My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Chris’s End of 2008 List: Top 8 Albums

This is my post for my top albums of 2008! I was looking at the new albums I had bought this year, and I only bought around 12 new country albums, most of which I thought were undeserving of being on my year-end list. So, I narrowed it down to 8 worthy candidates. I’m warning you, my comments can get lengthy, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

PS: My top 30 singles will be posted later today.

Sounds So Good

8. “Sounds So Good” – Ashton Shepherd

- This album is the epitome of potential. She has a great voice, the production is good, if a little too much at parts, and she can write. She just needs to work with other writers and hone her skills to produce songs better than the ones found on this album. That potential is worth a place on this list for me.

The Life Of A Song

7. “The Life Of A Song” – Joey + Rory

- After hearing their single (Cheater Cheater), I knew this album would be country, but I didn’t know how serious it would be. It turned out to have some very heavy songs, like “Rodeo” and “To Say Goodbye” that are sad, but the album is country through and through. There are very few to no electric instruments, and Joey’s pure voice rises above the acoustic background to add the necessary emotion to the songs. Could one ask for more?

A Place To Land

6. “A Place To Land” – Little Big Town

- So this album was re-released this year, and it really is that good. I put it on this list because it deserves to be recognized, because it’s a very entertaining album. I’ve heard people say they decided not to get this one because they think it’s worse than The Road To Here, but this album is better! The re-release made it better because 3 new tracks were added, and 2 of those tracks are amazing.

The first, “Good Lord Willing”, is the band’s new single. It’s similar to Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinking”, but LBT’s harmonies and the great chorus make “Good Lord Willing” much much better. Another new song, “Love Profound”, is an acoustic ballad that explores how love “has no limits” or “knows no bounds”. It’s a pretty song that sounds great, due to harmonies again, and has great lyrics.

As you see, the harmonies on this album make it worth buying. The songs are great, and the harmonies of this great group make them even better.

Rattlin’ Bones

5. “Rattlin’ Bones” – Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

- I’ve only had this for about 2 weeks, so it hasn’t quite grown on me yet, but I love it already. This is another all acoustic album, but this one was reportedly recorded in only a week, so it has that rough edge to the music that makes it very unique.

The harmonies between this husband-wife duo are heavenly, with them having mostly equal parts is most songs. They have real chemistry and tackle sad songs like “One More Year” to the fun “The House That Never Was”. They make each song stand out from the others and sound like they are doing what they truly love. They also make the listener feel what they are singing about, and it’s a very magical experience.

Love On The Inside

4. “Love On The Inside” – Sugarland

- This album has met with criticism, but I think it’s by far better than their last two albums. First of all, the feel of the album is different, with more acoustic elements than electric, which is new for Sugarland. The gorgeous background of “Already Gone” peacefully co-exists with the quiet guitar and dobro of “Very Last Country Song” and the hilarious “Steve Earle”. The wonder of this album is how it touches on so many themes and stories and still feels like it’s one album. Not surprisingly, while looking at the title, it’s all about love. “Love” is the album’s central track (and new single) that shows how love can be seen and felt in many situations, but it’s bigger than that, it’s something that words can’t describe enough, so they made an entire album about it.

Jennifer is still the most prominent on this album, but Kristian still has a larger role than he has had previously, but I honestly prefer Jennifer’s voice, so that’s all right with me. The album’s highlights are definitely the 2 latest singles, “Very Last Country Song” and “Keep You”. The duo described “Keep You” as an emotional song about being emotionally numb, kind of like a loud song about being quiet. The song has Jennifer’s most impressive vocal performance to date, and it sounds heavenly. The song recounts the time after a relationship ends where the narrator is still loving her lover who’s left, and she feels numb. She says, “Now I can’t laugh, can’t cry/ And I can’t run, can’t hide/ What do I got to do/ What do I got to do to keep you/ What do I got to do to keep you from doing this to me.” It’s a very powerful song and would make an excellent single, in the vein of “Stay”.

All in all, this album is impressive, and different than the rest of mainstream country, and it deserves to be selling as well as it is.

Call Me Crazy

3. “Call Me Crazy” – Lee Ann Womack

- Was this any surprise seeing how much I love “Last Call”? It’s only taken me a few months to go from not caring about Womack to being a huge fan, and it started with There’s More Where That Came From, which I bought in August. After about a week of that album, I was eagerly anticipating her new album, Call Me Crazy. This album isn’t quite the masterpiece that her last album was, but it’s different enough to set it apart. This album, rather than being all traditional-minded, combines traditional songs and contemporary songs, or combing elements of each within songs, if that makes any sense.

One example is standout track “The Bees”, which combines the classic story song lyrics to a refreshing contemporary production. This song is so unique, I don’t know how to describe it, but Keith Urban’s backing vocals make it sweet as honey. Another great track is the heartbreaking “Either Way”. This song is the point in a relationship when one doesn’t care if the other person leaves or not, with Lee Ann saying the biting line “We can just go on like this/ Say the word we’ll call it quits/ Baby, you can go or you can stay/ I won’t love you either way.” Ouch!

Elsewhere, Lee Ann sings about some lonesome drinking (“Solitary Thinkin’”), fixing bikes and hearts (“New Again”), and some killer hooks that are too great for me to spoil (“If These Walls Could Talk”). Overall, a strong album with solid material, while being unique from her own albums and albums from other artists.

Sleepless Nights

2. “Sleepless Nights” – Patty Loveless

- I finally bought it! It’s truly an amazing album, and well worth the money. What I find most interesting is that I have never heard any of these songs before, so I think I have a unique perspective. They aren’t covers of old songs to me, they’re basically just new songs to me; and they are great songs. The album covers a range of topics, but the topics are well within classic country themes, from drinking to cheating; it’s all here.

Before I bought the whole album, I had gotten a free download of “Sleepless Nights”, and it is still one of my favorites on the album. I didn’t know Vince Gill was singing on it too; that would explain why it sounds better.

I like the slow pace and the amount of sadder songs, mostly because I think that’s where Loveless shines, and she shines bright here.

I’m sure most of you already own this album and love it, but if you don’t, go and buy it now. Learn from my mistake, the longer you don’t have this album, the more time you’ve wasted without it (that made sense?).

Coal

1. “Coal” – Kathy Mattea

- Last, but by far not least, this concept album by Kathy Mattea. First of all, I bought this album on a whim. I read the review on the 9513, and I thought “That sounds dull and depressing. Pass!” But one day at Circuit City, I bought Lady Antebellum’s debut album because it was on sale, and I decided I had extra money, so I would buy Coal. Needless to say, I stopped listening to Lady A. after about a month, but I still listen to Kathy every single day. This album has Kathy speaking on behalf of the miners, dead and alive, who can’t speak for themselves, and I bet they are all proud of her. She pulls of this album with class and believability, which is something I can’t say about most country stars. Even though most, if not all, of these songs are covers, they sound like they are excerpts from her personal diary.

The album is almost all slow and mournful songs, but it’s not a draw back because of the pure country instruments (almost bluegrass) and Kathy’s colorful voice. The best track here is the warning “Dark As A Dungeon”, previously recorded by Dolly Parton on her 9 To 5 album, but originally by Merle Travis in 1946. The narrator warns young men that they should beware the coal mines. Merle has said that he got the idea from a miner in Ebenezer, KY, where the miner told him “If ever you get this old coal dust in your blood, you’re just gonna be a plain old coal miner as long as you live.” He went on to say, “It’s a habit [CHUCKLE] sorta like chewin’ tobaccer.”

The album closes with the a capella “Black Lung” originally by Hazel Dickins. It starts with a small intro, but then Kathy takes over by herself, and sadness just oozes out of her performance, it’s to amazing to describe.

What’s great is there just aren’t any weak tracks, but they all share some form of sadness that binds them together and to the real story of the coal miners.

This album was my first introduction to Mattea; I had never heard of her before I bought it, and now I have a few of her albums. This album is a historical record, a concept album, and definitely my favorite album of 2008, as well as the best introduction I could ever have to Mattea’s music.

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31 responses to “Chris’s End of 2008 List: Top 8 Albums

  1. Leeann Ward December 24, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Great list!! I’m glad you finally have Sleepless Nights. What a great album! And, of course, I’m glad Rattlin’ Bones made your list too.

  2. Blake Boldt December 24, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Your albums list includes eight acts that all feature women. Country radio would not be pleased.

    Nice list, and happy holidays.

  3. J.R. Journey December 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Hey, I didn’t even notice that Blake. On an unrelated note, I am hoping for ‘Coal’ in my stocking this year …

  4. Chris D. December 24, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    No they wouldn’t Blake, but I sure am pleased!

    JR, I hope everyone gets ‘Coal’ in their stockings this year.

    Thanks for all the positive comments everyone!

  5. Steve from Boston December 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Hey Chris, great job…and I did get Coal in my stocking this year as well, lol.

    Great album, and great choices for #1 and #2..(although I would have reversed the order.)

    If you like Kathy’s “Coal” and Patty’s “Sleepless Nights” you gotta get Patty’s Mountain Soul, I guarantee you will not be dissapointed!

  6. Kevin J. Coyne December 27, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Not sure how far you’ve gotten into the Mattea catalog, but I highly recommend “Right Out of Nowhere”, “Roses”, “Time Passes By” and “Love Travels.”

    She’s frickin’ awesome.

  7. Chris D. December 28, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Nice Steve! I wonder if Alison Bonarugo got “Coal” as well (either kind will do). I think I put “Coal” as #1 just because I’ve had it for a few months, whereas I got “Sleepless Nights” 1 day before I made this list. I think they’re about equal in my eyes, but whatever.

    I will get “Mountain Soul” for sure, it’s more bluegrassy, correct?

    Thanks Kevin, all I have is “Willow In The Wind” and her “Collection Of Hits”, besides “Coal” of course. I’ll check those out for sure though.

  8. J.R. Journey December 28, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    ‘Love Travels’, ‘Love At The Five and Dime’ and ‘Walkin’ Away A Winner’ are also great Kathy Mattea tracks.

  9. Leeann Ward December 28, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    I love Mattea’s Love Travels and Walking Away A Winner albums. Some of my favorite Mattea songs are from those two albums, which in clude “Maybe She’s Human”, “Clown In Your Rodeo”, “I’m On Your Side”, “Love Travels”…

  10. Leeann Ward December 29, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Okay, Kevin, I just took your advice that you gave to Chris and bought Right About Now, Roses and Time Passes By (already owned Love Travels) and I love what I’ve heard of them so far!

  11. Leeann Ward December 29, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Oh, sorry, I meant Right Out of Nowhere. Now, I’m on a Mattea buying spree!

  12. Steve from Boston December 29, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Hey Chris,

    Yes, Mountain Soul is indeed “Bluegrassy” , but Patty describes it as comprising three elements…Bluegrass, Mountain and Country.. there is a lot of overlap in the styles to be sure, and Patty calls the style “the soul of the mountains”, hence the title “Mountain Soul”.

    But it’s all done with Bluegrass instrumentation…No drums, plenty of fiddle, banjo, dobro, mandolin…all acoustic. And high flyin’ harmonies, and of course, Patty’s soulful Appalachian alto leading the way. Bluegrass style for sure.

    But songs like “The Boys are Back In Town”, “Pretty Little Miss” and “Daniel Prayed” are clearly uptempo Bluegrass selections from this wonderful album. Many of the others I guess could be called “Mountain” although I am a little unclear as to the difference… Not sure if “Harlan” for example is Bluegrass, or Mountain….But it’s all first rate, very high quality Mountain-style music sung by a Master.

    And I am delighted that Sleepless Nights made your list, even at the last minute!

  13. Chris D. December 29, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Well, I listened to the samples on iTunes for “Mountain Soul”, and I didn’t really like it, but I found it on last.fm, so now I’ll listen to the entire album first, maybe I’ll like it more. Is “On Your Way Home” by Patty Loveless a good album?

    I also listened to Kathy’s “Right Out Of Nowhere”, and I love it! I’m buying it for sure.

  14. Blake Boldt December 29, 2008 at 10:23 am

    On Your Way Home is just a notch below Mountain Soul and Sleepless Nights in my opinion, but I would still give it 4 or 4.5 stars. I recommend the trio of ballads starting at track four (“On Your Way Home”), and also “Lovin’ All Night,” “Last in a Long Lonesome Line” and “The Grandpa That I Know.”

  15. Rainbow December 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I think Patty’s best album is “Dreamin’ My Dreams”.

  16. Leeann Ward December 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I agree with Blake. I’d put Mountain Soul and Sleepless Nights right ahead of On Your Way Home. I’ve just purchased all of Kathy’s albums that I didn’t already own except for Untasted Honey because it’s not digitally available on Amazon. I’m a compulsive music buyer though.

  17. Steve from Boston December 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Chris, believe it or not, Mountain Soul didn’t grab me right away either.

    But it grew on me, grabbed ahold, and has not let go. There is a lot of depth here, as in all of Patty’s work., and Mountain Soul has real staying power. It is my favorite Patty Loveless album so far, with Sleepless Nights, On Your Way Home, and Dreamin’ My Dreams tied for a very close second. Something about her twenty first century stuff especially, these are her masterworks, even if they weren’t huge commercial successes.

    But I agree with Blake and Leeann, and when they put OYWH just a notch below Mountain Soul, that is extremely high praise indeed. I’d also throw Dreamin’ My Dreams into the mix as well. I certainly understand why Rainbow is giving DMD such high praise by choosing it as his favorite PL album. I love Keep Your Distance especially, and Big Chance is a pure Bluegrass delight, written by Patty and Emory!

  18. Steve from Boston December 29, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Oh, and my favorites from OYWH are actually the first four cuts, as well as “Higher Than the Wall” and “The Grandpa That I Knew”.

    And with On Your Way Home, the CD at least (not sure about the download version) you get an awesome little bonus DVD which includes Patty’s heart wrenching performance of “Harlan” from Austin City Limits, as well as “Here I Am” , “Pretty Little Miss” and one of Patty’s best music videos ever, “Lovin’ All Night”!

  19. Steve from Boston December 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Actually it’s the “Grandpa That I KNOW” present tense, not the “Grandpa That I Knew” My mistake…But that subtle difference is kinda the point of the song.

  20. Chris D. December 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for all the input!

    So far, I’ve completely listened to “Mountain Soul”, and I really like it!

    Now I’m starting “On Your Way Home”, and I know I’ll like it. Next after that is Mattea’s “Right Out Of Nowhere”.

    I just have to give all the songs a chance, I know they’ll grow on me if I buy them, mostly because Loveless and Mattea are both so great..

  21. Leeann Ward December 29, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Far too often, the clips don’t give me a good enough idea of whether or not I’ll really like an album. So, I’m glad you found another way to check the album and it’s cool that you’re liking it.

  22. Chris D. December 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Well you guys will be proud of me; I just placed an order on amazon.com for Patty’s “Mountain Soul”, “On Your Way Home” and “Dreamin’ My Dreams” as well as Kathy Mattea’s “Right Out Of Nowhere”!

    Now I’m just waiting for them to get here…

  23. J.R. Journey December 30, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    I don’t have the Kathy Mattea album, but the two Loveless albums you ordered are superb – I can’t even pick a favorite among the two …

  24. Steve from Boston December 31, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Chris, a veritable universe of musical wonder awaits, as you explore the works of Patty Loveless. Yep, worlds of wonder and pure music magic are there for you to discover!

    J.R.’s right about the three PL albums you ordered, they are all superb. But I hope this is just the beginning of your journey of discovery.

    In the words of a famous Sara Evans song, you chose a “real fine place to start”!

    And I don’t know as much about the works of Kathy Mattea, but from everything I’ve heard from her, I’m willing to bet you cannot go wrong with her either.

  25. Chris D. December 31, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Very good news! Now I want them to come faster. xD

  26. todd January 1, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    i have to agree with your opinion on joey and rory….they are amazing. they are pure country. i love “to say goodbye” it is so deep and melancholy. great song.

  27. Steve from Boston January 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Hey Chris, if you are interested, I have an extra copy of Patty’s 16 Biggest hits album., CD.

    This is a great overview for her eighties and nineties work, and I think you’d really enjoy it. It would really compliment the 21st century albums you already ordered.

    I’d like to give it to you as a gift in honor of Patty’s birthday today, January 4th.

    If you are interested, just email me a mailing address and I’d be delighted to send it to you.

    And Happy Birthday to the Queen of Country Soul!, (and of course the Queen of Mountain Soul as well)

  28. Steve from Boston January 6, 2009 at 1:50 am

    ^^
    Chris, did you read this? I think my offer may have gotten buried here…

  29. Chris D. January 6, 2009 at 6:35 am

    Thanks! My e-mail’s on the contact page, just send me an e-mail so I can send you my address!

  30. Razor X January 6, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    It’s hard to go wrong with a Patty Loveless album. While I think that “Strong Heart” is her weakest, the others that have been mentioned are all excellent. I’d also add that two of my other favorites — “When Fallen Angels Fly” and “Up Against My Heart” are well worth trying. I’m not sure if “Up Against My Heart” is still in print, but it can probably be bought under the “New and Used” section at Amazon.

  31. Pingback: Album Review: Patty Loveless – ‘Trouble With The Truth’ « My Kind Of Country

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