The Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)
With the end of August looming, I looked back on what we've gotten to hear so far in 2015. Dwelling on it, I'm blown away.
Killer album after killer album have been released from some names we already knew, and others from relative newcomers or folks who haven't even released an album yet.
Nevertheless, a lot of great music has been released in 2015, with more still to come. But while we're here, let's take a look at the best albums in Texas, Red Dirt and whatever-you-want-to-call-it music (so far) of 2015.
In no particular order:
I might have lied about that "no particular order" thing, at least when it comes to No. 1. Jason Isbell has solidified himself as the greatest living songwriter, and his ability to follow a masterpiece like Southeastern (2013) with Something More Than Free is a testament to that. His latest release is a far departure from the somber, oft-depressing tone of Southeastern, but its voice of love, freedom and strong storytelling is masterful. I even went as far as calling Isbell the "Bob Dylan of our generation" in my review of the album.
Favorite songs: "24 Frames," "Speed Trap Town," "Something More Than Free."
I'll be the first to admit, even as big of an Uncle Lucius fan as I am, it took me a few trips through The Light to get a real feel for the record. I had heard many of the songs played live well before the album came out, but this record has a different feel sonically than the band's prior releases. But it's still great. Upbeat, philosophical and with more range than their previous records, Uncle Lucius showed off an incredible amount of versatility with The Light.
Favorite songs: "Nothing to Save," "The Light," "End of 118."
How William Clark Green was able to put out a record that could hold a candle to Rose Queen is beyond me, but he did it. He comes out swinging from the very beginning with "Next Big Thing" and doesn't hold back. Some might still refer to Green as an "up-and-comer" in the Texas country scene, but this record eliminates any sense of newcomer. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Texas country artist who has put out back-to-back albums like Green ... ever.
Favorite songs: "Next Big Thing," "Ringling Road," "Sticks and Stones."
American Aquarium were going to be completely finished after their 2012 release Burn. Flicker. Die. Then the spotlight finally shined on this band from Raleigh, N.C. And thank God it did. BJ Barham is another masterful songwriter, and Wolves is to American Aquarium like Something More Than Free is to Jason Isbell. It's more uplifting, but it still leaves a little room for darkness. Front to back, this album has it.
Favorite songs: "Man I'm Supposed to Be," "Wichita Falls," "Losing Side of 25."
Traveller is the first solo project released by former SteelDrivers front man Chris Stapleton, but you'd never know it. After spending years writing hit songs for names such as George Strait and Kenny Chesney, Stapleton finally went out on his own. With a voice capable of melting every soul that hears it, Stapleton quickly vaulted himself to the top of the country mountain with Traveller. With monster original songs and a brilliant cover "Tennessee Whiskey" (George Jones), this album has everything a real country fan wants in a record.
Favorite songs: "Parachute," "Tennessee Whiskey," "Whiskey and You."
East Texas native Kacey Musgraves' follow-up to her first album Same Trailer Different Park is equally as brilliant as the first. When you thought Musgraves couldn't possibly get more whimsical, witty and satirical with her lyrics, she went above and beyond. It's the album many in Nashville wish they could write themselves.
Favorite songs: "Dime Store Cowgirl," "This Town," "Family is Family."
Texas country fans have waited (rather impatiently) for years for Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen to put out a collaborative album after they've spent many a year traveling together on the 'Hold My Beer and Watch This" tour. It finally happened, and the result is pure, unadulterated, kickass country music from two of Texas' best. It's the music today's "country scene" needs to listen to on repeat.
Favorite songs: "Standards," "In the Next Life," "Good Luck With That."
Pat Green has long been a polarizing figure in the Texas country scene. Whatever arguments have taken place before now are irrelevant, because his newest release Home is the Pat Green we know, the Pat Green who brought many folks to the scene to begin with.
Favorite songs: "Home," "Girls from Texas" (with Lyle Lovett), "While I Was Away."