Country music hasn’t had much of a market in the UK until the past few years with only a handful of artists from the genre enjoying a breakthrough here in the UK charts.
Thanks to the annual C2C: Country to Country festival, the genre has much higher visibility on this side of the Atlantic than it ever has before. With Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Sam Hunt and many more coming to The O2 in March for Country To Country 2016, it’s a great time to be a country music fan in the UK.
This year has seen a wide variety of country music albums get mainstream releases in the UK and I’ve been listening to the majority of them over the past few months.
Keep reading to find out which country albums have made my Top 10 in 2015…
10. Striking Matches – Nothing But The Silence
The rising Nashville duo have written some of the most recognisable songs from ABC’s Nashville and this year they released their debut album Nothing But The Silence. The album is a confident collection of songs that showcases all sides of the duo with their killer harmonies at the core. It’s a promising start and we look forward to seeing more Striking Matches in the UK next year.
9. Carrie Underwood – Storyteller
A new Carrie Underwood album is always worth listening to and Storyteller delivered on its title with Underwood putting storytelling at the centre of her lyrics. Lead single Smoke Break was something a little different for the star but it’s current single Heartbeat, featuring Sam Hunt on backing vocals, that is the jewel in the crown. The rest of the album is solid with Carrie’s powerhouse vocals soaring throughout.
8. Zac Brown Band – Jekyll + Hyde
Zac Brown Band have become fairly big here in the UK and their latest album Jekyll + Hyde is testament to why. The album is rich with variety mixing a variety of genres but keeping country at its heart. Vocalist Zac has a remarkable voice that elevates some of the songs here including Loving You Easy and the bouncy Tomorrow Never Comes.
7. Luke Bryan – Kill the Lights
Luke Bryan may be one of the biggest artists in country music but he certainly divides fans of the genre. Personally I love him and I thought his Kill the Lights album was fantastic. Kick the Dust up may have bordered on bro-country but tracks such as the gorgeous Strip It Down and To The Moon And Back proved there’s much more to Luke than just a radio-dominating melody.
6. Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone
This album really took me surprise. I won’t lie, I hadn’t heard of Corb Lund before this album landed on my doorstep. Things That Can’t Be Undone is one of the more traditional country albums on this list and it meddles in Americana and Rock too. It’s a fine collection of songs that showcase Corb as one of the unsung country artists of our times. Weight of the Gun and Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues are among the many highlights.
5. Sam Hunt – Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape
Fast-rising singer-songwriter Sam Hunt scored an ace when he released his debut album Montevallo in 2014. As we eagerly await his new album, Sam released acoustic mixtape Between the Pines. The album was actually available prior to Montevallo as a free download but it was re-released this year as an official album release. Between the Pines is a collection of acoustic versions of songs from Montevallo and other tracks that didn’t make the final record.
4. Brett Eldredge – Illinois
Brett Eldredge has one of the biggest personalities in not only country music, but the music industry as a whole. As anyone who follows him on social media knows, he loves to play up his goofy side and I love watching it. It can be hard to remember that he’s actually an incredible artist too and Illinois was a fantastic second album for the star. Lose My Mind was completely different to what we expected from Brett and Illinois is full of great surprises including the disco rhythms of You Can’t Stop Me with Thomas Rhett and the gorgeous title track.
3. Thomas Rhett – Tangled Up
Thomas Rhett’s second album was a real head-turner as he stepped outside of country and explored a variety of new sounds. Die a Happy Man had its feet in stripped-back country but many of the tracks on the record move the singer-songwriter into disco territory. The record is feel-good with highlights including South Side and Tangled. The surprising ballad Playing With Fire featuring Jordin Sparks is a real treat too.
2. Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Chris Stapleton has worked tirelessly for years as a songwriting so it’s surprising he took so long to release his own album. Traveller is a record that is so full of blues and soul that it feels like you’re listening to someone’s personal journals being put to music. The album is raw and full of passion. My favourite tracks are Tennessee Whiskey and the rocky Nobody to Blame.
1. Chris Young – I’m Comin’ Over
I’m fairly sure putting this at number one, especially ahead of Chris Stapleton, will prove to be controversial but there’s something about Chris Young’s I’m Comin’ Over that I just can’t get enough of. It proudly straddles the modern country music scene but is full of so many catchy hooks that I have had it on repeat since its release. Young’s deep voice sounds incredible on the title track and highlights for me are Think of You with Cassadee Pope and the heartfelt I Know a Guy.
Do you agree with my Top 10? Leave your comments in the usual place and let me know which country albums you’ve loved this year.