The Best Country Albums of 2017 (So Far)
There has been no shortage of memorable country albums released this year and while there are plenty lined up to drop in the coming months, we take a look back at our favorite country albums released so far. While some of the records included have the artists going back to their roots, others continue to push barriers with new instrumentation. A few newcomers even made the list.
Here’s what we think are the eight best albums of 2017 (in alphabetical order):
Brad Paisley’s Love and War
His most ambitious record yet, Love and War had Brad Paisley enlisting the help of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members Mick Jagger and John Fogerty, Country Music Hall of Famers Johnny Cash and Bill Anderson as well as R&B producer and artist Timbaland. While at first glance these collaborations may raise eyebrows, Paisley is one of few artists who can pull off such a versatile and seamless project. The country singer segues effortlessly from a rocking number with Jagger to a poignant ballad like “Dying to See Her,” co-written and featuring Whispering Bill Anderson. While his collaborations are impressive, so is his insight. Love and War is a roller coaster ride of emotions that blends the good and evil of our society.
Chris Stapleton’s From a Room: Volume 1
In 2015 Chris Stapleton’s debut album Traveller introduced the highly regarded Nashville songwriter to the mainstream and his follow-up, From a Room: Volume 1 continues his country reign. The singer/songwriter wrote eight of the nine tracks featured on the release, in which he transitions effortlessly from the touching “Broken Halos” to the rollicking “Second One To Know.” His traditional country influence never wavers, as can be heard on his powerful single “Either Way” and the twangy “Them Stems” while his penchant for blues is showcased on “I Was Wrong.” Just a taste of what’s to come from the country music pioneer, fans can look forward to more new music from the singer later this year with From a Room: Volume 2.
Eli Young Band’s Fingerprints
The Texas-based band return to their roots on their fourth major label release, Fingerprints. Well known for their poignant ballads, there is no shortage of songs that hit the heart. Standout “Skin and Bones” was written by frontman Mike Eli, Phil Barton and Lori McKenna about the singer’s wife, Kacey, and details how his partner is intertwined throughout every step of his life. Meanwhile, radio friendly track “Drive” recalls the teenage years where you worked to save enough money for a tank of gas to cruise around on a Friday night. A memorable album, the 11 songs featured showcase what the band does best — perform music that leaves a lasting mark on the listener and reminds us all of the more important things in life.
Lady Antebellum’s Heart Break
Heart Break is Lady Antebellum’s sixth studio album and showcases the trio’s powerful harmonies and vocal blend. Well known for their often powerful ballads, Lady A stretch outside their comfort zone with high energy songs that at times recall ’70s pop tracks. While lead single “You Look Good” features a horn section and pushes the band in a new direction musically, so does the powerful ballad “Hurt” with Hillary Scott on lead with her haunting vocals set alongside soaring string accompaniment. A versatile release that showcases the trio’s ability to effortlessly tackle fun songs as well as the poignant ballads, Heart Break proves that sometimes a creative break for a band can yield to new terrain.
Lauren Alaina’s Road Less Traveled
Lauren Alaina has had a long battle at radio and in the six years since being named runner-up on American Idol, the singer has more than proved that she is a force to reckon with. The bubbly Georgian notched her first No. 1 single earlier this year with the striking title track “Road Less Traveled.” Her sophomore album has no shortage of hits either and Alaina gives fans a vulnerable look inside her life, having penned every song on the release. Tracks like “Think Outside the Boy” and new single “Doin’ Fine” exemplify her maturity and courage to be so open in her songwriting. Meanwhile, her vocal power is shown throughout Road Less Traveled, especially on “Queen of Hearts” and the touching “Three.”
Little Big Town’s The Breaker
The Breaker merges the fun with the somber for a release that continues to showcase Little Big Town’s staying power. While the first half of the album proves to be the perfect summer road trip soundtrack with feel-good beats, nostalgia and positivity, the close of the record finds the band more introspective and at times somber. Highlights include the wistful “We Went to the Beach,” hauntingly beautiful “Beat Up Bible” with Kimberly Schlapman on lead and the guitar-driven “Rollin’.” While the nostalgic and upbeat numbers showcase Little Big Town’s fun side, it is their heart-wrenching ballads that are most memorable. All the while, the band leaves its mark as each track toys with the listener’s emotions.
Luke Combs’ This One’s For You
Luke Combs’ major label debut was praised by critics and fans alike and also became the largest country debut from a new artist in 2017. The singer penned all of the album’s 12 tracks, including his No. 1 single “Hurricane” and follow-up “When It Rains It Pours.” Influenced by Eric Church, the North Carolina native showcases his impressive songwriting chops on the release accompanied by his whiskey soaked vocals. Songs like the unique “Beer Can” and nostalgic “Memories Are Made Of” demonstrate Combs’ versatility. With a debut release this strong, we can’t wait to hear what’s in store for the singer/songwriter.
Zac Brown Band’s Welcome Home
Welcome Home brings the band back to its roots and at times the album recalls earlier work like 2008’s The Foundation with its heartfelt lyrics and standout musicianship. Emotional single “My Old Man” has a young man hoping to bestow the lessons his father taught him upon his own son while the striking “Start Over” seamlessly blends ZBB’s influences between 1960s Motown, Jimmy Buffett’s island vibes and Spanish instrumentation. Another striking moment includes the album closer, a cover of John Prine’s “All the Best” with Kacey Musgraves, where the duo’s stripped down interpretation highlights the soft harmonies between each singer. Those missing the storytelling and honesty from country music will no doubt find a permanent place in their home for Zac Brown Band’s latest effort Welcome Home.