It’s that time again! As 2021 draws to a close, it’s time for us to rank our Top 10 Country Albums and EPs from the past 12 months here at Your Life In A Song. Once again, so much to choose from in what has been another fabulous year for top quality country releases.
10. Tenille Arts – Girl To Girl
Newcomer Tenille Arts set the standard with her debut album Love, Heartbreak & Everything In Between last year, and quickly followed it up with Girl To Girl this year to keep the momentum up, after “Somebody Like That” hit #1. Expectations were high, and she passed the test with another collection of instantly infectious, country radio-ready tracks. She’s an accomplished songwriter too, and there are some fine examples of top level storytelling on here. She’s one of the most promising new artists to emerge in recent years, and her journey will be exciting to watch.
Top songs: One Bedroom Apartment, Give It To Me Straight, Breakup Songs (feat. Callista Clark)
9. Lady A – What A Song Can Do
Without a doubt the best material Lady A have put out for some time, What A Song Can Do is a return to the trio’s brilliant best. At their new home, Big Machine, Lady A have seemingly rediscovered the magic that propelled them to greatness back in the Need You Now days, and have put the focus back on their song writing. Some top drawer classics on this collection – strong from start to finish.
Top songs: Be That For You, Where Would I Be, Things He Handed Down
8. Carly Pearce – 29: Written In Stone
What a year Carly Pearce has had. Or should I say, Female Vocalist Of The Year, Carly Pearce! She’s firmly become a fans and critics favourite now, and 29: Written In Stone garnered some rave reviews in the media. It’s so refreshing to see such a prominent figure in the mainstream country world making such a devoted effort to keep traditional country music alive. Something which has always been one of Carly’s top priorities, but you’ll hear that more than ever before on this collection. Throwback vibes throughout, and song writing so brave that it’ll knock you for six.
Top songs: 29, Next Girl, Never Wanted To Be That Girl
7. Ryan Kinder – Room To Dream
This was a tour de force of an album that simply didn’t get anywhere near the recognition that it deserved. The first full-length independent release from Ryan Kinder was an awesome showcase of the Alabama native’s inventory. From the rockier offerings such as “Southbound” and “Hell Is”, to the more mainstream elements like “Something” and “Friends”, to the soulfulness of “Tangled Up”, there’s something for everybody, and it’s an album that’s begging to be played live. Hopefully we get the chance in the UK soon.
Top songs: Something, Room To Dream, Friends
6. Zac Brown Band – The Comeback
Zac Brown Band put themselves back on track with The Comeback this year, having seemingly alienated their loyal fan base with the monstrosity that was The Owl back in 2019. “Same Boat” has been a huge chart-topping success at country radio, and formed the perfect springboard for an album that showed glimpses of ZBB from the early days, reminding us all why we fell in love with them in the first place. Not quiteYou Get What You Give level, but much more like it.
Top songs: Any Day Now, Love and Sunsets, Wild Palomino
5. Wade Bowen – Where Phones Don’t Work
Whilst only an EP, this just had to be highlighted here. We adore Wade Bowen’s output, and this is some of the best material of his career. Terrific melodies, superb storytelling and that signature gravelly vocal from one of Texas’ most consistently brilliant artists. One of those collections that doesn’t require a re-listen to connect with – instant quality.
Top songs: Phones Don’t Work, Where We Call Home, The Last Town In Texas
4. John Driskell Hopkins – Lonesome High
Multi-instrumentalist in Zac Brown Band, John Driskell Hopkins blew us away with the release of Lonesome High earlier this year. For any ZBB fans looking for that nostalgic ZBB feel, there are a number of tracks on this collection that hark back to the early days. John often plays intimate shows as a solo act with his band, so there’s clearly an appetite on his part for that rootsy, soulful country sound, and maybe recording this album was his way to explore that at a time when Zac’s direction was elsewhere. Well worth a listen.
Top songs: Lonesome High, 8 Tracks In Daddy’s Cadillac, I Hate To See Good Whiskey Go To Waste
3. Cody Johnson – Human: The Double Album
Texan favourite Cody Johnson continues to do massive numbers, and the Warner Nashville signing seems to have broken the familiar boundary between Texas and mainstream Nashville. “On My Way To You” made #13 on country radio, and “Til You Can’t” (one of the best songs of 2021) is approaching the Top 10 right now. There’s a whole lot more to Cody Johnson than the singles though, and Human: The Double Album is packed full of good, hearty country standards that firmly cement his place at the top of the Texas pile. Awesome voice, awesome songs.
Top songs: ‘Til You Can’t, God Bless The Boy (Cori’s Song), Son Of A Ramblin’ Man
2. Eric Church – Heart
What an album. Eric Church just never fails to impress. The result of a 30-day recording process which took place in the mountains of North Carolina, the Heart & Soul brought Church together with Jay Joyce, songwriters including Luke Dick, Casey Beathard and Luke Laird, and some incredible musicians, including the one and only Charlie Worsham. Diverse, brave and incredibly boundary-pushing – Eric Church at his bombastic best.
Top songs: Heart Of The Night, Russian Roulette, People Break
1. Morgan Wallen – Dangerous: The Double Album
Always a controversial topic for obvious reasons, but as a standalone piece of work, it’s difficult to look past the sales juggernaut that is Dangerous: The Double Album for the #1 spot. Not only the biggest country seller, but the biggest selling album all-genre in 2021, it’s catapulted Wallen to superstardom. A strong project from start to finish, it showcases Wallen’s versatility, from the hardcore redneck vibes to the softer, more reflective side. Some absolute gems on here that will remain standards for years to come.
Top songs: 7 Summers, Wonderin’ Bout The Wind, Quittin’ Time
Cassadee Pope – THRIVE
Charlie Worsham – Sugarcane
Gary LeVox – One On One
Midland – The Last Resort
Old Dominion – Time, Tequila & Therapy
Jordan Davis – Buy Dirt
Sean McConnell – A Horrible Beautiful Dream
Thomas Rhett – Country Again (Side A)