2019 was an incredible year for music. We had more trouble narrowing down this list than ever before, and for the first time ever, we almost didn’t publish a list because of how difficult it was! But, with our breath held, here are The Shed’s Top Ten Albums of 2019.
10. “Western Stars” by Bruce Springsteen
At his age, no one would fault Bruce Springsteen for playing it safe and sticking with the E Street Band for legacy tours and promoting album rereleases. But that’s not The Boss’ style. On ‘Western Stars,’ Springsteen sheds his signature sound in for something that’s a cross between Frank Sinatra and Glen Campbell. And as crazy as that sounds… it works. The writing is crystal clear with beautiful imagery and strong emotion; and while the accompanying film didn’t teach die hard fans anything they didn’t already know, it reaffirmed our absolute love for The Boss.
9. “Solid Gold Sounds” by Kendell Marvel
Kendell Marvel’s second album hits the mark in a completely different way his first album did. Less loud guitar and more honky tonk twang, Kendell Marvel wears his influences on his sleeves as he continues to carve out a real legacy for himself in country music, not only as a writer, but as an artist.
8. “After the Fire” & “The Waiting” by Cody Jinks
Two albums released a week apart is an impressive feat for any artist, both of them holding numbers 1 and 2 on the charts is even more incredible. Cody Jinks continues to stick to the outskirts of country music and in an increasingly crowded field, he has fought his way up to the front of the pack as the top “indie country” act in the US. These two albums build on the work of such artists that came before him like Jamey Johnson and Merle Haggard by taking a modern approach to the “Outlaw” movement. The approach connected in the most broad manner of Jinks’ career.
7. “Old News” by The Steel Woods
Released early in 2019, ‘Old News’ was anything but old. The Steel Woods used the album to cement themselves as bon-a-fide headliners in 2019. ‘Old News’ allowed the guys to step out of the shadows of larger acts and onto the stage as the main attraction. The songs connect deeper than anything they have ever released and elevated their live show to a staggering new level. Southern rock, meet your new principle purveyors.
6. “Country Squire” by Tyler Childers
Tyler Childers had big expectations to live up to and his second album delivered on most all fronts. ‘Country Squire’ leaned into his americana and country roots and made Tyler one of the most in demand artists in some time. He has plans to tour with producer Sturgill Simpson in 2020, as far as after that… we all wait on pins and needles.
5. “Sound & Fury” by Sturgill Simpson
If you’re looking to pin point Sturgill Simpson down, good luck. Country? Well, that’s what he used to be and what his voice most lends itself to. Rock and Roll? Maybe, he can shred. Psychedelic? Definitely an argument for it considering his affinity for drugs and the images he paints. But ‘Sound and Fury’ is best left without a genre specification. It’s gloriously weird and its accompanying Netflix Anime film just adds to the awesome strangeness of it all. The distortion of the record is paired well with the in your face attitude of the lyrics. To be frank, Sturgill comes off like an asshole in some of it. But at the same time, you definitely understand where he is coming from. The record is one that takes multiple listens to connect to, and many absolutely hate it. But we get it. ‘Sound and Fury’ is the most perplexing record of the year. And we can’t stop listening to it.
4. “Almost Daylight” by Chris Knight
In what was a completely startling turn of events (but really shouldn’t have been), Americana’s most underrated songwriter released a record that surpassed everyone’s expectations. Produced by Steve Earle producer Ray Kennedy, ‘Almost Daylight’ embraces the dark that Chris seems to frequently find himself in and somehow turns it into a magical, meaningful collection of lyrics that bring every day experiences to light in a brand new way. And what’s perhaps even more staggering, the record’s vocals sound great! It’s been no secret that Chris’ live shows are hit or miss concerning the quality of his voice, but make no mistake here, this record is a huge hit.
3. “What It Is” by Hayes Carll
Critically acclaimed and absolutely timely, ‘What it Is’ returns Hayes Carll to the forefront for the first time since ‘KMAG YOYO.’ Not afraid of alienation or side effects, Hayes addresses the issues he sees in modern day head on and doesn’t back down when asked about them. This is his record, he’s going to say what he wants to say. And in true Texas fashion, he doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. But luckily, we all think it’s pristine.
2. “Whiskey Myers” by Whiskey Myers
Whiskey Myers embraced their live show on this new record and the result was pure fun. The new, rocking approach seems to have pushed the band to higher heights than ever before, including making this album number 1. If you love seeing Whiskey Myers in concert, then this is the record for you. It captures the magic they have on stage in a fantastic way that their previous albums just couldn’t seem to do. It’s appropriate that it is self titled, because it is the perfect representation of who they are. It’s the best album of their career.
1. “The Highwomen” by The Highwomen
Made of a true super women (Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby, and mega star Maren Morris), The Highwomen came on strong with a ton of hype and press. The assumption for many is there is no way the album can live up to all this commotion. And then it did. Easily accessible for lovers of all types of music, The Highwomen brought female representation in country music to the front page and made it an issue that everyone wanted to address. From country radio to the CMAs, the surge in female talent and recognition of female legacy in late 2019 can be attributed to this album fully delivering the goods. And in what is the mark of a great album, everyone personally connects to a different song when they listen to the record. It is so well written and so relatable that there is no doubt it is the best record of 2019.
“While I’m Livin'” by Tanya Tucker
“Cash Cabin Sessions Volume 3” by Todd Snider
“Closer than Together” by The Avett Brothers
“Daylight” by Grace Potter
“Wildcard” by Miranda Lambert
“Home” by Billy Strings
“Live the Love Beautiful” by Drivin’ N Cryin”
“The Saint of Lost Causes” by Justin Townes Earle
“What You See Is What You Get” by Luke Combs
“Colorado” by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
“Full Circle and Then Some” by Trigger Hippy
“Live at The Ryman” by Old Crow Medicine Show
“Live at Ramblin’ Man Fair” by The Kentucky Headhunters
“Originals” by Prince
“Homecoming: Live in Atlanta” by Blackberry Smoke