There’s an abundance of killer country music that quite simply doesn’t fit into today’s rank and file mainstream radio format. We here at Country Music #CMchat call this brand of burgeoning country music “Yallternative.”
There were a lot of fantastic Yallternative albums made this year, but the following seven albums stood out and proved to be my absolute favorites. This year’s list includes a return-to-form album by of one of Yallternative’s all-time great bands and a Grammy nomination for a Kentucky troubadour’s second album. We also have fantastic albums by three rising female singer/songwriters, a sister duo and a 40-year-old punk rocker.
Without further ado, here is my 2014 Best Yallternative Albums list.
1. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up – The Old 97’s are one of the greatest live bands I’ve ever seen and singer/guitar player Rhett Miller is one of the nicest/coolest dudes around. Although I’ve been a huge fan of this band for well over a decade, even I grew weary of their last few albums. Something was lacking. With Most Messed Up the boys found their way by bringing back the swagger of their early days.
2. Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else – Sorry Brantley Gilbert, Lydia’s license plate may indicate she’s from Ohio, but she is far from lost. Her country/rockabilly sensibilities make her one of the most exciting artists of 2014. If you ever have an opportunity to see her live, do so and thank me later.
3. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – So much has been written about Sturgill Simpson in the last two years that I couldn’t possibly add anything significant to the conversation. His songs are classic, new, inspiring and oftentimes “out there.” In short, he’s the man.
4. Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down – When I heard the Secret Sisters first single “Tennessee Me” four years ago, I knew this sister duo was going to be one of my favorite acts for years to come. Their gorgeously harmonized songs have a warm and often joyous comfort to them.
5. Nikki Lane – All or Nothing – The sky’s the limit for Nikki Lane. “Right Time” is one of those jaunty throwback songs that can take over the world if only she had more exposure. I’ve read a lot of best of 2014 lists and she’s on most of them. Let’s hope this critical exposure translates into a bigger fan base.
6. Caroline Rose – I Will Not Be Afraid – I had the pleasure of seeing the self-proclaimed “modern day hobo” Caroline Rose open up for Hayes Carll this year and was immediate taken aback by her classic country and rockabilly mix. Rose is definitely on the brink of becoming the next big thing in Yallternative music.
7. Chuck Ragan – Till Midnight – Chuck Ragan is one of America’s finest punk rock singer/songwriters. His legendary band Hot Water Music raised the bar high for smart and earnest melodic punk rock. Chuck’s weathered voice shines on his latest solo endeavor. One of my favorite songs of the year, “Revved,” contains a lyric that gives me chills every time I hear him sing it: “Oh I didn’t see you as a thief/oh but you stole my heart any way/and brought me somewhere peaceful to die.”
These records were pretty darn awesome too: Lucinda Williams Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, Corb Lund Counterfeit Blues, Cory Branan The No-Hit Wonder, Stoney LaRue Aviator, and Hurray for the Riff Raff Small Town Heroes.