It’s that time of the year when we look back at all that happened in country music in 2017 and talk about our all-time favorite albums. Our General Manager Nate Deaton & Program Director Julie Stevens both listed their Top 10 picks for 2017! Check it out below!
Julie’s Top 10
10) Chase Rice Lambs and Lions. Chase Rice’s motto is “Head Down, Eyes Up” He explained that if you can work really hard by keeping your head down and focusing on what’s important, and at the same time, keep your eye on the prize, you can be very successful. I feel like his album Lambs and Lions is the culmination of that work ethic. You won’t find better music than “Saved Me”, “Amen” and “Three Chords and the Truth”
9) Lauren Alaina The Road Less Traveled. I think this is the most underrated album of 2017. Doin’ Fine peaked at number 20 on the country Billboard chart and frankly, I have no idea why! If you love raw country music that will make you FEEL something, you will love this album. She wrote it after her parent’s divorce that nearly killed her and it will remind you why country music speaks to our soul.
8) Old Dominion Happy Endings. This group just knows what they are doing. They are a bunch of songwriter’s who, by the way, can also sing, but they are songwriter’s first and this album is nothing but GREAT songwriting.
7) Kane Brown Kane Brown. This kid represents the new wave of young country artists that give me great hope for this format. He took his life experiences, that were rough, to say the least, and put them into songs that will rip your heart out and show it to you. If you had never met Kane Brown and you just listened to his music, you would picture a shy, humble young man who has been knocked around by life and still kept his humanity, and that’s exactly who he is. It’s wonderful when you can meet the artist just by hearing their music.
6) Thomas Rhett Life Changes. I wasn’t as in love with the last album as I am this one and I think the fact that Thomas is now a dad, it’s brought a maturity to his music and I think this album reflects that maturity. His song “Marry Me” will be one of my favorite songs for a very long time.
5) Blake Shelton Texoma Shore. The interesting thing about this album making the list this year is I usually am not a huge fan of Blake Shelton’s music but I think this album is one of his best efforts. The songs, “Why Me”, “Money”, “When the Wine Wears off”, and “I Lived it”, make me hit repeat over and over again.
4) Brett Young Brett Young. I love, love, love this album. It’s pretty difficult to get me to love the majority of songs on an album but I can honestly say I love the majority of the songs on this album. His sound is so different and the writing on the songs is so good, if you had to introduce someone to country music who thought they didn’t like it, I’d start with this album. They’d change their mind.
3) Chris Janson Everybody. OK…the fact that I have been rooting for this guy for YEARS means that this album is this high on the list. Is it good. Yes. It. Is. Is it better than the Brett Young? Maybe not, but I have been a big fan of his for so many years I simply had to put him this high on the list. His new song “Drunk Girl” is going to lift him from a “C” act to a “B” act in short order.
2) Luke Combs This One is For You. When Nate and I interviewed Luke Combs he said he loved taking saying’s that always meant one thing and flipping them on their head. For instance, “When it Rains it pours”. Normally that saying would be all about BAD news. But when you listen to the song you get that the subject of the song is having the time of his life. The whole album is that way. Add to that the fact that this kid can really sing and you have all of the elements for a huge success. Add to that his traditional sound and he’s on his way to superstardom. Love this album
1)Walker Hayes Boom. There are going to be lots of people who disagree with me on making Walker Hayes number 1 but I have to tell you, if you’re looking for GREAT writing, a good singer and a sound unlike anything you’ve ever heard, then this is your album. Is Walker Hayes going to be a big star? I think the verdict is still out. Will he be an influence on ‘up and coming’ artists in the format for YEARS to come, I absolutely believe he will and that’s why I think he deserves the top spot.
Nate’s Top 10
10) The Cadillac Three-Legacy. Simply the best record these guys have made. They are great songwriters and in this album shows off more of that type of material than just some of the great jams they have had on previous projects. American Slang is one of my favorite songs this year.
9) Chris Stapleton-From a Room Volume 1 & 2. This is probably higher on everybody else’s list but mine. His material is brilliant, his songs are brilliant and he is an amazing singer. He just, in my opinion, does not exude the fan friendly behavior that the biggest stars in country music do. If he is going to be one of the biggest stars he needs to become more fan friendly. That includes releasing a record with more than 9 songs on it. Which is why I put these two records together as one. The full package of the artist is what makes our format the best format in the world and Chris, in my opinion is missing the true spirit of interpersonal connections with the fans.
8) Happy Endings-Old Dominion-This album has a little something for everyone. There are sad songs, there are happy songs (Happy Endings incidentally is not a song title, nor a line in a song) Favorite track outside of the singles so far is So You Go. Just goes to show what great writers these guys really are. And no that is not your ears freaking out, Brad Tursi sings lead on New York At Night
7) Kip Moore- Slowheart- If you are a Kip Moore fan do yourself a favor and go watch the amazing documentary he made about making this record. If you are not a big Kip Moore fan, go watch the documentary he made on making this record and I will bet you change your mind. His first record was so good, so very good and this one is very close to as good as that. Bittersweet Company and The Bull are pretty close to even for which is my favorite track
6) Current Mood – Dustin Lynch – Probably the most appropriate named record in the mix. It really sounds like country music circa 2017. Dustin is the next big star in this format and this album sets him right up to follow his success of live performance and great music. Love Me or Leave Me Alone will change your life. Listen to it, it is that good. I heard it the first time before Karen Fairchild was on it and it was the best thing I had ever heard him do, she made it better.
5) Life Changes – Thomas Rhett. I said the last album about Thomas what I just said about Dustin. He’s arrived. Headlining tour #1 records and this simply amazing piece of work. Country, Pop, Hip Hop, EDM and so much more. An absolute perfect look at Thomas at 25. Every song is a part of either his life or a look at his brilliant songwriting. Outside of Merry Me which is now a single, I would have to say Life Changes is my other favorite track
4) Kane Brown-Kane Brown-This is kind of cheating but not really . The original album was released earlier this year and while it was good it would not have been this high without the four new tracks that were released as part of it later in the year. The Current single Heaven and frankly the other 3 including a duet with Chris Young are just a step ahead of his previous 10 tracks on the original. But, Better Place and Granddaddys Chair are great songs.
3) Brett Young-Simply the single best debut record by a solo artist in…… well outside of my #2 album of the year……a long time. This guy can sing and he can write. It is an album of 10 hits, just that simple. Back on the Wagon was an early favorite, Olivia Mae is amazing, Mercy is just about as good a song as you will find. That is the beauty of this album, every time you listen to it there is a new favorite or the right song for every mood.
2) Luke Combs – This One is For You – It is a rare year where two debut albums from new artists make a Top 10 list, let alone top 5. This guy I met for the first time just last October and he’s now on his 3rd single in a year. First two went number one. He is selling out venues, but the backbone of it all is the writing and stage performance of this man. His voice is really incomparable in today’s country format. The power and the ability to write the every-man lyric that speaks directly to the audience is really rare. Beer Can, Lonely One are great but One Number Away has always been my favorite showcase of what he can do.
1) Chris Janson – Everybody – An overnight sensation 15 years in the making. One of the most genuine guys in the format made a career record. Start to finish it is just a gem. Every single song is great and you can play it on repeat for a couple days and not only not get tired of it, but hear something new everytime. Drunk Girl is a new single, it is a song that needs this time just as much as this time needs that song. But Redneck Life, Everybody and Eyes For Nobody like you would make a great record. These 12 songs are country music in 2017. I am a fan.
Honorable Mention – Yours, Russell Dickerson – This guy is going to be a Star, like Luke Bryan kind of star; Danielle Bradbery – I Don’t Believe we Have Met – ask any 18-30 year old female, it is their favorite record; Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing – Another great debut record, Ride Home in and of itself is worth buying this great record; Luke Bryan What Makes You Country – Best album from him in years, the only reason it is not top 10 is it just came out. Will be in next year’s list for sure!