Summertime Blues by Zach Bryan
Peculiar, Missouri by Willi Carlisle
Baker Hotel by William Clark Green
Strange Circus by IV and the Strange Band
River Fools & Mountain Saints by Ian Noe
It's a softer sound for them, to be sure, and it took a few listens, but Chicamacomico easily holds up alongside the rest of the American Aquarium catalogue. The writing is as heavy and sharp as ever, and Barham is in fine form as a storyteller. The singer-songwriter tone is different but works well for them.
The length here is absurd (and perhaps too its detriment) but American Heartbreak is nonetheless an impressive and sprawling project, marked by songwriting that effectively grapples with the complexities of the human experience. Bryan's songwriting is both poetic and grounded in lived experience, and he's an undeniably compelling performer. Amazingly little filler for what could be fairly called a triple album. Impressive, if daunting, stuff.
What Else Can She Do
While Bryan's effort was extravagant in its scope, Kaitlin Butts delivers with a tight seven-song effort that tells complex stories in a cohesive fashion. She's an immensely charismatic performers, and she tells interesting tales while maintaining memorable hooks and engaging melodies. A highly sophisticated and well-crafted album, to the point where it's so intricately put together that seven songs doesn't even feel like a rip off.
The Man from Waco
With his latest release, Crockett takes things in a smooth, almost atmospheric direction, incorporating lusher sounds into his throwback style. The result is exceptional. The storytelling is cohesive throughout, and Crockett is as strong a presence as ever behind the mic. It's an album that sees him pushing himself artistically while maintaining a distinct sense of self. Great stuff.
Comfortably the mainstream's best release this year, for my money. Palomino finds Lambert pondering life and identity, and doing so around engaging hooks. melodies, and turns of phrase. She's in fine vocal shape, and some of the extravagance of Wildcard was appropriately dialled back. It's an album that's self-assured and imminently listenable.
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
An unabashed bluegrass effort that's remarkably vibrant and full of personality. Tuttle is a dynamic vocal presence, and the instrumentation is rich and fulsome. The hooks and writing speak to adventurous stories and characters, and the sonic variation more than meets these moments. A fun album rife with musical talent.
Just a perfect blend of dynamism, hooks, and authenticity that scratches both my pop punk and alt-country itches. Overflowing with punch and energy, The Vandoliers is both rowdy and thoughtful, with hooks and choruses that hold up well past the first listen. A highly impressive effort with a sound that no one else id really doing in the country music sphere.
Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute to John Anderson
I'm not super familiar with Anderson's work, but I was really impressed by this. The lineup of artists is stacked, and they all sound great, doing respect to originals while maintaining their own artistic identity. I usually find these kinds of things gimmicky, but the raw amount of talent on display here is impressive and lives up to the hype.