Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2015 So Far

We’ve reached the mid-point of 2015, so it’s time to look back at the year so far for country music. Up first we take a look back at the best country albums of 2015 so far. There has certainly been a lot of great albums and the competition for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award is already tightly contested.

Remember for an album to be considered for Album of the Year, it must receive a 10/10 score. Those won’t be the only ones listed below though, as all the highly rated albums so far will be highlighted. Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release and we do our best to cover the most albums possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert album) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

So without further ado, the best country albums of 2015 so far (in no particular order)….

(Click on the album name to see the full review)

Album of the Year Candidates

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

The hype was high heading into Chris Stapleton’s album. Not only did he meet the hype, he surpassed it with Traveller. I don’t think I could ask anymore from a country album than what I hear on this album. It has everything a country music fan should want in their music. What impressed me the most out of all is Stapleton’s voice. Holy shit I did not expect him to blow me away so much vocally. He’s easily one of the best in country music today. The songwriting is top-notch, but we knew that already. The instrumentation and production is spotless, as once again Dave Cobb is in top form. I have no complaints with this album, as Stapleton is a visionary. Traveller is a must-own and is easily one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch

Whitey Morgan Sonic Ranch

What makes this album stand out above a lot of other country albums released so far is how cohesive and tight-knit everything is on this album. The instrumentation and the production is flat-out perfect. The lyrics are emotional and tell brilliant stories throughout it. Morgan’s bellowing voice reminds me of a lot of Waylon Jennings and Sturgill Simpson, yet Whitey is much more gruff and gritty giving it a different texture compared to the likes of Jennings and Simpson. The album is the exact right length of 10 songs. It leaves no room for unnecessary filler that can bring the quality down. It’s straight, no-holds barred, outlaw-style country music that will leave you wanting more. This is the kind of album that will make people take notice of Whitey Morgan and put him on the radar of country music fans everywhere. This is an artist and album everyone needs to hear. Sonic Ranch right now is one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. There are very few country albums better than this one.

Houndmouth Little Neon Limelight

Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight

Little Neon Limelight is flawless in every aspect. Houndmouth’s vocals are dynamic and the harmonies will stick with you for a while. Each song tells a story or conveys some sort of emotion in the listener, which is what great music does. While there are a few somber songs, this album is mostly fun and even mixes in some good humor. This is an album I thinks some people might let slip through the cracks and miss out on. Don’t be one of these people. Anyone who appreciates great music should hear it. If you’re into groups like Shovels & Rope or The Lone Bellow, you’ll enjoy Houndmouth even more. I highly recommend this album. Without a doubt one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2015.

Blackberry Smoke Holding All The Roses

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

Overall, Holding All The Roses is what southern rock is all about. Each song is unique and adds quality to the album. The lyrics are fresh and just damn fun to listen to; it’s really hard to find a song on here that’s bad. The album is paced well and even when Blackberry Smoke venture down a country alley for a song or two, those country songs are better than pretty much everything that radio offers. Holding All The Roseshas a throwback feel to a golden era of rock and country music, delivering on every track. Their previous album, The Whippoorwill, was fantastic in its own right, but Blackberry Smoke followed it up with an equally outstanding record. Holding All The Roses will be a tough act to follow.

Bowen & Rogers Hold My Beer

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Hold My Beer is simply put a fantastic album. There are no down moments in this album and it holds the listeners’ attentions the whole way through it. The rich and traditional instrumentation makes you want to listen to every song over and over again. I don’t think you can find too many pairs that would gel better than Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers either. This is a perfect example of why I want to see more collaborations in country music. On this album this two great artists in their own right came together and produced something amazing. I like how the full album name is Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. because that means this is the first of hopefully many more collaboration albums from these two. I definitely recommend buying this album. It’s a must-own for fans of country music.

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers – The Malpass Brothers

Very rarely am I left speechless and a loss for words when listening to a great album, but this is the case with The Malpass Brothers’ new self-titled album. This is just pure, classic country that words can’t do justice. I’ve listened to this album over and over. I can’t get over how great it is and how two young artists like Chris and Taylor Malpass get country music so damn well. These guys were born to make country music. If you’re a fan of pop country music, don’t listen to this album. It’s simply too country for you. For those who love traditional and classic country, buy this album, press play and prepare to be amazed. You can’t get anymore country than this album. This is one of my favorites of 2015 and I can’t wait to hear more music from The Malpass Brothers for years to come.

Dwight Yoakam Second Hand Heart

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart

There’s no other way to say it: Second Hand Heart is awesome. You aren’t going to hear many country albums as good as this one for the rest of the year. It has touching ballads, rocking honky-tonk and some of the best instrumentation I’ve heard on an album in recent memory. Yoakam’s voice is as brilliant as ever. I think I speak for Yoakam fans everywhere when I say this: don’t ever leave music again. While I enjoyed Yoakam as Pastor Phil in Four Christmases, I would much rather listen to him produce amazing albums like this one. I give Second Hand Heart my highest recommendation, as it’s definitely a top candidate for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. Just like he did back in the 80s, Yoakam brings us traditional country in a world that badly needs it.

The Mavericks Mono

The Mavericks – Mono

Mono from start to finish seduces you with its sultry songs. The deeper you go into this album, the more you will love it. I thought In Time was the best this group could do, but they proved me wrong. Mono is even better than In Time, which I did not think could be possible. They have just set the bar pretty high for everyone else in country music in 2015. There’s a lot of heavy hitters yet to release their albums in 2015, but they better bring their all if they want to top this album. Without a doubt, a top contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. Go buy this album and listen to it over and over. The Mavericks’ Mono is a shining example of not only how country music should be done, but really how all music should be done.

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

Overall, Blackbirds is dark and heartbreaking, but there’s an ironic beauty to the darkness. Gretchen Peters is a seasoned, award-winning songwriter. Her writing onBlackbirds is top-notch; with scenes and feelings described perfectly within each song while still driving the story forward. And as I mentioned before, the production on each track adds even more to the mood of the songs. Regardless of how dark the album may be, the consistency and focus put into making every aspect work in conjunction pays off. Blackbirds is a fantastic album.

The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

The Lone Bellow’s Then Came The Morning simply blows me away. The year is still new, but this album will hold up as one of the best in country music all year. I don’t think it would be a stretch to call this trio one of the most dynamic in music. If you’re looking for a comparison, I would say the closest is Shovels & Rope, except more bluesy and not quite as dark. So if you love Shovels & Rope, you’ll love this group. Some may say this isn’t a country album, but I don’t care what genre you put it under. This is just great music that everyone should hear. This is without a doubt a strong contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Diamondwolf – Your Time Has Come

Overall, Your Time Has Come, is a fantastic album. Many times, it’s the Indie music artists who are the most talented in both writing and instrumentation, and Diamondwolf is no exception to that thought. In fact, they’re a great example of that thought. The deep metaphors and meaning found in the writing of these songs are a lost art in mainstream music. Alicia Dara and Glen Cooper sing these deep lyrics beautifully on every track. Even though you may have to listen to some of these songs a few times to fully grasp the meaning, it’s worth it. The reality and honesty grounded in each track only makes Your Time Has Come that much better. I highly recommend this album.

Other Highly Recommended Albums

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing 

Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams

Jon Pardi – The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP 

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie 

Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays and Wedding Rings 

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers 

Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions

James McMurtry – Complicated Game

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat 

Reba – Love Somebody

Ryan Bingham – Fear and Saturday Night

Cody Canada and the Departed – HippieLovePunk 

The Western Swing Authority – Now Playing 

Judson Cole Band – Eastern Skies 

Striking Matches – Nothing But The Silence

Aaron Watson – The Underdog 

William Clark Green – Ringling Road

American Aquarium – Wolves 

25 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2015 So Far

  1. Zack June 15, 2015 / 11:33 am

    Yes!!! Great picks! So many fantastic choices I need to get to…..

    Here’s my personal list

    Note: except for the scores, there is no order to my favorites. I know I’ve spoiled the frontrunner for my album of the year but still, the year is young

    10/10
    Chris Stapleton- “Traveller”
    Whitey Morgan & The 78’s- “Sonic Ranch”
    William Clark Green- “Ringling Road”
    Steve Earle & The Dukes- “Terraplane”
    Blackberry Smoke- “Holding All The Roses”
    Glen Campbell- “I’ll Be Me Soundtrack” (on the fence about including this)

    9.5-9/10
    Dwight Yoakam- “Second Hand Heart”
    Randy Rogers/Wade Bowen- “Hold My Beer Vol.1”
    Allison Moorer- “Down To Believing”
    The Malpass Brothers- “The Malpass Brothers”
    Willie Nelson/ Merle Haggard- “Django & Jimmie”
    Ralph Stanley & Friends- “Man Of Constant Sorrow”
    Jon Pardi- “The B-Sides”

    8.5-8/10
    Aaron Watson- “The Underdog”
    The Lone Bellow- “Then Came The Morning”
    Drew Holcomb & The Strangers- “Medicine”
    Will Hoge- “Small Town Dreams”
    Jamie Lin Wilson- “Holidays and Wedding Rings”

    7.5-7/10
    Kristian Bush- “Southern Gravity”
    A Thousand Horses- “Southernality”

    6.5-6/10
    Striking Matches- “Nothing But The Silence”
    Zac Brown Band- “Jekyll & Hyde”
    Tyler Farr- “Suffer In Peace”
    Jason Michael Carroll- “What Color Is Your Sky”
    Montgomery Gentry- “Folks Like Us”

    5.5-5/10
    Love & Theft- “Whiskey On My Breath”
    Ray Wylie Hubbard- “The Ruffian’s Misfortune” (extremely unpopular opinion….)
    Billy Currington- “Summer Forever”

    3/10
    Gloriana- “Three”

    That’s every album I’ve heard so far this year, I listened to the Mavericks- “Mono” once when it was streaming on NPR but I haven’t heard since so I need to give it another listen.

    other albums I REALLY want to get down the road:

    Houndmouth- “Little Neon Limelight”
    Ryan Bingham- “Fear and Saturday Night”
    Gretchen Peters- “Blackbirds”
    James McMurtry- “Complicated Game”
    Brandi Carlile- “The Firewatchers Daughter”
    Diamondwolf- “Your Time Has Come”
    John Moreland- High On Tulsa Heat”
    American Aquarium- “Wolves”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Josh Schott June 15, 2015 / 11:51 am

      Thanks! If I had to recommend you one album out of the ones you haven’t heard yet to listen to first, it would be Houndmouth’s Little Neon Limelight. I’m surprised more country critics haven’t covered it because it’s easily a 10/10 album in my book.

      Like

  2. Kevin Davis June 15, 2015 / 11:35 am

    Too many albums and too little time! I haven’t had a chance to listen to half of these, especially since I like to let an album “sit” with me for a while. The only recommendation I have is to include Logan Brill’s new album in the “highly recommended” section. She deserves more attention. Also, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Sam Outlaw’s debut — great vibe, great variety, and he manages to take the music seriously without taking himself too seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin Davis June 15, 2015 / 11:50 am

      By the way, I’m listening to The Malpass Brothers now. They’re fantastic! Great pick! I do not know how I had not heard them before, since they’re from North Carolina — and they have several dates in NC coming up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott June 15, 2015 / 11:54 am

      I haven’t heard Brill’s album yet, but I’ve heard a lot of great things as you mention. As for Outlaw’s album, I’ll have a review on that one within the next week. I’ll say one thing about it: It would definitely make the list above, no question.

      Yes, The Malpass Brothers are one of my favorite discoveries of the year. One of the most country acts playing today and they wear it with a badge of honor.

      Like

      • Kevin Davis June 15, 2015 / 11:58 am

        Good, I’ll look forward to reading your review of Outlaw. By the way, he has some great videos on YouTube.

        Like

  3. Cobra June 15, 2015 / 1:04 pm

    Great list. Most of these I’ve listened to, but there ae a few I still need to spend some time with.

    I would also highly recommend Courtney Patton’s new album, “So This is Life.” It is abailutely brilliant, as is Jamie Lin Wilson’s “Holidays & Wedding Rings.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cobra June 15, 2015 / 1:05 pm

      abailutely = absolutely
      I cant type on this phone sometimes.

      Like

  4. NoahHibiscusEaton June 15, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    Solid list! =)

    James McMurray would personally top my list with Randy Rogers/Wade Bowen and Whitey Morgan coming in at #2 and #3, respectively.

    “Traveller” was solid, but a bit too overrated to vye for the top honor. I also, honestly, was let down by Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard ‘ s latest despite their chemistry still making for a warm, fun listen (the songs just weren’t memorable). And though Brandi Carlile ‘ s album isn’t specifically country, her album is amazing and I still consider her highly underrated (she arguably would be #4 on my current list)

    Liked by 1 person

    • NoahHibiscusEaton June 15, 2015 / 1:43 pm

      (damn spell – checker edited his name as James McMurray instead of James McMurtry) -__-

      Like

      • Zack June 15, 2015 / 7:13 pm

        Oh trust me I definitely believe it’s a good thing Noah! 🙂 Honestly, the only album last year I would have given a clear 10/10 too would’ve been Sturgill. Then again, I was much less familiar with the alt-country/Americana scene last year. I will say that this year has been a phenomenal one so far, I mean some of the “worst” albums I’ve heard so far this year are still 5/10 to my ears. I agree after about 8.5-8/10 that there is a noticeable difference in the quality of the remaining albums. Also I love seeing the differing opinions on people’s favorite albums thus far. Honestly as much of a monster as Metamodern was, it got a bit boring seeing everyone put it as their #1 album. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely deserved it, it’s just nice to see some variety on the lists this year.

        Also Josh, thanks for the recommendation! I was honestly on the fence about either buying that one, or Gretchen Peters first.

        I’m not sure how the rest of the year will stack up. I’ve heard bad things about Alan Jackson’s new song (which I’m sure that either you or Derek will have thoughts on). I’d say that the albums I’m most excited for are the following:

        Lindi Ortega- “Faded Gloryville”
        Emily West- “All For You”
        Alan Jackson- “Angels and Alcohol” (but with wary optimism)
        Maddie and Tae- “Start Here”
        Jamey Johnson (maybe?)
        Sturgill Simpson (maybe?)

        Also, forgot to add Sammy Kershaw- “I Won’t Back Down” to my list of albums I’d like to get

        Liked by 2 people

    • Josh Schott June 15, 2015 / 2:57 pm

      One of the things evident this year is there isn’t a consensus pick for album of the year like last year with Sturgill’s album and it’ll probably be like this the rest of the year. Unless of course Sturgill’s third album comes out and is even better. Haha!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zack June 15, 2015 / 3:34 pm

        Yeah, I noticed that you already have more album of the year contenders than last year. You have 11 10/10 albums on that list and last year’s list only had 9 by the end haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • NoahHibiscusEaton June 15, 2015 / 4:38 pm

        And that can only be construed as a great thing, to demonstrate how much quality there is beyond the mainstream! =)

        No one is any more right or wrong here either. I suppose James McMurtry just resonated more to my ears than they did yours, while Chris Stapleton resonated more to you and Trigger ‘ s ears than they did mine. But we can surely agree they’re all quality albums! =)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Josh Schott June 15, 2015 / 5:10 pm

          Definitely! When it comes to the albums rated 8.5 or higher, it can vary amongst listeners on how high to rate it specifically. But no doubt we can all agree they’re great albums.

          Like

  5. brettp June 15, 2015 / 3:52 pm

    Really enjoyed this guys and i couldnt agree more with the choices. I am constantly back and forth with Stapleton and Whitey for the top spot on my personal list, ask me again in December i guess. Instead of critiquing, im gonna simply ask for recommendations. Ive purchased these two and i do believe im seriously considering Dwights latest to add to collection. Anyone think it tops 3 Pears, which i think was excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott June 15, 2015 / 3:58 pm

      Thanks! I definitely recommend Dwight’s album and I personally thought it was even better than 3 Pears.

      Like

      • brettp June 15, 2015 / 5:46 pm

        Great, thanks! I heard his version of Man of Constant Sorrow the other day, he killed it!

        Like

      • Cobra June 15, 2015 / 6:14 pm

        That’s a bold call, though obe I can certainly see an argument for. I think personally, 3 Pears edges it out right now, but only slightly. Though I have had three years for 3 Pears to settle into my collection, so time may tell on that one.

        Like

  6. RG June 15, 2015 / 5:07 pm

    Although I know the phrase/title “country” is much more fluid these days, I don’t consider Houndmouth a country band in any respect. Very good album no doubt, but doesn’t belong in a best of country album article.

    Still a very enjoyable album to listen to though.

    Like

    • Josh Schott June 15, 2015 / 5:30 pm

      Yes I acknowledge that Houndmouth isn’t really country, but rather Americana/folk rock. However I cover Americana on the site and maybe I should have included Americana in the article title too. Nevertheless, we both agree it’s a pretty good album.

      Like

    • Derek Hudgin June 15, 2015 / 9:28 pm

      If Nashville can call Sam Hunt country… 😉

      Though I agree with Josha, Houndmouth is more Americana/Rock. But still a brilliant album nonetheless. I think as most of our beloved country musicians get roped into Americana (Isbell, Sturgill, hell I even saw Willie/Merle being thrown on an Americana chart), it’ll allow great country music like Sturgill and great rock like Houndmouth to coexist in one fantastic genre.

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      • RG June 16, 2015 / 8:35 am

        Agreed. It’s nice to have some crossover from Americana into country. Gives it a fresh sound and gives me something different to listen to.

        And Houndmouth’s album is fantastic.

        Like

  7. Zack June 15, 2015 / 7:21 pm

    Wanted to add, I like that you have albums that are a bit out of the norm on the list Josh. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen any other country critic cover Houndmouth, Diamondwolf, or The Lone Bellow.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Stephen June 15, 2015 / 10:52 pm

    Honestly, my vote is for Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to an album as much as that one, and it seems like I have a new favorite song on it every other time I listen to it. Truly a masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

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