As we continue to look back at all that was 2012, we move on to the albums list. Writing a great song is a great feat. Writing a full album of great songs is a whole nother story. A great album front to back is a rare accomplishment in country music today, but this year featured some great ones. Who comes away with the Keep It Country Kids Album of the Year?
First, lets look at the honorable mentions, all worthy of your listening
Nashville: Tear The Woodpile Down Volume One- Marty Stuart
Uncaged- Zac Brown Band
The Whippoorwill- Blackberry Smoke
And So It Goes- Don Williams
30 Miles West- Alan Jackson
Home- Dierks Bentley
Carry Me Back- Old Crow Medicine Show
The Road- Aaron Lewis
And now, on to the countdown...
5. Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran- Jamey Johnson
Jamey Johnson released this masterpiece in late 2012. Hank Cochran is one of the most prolific songwriters in country music history, penning such mega-hits as "Make The World Go Away" and "I Fall To Pieces". Jamey considers Hank his idol, and after his death, recorded this tribute to him. The album is a perfect portrait of classic country goodness. The songs are well written, the production is classy and solid country, and the guests are top notch. Vince Gill, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Allison Krauss, and the great Willie Nelson are among the many guests. Detractors say the album has too many guests, or a slow, almost boring pace. I say this is a solid country masterpiece with some of the best of the business on it.
Make The World Go Away- Jamey Johnson and Allison Krauss
4. Family Man- Shooter Jennings
Shooter Jennings, the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings, returned to his country roots after a dabble in progressive rock with his album Family Man. This album is a perfect picture of how the old outlaw sound can be molded with modern southern rock to create a new country sound that is current, yet adheres to tradition. "The Real Me", "The Deed and The Dollar", "The Long Road Ahead", and "Manifesto No.4" are all solid country anthems that can be played over and over. The heartfelt honesty on "The Deed and The Dollar" and "Daddy's Hands" show Shooter is more than just a jam artist, he has a soft side as well. This album makes us greedy for more Shooter... Thankfully, he is planning on releasing The Other Life in early 2013, giving us another taste of the Jennings family magic.
The Deed And The Dollar- Shooter Jennings
3. 3 Pears- Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Yoakam also returned to the scene in 2012 with 3 Pears. This album is a fantastic twangfest full of classic Dwight songs. Dwight has a certain sound that can't be duplicated or replicated, and it is in full force here. Whether its upbeat grooves like "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke", "Rock It All Away", and "Heart Like Mine", or ballads like "It's Never Alright" and "Long Way To Go (Reprise)", Dwight has made an album that simply makes you want to put it in the cd player and crank it up again and again. That's what a great album is all about folks.
Rock It All Away- Dwight Yoakam
2. Goodbye Normal Street- Turnpike Troubadours
Choosing the top album was tough. All of the top 5 are worthy, but going into this I had two solid choices for number one and number two. Goodbye Normal Street by the Turnpike Troubadours is Album of the Year quality, and I wouldn't necessarily call this number two... call it 1.5. This is the country album I have been waiting for. A fresh blend of old sounds and modern sounds to make country music that is commercially applicable, yet solid country gold. Why this band isn't the CMA darling yet I have no clue. I hope they will be soon. This album has heartbreakers like "Gone Gone Gone", toe tappers like "Gin, Smoke, Lies", jams like "Before The Devil Knows We're Dead" and radio ready hits like "Good Lord Lorrie". Basically, it has something for everyone. Country music needs young bands like this to carry the torch, and the Turnpike Troubadours look to be that band in the future. Highly recommended, please check this album out!
Gin, Smoke, Lies- Turnpike Troubadours
And the 2012 Keep It Country Kids Album of the Year goes to.....
1. 100 Proof- Kellie Pickler
In 2011, Kellie Pickler promised us her next album would be real traditional album, not another slick radio ready pop album. Many were skeptical: could this American Idol alum make an album of classic country like she promised? The answer is a resounding yes and then some. This album is straight up country in the likeness of Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn before her. The song features honkytonkers like "Where's Tammy Wynette?" and "Unlock That Honky Tonk", classic old school sounds like "Stop Cheatin' On Me", poignant love songs like "100 Proof" and "Rockaway", and, the best part of this album, real life stories from Kellie's troubled past: "Mother's Day" and "The Letter (To Daddy)". Country music is all about putting those moments from life you don't know how to handle to song, and Kellie does that to perfection. If you listen to "Mother's Day" and don't feel something, you may not have a heart.
The other factor that makes this album of the year is the risk involved. This is an American Idol alum with a built-in fan-base who just recorded with Taylor Swift the year before. This was a daring move. It artistically payed off, but in our sales driven musical landscape we live in, it ultimately cost Kellie her record deal. She has since found a new home, so time will only tell if she continues down this road or tries her hand at the radio game again, but for now, Kellie Pickler is a very deserving winner of the Keep It Country Kids Album of the Year. Enjoy a few tracks off the album below. Keep it country, Kellie!!!!
Stop Cheatin' On Me- Kellie Pickler
100 Proof- Kellie Pickler
Mother's Day-Kellie Pickler