Year-End Rodeo 2015: Individual Ballots

Now that our final lists of the 40 Best Singles of 2015 and 20 Best Albums of 2015 are posted and open for discussion, we have decided to post each of our seven writers’ individual ballots for the year-end countdowns, so we can give at least a bit of attention to even more great music from the past year.

When tabulating our lists, we assign points using a weighted ballot that prioritizes the music that each contributor feels most passionately about. The total points across all ballots are added together, and then a consensus multiplier factor recognizes the music that resonated most strongly with the Country Universe crew as a whole. Over the past several years, we’ve tinkered with our formulas a bit, and we’re pleased with how our methodology produces lists that allow for our individual writers’ unique voices and tastes to be reflected while also recognizing quality music with across-the-board appeal.

This year, that meant we saw mainstream superstars like Reba, Alan Jackson, and Eric Church ranked alongside lesser-known acts like Jamie Lin Wilson and Humming House on our albums list, while Tami Neilson, Jason Isbell, and Drake White rubbed elbows with Carrie Underwood and Maddie & Tae on our singles list.

A few quick stats for posterity’s sake: Isbell’s Something More Than Free, Chris Stapleton’s Traveler, and Church’s Mr. Misunderstood were the only albums to appear on all seven ballots; Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade” and Isbell’s “24 Frames” both appeared on all six ballots for the year’s best singles. Randy Rogers’ & Wade Bowen’s Hold My Beer, Volume 1 and Kasey Chambers’ Bittersweet both earned three votes each but still missed the final list, while Alan Jackson’s “Jim and Jack and Hank” was the only single to earn at least two votes and not make the top 40 list. Sometimes math is cruel.

What was great about 2015, particularly in comparison to the leaner offerings of the past few years, was that we could have easily posted longer lists of music worth seeking out. Just because something didn’t make the cut on our final lists, that didn’t mean that it was ignored entirely by the staff. Last year, most of the crew here felt like they were straining to fill out complete ballots with music they liked; this year, the challenge for many of us was in cutting music we really loved from our lists.

Too much good music: That’s a good problem to have.

So, alpha-ma-betically, each of our writers’ personal ballots are listed below.


Kevin John Coyne:

 

Storyteller-300x300
Albums

01. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
02. Reba McEntire, Love Somebody
03. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
04. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
05. Carrie Underwood, Storyteller
06. Alan Jackson, Angels & Alcohol
07. Maddie & Tae, Start Here
08. Laura Bell Bundy, Another Piece of Me
09. Watkins Family, Watkins Family Hour
10. Gretchen Peters, Blackbirds
11. K.T. Oslin, Simply
12. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django & Jimmie
13. Don Henley, Cass County
14. Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, The Traveling Kind
15. Chris Stapleton, Traveller
16. Tim McGraw, Damn Country Music
17. Toby Keith, 35 MPH Town
18. Iris DeMent, The Trackless Woods
19. Punch Brothers, Phosphorescent Blues
20. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn

Miranda Lambert Little Big Town Smokin and Drinkin

Singles

01. Miranda Lambert, “Little Red Wagon”
02. Carrie Underwood, “Little Toy Guns”
03. Terri Clark, “I Cheated on You”
04. Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”
05. Eric Church, “Like a Wrecking Ball”
06. Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”
07. Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood”
08. Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break”
09. Trisha Yearwood, “I Remember You”
10. Dwight Yoakam, “Second Hand Heart”
11. Toby Keith, “35 MPH Town”
12. Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free”
13. George Strait, “Let It Go”
14. Miranda Lambert, “Bathroom Sink”
15. Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”
16. Toby Keith, “Beautiful Stranger”
17. Miranda Lambert with Little Big Town, “Smokin’ and Drinkin'”
18. Alan Jackson, “Jim and Jack and Hank”
19. Jason Isbell, “The Life You Chose”
20. Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”


Ben Foster:

 

K.T. Oslin Simply


Albums

01. Ashley Monroe, The Blade
02. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
03. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
04. Maddie & Tae, Start Here
05. Chris Stapleton, Traveller
06. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
07. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django and Jimmie
08. K.T. Oslin, Simply
09. Reba McEntire, Love Somebody
10. Alan Jackson, Angels & Alcohol

 

FlyMaddieTae

Singles

01. Kacey Musgraves, “Dime Store Cowgirl”
02. Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”
03. Drake White, “It Feels Good”
04. Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”
05. Trisha Yearwood, “I Remember You”
06. Jason Isbell, “The Life You Chose”
07. Maddie & Tae, “Shut Up and Fish”
08. Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”
09. Toby Keith, “Beautiful Stranger”
10. Kristian Bush, “Trailer Hitch”
11. Tami Neilson featuring Marlon Williams, “Lonely”
12. Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break”
13. Toby Keith, “35 MPW Town”
14. Miranda Lambert, “Bathroom Sink”
15. Carrie Underwood, “Little Toy Guns”
16. Ashley Monroe, “On To Something Good”
17. Alan Jackson, “Jim and Jack and Hank”
18. Maddie & Tae, “Fly”
19. Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
20. Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood”

Sam Gazdiak:
Jerry Lawson Just a Mortal Man

Albums
01. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
02. The Mavericks, Mono
03. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
04. Chris Stapleton, Traveller
05. Jerry Lawson, Just a Mortal Man
06. The SteelDrivers, The Muscle Shoals Recordings
07. Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Ruffian’s Misfortune
08. Corb Lund, Things That Can’t Be Undone
09. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
10. The Bros. Landreth, Let It Lie
11. Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, The Traveling Kind
12. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
13. Jewel, Picking Up The Pieces
14. Maddie & Tae, Start Here
15. Joe Ely, Panhandle Rambler
16. Kasey Chambers, Bittersweet
17. Gretchen Peters, Blackbirds
18. Robert Earl Keen, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions
19. Dwight Yoakam, Second Hand Heart
20. Alan Jackson, Angels & Alcohol

Jonathan Keefe:

1545closed_GLUE
Albums
01. Allison Moorer, Down to Believing
02. Ashley Monroe, The Blade
03. Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues
04. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
05. John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat
06. Turnpike Troubadours, Turnpike Troubadours
07. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
08. Humming House, Revelries
09. Lindi Ortega, Faded Gloryville
10. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
11.  Maddie & Tae, Start Here
12. Will Hoge, Small Town Dreams
13. Kasey Chambers, Bittersweet
14. Dwight Yoakam, Second-Hand Heart
15. The Mavericks, Mono
16. Iris DeMent, The Trackless Woods
17. Laura Bell Bundy, Another Piece of Me
18. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen, Hold My Beer, Volume 1
19. Alan Jackson, Angels & Alcohol
20. Chris Stapleton, Traveller

Ritter - Getting Ready 300x300

Singles

01. Kacey Musgraves, “Dime Store Cowgirl”
02. Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”
03. Drake White, “It Feels Good”
04. Tami Neilson featuring Marlon Williams, “Lonely”
05. Lee Ann Womack, “Send It On Down”
06. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, “S.O.B.”
07. Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”
08. Kip Moore, “I’m to Blame”
09. Rhett Miller, “Most in the Summertime”
10. Turnpike Troubadours, “Down Here”
11. Jennifer Nettles, “Sugar”
12. Allison Moorer, “Tear Me Apart”
13. Robert Earl Keen, “Hot Corn, Cold Corn”
14. Miranda Lambert, “Little Red Wagon”
15. Josh Ritter, “Getting Ready to Get Down”
16. Cam, “Burning House”
17. Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
18. Eric Church, “Like a Wrecking Ball”
19. Lindi Ortega, “Ashes”
20. Maddie & Tae, “Shut Up & Fish”

 

Larry Rogowin:

Darrell Scott Ten Songs of Ben Bullington

Albums

01. Punch Brothers, Phosphorescent Blues
02. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
03. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
04. Ashley Monroe, The Blade
05. Andrew Combs, All These Dreams
06. Darrell Scott, Ten: Songs of Ben Bullington
07. Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher’s Daughter
08. Chris Stapleton, Traveller
09. Allison Moorer, Down to Believing
10. Humming House, Revelries
11. Jamie Lin Wilson, Holidays & Wedding Rings
12. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
13. Ward Thomas, From Where We Stand
14. Watkins Family, Watkins Family Hour
15. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen, Hold My Beer, Volume 1
16. The Mavericks, Mono
17. Don Henley, Cass County
18. Dwight Yoakam, Second Hand Heart
19. Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, The Traveling Kind
20. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

 

Traveling Kind - 300x300

Singles

01. Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”
02. Lee Ann Womack, “Send It On Down”
03. Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”
04. Turnpike Troubadours, “Down Here”
05. Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free”
06. Punch Brothers, “I Blew It Off”
07. Rhiannon Giddens, “Black Is The Color”
08. Andrew Combs, “Foolin'”
09. Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”
10. Cam, “Burning House”
11. Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, ‘The Traveling Kind”
12. Jason Isbell, “The Life You Chose”
13. Humming House, “Great Divide”
14. Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood”
15. Allison Moorer, “Like It Used To Be”
16. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen, “Standards”
17. Kacey Musgraves, “Dime Store Cowgirl”
18. Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
19. Lee Ann Womack, “Chances Are”
20. Dwight Yoakam, “Second Hand Heart”


Tara Seetharam:

Will Hoge Small Town Dreams - 300x300

Albums

01. Ashley Monroe, The Blade
02. Chris Stapleton, Traveller
03. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
04. Maddie & Tae, Start Here
05. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
06. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
07. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
08. Allison Moorer, Down to Believing
09. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django & Jimmie
10. Will Hoge, Small Town Dreams

 

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Singles

01. Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”
02. Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
03. Lee Ann Womack, “Send It On Down”
04. Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”
05. Lee Ann Womack, “Chances Are”
06. Ashley Monroe, “On To Something Good”
07. Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free”
08. Cam, “My Mistake”
09. Drake White, “It Feels Good”
10. Kacey Musgraves, “Dime Store Cowgirl”
11. Maddie & Tae, “Shut Up And Fish”
12. Miranda Lambert, “Little Red Wagon”
13. Turnpike Troubadours, “Down Here”
14. Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”
15. Tami Neilson featuring Marlon Williams, “Lonely”
16. Jason Isbell, “The Life You Chose”
17. Eric Church, “Like a Wrecking Ball”
18. Kip Moore, “I’m to Blame”
19. Chris Stapleton, “Nobody to Blame”
20. Carrie Underwood, “Little Toy Guns”


Leeann Morrow Ward:

 

Kristian Bush 300x300

Albums

01. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
02. Alan Jackson, Angels and Alcohol
03. Don Henley, Cass County
04. Watkins Family, Watkins Family Hour
05. Jamie Lin Wilson, Holidays and Wedding Rings
06. Maddie and Tae, Start Here
07.  Chris Stapleton, Traveller
08. Ashley Monroe, The Blade
09. Gretchen Peters, Blackbirds
10. Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell, The Traveling Kind
11. Randy Rogers/Wade Bowen, Hold My Beer, Volume 1
12. Kristian Bush, Southern Gravity
13. Pat Green, Home
14. Jason Isbell, Something More than Free
15. Toby Keith, 35 MPH Town
16. Shovels and Rope, Busted Jukebox, Volume 1
17. Daryle Singletary, There’s Still A Little Country Left
18. Kasey Chambers, Bittersweet
19. Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood
20. Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues

 

Miranda Lambert Roots and Wings

Singles

01. Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”
02. Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”
03. Lee Ann Womack, “Send It On Down”
04. Cam, “Burning House”
05. Gretchen Peters, “When All You’ve Got is a Hammer”
06. Jason Isbell, ” 24 Frames”
07. Pat Green, “While I Was Away”
08. Trisha Yearwood, “I Remember You”
09. Robert Earl Keen, “Hot Corn, Cold corn”
10. Miranda Lambert, “Roots and Wings”
11. Drake White, “It Feels Good”
12. George Strait, “Let It Go”
13. Dierks Bentley, “Riser”
14. Kristian Bush, “Trailer Hitch”
15. Brandi Carlile, “Wherever Is Your Heart”
16. Maddie & Tae, “Shut Up and Fish”
17. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen, “Standards”
18. Jon Pardi, “Head Over Boots”
19. Jennifer Nettles, “Sugar”
20. Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break”

5 Comments

  1. Jonathan in your single review for “Dime Store Cowgirl” you gave it an A- and had given “Little Red Wagon” an A. On your list here the former ranks far above the latter. Did you change your mind with time?

  2. I’m a bit surprised that 4 writers left Cass County off their best albums list. Even Paul Dennis, who once described the Eagles as musical pollution, gave Cass County an A back in October. Mr. Dennis began his review
    “I was more than prepared to dislike this album. I haven’t liked Henley’s previous solo endeavors, nor the efforts of his band mates such as Glenn Frey, and I never liked Henley’s band the Eagles.”

  3. @ Jess
    I honestly would prefer not to use star ratings or letter grades at all, fwiw. “Dime Store Cowgirl” deepened for me over the course of the year, to the point that it was an easy choice for my #1. I really love all of the singles on my final list and, in fact, ran out a list of 73 singles I considered. In a different year, “Little Red Wagon” likely would have had a higher ranking than it did this year, but there was just so much music that I loved!

    @ bob
    On balance, I’ve been surprised to see how passionately some people feel about Cass County! It seems like the listeners who love that album really, really love it.

    For me, it’s a very good record, and I’m happy that it made our final list and was shocked that it didn’t earn a Grammy nomination for either Best Country Album or Best Americana Album. There were 45 albums I considered this year, and I ranked Cass County at #29. Again, in a different year, I could easily imagine ranking it higher.

  4. @ Jonathan:

    Kudos to giving some love for Lindi Ortega. I had her album Faded Gloryville as one of my favorites of the year, regardless of genre.

Comments are closed.