Favorites of 2015

It’s been another great year for music all around.  Here’s our version of a year end, best of list.  These are the records, songs, acts and scenes (presented in no particular order) that shaped our 2015.

Favorite Albums

Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands – Elements of 70’s California rock and modern Americana converge on this stalwart band’s fourth album.  No album this year matched lyrics with music better. Taylor Goldsmith and crew delivered a career record with this tale of a relationship gone wrong and the aftermath.

Chris Stapleton – Traveller – The album that got the most press this  year, and deservedly so.  The long hailed singer/songwriter had his breakout moment with a collection of tunes that veers from honky tonk to soul while always maintaining it’s solid country cred.  And you won’t find a better singer on this planet or any other.

Jason Isbell- Something More Than Free – Following up 2013’s masterpiece Southeastern was no easy feat, but Isbell more than rises to the challenges with this set.

Uncle Lucius – The Light – The preeminent Texas jam band gets even looser in the studio and produces an album that is as close to the live show as possible.  There’s a freedom and unabashed passion here that is hard to describe until you listen intently.

Randy Rogers/Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Watch This Vol. 1 The HMBWT crew took it from the stages of the circuit to the studio with Lloyd Maines at the wheel.  The result is as cool as one would expect: a rollicking country throwback record that sounds like someone made a film based on Willie and Waylon’s “If I Can Find a Clean Shirt” and hired Randy and Wade to write the score.

William Clark Green – Ringling Road – WCG cemented his status as a Texas/Red Dirt A-lister with another Rachel Loy produced record that picks up where Rose Queen left off and makes definitive statements utilizing Green’s strong sense of storytelling and angsty vocals.

Courtney Patton – So This Is Life – Putting Drew Kennedy in the producer’s chair was a smart move here.  Kennedy’s flourishes provide a spectacularly broad soundscape that matches Patton’s vocal and songwriting intensity.

Ryan Bingham – Fear and Saturday Night – Bingham continues to explore his artistry and continues to discover new places to take his rabble-rousing troubadour style.

John Moreland- High on Tulsa Heat – Moreland is the type of songwriter that other songwriter’s envy.  Here he shows why.

Leon Bridges – Coming Home – Fort Worth soul throwback recorded this record with some of the best musicians Cowtown has to offer (members of White Denim, The Orbans and Josh Weathers Band) at a tiny studio with no aspirations other than putting something cool together with friends. The next thing you know the majors came calling and Bridges is on his way to superstardom with this modern Texas infused version of Otis/Marvin.

Turnpike Troubadours – self titled – The hottest touring act in the region took their time with this self crafted, self-titled group of tunes and the wait was well worth it.  It fits right alongside the other efforts from their canon and provides another fantastic glimpse into the psyche of Evan Felker and his cohorts.

RedShahan.jpg (499×414)

Red Shahan- Men and Coyotes -Sort of a cross between two other artists on this list:  Ryan Bingham and Uncle Lucius, Shahan steps up to deliver the finest debut album from folks in this scene in quite some time.  This is a songwriter with something to say and a cool way to say it.  We should all be listening to him for quite some time.

Ryan Adams – 1989 – When the idea first leaked that the venerable Adams would be recording a full song by song covers album of Taylor Swift’s landmark album it seemed like an Onion headline.  Then that first song clip leaked and everyone quickly realized how remarkable this could be.  The results lived up to the hype and then some.  Adam’s bewildered rock fingerprints on the songs took them to darker, more vulnerable places without losing any of the catchiness.

Favorite Songs

Josh Grider – “Two Truths and a Lie” – The best stone cold country song lyric to come out this year. By anyone.

Dawes – “To Be Completely Honest” – Could’ve chosen just about any song from this album, but this one seems to evoke all the best elements of Dawes all at once.

Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” – Other songs from the record got more attention, but this one displays Stapleton’s gifts on vocals, guitar and with a pen in a rockin’ way our words never could.

Jason Isbell – “24 Frames” – “You thought God was an architect…now you know…”.  Such a beautiful lyric that means one thing in the context of the song but is actually greater than even Isbell intended.


Leon Bridges – “Smooth Sailin’” – The feeling of freedom (in whatever interpretation you’d like) set to music.

Statesboro Revue – “Tallahasse” – Co-written with Adam Hood, this swamp-tonk tune has one of the best hooks of the year.

Dalton Domino – “Jesus and Handbags” – As witty and interesting as the title suggests.

Charlie Stout – “Live, Laugh, Love” – Originally titled, “Ballad of the Basic Bitch”, this song is an example of satire so fine that it would make John Prine shed tears…of joy.
Click the link——>  http://charliestoutmusic.com/album/live-laugh-love

Turnpike Troubadours – “The Bird Hunters” – Evan Felker paints a fiddle-backed picture unlike any of his contemporaries.

Red Shahan – “Low Down Feeling” – This is a spooky song that is reminiscent of Chris Knight but instead of taking place near the coal mines it’s full of west Texas dust and loaded with guitar tones for days.

William Clark Green – “Next Big Thing” – Lyrically prophetic. Melodically damn near perfect.

Jamie Lin Wilson – “Just Like Heartache” – Wilson’s EmmyLou like wail provides the structure to a song as good as any Ms. Harris ever cut.

Maren Morris – “My Church” – Some slick production can’t take away the undeniable qualities of this Texas transplant on the verge of stardom’s knack for belting out one hell of a melody.

Ryan Adams – “Bad Blood” – Adams completely inhabits each of the Swift songs, but this one comes the closest to sounding like an Adams’ original.

Shinyribs – “Donut Taco Palace” – Dance party in silly hypnotising song form.  The soundtrack to all preparty festivities. We dare you to not sing along and tap that foot.

Josh Abbott Band  feat. Carly Pearce – “Wasn’t That Drunk” – This compellingly catchy duet encapsulates what is JAB’s best work to date on their divorce concept record Front Row Seat.

Zane Williams – “Jayton and Jill” – Built from his weekly songwriter challenge where fans suggested words/themes to him via social media, Williams crafted a string of randomness into one of the best songs of the year.

Favorite Discoveries

Lake Street Dive – We’re late to the party…but this Boston jazz-pop-rock-Americana quartet is the most talented band we saw on a stage all year.  Each write. Each play multiple instruments. Each sing lead vocals.  Primary vocalist Rachael Price is the finest singer to grace our ears in ages.

Zac Wilkerson – This Amarillo soul brother has been on our radar for a few years, but Wilkerson seemed to attain a new level this year. That will continue…he’s too talented for it not to.

Austin Gilliam – Knocking around New Braunfels/San Marcos for the past few years has bough Gilliam respect among his peers and it’s starting to result in him gaining attention beyond the 512.

Erick Willis – Comparisons to Sean McConnell don’t and shouldn’t come lightly.  Willis has more than earned the many such comparisons that have come his way.

Jackie Darlene – A young female artist that doesn’t even have a record out yet but is out there picking on any stage that will have her and is starting to make some noise.  Pay attention to this girl….big dreams and a big voice.

Favorite Live Acts

Shinyribs – Kevin Russell and crew still have yet to meet a stage and crowd they didn’t pulverize into R&B fueled oblivion.

Ryan Bingham – Bingham’s backing band continues to evolve, just as his music does.  The itinerations we saw him with this year were as raw and rock n’ roll as anything you’ll find on the road….and damn good to boot.

William Clark Green – Reminiscent of the well-oiled machine that Randy Rogers Band turned into about a decade ago, the WCG crew is stepping into that space with a live show that is one of the best in the game.

Dawes – The addition of Duane Betts on guitar has bolstered Taylor Goldsmith’s playing and allowed them to expand the songs in the Dawes catalog to new heights.

Crooks – This Austin band is the most energetic thing you’ll see this side of the Dirty River Boys.  They stole the show at Greenfest and unfortunately are disbanding soon.  Get out and see them while you still can.

Chris Stapleton – Stapleton is so good live that just his sound check at the 4th of July show at Billy Bob’s was the talk of the weekend.

Favorite Musicians

John Dempsy – A fantastic singer/songwriter in his own right, JD can also often be found jumping in to jam with other bands/causes at the drop of a hat.  Fantastic on both bass and guitar…JD brings any band he plays with to a new level.

Josh Barnard – Currently playing with Brandon Rhyder, Barnard is poised to be the next great guitar hero of this scene.  A master of any style that still doesn’t realize how good he is or will be.

Keith Langford – Somebody has to keep the Shinyribs train on the tracks and that task falls to drummer Keith Langford who is more than up to the job.

Garrett Mann – Shifting to a one guitar lineup for a run of shows forced Garrett Mann to bolster his single guitar attack to fit songs written to feature two guitars.  He has succeeded.

Josh Serrato – Since joining the William Clark Green outfit, Serrato has taken their sound to a new level…all while mentoring/producing/arranging younger acts.

Favorite Venues

Cheatham Street Warehouse – San Marcos, TX – Still the gold standard of songwriter venues in Texas.

Granada Theater – Dallas, TX – Eclectic booking, cool craft brews, terrific sight lines and good sound.

River Road Icehouse – New Braunfels, TX – The home of Greenfest continues to push the envelope in booking.  Taking a chance on Chris Stapleton pre-buzz.

The Backyard – Waco, TX – A new joint that combines all the best elements of a bar and your actual backyard.  Killer sound and setting make this a must stop.

Stingaree – Crystal Beach, TX – Ownership treats musicians right and the place provides a fantastic escape from reality.

Favorite Artists

Chris Stapleton – The total package.  It’s like someone created the perfect country singer in a lab. He can pick. He can write. He can sang. Yes, with an “a”.

Dawes – Other bands get more hype, but few have established an identity as solid as Dawes.  One of the greatest American rock bands had a true moment this year.

Jason Isbell – The finest songwriter among us at the moment.

Ryan Adams – What he did in transposing Taylor Swift songs into songs that sound like his own is one of the most singularly inspiring and simultaneously beguiling feats we can recall.

William Clark Green – Dropped one of the most insane videos we’ve ever seen, released a monster record and solidified himself as a scene alpha dog.

Zane Williams – Released another solid record. Had a monster cut from Pat Green. Continued to show that he’s one of the best we have traversing the highways.

Leon Bridges – Picking up the Fort Worth soul torch laid down by Josh Weathers, Bridges blew up this year. He’s got future multiple Grammy winner written all over him.

Ryan Bingham – Re-established himself with another good album and toured behind it in a ferocious manner that belied the comfort he finally seems to have found in his own skin.

Josh Abbott Band – For having the guts to put their lead singer’s life on blast via song and step outside their simplistic party song blueprints.

Thank you everyone who is part of our little community. Our hope is to share good music with you throughout the year. We hope to open your ears to something real out there. Until next time -BB, RH, JP


Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

20 thoughts on “Favorites of 2015

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  • December 29, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Great list– but no John Baumann?

  • January 3, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for mentioning Lake Street Dive. I hadn’t heard of them, until now. I’m pretty much burned out with all country music (good, bad, contemporary, classic, etc.) and most americana music. As it seems like more bands in this scene are putting out their country album, it’s nice to find a band that has rhythm and soul to their sound.

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