2010 saw the release of albums from some of the genre’s biggest superstars like Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, and Lady Antebellum as well as newcomers like Easton Corbin, Jerrod Niemann, and Joey + Rory. However, not all those artists made a big enough impact with their albums to land on our list of top 5 favorite albums. See which five albums we couldn’t stop listening to this year.
5. The Red Letter Days, The Stephanie Eason Band
This Arizona based group is country to the core and their independently released album proves it. From strong country dittys like “Country Time” and “Happy Ever After” to heartwrenching ballads “My Heart Won’t Leave Me Alone” and “He Don’t Know,” this album shows off the entire group’s many talents and allows bandleader Stephanie Eason to show off her strong vocal abilities. The toned down production from John Rickard is one of the strongest I’ve heard from a country album this year. This is a fantastic 12-song set that ranks right up there with some of country’s best mainstream albums this year.
This year saw debut album releases from newcomers like Jerrod Niemann, Laura Bell Bundy, and Danny Gokey but none of them were as fantastic as Easton Corbin’s self-titled debut. The album includes the smash hits “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It” along with album highlights “I Can’t Love You Back,” “Leaving a Lonely Town,” and “Someday When I’m Old.” Corbin infuses his traditional country roots in every song including the Cabo-flavored “A Lot to Learn About Living” and the honky tonk infused “The Way Love Looks.” This is one of the best debuts I’ve heard in a while and is a great introduction to this talented newcomer.
3. Album #2, Joey + Rory
Obviously no one mentioned the words “sophomore slump” to the husband and wife duo of Joey + Rory. Just like their debut album, The Life of a Song, the album continues to be a mix of hardcore traditional country, bluegrass, and folk music that creates an album that any traditionalist would be proud of. From the sweet love songs “Born to Be Your Woman” and “That’s Important to Me” to the humorous “God Help My Man” and “Baby, I’ll Come Back to You,” Joey + Rory continue to shed light on every aspect of their artistic beliefs. Though they’ve been overlooked by country radio, this duo proves to be one of country music’s greatest assets.
2. Up on the Ridge, Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley earns the honor of 2010’s biggest risk taker. Bentley was riding a wave of success with his previous album, Feel That Fire, when he put it all on the line to release this bluegrass flavored album. His risk no doubt paid off as he released one of the best albums of the year. The album’s incredible highlight “Bad Angel” found Dierks partnering with two of the genre’s finest traditionalists, Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson, to create one heck of a song about the devil’s temptation that alone led the album to be included on my list. The album also includes great songs in “Draw Me A Map,” “Down In the Mine,” and even the title track, “Up on the Ridge.” This album further cements Dierks Bentley as one of the genre’s best artists.
1. Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
Hands down this is my favorite album of the year. The country trio of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood combine country sounds with pop flavored beats and the end result is the top selling country album of the year. Consisting of the number one singles “Need You Now,” “American Honey,” and “Our Kind of Love,” this album shows off the many talents and personalities of Lady A. They tackle songs that deal with different themes from the album’s highlight “Hello World” which talks about the ability to take life for granted to the fun summer song “Perfect Day.” With nominations in the overall Album of the Year and Country Album of the Year categories at the upcoming Grammy awards, it’s no surprise the sophomore effort from Lady Antebellum tops our list of Best Albums of the Year.