Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year

When determining the best album in country and Americana in 2015, opinions have been scattered across the board. Throughout 2015 a few albums put itself ahead of the rest of the field and have been the popular choices. For months we knew there wouldn’t be a clear cut winner and every aspect would be taken into consideration when determining Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. When it come down to it, there was one album Derek and myself kept coming back to as the favorite. It was expected to be an album of the year candidate when it was announced to be released and upon the very first listen it lived up to my expectations. I knew I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be the best of the year. Lo and behold it is the best. The 2015 Country Perspective Album of the Year winner is Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free.

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

Of the eight albums nominated for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award, we ended up narrowing it down to three. What ultimately put Isbell’s Something More Than Free over these other albums for us is the deep and rich songwriting that permeates through this album. Each song is written and laid out with the utmost love and care. You know you’re listening to a special album when you can’t pick the best song on it. This is no surprise considering Jason Isbell is hands down one of the greatest songwriters of this generation and arguably the very best. There are very, very few songwriters that match or top Jason Isbell.

Something More Than Free is an album about life. You fall in love, you get your heartbroken, you lose a loved one, you work to put a roof over your ahead and you do a lot of crying and smiling along the way. Isbell explores these themes with not only an intuitive mind, but a mind that has lived through all of this many times over. He’s been at the very bottom and the very top. This album followed his 2013 album Southeastern, his return album after being in rehab. That album explored dark themes and had a reflecting somber tone. With Something More Than Free, Isbell celebrates life and the joys you can experience when you free your mind from the demons that poison it. And I think that’s why a lot of people considered Something More Than Free a lesser album than Southeastern. While a dark and sad album can seem more interesting, that doesn’t mean you should dismiss a happier album. Really after giving it more listens I think Something More Than Free tops Southeastern. Something More Than Free may not quite match the peaks of Southeastern, but the album as a whole is more cohesive and complete in every department.

Look at a song like “24 Frames.” Upon the surface it seems like a relatively simple song, but really it is so much more. The overriding message of it is that life can change in a moment. One minute your friends with someone or you’re having the best day of your life, then the next day it could all change. Not only could it change, but your life may never be the same, for better or for worse. Life is so simple, yet so volatile. Isbell builds upon this more on “Children of Children” where he reflects on how much his mother’s life changed when he came into her life. He compares it to today where he and his own wife Amanda Shires have their first child. Then there’s the saddest song of the album “Speed Trap Town,” which explores death and reflecting back on a loved one’s life. The song on the album that encapsulates it all is the title track, “Something More Than Free.” You strip away all of the outside stuff in the world around you and really what we’re all wanting in life is something that can’t be bought. You can’t borrow it and you can’t fake it either. It’s something you earn and find. It’s love. It’s freedom. It’s happiness. As Isbell says it’s something more than free.

Something More Than Free reached #1 on the country, rock, folk and Americana charts. I find this the most appropriate for this album and Jason Isbell. His music and this album transcends genre lines. It can resonate with anyone who has a true appreciation for music and life. While Jason Isbell may have not been the flashiest or most critically acclaimed or even the best-selling artist in country and Americana this year, he had himself a great year. Despite these accolades and praise, Isbell would probably tell you his greatest accomplishment this year was becoming a father. You can tell he’s a truly happy man who is winning at life. This shines through on social media. This shines through in interviews. This shines through in his demeanor. And it shines through on Something More Than Free. That is why it is Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

11 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year

  1. Zack December 15, 2015 / 12:42 pm

    Fantastic choice. I honestly had bet my money on “Sonic Ranch” winning, but SMTF is another one I thought you guys might pick. It was a great year this year for albums! Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings us.

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  2. Ryan December 15, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    Great choice! I discovered Isbell through the DBT album The Dirty South and have followed his career ever since. I think he’s the best young songwriter right now and is my favorite. While I’m not sure this album tops Southeastern for me, it’s definitely on par with that release. I’d be interested in the other 2 albums you guys narrowed it down to before determining a winner.

    I really enjoy this site. Looking forward to what you guys have in store next year.

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    • Josh Schott December 15, 2015 / 1:20 pm

      Thanks Ryan! Glad you follow us.

      The other two albums that were in consideration were Chris Stapleton’s Traveller and Whitey Morgan’s Sonic Ranch. The latter was the one we gave a real hard second hard look at before ultimately picking Isbell.

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  3. Raymond December 15, 2015 / 2:00 pm

    Solid choice. I personally would have Something More Than Free in the Top 10 but not quite the top spot. It took a while for the album to grow on me but it’s become one of my favorites of 2015.

    No for me the top album for me is Maddie & Tae Start Here. As it combines Mainstream appeal and pure country for one golden of an album.

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  4. Johnny December 15, 2015 / 3:50 pm

    Excellent choice! This was a slow burner for me, but after several listens I have grown to love it

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  5. brettp December 15, 2015 / 6:49 pm

    Couldnt argue with this, very strong field. I didnt think Isbell would win honestly, just because the appeal is across such a broad spectrum. Singer-songwriter, folk, rock, not really sure where it belongs. I guess id prefer the other two choices just because their more “pure” country. Isbell has grown on me some, but still just a little soft and somber for me. I do believe his songwriting is top notch though, it must have been the deciding factor. Stapleton and Whiteys biggest songs on their respective albums, were surprisingly covers. Did Chris’ recent accoloades influence decision any? Burnt out?

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    • Josh Schott December 15, 2015 / 7:08 pm

      Stapleton’s recent meteoric rise and numerous accolades were definitely considered. I think it made a lot of people think we would choose it too. But at the end of day one of the things that I kept coming back to was the length of the album: it’s just too long. It’s amazing that he was able to still put out a great album with this amount of songs because most albums this long have a few outright bad songs. There are a few songs on it that aren’t exactly top of the line and for some just not interesting. It dragged it down just enough to be eclipsed by the other two. So in the end I personally found Traveller to be a somewhat distant third to Whitey, who we gave more consideration to for the top spot. You also bring up a great point about the Whitey and Stapleton albums: the biggest songs were covers and this definitely factored in. Isbell wrote every song on that album by himself and that gave him major points at least in my eyes over the other two.

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  6. Kevin Davis December 15, 2015 / 6:56 pm

    I admit that I would have picked Whitey because it’s a straight country album, whereas I see Isbell as being primarily folk and only secondarily country. But setting genre considerations aside, I agree that it’s hard to top Isbell’s songwriting craft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott December 15, 2015 / 7:12 pm

      Keep in mind we’ve become more than a country site now and Americana & folk have become a much bigger part of the blog in a year’s time. I view Americana and folk as sub genres of country, as the sounds of each are similarly based and the audiences similar too. Americana has really become more country than country itself, which makes Isbell even more fitting to win this.

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      • Kevin Davis December 16, 2015 / 8:38 pm

        Yes, I was not surprised by y’all picking Isbell, given the blog’s interest in Americana. I wholly support that interest, and I even support Isbell in the country format — especially given his lyrics. After all, if Kris Kristofferson is country (and he is), then Isbell is country too. But I still consider him as primarily a folk artist. The country format needs folk artists, as it once did in the 70’s (even pop-folk like John Denver!).

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  7. Cobra December 15, 2015 / 9:34 pm

    Stellar choice. There were so many great albums released this year, and it’s hard to argue with this choice.

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