Every year, we compile a list of the best records released both nationally and locally. 2018 was tough to pinpoint, but here are this year’s best outings!
Top Albums of 2018
- “Interstate Gospel” by The Pistol Annies
A return to form for the all female country super group that can’t seem to do any wrong. Half tongue and cheek honky tonk, half modern country radio rebellion, “Interstate Gospel” roots itself in genre bending sounds and relatable lyrics to connect with an audience broader than mainstream country could ever imagine. Can Miranda just stay here, please?
- “Under New Management” by Brian Paddock
Formerly known as Shimmy from Shimmy & The Burns, Brian Paddock’s solo debut resonates even without knowing his back story. Then you find out he’s a cancer survivor, he had the year from hell on top of that, and he still managed to make an incredible record! But this record isn’t good out of pity, word is most of it was written prior to the woes, it’s good because it’s real and honest. No cheap thrills, no parlor tricks, straight forward and real. Nice to hear that from a local musician who’s trying to make it without compromising himself.
- “Loversity” by Sam Lewis
Sam Lewis fans from the beginning have been asking for this sound for years, and we finally got it. Full band, southern soul, and timely lyrics prove to be a triple punch of success for “Loversity.” While the name may raise an eyebrow, the content is groove oriented, thought provoking, and undeniably easy to listen to over and over. Sam Lewis is slowly creeping his way out of the shadow of a support act and toward the spotlight of a headliner.
- “Girl Going Nowhere” by Ashley McBryde
Ashley McBryde has been a mainstay underground performer/writer in Nashville for years, until 2016 when Eric Church fell in love with her music. Now her first major release is one of the most talked about records of the year. Thanks to attention from big stars like Garth Brooks covering her title track and the lead single having mainstream country success, look for McBryde to have a breakout year in 2019. Currently out supporting Luke Combs, she is poised to overshadow anyone she steps on the stage with.
- “The Tree of Forgiveness” by John Prine
It’s been well over a decade since Prine has released an album full of new material. Like a fine wine, Prine has only grown better with age. Do no wrong super producer Dave Cobb lends his hand to this effort, but honestly, the rawness of the record would lend you to believe Prine was sitting alone in his closet recording the mostly acoustic album. Solemn and full of plenty of breathing room, “The Tree of Forgiveness” doesn’t shove any of its themes down your throat, but instead takes a Dylan-esque approach of letting you have the choice to embrace their subtlety.
- “We’re All The Same” by Handsome & The Humbles
Perhaps the most timely and relevant album on the list, local favorites Handsome & The Humbles do not disappoint on their sophomore effort. Relatable lyrics and characters seems to come second nature for the group on this record as they paint pictures that any retrospective or introspective individual can find familiarity in. By the way, that’s all of us at some point in our lives, I think that’s the point based on it’s title- it’s definitely what makes this record so great.
- “By the Way, I Forgive You” by Brandi Carlile
Dave Cobb teamed with Shooter Jennings to produce this critically acclaimed record. Poignantly dark in some spots, Carlile’s sixth record almost requires a sense of urgency when listening to it. The stories are all connected to a bigger picture that shows that sometimes being human is just plain rough. This record was a risk, a lay it all on the line, throw it all out there effort that could have easily backfired, but it didn’t. It is Carlile’s masterpiece.
- “Find a Light” by Blackberry Smoke
Sometimes satisfying expectations is difficult for artists; BBS make it look easy. Soaked with confidence, “Find a Light” is made for the stage. The album is strong as is, but it is reinforced with heavyweight guests like Robert Randolph, The Wood Brothers, & Amanda Shires. They each add to what has become natural for BBS- strong, well performing albums meant to be played live. And the songs resonate best when heard from the stage, as displayed at The Shed multiple times. While there’s nothing really groundbreaking here, expectations are satisfied and the lyrics all connect to the theme of the need to “Find a Light” in even the darkest of situations.
And let’s face it guys, music is supposed to be fun. A lot of artists forget that…
- “Things Change” by American Aquarium
2015’s “Wolves” was acclaimed as American Aquarium’s best record yet by many, including us, but now it has real competition. “Things Change” isn’t subtle in its message; it leaves no room to interpret the opinions of the writer. It is a straight forward and well spoken commentary on the world around us(and not just politics). And it’s damn good. In fact, BJ Barham and the guys’ songwriting has never been better. That’s high praise for a group known for its pen more than anything else. And it’s deserved.
1. “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves
Sometimes the masses get it right. CMA’s and Apple Music’s album of the year is also nominated for the Grammy’s album of the year award, and for good reason- it’s a classic. Beautiful in every way and poised to be her career defining effort, Musgrave’s latest record shines light on a year where darkness is more easily found. “Golden Hour” is the silver lining in mainstream’s current direction.
“Family Tree” by Black Stone Cherry
“Anthem of the Peaceful Army” by Greta Van Fleet
“Boarding House Reach” by Jack White
“Encore” by Anderson East
“Venom & Faith” by Larkin Poe
“Down the Road Wherever” by Mark Knopfler
“Good Thing” by Leon Bridges
“Wouldn’t It Be Great” by Loretta Lynn
“Confessin’ the Blues”
“Springsteen on Broadway” by Bruce Springsteen
“Glastonbury 2000” by David Bowie
Upcoming releases we’re watching for 2019-
“Old News” by The Steel Woods
Whiskey Myers Untitled new album