The albums, songs, people and places (in no particular order) that were our favorites in 2017.
John Baumann – Proving Grounds
Baumann had already established himself as perhaps the finest writer of his class, and this album catapulted him to one of the finest writers period. “Old Stone Church” is as real and honest as it gets.
Zephaniah OHara – This Highway
Throwback, old-school honky-tonk can be kitschy and poorly done…this is neither. This record sounds as if it was unearthed from a time capsule circa 1968 in all the best ways.
Drew Kennedy – At Home in the Big Lonesome
Kennedy has long been a emotive, verbose writer of song with the skills to present them in a manner unmatched by peers. He’s never put out a bad album, and this is the best of those good albums. The production of Dave Brainard brought an expansion of thought and sound that push this record into uncharted waters for Kennedy and folk singer/songwriters (and fans) everywhere.
Mike Ethan Messick – How Close We Came
Story songs, clever songs, Springsteen crossed with Keen. Messick has been one of our state’s most underappreciated songwriters for some time and this is his triumph.
Jason Isbell – Nashville Sound
The master of the moment delivers another standout record. Isbell continues to impress and make it look easy…when it’s far from it.
Margo Price – All American Made
Making good on the promise of her debut, Price excels at music that echoes of Petty, Springsteen and Mellencamp without the imitations that falter folks of the other gender who tread the same waters. She is direct, honest and forthright…all characteristics of good music.
Tyler Childers – Purgatory
Produced by Sturgill Simpson this record sounds like Chris Knight merged with a garage band…and yes, that’s as rad as you think it is.
Kody West – Green
Apt title for a record that evokes it but showcases gobs of promise for when West becomes a grizzled veteran.
Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way From Your Heart
If our list had a numerical bent, you’d find this at number 1. It was the only unanimous choice among our staff. Felker and Edwards took the songs to new places while staying true to old friends like Lorrie. It’s one hell of a ride and the music perfectly compliments each syllable. You won’t find a better record this year in any genre.
Deryl Dodd – Long Hard Ride
One of the year’s biggest surprises was this duets record from Double D. Revisiting his hits with the help of the biggest scene stars of the day gave them all a fresh spin and new meaning.
Jason Eady – self-titled
Eady veers back toward his greasy swamp-stomp roots a tad, but keeps the flavor of his country throwback to meet somewhere in the middle and deliver another stone cold authentic collection of life set to music.
John Moreland – Big Bad Luv
Heartache, heartland, punch and verve. This is the record where the music finally caught up to Moreland’s lyrics.
Natalie Hemby – Puxico
Hemby finally saved some of her best songs for herself and delivered one of the year’s best.
Shinyribs – I Got Your Medicine
Shinyribs is an experience where the recorded output never quite matches up to the live show. But, this record gets as close to it as anything Mr. Russell has put out. Eclectic, funky and good.
Dalton Domino – Corners
Domino takes another artistic step forward with an album of songs that contains perhaps the best lyric of the year “People like me have to live in hell to see if heaven is worth it…”
John Baumann – “Old Stone Church”
A gut punch of reality that his Baumann’s story to tell, but hits ever so close to home for anyone that’s lost someone they love.
Koe Wetzel – “February 28, 2016”
This tune technically was released in 2016, but it reached critical mass in 2017. It’s been a long time since a song and artist took over the scene like these cats. Energy, youth, good times, poor choices, memories all soaked in booze…it’s all here. There’s a reason it connected because you’re either living this song or once did.
Josh Grider – “Good People”
Written in response to the toxic climate we find ourselves in here in 2017, Grider’s uplifting anthem is a reminder that yes, there are still good people (and good songs) in the world.
Jason Isbell – “Vampires”
A completely unique and breathaking take on the love song tropes that paints “forever” in a macabre and melancholy light.
Josh Abbott Band – “Until My Voice Goes Out”
Everlasting love, strings, nostalgia and life crash into each other.
Colter Wall – “Motorcycle”
Using the two wheel method of transportation as an analogy for life, Wall talks of wrapping it around a telephone pole and other frightening, very real possibilities.
John Baumann – “Here I Come”
A mission statement of every working musician trolling the Texas/Oklahoma highways.
Turnpike Troubadours – “Housefire”
One could easily pick any song off this album, but this one in particular features Felker’s eye for detail and melody to an impressively awesome degree.
Drew Kennedy – “24 Hours in New York City”
Co-written with Sean McConnell, Kennedy relives a teenage dalliance to the Big Apple in a “Walking in Memphis” type ode.
Shinyribs – “I Don’t Give a Shit”
Shades of Hayes Carll’s “Another Like You”…just seedier (and more joyful).
Jason Eady – “Barrabas”
It’s hard to recall another song that’s used the Gospel in such an imaginative way.
Tyler Childers – “Whitehouse Road”
Anthemic, boisterous and meant to be cranked. You feel like you’re riding shotgun in a 1982 F150 careening through the backroads of West Virginia.
Mike Ethan Messick
A true phenomenon. The energy of a rock show with the attitude of hip-hop topped with the independent spirit of a Texan doing his own damn thing.
The most talented cat to be found anywhere. Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist performed at Trump’s inauguration and that wasn’t even his best gig of the year.
Acoustic or full band, it doesn’t matter. This guy is spell-bindingly good.
Backed by a new set of musicians, BJ Barham’s outfit roared back into the scene’s consciousness as a show to not be missed when it hits your town.
Shane Smith & the Saints
Harmony. Harmony. Harmony. And they rock when needed too.
The most fun live experience around. Part dance party, part religious experience, part Parrot-head escapism.
Jam band veterans hanging it up and went out on top…of the rock.
Jamie Lin Wilson
Nobody worked harder in 2017 than Jamie Wilson. Touring, guesting, driving, flying…chances are if you went to a show anywhere in the lower 48 this year you found Jamie Wilson doing her thing.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOW
Domino caused some storms with his words, but you never stopped reading them.
Everyone’s cranky uncle. He could be defined as a hipster if he didn’t hate them and that description so much. Stout does his own thing and will mute you in a second. His wit is only exceeded by his photography.
A pure volume tweeter. Tons of content, nuggets of gold.
This posts aren’t often, and are sometimes indecipherable…but they’re usually spot on.
Vodka, memes, dad jokes…all the best stuff.
Wilson takes you into her home, hotel rooms, car, porch and gigs with a good-natured charm.
Endearing, entertaining and insightful posts give you a glimpse at two for one…see Butts and Cleto Cordero here.
House of FiFi Dubois – San Angelo, TX
Kessler – Dallas, TX
Redneck Country Club – Stafford, TX
Blue Light – Lubbock, TX
Magnolia Motor Lounge – Fort Worth, TX
Backyard – Waco, TX