Significant music contributions by the women of country music in 2013 proved that they were the torchbearers championing artistic new interpretations of perennial country themes. Country people everywhere became rapt by timeless releases from Pistol Annies, Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves, showing that great work always rises to the top. Here are the country albums that defined 2013.
Pistol Annies’ Annie Up empowers any listener whether it’s over talking trash in “Hush Hush” or whether it’s coming to terms with being “Unhappily Married.” Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley’s sophomore album provides satisfying resolutions to some of life’s harsher truths. Overall, it does an excellent job of showing that no emotion is final.
Shelton was two years into his tenure on The Voice and starting to become a household name by the time Based on a True Story… was released. Although he found success in Hollywood, Shelton continued to show his commitment to delivering solid country gold with “Boys’ Round Here,” “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” “My Eyes” and “Mine Would Be You.”
Eldredge’s debut album made him an instant standout among the country crooners from the early 2010s. The success of “Don’t Ya,” “Beat of the Music” and “Mean to Me” made audiences all over the world fall for his powerful voice.
Country music fans could not get enough of Bryan by the time he released Crash My Party. The album went on to receive quadruple platinum certification. It yielded six back-to-back hits, including the title song, “That’s My Kind of Night,” “Drink a Beer,” “Play it Again,” “Roller Coaster” and “I See You.”
Rhett established himself as a world-class live act from the jump with the arena-ready smashes on his platinum-selling It Goes Like This. The 11-song album introduced Rhett as an artist who could tackle any genre with showmanship that’s equal parts Mick Jagger and Bruno Mars. Highlights from Rhett’s breakthrough album include the title song, “Make Me Wanna,” “Something to Do with My Hands” and “Get Me Some of That.”
Setting the album’s autobiographical tone, Monroe co-wrote “Like a Rose” with the Jon Randall and the late Guy Clark after sharing her life story with Clark. Blake Shelton appears on “You Ain’t Dolly (And You Ain’t Porter).” Vince Gill produced the album with Monroe’s promise that she would record “Weed Instead of Roses” for the collection.
Country people with hard-luck can recognize themselves in the characters Clark introduces on the Dave Brainard-produced 12 Stories. Clark wrote and co-wrote the entire collection, including “Get High,” “Stripes,” “Hold My Hand” and “The Day She Got Divorced,” the latter of which Reba McEntire originally recorded for All the Women I Am. The critical attention from 12 Stories led to Grammy nominations for best new artist and best country album for Clark.
After parting ways with his longtime label partner Curb, McGraw signed with Big Machine and showed his staying power with the hit-heavy Two Lanes of Freedom. “Highway Don’t Care” featuring Taylor Swift and Keith Urban won CMA awards for musical event and music video of the year. The collection also featured “Truck Yeah,” “One of Those Nights” and “Southern Girl.”
Worsham’s debut Rubberband was the culmination of his evolution in music that started in his childhood growing up in Mississippi. Featuring an intricate melodies that salute his roots in bluegrass and blues, the collection immediately gained the respect of the entire Music Row community and established Worsham as one of the few modern country artists who treat country music like an heirloom. His idols Marty Stuart and Vince Gill appear on “Tools of the Trade” and “Mississippi in July” idealizes summers in the Magnolia State.
With Same Trailer Different Park, Musgraves showed the world that groundbreaking work in country music can happen without the support of country radio. She won best country album and best country song for “Merry Go ‘Round” and established herself as an artist who can be trusted to tell it like it is with a signature Texas edge.