The upper half of our albums list reflects the revitalization of country music in 2015, courtesy of mostly younger artists with fresh perspectives in their lyrics and arrangements. There is still a legend or two in the mix, but if this year has proven anything, it’s that the genre’s future is in good hands.
Country music is well represented in the major categories – numerically, at least – and the overall nominee list proves once again that NARAS voters have the widest, most diverse, and yes, best taste of all industry award voters.
Here are this year’s nominees in the big four and all country and country-related categories. It’s worth noting that because Miranda Lambert won Best Country Album last year for Platinum, nothing from that set was eligible in any of the Country categories.
Back in the day, we used to do iPod checks. Seemed so current at the time! Now, we’re gonna ask you to go to Spotify or your phone or whatever, and just let us know what you’re listening to the most. Two Daily Top Fives Today: Your five most played songs from a 2015 album, and your most played country songs of all time. Here are my lists, sticking to one song per artist:
Today, we combine a classic feature with our latest one. What are your Top Five Track Recommendations? They don’t have to be that recent, but should be something that wasn’t a single. Here are my Top Five: Reba McEntire, “She Got Drunk Last Night” Punch Brothers, “Magnet” Tim McGraw, “Overrated” Nickel Creek, “You Don’t Know What’s Going On” Rodney Crowell, “God I’m Missing You”
Today’s a fairly big release day for long time country music fans, as two legends release sets today: Reba McEntire, who returns after five years with Love Somebody, and Dwight Yoakam, who is back with Second Hand Heart, which is only his second album of new material in the last ten years. We’ve already review the lead Reba single and lead Dwight single. We’ll have reviews up of both albums at a later date, but they influenced today’s Daily Top Five: What are your most recent purchases? I’m still an albums guy, so I’m going to list my most recent five albums purchased, but feel free to list tracks instead, if you’re more the a la carte type. My five most recent (country) album purchases are: Shelby Lynne, Temptation Shania Twain, Still the One: Live From Vegas Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow is My Turn Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues Jason Isbell, Read More
Punch Brothers The Phosphorescent Blues In reviewing their 2010 album, Antifogmatic, I noted that Punch Brothers were “rapidly evolving into a string-band version of Radiohead.” That assessment comes to full fruition on The Phosphorescent Blues, at once the band’s most obtuse and most accessible album. Opening with the 10-plus minute suite of “Familiarity,” Punch Brothers have never been so forward with their hybrid of classical sophistication with prog-inspired Bluegrass, as the track ebbs and flows between “Amen!” exclamations right out of high mountain gospel and intricate vocal harmonies that would fit seamlessly on Brian Wilson’s SMiLE. The band’s technical virtuosity is on full display on the instrumental performances of wondrously complex arrangements by DeBussy and Scriabin.
Of course, it’s not just the Americana acts that can’t get radio play these days. Even top-selling albums by Scotty McCreery and Alison Krauss & Union Station weren’t embraced.
Country Universe editors and contributors each submitted a list of their ten favorite albums of 2011. 31 different albums were included on our lists, and over the next two days, we’ll share with you our collective top twenty.
Top Twenty Albums of 2011, Part One: #20-#11
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail
His tenure with the Punch Brothers and his winning of the first annual “Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass” in 2010 both earned Noam Pikelny the clout to release Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail, his second solo album and first since 2004. Joined by an all-star roster of fellow pickers, Pikelny’s mostly instrumental set is a showcase both for its lead artist’s extraordinary technical skills and for the banjo’s wide-ranging potential. – Jonathan Keefe