10 Best Country Albums of 2013: 615 Picks
"Life on a Rock" - Kenny Chesney
Sometimes, things aren't quite what you expect. When this album was announced, some of us thought it was simply to give Chesney a chance to indulge his passion in the songs of the islands. However, this set actually contained some of his most diverse and moving work, especially in the case of the gorgeous "Happy On The Hey Now."
"Rubberband" - Charlie Worsham
See Charlie write. See Charlie pick. See Charlie sing. I think that you get the idea. Worsham does so many things – and does them all with a sense of style. This album showcased each layer of what the Mississippi native brings to the table. We have a feeling this is just the beginning.
"Annie Up" - The Pistol Annies
The trio of Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe rolled out their sophomore project, and to our ears, they actually outdid their 2011 debut. "Hush Hush" definitely charmed with its' irreverent lyrics, and "I Hope You're The End Of My Story" was as romantic as it gets.
"Off the Beaten Path" - Justin Moore
There are moments of Bryan / Aldean style attitude on Moore's third album, for sure, but what impressed us the most about this project is that the Arkansas native kept his career on a high note by keeping it very traditional based and twang-heavy.
"Feels Like Home" - Sheryl Crow
Some might have been a little skeptical about Crow releasing a country album, but it's amazing how in sync this is with some of her other work. The writing might be a little more first-person oriented, but a performance like "Shotgun" doesn't sound too removed from rockers like "Steve McQueen." Still, this set would have easily made the list if only for "Homecoming Queen" or the jaw-dropping "Waterproof Mascara." Welcome home, Ms. Crow. Stick around for awhile, because we like having you here!
"Bring You Back" - Brett Eldredge
What a year it has been for Warner Brothers. Eldredge is a huge part of that success story, as the Illinois native rolled out a debut album that included one of the format's top radio moments in "Don't Ya," and also brought awareness that one of the most soulful singers since T. Graham Brown or Con Hunley had arrived in town.
"12 Stories" - Brandy Clark
She's a writer extraordinaire, and has earned the praise of true country experts like Marty Stuart. Many jumped on the "Clark Express" after hearing this incredible project that proves being traditional-based need not be hokey. This album might not feature one top-40 hit, and that's just fine.
"Two Lanes of Freedom" - Tim McGraw
In leaving Curb Records behind, McGraw simply wanted to be able to make the kind of record he wanted to make. Enter Scott Borchetta and Big Machine, who allowed the singer to record what has been his most varied album with material both heavy and light. The hits have been great off this disc, but the album cuts? Even better – which is always the case of a great album.
"Same Trailer Different Park" - Kacey Musgraves
We have used the Loretta Lynn comparison quite a bit in The 615 to describe Musgraves and her ability to craft songs and performances that nobody else would have the guts to do, and to be honest – the description applies. This is pure hillbilly poetry as nobody else has done in a long time.
"Like a Rose" - Ashley Monroe
There are few acts that have such a vocal fan club as Monroe does within the industry, and this album more than delivered on that promise. Credit Warner Brothers for believing in the East Tennessee native, Vince Gill for producing one for the ages, but most of all Monroe for her talent as a tunesmith and vocalist. If this is the future -- and Musgraves and Clark come along, too -- then we're in very good hands.