Top 10 country albums of 2017, according to James Daykin (@rockjames)
- Darius Rucker – When Was the Last Time
A joyous slice of mid-life happiness from an artist often more renowned for his ballads than up-tempo belters but ‘…..Last Time’ is a departure from that. Full of positivity and ‘seize the day’-type urgings, this is quite simply an outstanding album and easily the best of his career. No filler in sight and lots to look forward to being played on his expected UK tour in 2018.
Top three songs – Straight to Hell, Life’s too Short, If I Told You
- Luke Combs – This One’s For You
Combs burst onto the scene this year with this amazing debut album that has a bit of something for everyone. Looking like a baby-Brantley but sounding way better the album was chock full of hummable hits, witty lyrics and earnest sentiment. He is one of, if not, the, most eagerly anticipated artist of C2C 2018.
Top three songs – When it Rains it Pours, Hurricane, I Got Away With You
- Brad Paisley – Love and War
Love and War proved to be Brad’s most consistent album in a while. I’m not sure sales have matched expectations but I’m struggling to see why this album hasn’t taken off. Trademark guitar riffs, interesting lyrics (from the comedic to the sentimental) and powerful choruses make this one a pure Paisley classic for me.
Top three songs – Gold All Over the Ground, Solar Power Girl, The Devil is Alive and Well
- Brett Young – Brett Young
A stunning debut from out of leftfield for Young, I had no expectations with this whatsoever as it just looked like another country album from another guy but blimey this was good. Soulful songs, catchy choruses and not a single filler in sight meant that this was my standout debut album of the year. Until Carly Pearce came along.
Top three songs – You Ain’t Here to Kiss Me, Sleep Without You, In Case You Didn’t Know
- Lady Antebellum – Heartbreak
Like Darius, Lady A delivered the most consistent album of their career this year. Often shunned for being too nice and too safe, this album won’t do anything to dispel their detractors but it was rammed with quality from beginning to end.
Top three songs – Army, This City, You Look Good
- Aaron Watson – Vaquero
An independent artist crashes into everyone’s ‘best of list’ this year! Watson is going it alone, ignoring the overtures of Music Row and ploughing his own course and boy, isn’t he doing well. This is glorious, from beginning to end. Ballads, rockers and Texan two step all in one sublime package.
Top three songs – Clear Isabel (my most listened to song on Spotify this year), Outta Style and Big Love in a Small Town
- Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing
The third debut album in my top ten and easily the best. Again, a bit out of leftfield, it crashed into our consciousness in early Autumn and hasn’t left. Yes, Every Little Thing sold bucketloads as a single but it isn’t even close to being the best song on here. Carly has a glittering career ahead of her as long as she keeps her feet on the ground and Big Machine look after her well.
Top three songs – I Need a Ride Home, Everybody Gonna Talk, If My Name Was Whiskey
- Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – The Rest of our Life
It promised much – a duets album between the married king and once queen of Country music – and boy did it deliver! Yes, it’s mushy, it’s dipped in saccharine and might not appeal to the Cadillac Three or Brantley Gilbert crowd but it’s a mature, sophisticated and clever body of work. It’s also definitely Faith’s album – she gets all the good bits whilst Tim takes a backseat – maybe this is the payoff for the career decisions made all those years ago.
Top three songs – Telluride, Roll the Dice, Break First
- Kip Moore – Slowheart
What can we say about Kip that hasn’t already been said? Honest, earnest, authentic and just about the best live act out there at the moment. If you could apply for someone to swap nationalities I think the English would come looking for him, such is our love affair with all things Moore. Slowheart is a masterpiece – the perfect mix of ‘Up All Night’ and ‘Wild Ones’ and the effort Moore put into its genesis makes it all the more rewarding to listen to.
Top three songs – Plead the Fifth, Sunburn, Last Shot
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
The second independent artist in the top ten and one at the very top!! This was a masterpiece. Maybe I haven’t listened to it as much as, say something like Slowheart, because it’s not an easy listen in places but it is a true work of art. Complex and engaging, it flows from beginning to end with an authenticity and passion that is hard to find these days.
Top three songs – Anxiety, Cumberland Gap, If We Were Vampires
Close Contenders – Kelsea Ballerini, Lee Brice, Kenny Foster, Lindsay Ell, Sunny Sweeny and Chris Stapleton