I'll be posting a few of our contributor ballots for our official Top 25 of 2018 over the next few days. Here's Kevin Broughton's top 17 albums of 2018.
There's a playlist of songs from each album below.
1. Western Centuries, Songs From the Deluge
Great musicianship from the closest thing to a country super-group 2018 has seen. These guys are all heavily grounded in bluegrass, yet this album synthesizes all the best parts of American roots music. Come for the three-headed monster of vocals and songwriting, stay for the pedal steel.
2. Ruston Kelly, Dying Star – One for the misfits, but who among us isn’t one. At times depressing, funny and hopeful, and with a dash of redemptive potential. And it’s oh, so very pleasing to the ear. Comparisons to Ryan Adams are inevitable. So far, though, Mr. Kelly doesn’t seem to be a full-of-himself douche.
3. Handsome Jack, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
The best rock ‘n’ roll album of 2018, from a power trio in Buffalo, N.Y. The Robinson bros. might have killed the Black Crowes, but the spirit of the band breathes through these guys.
4. Caleb Caudle, Crushed Coins
A fantastic Americana album, and the second on my list that will draw the inevitable Ryan Adams comparisons. (I’m reminded in particular of the last Whiskeytown record.) And that’s a good thing; quality songwriting understated instrumentation and great vocals.
5. Donna The Buffalo, Dance in the Street
From way, way off the radar. A long-running band of upstate New Yorkers, steeped in old, traditional music – yet with a jam-band ethos. They teamed up with Rob Fraboni, who’s produced and/or engineered Dylan, The Band, Clapton, the Stones and the Beach Boys. The result is fine, and irresistible. If I’d heard this album sooner in the year, it’d be higher on the list.
6. Dirty River Boys, Mesa Starlight
These Texans have me captivated with their Scots-Irish fire. They’re almost an American version of the Pogues, grabbing you at the beginning with “Wild of Her Eyes.” High energy and lots of fun.
7. Cody Jinks, Lifers
Cody is just taunting the Satanists running Nashville now, showing these soulless, undead beings what a country record could be on their radio stations.
8. Blackberry Smoke, Find A Light
These guys are working hard. Consecutive years with top-flight albums, they retain their Southern rock identity without being chained to it. This is an all-American band.
9. Adam Hood, Somewhere in Between
Sweet songwriting and great arrangements from this Alabama transplant to Texas. An all-around feel-good record. As can be said about his brothers Cobb and Eady.
10. Brent Cobb, Providence Canyon
A great follow-up to 2016’s “Shine On Rainy Day.” The last three songs of that record were swampy and a little menacing, a thread woven through this album, particularly on “If I Don’t See Ya’” and “.30-06,” with their bad-boy Skynyrd feel. But when I hear “King of Alabama,” I’ll always remember the one time I got to see a then-fledgling musician, Wayne Mills. It was in Tuscaloosa in 2002, the night before heavy underdog Auburn beat Alabama 17-7. I was blown away then by the guy’s talent, and to this day I regret I never saw him again. No one that night or any other would ever dream of his fate: “It was a friend who took him from his family.” Cobb has done Mills fitting memorial, and made another great album.
11. Jason Eady, I Travel On
As tough as it was, Eady has topped his self-titled album of 2017, with the help of some bluegrass ringers. He calls it “groove grass,” and it’s a perfect description of what he’s done on his best album yet.
12. Great Peacock, Gran Pavo Real
These guys make great rock music that floats between ethereal and driving. I’ve been a “back-row Baptist.” But the guy with “stories to tell” is FTM’s Matthew Martin who got to review them…playing his wedding. SMH.
13. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Years
The accolades were quick and many for this serious, feisty, brassy single mom and her backing band’s breakthrough album. And they were all well deserved. Bloodshot Records’ crown jewel for 2018.
14. JP Harris, Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
Great country music that we as a country need more of.
15. Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters, All Damn Day
Hoosiers! Hoosiers at the door with country music that would fit perfect on country radio. If only…
16. Hawks And Doves, From A White Hotel
The fact that this record got made, and the way it happened are a remarkable testament to the power of humility, grace and forgiveness. Kasey Anderson came out of prison and didn’t, well, just shrug it off. But he’s certainly made good on his vow to come back. This album gets better every time I listen to it.
17. The Bottle Rockets, Bit Logic
My boy Kasey put it best: Every few years, the Bottle Rockets crank out another reminder that they’re one of the most dependably great Americanalt.countryrock outfits of the last three decades and often, Ambel has been on board as producer and auxiliary Rocket. Their new album, Bit Logic, is just such a reminder — by turns acerbic, swaggering, and tender.