Discussion: Best Albums of 2010

It’s hard to believe, but we’re dangerously close to the end of 2010!

For record labels, this means that most of the major albums have been released for the year. Therefore, for Country Universe, this means that we’re preparing to begin the daunting process of compiling our Best of the Year lists, which includes best singles and albums of the year.

Being aware of all of the year’s single releases is a fairly simple task, however, as you might imagine, catching all of the albums for the year is much more of a challenge.

We greatly value, not to mention learn a lot from your input and recommendations. So, we would love to know some of your favorite albums of the year, as we still have time for consideration and deliberation.

So, what are some of your favorite albums of 2010? Any suggestions, as long as they’re somewhere in the country music tent (or universe), are welcome, but we’d especially love to hear about albums that may have flown under our radars.


  1. Since you’d especially love to hear about albums that may have flown under your radars, I give you the best new album I’ve heard this year, “Allergic to Crazy” by Don Schlitz. It was released around the beginning of this year on de Vere Records. I bought it at one of Don’s D4A$ shows at the Bluebird Cafe. According to his website, it’s available on i-tunes, amazon and cdbaby.

  2. Hadn’t given it any serious thought up to now but it seems that the albums I keep going back to are the new Zac Brown and Jamey Johnson albums (probably the two best I’ve heard this year) followed albums by Teea Goans, Amber Digby & Justin Trevino and The Cornell Hurd Band

  3. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “The Age of Miracles” – while it’s far from her best work, there are still some interesting, introspective, intelligent songs on the set.

  4. My top three – none of them strictly country but all at least rootsy – would be:

    1. Roky Erickson – True Love Cast Out All Evil
    2. Shinyribs – Well After Awhile
    3. Alejandro Escovedo – Street Songs of Love

    Best straight-up country record? Probably “Burning The Day” by the Randy Rogers Band or “The Guitar Song” by Jamey Johnson.

  5. I’ve actually missed a lot of this year’s album releases, but I thought Lacy J. Dalton’s new self-released Hank tribute album was excellent, and it’s surely one that might fly under the radar. And of course, there’s Joey + Rory’s Album #2.

  6. I really want to throw in a good word for Tift Merritt’s album See You On The Moon. Not only do I think it the best album of 2010, but I also think Tift is the best female artist in any genre to have come along since the turn of this century.

  7. I’d include Carpenter’s The Age Of Miracles, and I think Reba’s All The Women I Am consisted of some of her better work she’s had in recent years.

    My favorite would probably be Carpenter’s album.

  8. I could only persuade myself to even hear a handful of 2010 releases. Make of this whatever you will.

    “Album Number Two” by Joey + Rory – Joey’s sincerity and the organic aesthetic of the arrangements make for a charming album. The material is mostly strong (except the album-closing banality that is “This Song’s for You,” but I blame Zac Brown Band for that).

    “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash – I loved hearing these recordings, but as an album there’s something off. Likely as not, it’s because the songs are culled from different periods.

    “Lifted Off the Ground” by Chely Wright – Between the thoughtful songwriting and Rodney Crowell’s spot-on production this is an album for grown-ups who have the attention span for more than an aggregate of ringtones.

    “Speak Now” by Taylor Swift – I paid $0.99 out of pocket to get this from Amazon (thank you, $3.00 promotional code!). I think the haters just wanted to complain, but there’s no denying that very little of what first caught my attention is anywhere to be found on this album. Haven’t played it enough for a final judgment, but I’m tossing this one in the “average” pile.

    “Up on the Ridge” by Dierks Bentley – The most fun album in his discography, the most fun album on this list and the most fun album to ever include a cover of “In the Name of Love.” My pick for Album of the Year.

  9. I’m still enjoying Alan Jackson’s Freight Train quite a bit, plus Aaron Watson’s The Road and the Rodeo, and of course Jamey Johnson but you knew that.

  10. The following are some of the Country music albums in my Best of 2010 playlist:

    ‘God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise’ – Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs
    ‘The Guitar Song’ – Jamey Johnson
    ‘Junky Star’ – Ryan Bingham
    ‘Rebel Within’ – Hank III
    ‘Tears, Lies, and Alibis’ – Shelby Lynne
    ‘Welder’ – Elizabeth Cook

    I’m looking forward to seeing your completed list!

  11. Other albums of note from this year:

    Crows (Allison Moorer)–One more great bit of Americana from the (pardon the pun) Ducchess of Earle (LOL); and shockingly, a lot of the songs on here are in minor keys.

    Court Yard Hounds (Court Yard Hounds)–The sister two-thirds (Emily Robison; Martie Maguire) of the Dixie Chicks made a solid album of rootsy bluegrass, country, and rock, with songs like “Then Again” and the somewhat savage “Ain’t No Son.”

    Just Across The River (Jimmy Webb)–With a little help from his friends, the master songwriter revives many of his best known songs, including “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” (with the man who made it famous, Glen Campbell), “Galveston” (with Lucinda Williams); and “All I Know” (with Linda Ronstadt, in what may very well be Linda’s adios to recording).

    Own Side Now (Caitlin Rose)–Only available as an import at the moment, this official debut CD from the daughter of Taylor Swift’s frequent co-writer Liz Rose is a collection of largely original songs wrapped in classic pop and country styles, from 50s pop and country to the introspective Laurel Canyon sound of the 70s as embodied by Linda, especially on “Sinful Wishing Well.” The cover song on the album is a countryish version of Fleetwood Mac’s “That’s All Right.”

  12. Welder – Elizabeth Cook
    The Guitar Song – Jamey Johnson
    The Reason Why – Little Big Town
    They Call Me Cadillac – Randy Houser
    You Get What You Give – ZBB

  13. The Reason Why- Little Big Town
    The Guitar Song- Jamey Johnson
    Taken- Rhonda Vincent
    Court Yard Hounds- Court Yard Hounds
    Age Of Miracles- Mary Chapin Carpenter
    Bullets In The Gun- Toby Keith

  14. My two most-played CDs for the year were both well under the radar:

    Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – Live Singles: Anyone who has seen this band knows how good their live performances are, and this CD greatly exceeded my expectations in capturing that energy. Not as country-oriented as their earlier stuff, but the inclusion of a killer Hank Williams cover (“Heaven Holds All of My Treasures”) places it well within the country universe, if not under the tent. Sarah’s voice is pretty well shot by the end, but that only adds to the charm. Self-released and not on the Sugar Hill label, but available through CD baby.

    Lydia Loveless – The Only Man: Johnny Paycheck’s spirit may live on in this younger, female version of the original Bad News Buckeye. Drinking, cheating, murder, and twang are all done up right. There’s only one (“Girls Suck”) that gives any indication of how young she was when she wrote these. “Back on the Bottle”, among others, is outstanding. May be hard to find the CD, but available digitally through Amazon and elsewhere.

  15. I haven’t even began trying to narrow down my favorite albums/singles of the year lists so far. Here’s a quick list of albums from my 2010 Playlist:

    Becky Schlegel – Dandelion
    Chely Wright – Lifted off The Ground
    Gary Allan – Get Off On The Pain
    Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
    Joey + Rory – Album #2
    Marty Stuart – Ghost Train
    Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Age of Miracles
    Reba McEntire – All The Woman I Am
    Willie Nelson – Country Music

    Singles I’d include:
    Sunny Sweeney – ‘From A Table Away’
    Trace Adkins – ‘This Ain’t No Love Song’
    Jewel – ‘Satisfied’

    … among others.

  16. Seeing these lists reminds me there are a few more albums I meant to pick up than I’d realized (Allison Moorer, Shelby Lynne, Court Yard Hounds). But it’s also reminded me how tired I’ve grown of artists I used to buy with unfailing regularity. I checked out “Freight Train” from the library and was bored by it. But then, the last time I thought an Alan Jackson album was interesting was “Like Red on a Rose” four years ago.

    It’s stunning to me to actually realize that I’ve only bought five new releases for this calendar year. There was a time not so long ago when I’d have bought nearly every mainstream release and even more “under the radar” releases, soundtracks, tribute albums, etc. I think if I really push it I can come up with a whopping ten albums this entire year that even interested me at all. Am I just that hard to please, or have the offerings actually become less interesting?

  17. My favorite discovery would probably be the Steel Wheels who put out two very fine albums – Red Wing and Uncloudy Day (essentially a live recording of Trent Wagler and Jay Lapp sitting around one microphone and playing mostly traditional songs).

  18. Randy Houser – They Call Me Cadillac
    Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
    Gary Allan – Get Off On The Pain
    Trace Adkins – Cowboy’s Back In Town
    Easton Corbin – Easton Corbin [self-titled]

  19. Speak Now, while hardly country, is worth considering. It is a very well done album, definitely Taylor’s best. And as much as everyone hates on her, she has made a lot of new people care about country music.

  20. List of major 201o releases:

    Need You Now ~ Lady Antebellum
    Get Off on the Pain ~ Gary Allan
    Haywire ~ Josh Turner
    Downtown Church ~ Patty Griffin
    Lifted Off The Ground ~ Chely Wright
    Hillybilly Bone ~ Blake Shelton
    Crazy Heart ~ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Freight Train ~ Alan Jackson
    Cowboy’s Back in Town ~ Trace Adkins
    Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) ~ Marty Stuart
    Little Big Town ~ The Reason Why
    Randy Rogers Band ~ Burning The Day
    Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses ~ Junky Star
    Jamey Johnson ~ The Guitar Song
    Randy Houser ~ They Call Me Cadillac
    Zac Brown Band ~ You Get What You Give
    Kenny Chesney ~ Hemingway’s Whiskey
    Sugarland ~ The Incredible Machine
    Taylor Swift ~ Speak Now
    Joey + Rory ~ Album Number Two
    The Band Perry ~ The Band Perry
    Rhonda Vincent ~ Taken
    Billy Currington ~ Enjoy Yourself
    Toby Keith ~ Bullets In The Gun
    Darius Rucker ~ All About Tonight
    Joe Diffie ~ Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album
    James Otto ~ Shake What God Gave Ya
    Rascal Flatts ~ Nothing Like This
    Various Artists – Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn
    Katie Armiger ~ Confessions Of A Nice Girl
    Country Strong ~ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Jason Aldean ~ My Kinda Party
    Dale Watson ~ Carryin’ On
    Reba McEntire ~ All The Women I Am
    Sammy Kershaw ~ ‘Better Than I Used to Be
    Brad Paisley ~ Hits Alive
    Raul Malo ~ Sinners & Saints
    Alan Jackson ~ 34 Number Ones
    Keith Urban ~ Get Closer
    Blake Shelton ~ Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton

  21. I’ve gotta say “You Get What You Give” – Zac Brown Band is probably the best complete album of the year (in my opinion), as far as mainstream stuff goes.

    Dierks’ “Up on the Ridge” was also great and as far as newcomers go, I’d have to say Easton Corbin’s was my fave.

    And even though they may not have been the best albums musically speaking, I think it’s worth recognizing the innovation and risk Blake Shelton took with the two Six Pak releases.

  22. Jamey Johnson and Dierk’s new albums were at the tops of my lists this year with a few coming in later. Better major album releases in my opinion than last year.

  23. Crooked Still – Some Strange Country
    The Secret Sisters – The Secret Sisters
    Punch Brothers – Antifogmatic
    Allison Moorer – Crows
    Shelby Lynne – Tears, Lies, and Alibis

  24. I’m surprised by how much money I’ve forked out on music this year, but they are all mainstream. Of the albums I purchased these stand out:

    “Get Closer” – Keith Urban
    “Get off on the Pain” – Gary Allan
    “Easton Corbin” – Easton Corbin
    “Haywire” – Josh Turner (bought it song by song and it has grown on me slowly…love the production)

    Unfortunately Zac Brown Band’s ablum hasn’t been released in Australia, else I think it would be up here for me and I think I should check out Jamey Johnson’s.

    Look forward to next year! :D

  25. my favorites album fot this year are :

    justin townes earle : harlem river blues
    Elizabeth Cook : Welder
    Kasey chambers : little bird
    court yard hounds
    Marty stuart : The B session
    Merle haggard : I am what i am

    best of all : chely wright “lefted to the ground” and Marshall Chapman ” Big lonesome”

    a special mention from France for “country song” by gwyneth paltrow and most of all, all my love for Coldwater jane “devil train”

  26. My favorite country or country-ish albums of the year:
    Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
    Austin Collins – Wrong Control
    Trampled by Turtles – Palomino
    Rodney Hayden – Tavern of Poets
    Randy Houser – They Call Me Cadillac
    Hellbound Glory – Old Highs and New Lows
    Reckless Kelly – Somewhere in Time
    Zac Brown Band – Burning the Day
    Randy Rogers Band – Burning the Day
    Elizabeth Cook – Welder

  27. forgot in my precedent message my disapointement of this year

    Tift Merrit : see you on the moon and most of all jamey johnsonn the guitar song a repetitive album largely lower has his last album

    please sorry for my english

  28. I haven’t heard all of the “Country Strong” soundtrack, but I have to say Ronnie Dunn’s cover of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” is killer. God, I love to hear that man sing.

    For those who bought Gary Allan’s “Get Off on the Pain,” would you say it’s more like his pre-“Greatest Hits” material or post? I loved his first several albums, especially “See If I Care” and “Tough All Over,” but haven’t cared for really anything since he got some mainstream recognition four or five years ago. I’d like to go back to enjoying his music, but it’s really more up to him than me!

  29. Get off on The Pain i would say is the album that is getting Gary Allan back on track . Goes in line with Smoke Rings-See If I care albums.

    Some of my other favorites include

    Jason Aldean- My Kinda Party
    Jamey Johnson- The Guitar Song
    Randy Houser-They Call Me Cadillac
    Toby Keith- Bullets In The Gun
    Mark Chesnutt- Outlaw
    Zac Brown Band- You Get What You Give

    I’m not the biggest bluegrass fan in the world but i do appreciate the efforts Dierks Bentley, Joe Diffier and Ken Mellons brought out this year.

  30. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now. I’m not ready to reveal my choices just yet, but while I was mentally putting my list together, two things really struck me:

    1. The music released in 2010 has been much, much better than what was released in 2009, and

    2. It’s been a really bad year for female artists. The only album by a female artist that may possibly make my list is Rhonda Vincent’s.

  31. For those who bought Gary Allan’s “Get Off on the Pain,” would you say it’s more like his pre-”Greatest Hits” material or post? I loved his first several albums, especially “See If I Care” and “Tough All Over,” but haven’t cared for really anything since he got some mainstream recognition four or five years ago. I’d like to go back to enjoying his music, but it’s really more up to him than me!

    I’d say it’s more like his post-Greatest Hits material. Like you, I prefer his earlier material. I wasn’t as crazy about Tough All Over as a lot of other people were, and Living Hard was a disappointment. I don’t think he got back on track at all with Get Off On The Pain . I haven’t played it all the way through in a long time, so maybe I need to give it another try, but it definitely didn’t resonate with me like the earlier albums did.

  32. This year has had some great albums. By far my favorite is The Band Perry’s debut, but others I loved were:

    Allison Moorer – ‘Crows’
    Ashley Ray – ‘Ashley Ray’
    Carolyn Dawn Johnson – ‘Love Rules’
    Catherine Britt – ‘Catherine Britt’
    Cee Lo Green – ‘The Lady Killer’ (I know not country but a great album)
    Chely Wright – ‘Lifted Off The Ground’
    Cherryholmes – ‘IV: Common Threads’
    Chris Cummings – ‘Give Me Tonight’
    Court Yard Hounds – ‘Court Yard Hounds’
    David Ball – ‘Sparkle City’
    Dean Brody – ‘Trail In Life’
    Deric Ruttan – ‘Sunshine’
    Dierks Bentley – ‘Up On The Ridge’
    Dylan LeBlanc – ‘Paupers Field’
    Easton Corbin – ‘Easton Corbin’
    Elizabeth Cook – ‘Welder’
    Emma Jacob – ‘Strong Like Me’
    Gary Allan – ‘Get Off On The Pain’
    Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Grace Potter & The Nocturnals” (also not country)
    Jace Everett – ‘Red Revelations’
    Jamey Johnson – ‘The Guitar Song’
    Jessica Harp – “A Woman Needs’
    Jewel – “Sweet & Wild’
    Joey & Rory – ‘Album Number Two’
    Jonathan Singleton & The Grove – ‘Jonathan Singleton & The Grove’
    Katharine McPhee – ‘Unbroken’ (3rd Non Country)
    KT Tunstall – “Tiger Suit” (4th…lotta good pop albums this year)
    Ladies Of The Canyon – “Haunted Woman” (Highly suggest this one)
    Laura Bell Bundy – “Achin’ & Shakin’
    Mary Chapin Carpenter – “The Age Of Miracles’
    Merle Haggard – ‘I Am What I Am’
    Randy Rogers Band – ‘Burning The Day’
    Robert Plant – ‘Band Of Joy’
    Sarah Buxton – ‘Sarah Buxton’
    Secret Sisters – ‘The Secret Sisters’
    Taylor Swift – ‘Speak Now’
    Tift Merritt – ‘See You On The Moon’ (Another I’d highly recomend’
    Zac Brown Band – ‘You Get What You Give’

  33. Elizabeth Cook – “Welder”. I wish I could say Miranda’s “Revolution” but the overall sound quality just killed it for me. The first half (Achin’) side of Laura Bell Bundy’s album was also a highlight for me.

  34. The Court Yard Hounds album is my favorite of the year. It is unfortunate that comparisons to the Dixie Chicks’ sound prevented many people from enjoying it. It deserves to be listened to with fresh ears.

    My other personal favorites are Chely Wright’s “Lifted off the Ground,” Dierks Bentley’s “Up on the Ridge,” Elizabeth Cook’s “Welder,” and Sarah Buxton’s long overdue debut.

  35. Some of my favorites I didn’t see listed above (but may have missed):

    Eric Brace & Peter Cooper-Master Sessions
    Steeldrivers- Restless
    Carolina Chocolate Drops- Genuine Negro Jig
    The Trishas- They Call Us The Trishas (EP)
    Crooked Still- Crooked Still Live

  36. Ollie,
    Are you looking in my ITunes?

    :) Clearly, Leeann, you are a woman with excellent taste. :)

    (And of course, the Steeldrivers’ album is titled “Reckless” not “Restless”– I think I was sleepless when I made my original post.)

  37. Even though it’s from 09, can we just give it to Revolution again?

    Seriously though, this has been a rough year for country albums. I’d say that there were pretty significant flops by Keith Urban and Sugarland who have previously delivered solid efforts.

    Love Speak Now (I’m 20 so I’m the target demographic) but it’s a challenge for me to find any country elements in the whole thing. At least she used to throw in a token banjo.

    Therefore I guess the best is… Up on the Ridge? Pushed the boundaries of what county is/can do, great collaborations, good production, good hooks…. solid effort. I find myself singing a long with most of the songs.

  38. Little Big Town ~ The Reason Why
    Jamey Johnson ~ The Guitar Song
    Kenny Chesney ~ Hemingway’s Whiskey
    Rascal Flatts ~ Nothing Like This
    Various Artists – Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn
    Country Strong ~ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

  39. My favorite album this year is without a doubt Dierks Bentley’s Up On the Ridge. It’s amazing. But I don’t think anyone has mentioned Jason Aldeans new album, My Kinda Party. I bought it the day it came out and have had it playing on repeat for days!

  40. The one I listen to the most is Court Yard Hounds, but I do love Taylor Swift’s new “Speak Now”, but as a 24 yr-old female, take from that what you will.

    Lady A’s “Need You Now” is probably my favorite mainstream country album of the year. (I think it was 2010 anyway, lol)

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