloryville
Baroness - Purple
Baroness - Purple
Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen - Hold My Beer
Allison Moorer - Down to Believing
Lucero - All a Man Should Do
Courtney Patton - So This is Life
Benton Leachman - Bury the Hatchet
Ashley Monroe - The Blade
The Honeycutters - Me Oh My
The Deslondes - s/t
Eric Church - Mr. Misunderstood
Will Hoge - Small Town Dreams
Nov 9, 2015
Oct 29, 2015
Oct 14, 2015
Aug 10, 2015
Sep 22, 2014
Nov 11, 2013
Oct 18, 2013
Jan 4, 2013
A first-half-of-the-year release unfairly hurts some albums on these year-end lists. That wasn't the case for this year's #1 album, There is a Bomb in Gilead. From my May review:
"The forthright Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires emerges onto the scene already
a full-fledged force to be reckoned with on this fantastic debut.
Mixing garage rock, country soul and southern swagger into an effortlessly authentic blend, Lee and the boys give a spirited go at every style across 11 spotless tracks. From the driving exploration of faith on album opener "Ain't No Stranger," through the sin, searching and nostalgia of the middle to the hymn-inspired closing title track, there isn't a weak point on the album."
Standout tracks: Sundown in Nashville, Picture From Life's Other Side (with Hank III)
See review here.
See review here.
RIYL: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Lucero, Two Cow Garage
Does this band have a signature sound, or what? Turnpike Troubadours are (is?) distinctive, vibrant and unique (so unique in fact, that I used two synonyms for that word in the same description). Disregard my haphazard writing and just know that they've come into their own on Goodbye Normal Street.
Songwriting doesn't get much better in this day and age.
Standout tracks: Good Lord Lorrie, Empty as a Drum, Gin, Smoke, Lies
From Kelcy's November review (note - we'll also post Kelcy's favorite albums of '12 later on,
so I should probably do my own write-up here, but I'm lazy)
"In summary, if you're a fan of anything that Cody Canada, Seth James, Jeremy Plato, Steve Littleton or have done in the past you will love this album. If you're a fan of good bluesy rock n roll you will love this album. Shoot, if you're just a fan of good music with some substance, you need to pick up a copy. So get Adventus & celebrate the true Arrival of The Departed on the scene."
Standout tracks: Prayer for the Lonely, Set It Free, Sweet Lord
A true comeback album, 3 Pears finds the country legend mixing rock, soul, country and his undying swagger into a welcome set of memorable songs that will never get played on Clearchannel radio.
Standout tracks: It's Never Alright, A Heart Like Mine, Rock It All Away
Standout tracks: Pocket Full of Misery, Rosalia
(Condescending Wonka says) Oh you thought West Coast rap was dead?
Have you heard Kendrick Lamar?
Standout tracks: B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe, Backseat Freestyle
Real country is alive and well. The Trishas are proof. The vocals and harmonies are beyond reproach. The songwriting is the thing for me though. High, Wide and Handsome shows Nashville how to write a hooky, lyrically clever song without leaning on cliches and marketing. The Trishas are no one-note act - they give us a portrait of strength on the album, but they also give us vulnerability. In other words, reality.
Standout tracks: Over Forgiving You, Mother of Invention, The Fool
Standout tracks: More Than I Can Handle, Harold Wilson, Desperate People
I want to personally thank Killer Mike for relighting my fire for hip-hop. Obviously, I focus mostly on alt-country and rock, but I've been a rap fan since the late 80's. I just thought intelligent, fiery, well-crafted hip-hop was a thing of the past. (Obviously there's a whole rap underground that I'm discounting with that statement, but there are only so many hours in the day for listening to music.) R.A.P. Music is a bold statement, both lyrically and sonically. Producer EL-P (whose own album is further down this list) provides a brutal, old-school-leaning bed for the rhymes. Mike flows like he actually cares about what he's saying. He's clearly a real person - in one verse he's cursing the political system; in the next he's praising his family. There's little talk of bling and booty on this record....because real people don't have to dwell on generalities and boasts when they discuss life. Killer Mike is as real as it gets.
Standout tracks: Big Beast, Reagan, Butane
The indie-country Svengali delivers his most consistent album to date with Family Man.
It's a cohesive, passionate look at (mostly) the everyman side of country music royalty.
On these very pages, I once dismissed Shooter's music, voice and image but no longer...
so long as he continues to deliver music this engaging and tuneful.
Standout tracks: The Long Road Ahead, Daddy's Hands
The indie world buzzed and bowed for this band from ...duh, Alabama, as soon as their EP hit the scene in 2011. That hype turned a lot of people off or built up their expectations far too high, but for me, Boys & Girls was a delivery on the promise of that Extended Play. Throw some Muscle Shoals soul, New York garage rock and folk sensibility into a blender and the Shakes are what results. It's more than that, though. Their songwriting is strong, their musical chops are exciting and Britanny Howard's voice is a thing of beauty.
I can't wait to see where they go from here.
Standout tracks: Hold On, Heartbreaker, I Ain't the Same
Like Shooter Jennings, Matt King was an artist I once didn't "get." Given time with his music however, I've changed my tune. Matt is a country singer with a very distinct vision. He also has a signature sound. That's rare in this day and age. Apples and Orphans is full of wit and anger in equal amounts. While politics and the environment are common themes, Matt explores these themes with an old-timey aesthetic and warm approach that never seems preachy, even when it is. His music is at times experimental, steampunk (whatever that means), ragtime or pure country. It's always passionate.
Standout tracks: Back to Baltimore, Jasmine and Gypsies