From stunning debuts to career-best efforts, 2019 has been an exceptional year for music. These are our favorites!
Tony Doolin- Creekside Mornings, 100.9 The Creek
Between the Country, Ian Noe
Kentucky native Ian Noe joins the ranks of Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, and bourbon as the state’s greatest exports. His ability to craft lyrics that create atmosphere and story locked this album into my number one slot for 2019.
Close to Home, Chuck Mead
Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, BR5-49 veteran Chuck Mead turns in a record featuring (hands down) the finest production of the year. Warm and edgy at the same time, the classic sound provides the texture for a gem in Chuck’s discography.
The Valley, Charley Crockett
After a major health scare and open heart surgery, Charley Crockett came back swinging with The Valley. Hopefully, this album will have all of us praying that Charley becomes a well dressed, honky tonk vampire and lives forever.
Daylight, Grace Potter
In early October, Grace Potter was not the radar as an artist that would land in my Top 5. In December, I look back with sadness to those days when I was still young and stupid. Her vocals will make you hate the time you didn’t have this album in your life.
Walk Through Fire, Yola
Buzz… Accolades… Grammy nods. Who knew a British performer would be laying the foundation that will help define the sound of the next era in Americana? Walk Through Fire is an instant classic.
Honorable Mention: What It Is, Hayes Carll; Room 41, Paul Cauthen
Wes Griffith- Mid-Morning Ramble, 100.9 The Creek
Walk Through Fire, Yola
Hands down, my favorite. Amazing new artists. Huge voice. AM Country Gold vibe. Dan Auerbach is on fire.
Room 41, Paul Cauthen
Fun album that channels the spirit of East Nashville. Waylon Jennings in a leisure suit. Country with a disco beat probably pissed off a lot of purists, but I dig it.
What It Is, Hayes Carll
More proof that Carll is a contender for the songwriting crown.
Southern Gentleman, Dee White
Fantastic debut. Feels like John Hartford. More brilliantly produced AM Gold from Auerbach.
Between the Country, Ian Noe
When albums like this catch fire, it restores my hope that not everyone likes saccharin pop and cheesy country.
Honorable Mention: Black Pumas, Black Pumas; The Valley, Charley Crockett; Other Girls, Lillie Mae; Songs of Our Native Daughters, Our Native Daughters; Wish You Were Here, Joshua Ray Walker
Megan Allen– One Non Blonde, 100.5 The X
Help Us Stranger, The Raconteurs
Hand’s down, this was my favorite album of the year. It’s solid from start to finish and innovative both instrumentally and lyrically. To fully appreciate the album, download the version with Jack White’s commentary for a behind-the-scenes look at the band’s creative process.
Order In Decline, Sum 41
While most Warped-tour era bands have mellowed over time, Sum 41 has gone the opposite direction. This album brings their signature brand of hard-hitting punk but also has a maturity we haven’t heard in the past. Lou Reed once said, “Music is never loud enough. You should stick your head in a speaker.” This is the album he was referring to.
Jade Bird, Jade Bird
I hadn’t heard of the British singer-songwriter until she released her debut album in April, and we began playing “I Get No Joy” on The X. The single was catchy, so I checked out the full album, and it was a delight. Strongly influenced by Americana, Bird’s vocal range and acoustic guitar prowess remind me of the strong female indie singers of decades gone by. I’m looking forward to hearing more from her.
Age of Unreason, Bad Religion
This is the album we didn’t realize we needed this year. Protest songs for the modern age, the band goes beyond discussing individuals and current events to address the larger cultural issues of groupthink, paranoia, alternative facts, and blind acceptance while encouraging listeners to revive the dying arts of logical reasoning and critical thinking.
End of Suffering, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Known initially as a British punk band, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes lean more toward an indie sound with End of Suffering. The album comes after Carter’s sabbatical to tend to his own mental health, and those experiences find their voice on EOS. Raw, real, and relatable for anyone who has struggled with anxiety or merely had their heart broken. On the whole, the album is relentless and slow-burning.
Honorable Mention: The Silver Scream Final Cut, Ice Nine Kills
Ok, technically this album was released in 2018, but the band dropped the Final Cut Deluxe Edition with six bonus tracks just before Halloween 2019, so I’m including it. Each track is inspired by a different horror film, and creatively captures the essence of each movie. For example, “A Grave Mistake” holds both the on-screen and off-screen tragedy of The Crow, while “Your Number is Up,” based on Wes Craven’s Scream, will make your hair stand on end. It’s good, not-so-clean American fun.
Anthony Ennis– The Drive/Black & Mild, 100.9 The Creek
Black Pumas, Black Pumas
This was my favorite surprise of 2019. Not just the album itself but the band as a whole. I had NO clue when the Black Pumas released their first single that they had just formed less than a year ago. Once the entire album was released, it instantly became one of my favorites. With a unique blend of soul, rock, and R&B it’s got a little something for everyone.
Between the Country, Ian Noe
Another debut album. Another one of my favorites. With songwriting skills far superior to his age, Ian Noe’s booming voice and subtle storytelling put him immediately in the running with guys such as Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and dare I say… Similar to a young John Prine.
Room 41, Paul Cauthen
Paul Cauthen is a force to be reckoned with. What do you call this music? Disco/soul/country? I’ll take it.
Terms of Surrender, Hiss Golden Messenger
MC Taylor does it again. With thoughtful lyrics, perfect pop sensibilities, and great song structure, this is an album that fits any mood. Whether you’re looking for something to put on in the car and just drive, getting ready for a night out, or sitting at home alone lost in thought, Terms of Surrender hits all the right notes.
Walk Through Fire, Yola
What can I say? WOW. Just wow. At 35 years old, Yola’s debut (full length) album hits all of my feelings. I didn’t know a voice could make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, my spine tingle, and make me feel warm and fuzzy all over simultaneously. Yola proved me wrong. It could be below zero outside, and this album would make it feel like a perfect spring day.
Honorable Mentions: The Saint of Lost Causes, Justin Townes Earle; Warning, Lasers Lasers Birmingham; The Valley, Charley Crockett; Songs of Our Native Daughters, Our Native Daughters; Sound & Fury, Sturgill Simpson
Matt Lang- After Work After Party, 100.5 The X
Mana, Idle Hands
Idle Hands features 4 former members of Spellcaster. Led by frontman Gabe Franco, the band combines ‘80s goth overtones with a traditional hard rock song structure which gives the album a unique sound. Think Sisters of Mercy meets an ‘80s metal band. This album has been my go-to record this year and may very well be my favorite debut album of the decade. Standout tracks include “Nightfall”, “Don’t Waste Your Time”, and “Give Me To The Night”.
Feral Roots, Rival Sons
Feral Roots is the sixth studio album from Rival Sons and the first for Atlantic Records. Dave Cobb and Rival Sons have crafted a solid hard/blues rock album that features memorable guitar riffs, huge drum grooves, and the soaring vocals of frontman Jay Buchanan. It’s no wonder this album and lead single, “Too Bad”, are both nominated for Grammy Awards this year. Standout tracks include “Do Your Worst”, “Sugar On The Bone”, “Too Bad”, and “All Directions”.
In Another Time, Tanith
Tanith’s debut sounds like it would have been a hit in 1976. The twin guitar lines are reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash. The dual vocals of Russ Tippins and Cindy Maynard add so much depth to the storytelling–and, boy, does this album tell some stories! This is a must-listen for fans of Thin Lizzy, Uriah Heep, Blue Öyster Cult, etc… Standout tracks include “Citadel”, “Under The Stars”, and “Book Of Changes”.
Gold & Grey, Baroness
With Gold & Grey, Baroness has released an album full of thoughtful and thought-provoking songs and musical concepts. As with their previous efforts, this album features a beautiful cover painted by frontman/songwriter John Baizley. If you’ve followed the band’s catalog then this is a must-listen, however, if you are new to Baroness, this is a wonderful gateway into one of Georgia’s most underestimated bands. Standout tracks include “Borderlines”, “Broken Halo”, and “Seasons”…Actually, the whole record is standout!
The Door To Doom, Candlemass
Candlemass, the original purveyors of doom, have returned with original singer Johan Längqvist for one of the year’s most anticipated albums. The Door To Doom is the band’s first release to feature Längqvist since 1986’s classic Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. The lead single, “Astorolus – The Great Octopus”, even features a tasty guitar solo from none other than Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. The Door To Doom is the first Candlemass release to earn a Grammy nomination. Standout tracks include “Astorolus – The Great Octopus”, and “House Of Doom”, and “The Omega Circle”.
Aaron Irons– 8 ‘Til Late/Honky Tonk Hell, 100.9 The Creek
Wish You Were Here, Joshua Ray Walker
This was my #1 pick for 2019 back in January, and I haven’t changed my mind. The big Texan showcases the kind of introspection and attention to lyrical detail that could see him become another in a legacy of Lonestar poets. I predict that JRW’s next project (he’s already got the songs, maybe even the album ready to go) will be a grittier, noisier affair. I can’t wait.
Warning, Lasers Lasers Birmingham
The alter ego of lonesome L.A. cowboy Alex Owen, Lasers Lasers Birmingham delivers a West Coast honky tonker that’s the perfect spin for rowdy gatherings, nights at the bar, and the morning after. Just a fantastic album.
Between The Country, Ian Noe
It’s truly rare to find an artist so young but so fully formed. Ian Noe is the real dang deal, and he’s only getting started. The songs on Between the Country aren’t for the faint of heart, but they are some of the best in any genre of music. Like fellow Kentuckian Tyler Childers (and Sturgill before him), expect to find Noe moving to bigger venues in 2020.
Mint Condition, Caroline Spence
I’ve probably listened to Mint Condition more than any other album this year. Why? Because it’s my daughter’s absolute favorite, and she plays it nonstop. Thing is, I’m not tired of it yet– that’s how good it is. Spence has yet to perform for us in Macon (she did stop by to film a Creek Session), so I’m hoping 2020 finds her on one of our stages and the Irons family in the front row.
Almost Daylight, Chris Knight
I’d pre-ordered the Almost Daylight CD and vinyl as soon as I was able to. I don’t even have a record player (I think I’m gettin’ one for Christmas), but I wasn’t gonna miss out on the first Chris Knight album to get that treatment. Can’t wait to hear Ray Kennedy’s mix on the actual grooves. The songs were worth the 7-year wait. Guest shots from Dan Baird and John Prine are just gravy.
Honorable Mentions: What It Is, Hayes Carll; Walk Through Fire, Yola; Slowly Speeding, Kim Lenz; Hard Lessons, Chris Shiflett; Blood, Allison Moorer
Ashley Doolin- Deconstructing Divas, 100.9 The Creek
Songs of our Native Daughters, Our Native Daughters
I hate to use this term, but this album is compelling. These women have revived traditional sounds and brought history lessons into their music– history that should not be overlooked and forgotten.
Blood, Allison Moorer
There is no doubt that this album is Moorer’s most personal. Blood shares her story of anguish over losing her parents, and it gives them voices through the songs. Blood is a companion piece to her memoir of the same name (now available) about the night her father shot her mother and then turned the gun on himself.
Jamie, Brittany Howard
This album is Howard’s solo studio debut after stepping out on her own from the Alabama Shakes. I was all in after seeing her video for the song “Stay High” featuring the AMAZING Terry Crews. The song just makes you happy and leaves you with a high! Howard makes her own magic wherever she goes, and it’s clear on this album. I look forward to more of just Brittany!
While I’m Livin’, Tanya Tucker
I have to give some major props to Brandi Carlile for a lot of major moves this year– one of them being a driving force in the reappraisal of Tanya Tucker. Tanya Tucker was the soundtrack to my childhood. This proves that even though it’s been 17 years since we’ve had new material, Tucker still has “it”.
The Highwomen, The Highwomen
Back to owing Brandi Carlile for making 2019 great musically, I have to thank her for The Highwomen consisting of Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires. The song “Highwomen” is a reworking of “Highwayman” by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. Carlile explained in an interview with Rolling Stone that on the original 1985 tune, the Highwaymen’s characters all died doing things that MEN do. These women rewrote it (along with original songwriter Jimmy Webb) with the fates of women: a doctor convicted of witchcraft, an immigrant who died trying to get her children over the border safely, a preacher, and a freedom rider who gets shot (featuring Yola!!)… This album is the battle cry for women in every possible way.