What a great year it’s been for Country music. 2022 was a year which saw a number of artists breaking through and emerging as the future stars of tomorrow. There was also a whole host of traditional sounding albums released and musicians like Cody Johnson and Zach Bryan making waves with their music which was something the labels on Music Row weren’t necessarily expecting.
TikTok remains the most potent way labels seem to conduct A&R these days and 2023 will see that grow and develop even further. Overall, Nashville remains driven by the radio and that search for the elusive hit was strong this year but independent artists like Spencer Crandall continue to prove that there are plenty of Country fans out there who aren’t slaves to the airwaves.
Here are the list of albums that rocked our world the most this year. In no particular order. Honourable mentions at the end too.
Kane Brown – ‘Different Man’
The Chattanooga, TN native has evolved as an artist, with Brown effortlessly pleasing both Country and RnB audiences since his arrival in 2016. Third album Different Man sees the love and influence of his wife and children across seventeen tracks, some of which are the most Country-sounding songs he’s ever produced. We can’t wait to see him here in the UK in January.
Jackson Dean – ‘Greenbroke’
Greenbroke has become one of our favourite albums of the year, since its release in April. Each song is really just perfect. Go listen to it, go buy tickets for Dean’s first UK show, at Highways Festival, next May. We were thrilled to meet Jackson at CMAFest last June and dig deep into the album with him.
Kameron Marlowe – ‘We Were Cowboys’
Kameron Marlowe delivered on his promise and then some with ‘We Were Cowboys’. Confident, full of swagger and pleasingly traditional, the album is leading the charge for male solo artists to hark back to good old-fashioned Country music and away from Country-Hop. ‘Does It Have to Be Over’, ‘Giving You Up’ and ‘This Old Town’ are just some of the highlights across the near flawless album. By rights, Marlowe should be one of the biggest male stars in the genre before long.
Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville
But of course this is making a top Country albums list of 2022. If you haven’t heard these wryly observant, honest and hilarious stories, from McBryde, one of the Grand Ole Opry’s most recent inductees, co-written in a cabin with a bunch of buddy’s, including Nashville’s songwriting royalty (here’s looking at you Brandy Clark) then where’ve you been all autumn? Join us at the bonfire. We went deep into the album with her too.
Jillian Jacqueline – ‘Honestly’
Jacqueline’s long awaited debut album arrived in June and was a sheer masterclass of honest, heart-wrenching songs. With a voice that holds plenty of emotion, Jillian Jacqueline (interview here) knows how to hit you in the heart and make you feel all warm and fuzzy at the same time. She’s different from every other artist in Country music right now and with ‘Honestly’, she deserves to jump right to the front of the pack.
Lainey Wilson – ‘Bell Bottom Country’
From Wilson’s appearances at the C2C festival in March and The Long Road festival in September 2019 we all knew there was something engaging about this what-you-see-is-what-you-get artist. All the vocal fabulousness of LeeAnn Womack and Jo Dee Messina and independence of McBryde. She unapologetically gave us fourteen tracks to enjoy in November and has since added two more from her appearances on TV show ‘Yellowstone’. We can’t wait to see her back on the main stage at the C2C festival in March.
Wade Bowen – ‘Somewhere Between the Secret and the Truth’
Listening to the stories within the lyrics on this tremendous album, it’s no surprise to learn that Bowen is a Springsteen fan, nor that Lori McKenna, Eric Paslay, Randy Montana and Heather Morgan are co-writes on more than one song either. Bowen’s most ‘Country’ album to date was a triumph and we were thrilled to talk to him all about it.
Ben Burgess – ‘Tears the Size of Texas’
For a debut album, ‘Tears is the Size of Texas’ is simply stunning. Rich, evocative storytelling plays out on top of unique and original instrumentation. Songs erupt when you least expect them to and go in places you’d never have dared. There’s also a raw simplicity about this album that is both refreshing to hear and yet comforting too. Another artist who graced us with us time and let us analyse his work.
A Thousand Horses – ‘Broken Heartland’
‘Broken Heartland’ is a triumph of muscle and melody. It’s a punchy, concise and expertly delivered album. The perfect length, sequenced with an ear to the ebb and the flow that the songs create. The album fizzes with energy, heart and soul from beginning to end. There’s no filler or wasted tracks and the band sound great! It’s taken them a while to sort things out but it was sure worth the wait. Read our interview with them about it here too.
Drake White – ‘The Optimystic’
We were lucky enough to see Drake White twice this year. Once at the Riverside stage during the CMAFest in Nashville in June and then again in the heart of England at the Long Road festival in September. He brought the songs on this terrific album to life both times. There’s swagger, romance and pride running through The Optimystic in spades and White had never sounded so good. Muscle Shoals meets Nashville in one glorious bundle. We caught up with him in late June to talk all about it.
Hourable Mentions: Numbers 11-15
Kimberly Kelly – ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’
David Adam Byrnes – ‘Keep Up With the Cowgirl’
Hailey Whitters – ‘Raised’
Everette – ‘Kings of the Diary Queen Parking Lot’
Matt Jordan – ‘The Gamble’