The Ten Best Country Albums of 2012

Categories: Lists

kellie pickler 100 proof.jpg
Wait, she had a record this good in her?
This list of the year's best country albums is assembled with two important premises in mind: First: If the people who record and listen to these records consider them country, than they're damn well country. Purists who argue that country should still sound like '68, '76, '84 or whenever are in the interesting position of being more conservative than Nashville radio.

I have nothing against the opinion that Hank Williams--or whatever other well-marketed figure of authenticity you prefer-- would love to see Rascal Flatts knocked on their J.C. Penney-endorsing asses. But I also accept that that opinion matters much less than those of the few million people who still actually buy CDs.

Second, Taylor Swift is now beyond country the way that Kanye is beyond hip hop or J.R. is beyond Dallas. She simply is. Red would rank highly here if I were to waste a slot on it, but TS belongs on more broadly focused lists, like maybe "Best Things in General in Recent Years."

This list has fewer men than women, mostly because Nashville's suits allow the he-hunks a more meager emotional range than the spitfires. The fellas are forever singing about some upcoming beer-in-a-cooler party (Wade Bowen's "Saturday Night," Lee Brice's "Parking Lot Party," Chris Cagle's "Wal-Mart Parking Lot") or all the little details that make being in love worth it (Easton Corbin's "Lovin' You Is Fun"; Jason Aldean's "When She Says Baby"). Maybe once per album they're permitted to feel something more complex. Of course, if male country stars sang about their real lives, every song would be called things like "Two Hours at the Gym and a Protein Shake."

See Also:
- The Ten Best Metal Albums of 2012
- The Ten Best New York City Rap Albums of 2012
- The Best Reissues of 2012
- The Ten Best Noise Tracks of 2012


10. Little Big Town
Tornado
A his-and-hers vocal group rather than the Zynga game the name suggests, Little Big Town exemplifies modern Nashville's expanding sonic purview, which now includes all music that white Americans have ever enjoyed with the exception of post-Nirvana alt-rock. Like Eric Church, they've updated the Waylon Jennings one-two stomp for the age of the breakbeat, and from track to track the four singers daydream that they're the Oak Ridge Boys ("Front Porch Thing"), Fleetwood Mac ("Leavin' In Your Eyes"), and -- seriously, on the hilarious "On Fire Tonight" -- the Jackson Five. The big beat is killer, but the twining harmony songs are just incidentally pretty.

Number of Songs I Can't Stand: 3
Lyric That Proves It's Actually Country: "When I die/ I don't wanna go sober."
Highlights: They way they coo "motorboatin'" with something of the know-it's-dirty-archness that John Anderson drawled "swingin'."


9. Edens Edge
Edens Edge
The rare chart-contending country band that actually sounds something like a band, this comely trio (this time a hers-n-his) has managed to craft an appealingly down-home debut full-length despite the involvement of producer Dann Huff, the man personally responsible for the fact that so much Nashville product sounds like uptight Whitesnake. Singer Hannah Blaylock's power and unapologetic twang mark her as a potential long-haul performer; the two guitar/dobro/mandolin players guarantee your grandpap might recognize this as having something to do with the common idea of country. Too bad the songwriting's not especially distinctive, save a couple ringers like "Amen."

Number of Songs I Can't Stand: 2
Lyric That Proves It's Actually Country: "I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that/ You finally got rid of that girlfriend"
Highlights: In a year when sexually active single women were shamed again and again in media and politics, Blaylock belting "Skinny Dippin'" is a welcome, horny corrective.


8. Kip Moore
Up All Night
This here's the most promising of the neo-Springsteens, that tribe of car and romance-loving rockers whose songs all barrel across suburban-to-rural everytowns like the Boss's might if he had no interest in politics or hard truths. Moore's music is mostly straight-ahead heartland rock, with narrative and some stars-and-moon poetry, all from the perspective of a politely redblooded gent who raises exactly as much hell as is socially acceptable. But his crunching chord/gentle-twang pairing diminishes neither rock nor country, and the fussily punctuated "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" is for the ages. If you wonder why neo-Springsteenism is country these days, ask yourself: "Is there anyplace else on the radio that plays new rock for people who don't fancy that they're the alternative to the mainstream?"

Number of Songs I Can't Stand: 1
Lyric That Proves It's Actually Country: "We'll chase the moon/ ride the stars/ find the muscle in this car."
Highlights: On "Fly Again," the next-to-last track, he finally expresses something impolite, in this case a heartache bad enough that he gets high on the roof of his car and fires a gun at the moon. Also, somehow, "Everything But You" manages to steal the "Sweet Jane" riff and the verse melody of James McMurtry's "Rachel's Song" and still work as a new tune.

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22 comments
Mouckarena
Mouckarena

@rawhidevelvet @wadebowen I'd hardly put "Saturday Night" in the same category with any songs containing the words parking lot in the title.

IndySkyMusic
IndySkyMusic

@rawhidevelvet @wadebowen I thought this was just in our paper! Guess it's syndicated. It's obvious that he didn't even listen. So annoying.

maureen1165
maureen1165

@rawhidevelvet @WadeBowen obvious by his "singers singing abt real lives" that he never listened 2 When These Walls Were Blue. #realenuf4u

seankellyk101
seankellyk101

@rawhidevelvet Agreed. Read that and thought "Huh?" @WadeBowen

rawhidevelvet
rawhidevelvet

@seankellyk101 I don't think the writer even heard Wade's song...it's kind of the anti party song.

jordannosparks_
jordannosparks_

@JusticeChrist_ little big town @ #10, carrie @ #4 & kellie @ #2!, let me find her album like ASAP!.

jordannosparks_
jordannosparks_

@JusticeChrist_ little big town @ #10, carrie @ #4 & kellie @ #2!, let me find her album and listen to it ASAP!.

jordannosparks_
jordannosparks_

@JusticeChrist_ carrie @ #4 & kellie @ #2!, let me find her album and listen to it ASAP!.

WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

Nice list, props for your take on Iris and Dwight. And that line about the gym and protein shakes? Bullseye.

johnvelghe
johnvelghe

@davidhudnall "this is my newest single. It's called 'My Trainer Left Me Broker Than a China Doll'"

k_ristina_
k_ristina_

@VoiceStreet people knock country way too often , I feel like most people don't even give it a chance before they judge

AlyMae
AlyMae

@IndySkyMusic @rawhidevelvet @wadebowen makes my blood boil. It only takes a listen to realize the true context, absolutely lazy writing.

rawhidevelvet
rawhidevelvet

@seankellyk101 @WadeBowen well a shout out is still a shout out I guess.

WadeBowen
WadeBowen

@rawhidevelvet @seankellyk101 I guess

IndySkyMusic
IndySkyMusic

@AlyMae @citypages @blackberrysmoke of course! Those were just 3.

AlyMae
AlyMae

@IndySkyMusic @citypages what about @blackberrysmoke's Whippoorwill? Gould be added to the list

IndySkyMusic
IndySkyMusic

@AlyMae I replied to the @citypages post of this article on fb and told them they were missing @johnrfullbright @TpTroubadours & @jasoneady.

AlyMae
AlyMae

@IndySkyMusic my guess looking for an additional beer drinking example and found it on a list of 2012 released singles

WadeBowen
WadeBowen

@rawhidevelvet @seankellyk101 Hahahahahaha

rawhidevelvet
rawhidevelvet

@WadeBowen @seankellyk101 want me to be mean to him and call him a twatwaffle or something, cause I totally will. #keyboardterrorist

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