Every year, music reviewers pull from the year’s releases to create Top 10 lists. 2012 was a fantastic year for country music, offering album after album of quality titles to choose from while overall sales for the genre rose 3.2% compared to this point last year. By the very nature of a ‘Top 10′ list, not every title can be included, but the albums below make up our list of releases that stood out. If you don’t happen to see your favorite album on the list, let everyone know what you thought was the best country album of the year by leaving a comment. Now, in no particular order, onto GAC’s Top 10 Country Albums of 2012!
Carrie Underwood’s 2012 CD Blown Away. Photo courtesy of Sony Music Nashville.
Carrie Underwood‘s Blown Away:
Carrie Underwood’s fourth studio album, Blown Away, is a musical tour de force so strong listeners are best off grabbing hold of anything they can find before pressing play. Read Our Original Review >> With an opening tri-fecta that includes the hook-heavy, “Good Girl,” the mesmerizing and emotional title-track, “Blown Away” (nominated for two Grammy awards including Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song), and the dark tale of vengeance, “Two Black Cadillacs,” Carrie displays the greatness ‘pop country’ can achieve in just the first 13 minutes of the album. Working again with producer Mark Bright, the platinum certified, Blown Away, is Carrie’s most polished work to date. Whether she’s moving through tender, patient melodies (“Forever Changed”), dipping into sunny, island-inspired rhythms (“One Way Ticket”), or showing off some serious fire (“Cupid’s Got A Shotgun” with Brad Paisley dropping some twang guitar), Carrie is a master of melody and vocal expression. Carrie co-wrote more than half the songs on the album, including the traditional-leaning, “Wine After Whiskey,” which captures loneliness and heartache with breathtaking clarity. Key tracks – “Blown Away,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” “Forever Changed,” “Wine After Whiskey”
Little Big Town’s 2012 CD, Tornado. Photo courtesy of Sandbox Entertainment.
Little Big Town‘s Tornado
Harmony quartet Little Big Town scored a massive hit with their 2012 CMA Single of the Year and Grammy-nominated “Pontoon,” a laid-back summer tune that powered the group’s fifth studio album to a No. 1 Country album chart debut. Read Our Original Review >> Working for the first time with producer Jay Joyce (the man behind Eric Church’s CMA Album of the Year, Chief), Tornado sounds vastly different than any of LBT’s previous work as it stretches from shimmering harmony to atmospheric grooves. Though the songs are shorter and many buzz with electric guitars, an infectious live energy runs through the project to ignite each song. The album-opener “Pavement Ends,” the muddy water rocker “Front Porch Thing,” and the bluesy “Self Made,” highlight LBT’s delta spirit while the spaghetti western title-track brings the storm straight through the speakers. However, it’s still the sparkling harmonies and spellbinding chemistry on songs like the emotionally-estranged, “Your Side of the Bed,” and the sexy, “Night Owl” that make this one of the best records of the year. Key Tracks – “Tornado,” “Your Side of the Bed,” “On Fire Tonight,” “Pontoon”
Jamey Johnson’s 2012 CD, Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran. Photo courtesy of UMG Nashville.
Jamey Johnson‘s Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran
Nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Album of the Year, Jamey Johnson proves once again that he is one of the genre’s finest traditional artists. Read Our Original Review >> Here, on a loving and heartfelt tribute to his friend, the late Hank Cochran, Jamey assembles a guest list of epic proportions (how’s seven Country Music Hall of Famers for a start?) to pay tribute to the iconic songwriter. Jamey draws from Hank’s deep catalog to perform classics including “I Fall To Pieces” (sung here with Merle Haggard), “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” (with Willie Nelson) and “Make The World Go Away” (with Alison Krauss). If pulling together such an impressive cast wasn’t enough, Jamey’s anticipation, timing and expressive range show just how deeply connected he is to the sad honky tonk sounds under the collection’s strikingly stark arrangements. It’s all about the song here, and when Jamey moves from pointed judgment (“This Ain’t My First Rodeo” with Lee Ann Womack) to guarded restraint (“Don’t Touch Me” with Emmylou Harris) and soul-bearing vulnerability (“Would These Arms Be In Your Way”), he surpasses even his own previous achievements. Hank, however, has the line of the album when he’s heard singing, Life’s so full of melodies, with words that rhyme and harmonies, on the project’s captivating title-track. Key Tracks – “Living For A Song,” “The Eagle,” “I Don’t Do Windows,” “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” Continue Reading