Best Country Albums of 2004
1. Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying
A stunning mainstream country album that manages to challenge the listener while still pleasing radio. There are too many high points to list, but “Drugs Or Jesus,” “My Old Friend,” “Open Season On My Heart” and “Walk Like A Man” still pack a punch after repeated listenings.
2. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways
Is melancholic euphoria possible? Sadness and loneliness are romanticized on this collection with gorgeous results. “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” is nothing short of a revelation.
3. Chris Thile, Deceiver
Resident genius of Nickel Creek uses a side project to indulge his most whimsical aural fantasies. His lyrics are frighteningly and incisively intelligent; the honesty of this record outlasts the novelty of the production.
4. Todd Snider, East Nashville Skyline
His peak to date, Snider shows up with his trademark humor and biting political commentary, but reveals a sensitivity that makes the material resonate. His struggles with life, love and God are powerfully captured here.
5. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose
Much press ink is being spilled about the excellence of this album, and it’s mostly warranted. Lynn was never an album artist to begin with; she was essentially a brilliant singles artist. She has created a cohesive collection of songs that work well together, and her writing talent is as sharp as ever.
6. Lorrie Morgan, Show Me How
A welcome return to form by one of the best female vocalists of the nineties. She has found material that reflects her place in life, and her voice has acquired a smoky quality when she uses her lower register.
7. Patty Griffin, Impossible Dream
She continues to be a top-notch songwriter, and while she doesn’t show off her vocal power much here, she has written some of the best songs of her career. Highlights include “Useless Desires”, “When It Don’t Come Easy” and “Top Of The World.”
8. Big & Rich, Horse of a Different Color
A schizophrenic, fearless and wildly entertaining debut. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
9. Rachel Proctor, Where I Belong
In a year where Gretchen Wilson sold three million records and Julie Roberts scored with the critics, Proctor quietly released a better album than either of them. She’s a great songwriter, and her vocals have a natural vulnerability that is effortlessly convincing.
10. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Between Here And Gone
If understanding humanity is the road to truth, Carpenter’s music might be leading the way. “Grand Central Station”, sung from the perspective of a Ground Zero worker being haunted by lost souls looking to get home, again reveals her ability to deeply understand universal emotions. Another great album from an artist for the ages.
Gretchen Wilson, Here For The Party
Keith Urban, Be Here
Tift Merritt, Tambourine
Willie Nelson, It Will Always Be
The Notorious Cherry Bombs, The Notorious Cherry Bombs
Dolly Parton, Live And Well
SHeDaisy, Sweet Right Here
Twelve Best Reissues & Compilations
1. Emmylou Harris, Rhino Reissues:
Pieces of the Sky,
Elite Hotel, Luxury Liner,
Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town,
Blue Kentucky Girl, Light Of The Stable
2. The Mavericks, Definitive Collection
3. Kim Richey, Collection
4. Johnny Cash, Life
5. Shania Twain, Greatest Hits
6. Dwight Yoakam, Dwight’s Used Records
7. Patsy Cline, Definitive Collection
8. George Strait, 50 Number Ones
9. Terri Clark, Greatest Hits 1994-2004
10. Kenny Rogers, 42 Ultimate Hits
11. Lee Ann Womack, Greatest Hits
12. George Jones, 50 Years of Hits
Ten Best From Outside the Country Universe
1. Green Day, American Idiot
2. Norah Jones, Feels Like Home
3. Olivia Newton-John, Indigo: Women of Song
4. Elton John, Peachtree Road
5. U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
6. Beastie Boys, To The Five Boroughs
7. Steve Earle, The Revolution Starts Now
8. Eminem, Encore
9. Linda Ronstadt, Hummin’ To Myself
10. R.E.M., Around The Sun