It’s that time again! What a year it’s been for country music. So many incredible releases, which has made our job of choosing a Top 10 a very difficult one! Here are our picks, as well as a few that didn’t quite make the cut but are well worth a listen!
10. Hootie & The Blowfish – ‘Imperfect Circle’
Hootie & The Blowfish released their first album in 15 years in November, and what a return it was. Packed full of Darius’ signature country flavour, it doesn’t actually feel much different to Darius’ solo releases; a slight departure from the band’s southern rock-based roots. It’s a delight from start to finish with plenty of up-beat hits-in-waiting, which will appeal to the loyal fans of the group, as well as attracting some of the newer generation of country fans. Who knows whether this’ll be the start of a new Hootie chapter…
Stand-out tracks: ‘Miss California’, ‘Not Tonight’, ‘Rollin’
9. Midland – ‘Let It Roll’
The Midland boys returned with their highly-anticipated sophomore album ‘Let It Roll’ back in August. As a country music fan, it’s difficult not to like the Midland sound. It’s great to hear trad-country back on the radio, and ‘Let It Roll’ is full of potential smash-hits with sublime production from the dream team of Dan Huff, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. An evolution from their first project, this collection saw the trio pushing their creative boundaries whilst staying true to their roots, and the result was hugely impressive.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Fourteen Gears’, ‘Put The Hurt On Me’, ‘Playboys’
8. Cassadee Pope – ‘stages’
Cassadee Pope’s first independent album release gave her the freedom to express herself in the best possible way, with some killer pop-country melodies and deeply personal stories of heartache and post-breakup experiences. By far her best work to date, ‘stages’ deserved so much more exposure and certainly deserved support from a major label. One of the very best mainstream country releases of the year without a shadow of a doubt.
Stand-out tracks: ‘How I Feel Right Now’, ‘If My Heart Had A Heart’, ‘FYI’
7. Luke Combs – ‘What You See Is What You Get’
One of the biggest-selling country releases of 2019 from the man of the moment, Luke Combs. There’s no stopping Luke on his path to world domination! He’s the most consistently good solo artist in the genre right now, and his sophomore record ‘What You See Is What You Get’ is a perfect example of that. Yes, much of his material follows a tried and tested formula, but it works a treat every time, and he’s nailed down that knack of putting out damn good, commercially-appealing songs. We can’t wait to see him raise the roof at The O2 in March.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Even Though I’m Leaving’, ‘Dear Today’, ‘Does To Me’
6. Old Dominion (Self-Titled Album)
We’ve mentioned the most consistent solo artist, now here’s the most consistent group. Old Dominion had a tough task to match the quality of their first 2 albums, but they passed the test with flying colours on their self-titled collection this year. It was adventurous and brave in places, safe and comfortable in others; some interesting eyebrow-raising tracks alongside some good old OD chart-topping magic. A lesson in how to evolve whilst keeping a loyal fan base on side.
Stand-out tracks: ‘My Heart Is A Bar’, ‘Never Be Sorry’, ‘Hear You Now’
5. Lady Antebellum – ‘Ocean’
Lady A needed an album like ‘Ocean’. Although the quality has always been high, there was a general feeling that the trio had lost their signature Lady A heart and soul. ‘Ocean’ sees a return to pre-‘Golden’ album Lady A, with some stunning ballads and those gorgeous three-part harmonies that made the group so special and one of the leading acts in the first place.
Standout tracks: ‘What I’m Leaving For’, ‘Crazy Love’, ‘Pictures’
4. Reba McEntire – ‘Stronger Than The Truth’
This was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2019. Pure country music at its very best; a refreshing collection that restores faith in the longevity of the traditional sound. The quality of the writing was outstanding (you’ll need the tissues for a couple of them!), not to mention the gorgeous production throughout from Buddy Cannon. The ultimate chill-out album.
Stand-out tracks: ‘The Clown’, ‘Cactus In A Coffee Can’, ‘In His Mind’
3. Runaway June – ‘Blue Roses’
One of the releases we were looking forward to most this year, and the girls certainly delivered. The best debut album we’ve heard, probably since Maddie & Tae’s ‘Start Here’ back in 2015. Full of fun, infectious moments along with some real heartstring-tuggers, it’s an astonishingly good introduction to one of country music’s most promising new acts. They’ll go down a storm on the main stage at C2C in March.
Stand-out tracks: ‘We Were Rich’, ‘Head Over Heels’, ‘I Know The Way’
2. Michaela Anne – ‘Desert Dove’
Recorded in L.A. and co-produced by Sam Outlaw and Kelly Winrich, Michaela Anne’s ‘Desert Dove’ is an Americana delight with luscious arrangements and personal, introspective tales. It’s a real ‘project’ that you have to listen to from start to finish; no filler in sight, a very complete piece of art. Highly deserving of the #2 spot on our list, ‘Desert Dove’ takes the award for the best release from an up-and-comer in 2019.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Somebody New’, ‘Child Of The Wind’, ‘One Heart’
1. Vince Gill – ‘Okie’
Wow. What an album. Not just the best album of 2019 – one of the best albums of the decade. There’s an unrivalled warmth and comfort in Vince’s voice that can turn any album into a masterpiece, but there are some heart-wrenching stories here that showcase country lyricism at its absolute finest. We knew right from the first listen that it wouldn’t be beaten this year – one of the most engaging, emotional and beautifully pieced-together collections we’ve heard for a very long time. Also features our favourite song of 2019, ‘What Choice Will You Make’…
Stand-out tracks: ‘What Choice Will You Make’, ‘Black And White’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Ride The Rails No More’
Hunter Hayes – ‘Wild Blue: Part I’
The Highwomen (Self-Titled Album)
Cody Johnson – ‘Ain’t Nothin’ To It’
Sarah Darling – ‘Wonderland’
Thomas Rhett – ‘Center Point Road’
Miranda Lambert – ‘Wildcard’
Jon Pardi – ‘Heartache Medication’
George Strait – ‘Honky Tonk Time Machine’