I don’t know about anyone else, but I was very surprised when somebody recently mentioned to me that we’re already halfway through 2017! A lot of great music has been released this year and there is more to come, but since we’re already in June, I thought I would highlight five of my favorite albums of 2017 so far.
As an aside, since Kevin has already written a great review for Rodney Crowell’s Close Ties, I will just say that I fully endorse his thoughts on that album! Otherwise, rest assured that I would have included it on this list.
Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope
On her first album post divorce, Reba is singing as strongly as ever. This is particularly noticed on the “Swing Low Sweet Chariot/Swing Down Chariot” medley, with a continued confidence and hope that shines through in her voice. The album is split into two styles, half delightfully produced classic hymns and the other half inspirational pop-infused songs. If not for that weaker second half, aside from the infectious “I Got the Lord on My Side”, this would be a 5-star album.
Recommended Tracks: “I’ll Fly Away,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot/Swing Down Chariot (Medley),” “I Got the Lord on My Side”
Jason Eady’s warm voice single-handedly carries these sparsely produced songs to make a very compelling album, especially on songs such as “Barabbas” and “Black Jesus,” where he explores intriguing points of view. So much compassion, intelligence and grit in just one relatively short album is notably impressive!
Recommended Tracks: “Barabbas,” “Black Jesus,” “Not Too Loud”
Rather than finding a way to justify covering her own album to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Brandi Carlile brilliantly assembled an impressive roster of artists to cover the album instead. Each song from Carlile’s The Story is covered by some of her favorite artists with wonderful results. What’s mor,e all of the profits will be donated to benefit War Child UK, a charity that helps children in crisis.
As Carlile’s voice is a powerhouse, many of the voices on this album follow suit, including Dolly Parton fulfilling a dream that I didn’t even know I had with her powerful cover of “The Story,” not to mention The Secret Sisters’ “Losing Heart,” Margo Price’s “Down Pour,” and Adele’s “Hiding My Heart”.
Recommended Tracks: “Late Morning Lullaby (Shovels and Rope), “The Story” (Dolly Parton), “My Song” (Old Crow Medicine Show)
Don Williams is one of the few artists who has been able to sing simple songs with an unassuming voice and still have a deservedly successful career. While Williams’ recordings are the quintessential versions of these songs, it’s interesting and fun to hear them sung and produced with a bit more heft.
Not only is it great to hear something new from the Pistol Annies and Trisha Yearwood, it’s nice to hear Dierks Bentley sounding good on a throwback to his old sound. It’s also worth mentioning that Lady Antebellum’s version of “We’ve Got A Good Fire Goin'” is decidedly my favorite Lady A performance, as well as my favorite track on this album. The only major misstep on this tribute is the inclusion of Garth Brooks’ ridiculous attempt at imitating Williams on his best song, “Good Old Boys Like Me.”
Recommended Tracks: “Tulsa Time” (Pistol Annies), “We’ve Got a Good Fire Goin'” (Lady Antebellum), “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend” (Dierks Bentley)
Kasey Chambers doesn’t allow genre categorizations to hold her back on this album. She employs a variety of genres, including country, bluegrass, pop, talking blues, folk and others on this generous collection of twenty songs. While the inclusion of such diverse styles sounds chaotic in theory, Chambers manages to make it sound seamless in practice, which is surely due to the quality of the consistently well crafted songs. In short, Chambers’ eleventh album is among her very best, thanks in part to its reflective and fiery, passionate performances.
Recommended Tracks: “Golden Rails”; “Talkin’ Baby Blues,” “No Ordinary Man,” “If We Had a child (feat. Keith Urban)”
Let us know what your favorite albums of 2017 have been so far!