The Best Country Albums of 2017 (So Far)
The best country albums from any given year are timeless, and 2017 is no different. The top spots go to artists with a long history of making great country music, even if mainstream fans are just starting to learn their names.
Few will be surprised to see Chris Stapleton on this Best Country Albums of 2017 list. But From A Room, Volume 1 isn’t No. 1 on this V2.0 collection of great projects. Albums from Reba McEntire, Kip Moore and newcomer Brett Young also get mad respect — Young has one of the Top 10 Songs of 2017, as well!
Fan and critic opinion weigh heavily on the making of this list, but sales, awards and the number of hit radio songs also play a role. It’s difficult to ignore an album that charts two or three hit songs in any given year, but few released so far seem capable of that. The superstars tend to hold albums until fall, so expect a final Top 10 that looks much different from this list, with one exception: The top spot is going to be tough to top.
Do you disagree with our list of of the best albums of 2017? Make you case in the comments section below. Only albums released in 2017 were considered. If an album isn’t included, it’s not because we didn’t like it, we just don’t think it has proven itself yet.
Thomas Rhett‘s Life Changes album finds the singer paying homage to his own catalog and his many influences. So many of the 14 songs recall someone specific, be it his wife, his father or some other famous singer from generations past.
‘Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope’
McEntire’s first gospel album may feature a disc full of traditionals but it’s still a deeply personal project. Her story falls from every lyric, her pain is heard across so many choruses. The country legend does a masterful job of staying true to her sound and style in this new format. Credit to the singer for being willing to take on songs that cut so close to her sorrow. Out of that came joy.
The country newcomer and Taste of Country RISER released an album full of love songs without finding two that sound quite the same. Every expression feels genuine and original. The pop-friendly collection of musings from the California native’s heart and songbook is at its best when he leans into life’s highs and lows. He makes it look easy on this best album of 2017 list.
Happy Endings shows a different side of Old Dominion‘s artistry. The 12 songs are as a whole deeper and more patient than those found on their debut album. “Shoe Shopping” is one that recalls the wry wit fans fell in love with on Meat and Candy. The laid-back, cheeky lyrics are reminiscent of the group’s breakthough hit “Break Up With Him.” After that it’s poetry (“Written in Sand“), true love songs (“Stars in the City”) and boozy regret (“A Girl Is a Gun”).
Angaleena Presley stays true to her roots on Wrangled but expands with even more rootsy stories that lack for detail. The artist and album are not for the demure country music fan. Her vivid characters nearly stand on the speakers during songs like “Only Blood.” Through it all she weaves various genres into the soundscape.
The Project is an essential album for fans who like their brand of country music black and blue. Lindsay Ell‘s longtime coming debut album is genre-less a la Sheryl Crow or Bonnie Raitt. Deep blues licks and aching vocals that refuse to be boxed in are signatures of the 12 songs on The Project. There’s not another active female in country to compare her to — the newcomer all but forced her way onto this list of the best country albums of 2017. .
‘From A Room Volume 1′
Stapleton provides once again with the follow-up to Traveller. From A Room doesn’t surprise like his last, instead relying on the strength of his vocals and songwriting. That’s a great bet when you’re Chris Stapleton. He’s a a postman, dropping notes of blues, soul, pain and sorrow into your mailbox. This is a moody, nine-song album that reinforces all we know.
Kip Moore‘s Slowheart is a Southern rock-inspired country album that would sound just fine played front to back at his live show. The singer simplified his approach, even if the result is a more textured project than Wild Ones (2015). Gone is that veil of sadness that tied his sophomore album together. Instead, you sense that Moore’s band was as free to rock out in studio as they felt necessary. Everyone is having a lot more fun on Slowheart, even if the lyrics don’t always support the party.
‘The Nashville Sound’
Great artists will make great albums and Jason Isbell is a great artist. There is nothing pretentious about the Nashville Sound, a project that finds the 400 Unit once again getting co-billing. It’s not coincidence that the best albums on this list come from artist who worry nothing for radio success.
Aaron Watson’s Vaquero album is a rich collection of cowboy poetry. Every verse touches two or more senses. The best songs clip the soul. The Texan is a rambler, a lover, thinker, statement-maker and romantic on this dynamic mix of pure country themes. Through it all is a thread that’s so rare in today’s country music. There is no justice in country music if “They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To” isn’t a hit somewhere in 2017.