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4 Country music albums we’ve heard that will blow you away in 2023

One of the most exciting things about this early new year period is the promise of new music on the horizon. There are four albums coming your way in the next few weeks that we have advance copies of that have blown us away and are going to be strong contenders come the end of the year for everybody’s Top 10 lists.

Brandon Ratcliff – ‘Tale of Two Towns’

Out on January 6th, this is emerging artist Ratcliff’s debut album but comes across more like a third or fourth album in the depth of its maturity. Volume 1 of the album is a complete body of work exploring the life-altering decision of whether or not to leave your home town whilst Volume 2 is filled with instrumental interludes and ideas which will be holding spaces for the songs Brandon will write about in the next chapter of his journey.

It’s a well-crafted, deep album full of melodies that will grab your attention from the get-go and burrow in to your consciousness. Our full review will be out on Friday.


HARDY – ‘the mockingbird & THE CROW’

This behemoth is released January 20th and what a monster release it is. For a genre based on singles and radio hits it is fantastic to see artists experimenting with the long form album and pushing the boundaries of concepts and ideas.

The first half of this album (the lower caps songs) sees HARDY experimenting with down home, redneck Country music but that changes halfway through the title track and the second half of the album becomes something akin to Nickelback jamming with Slipknot at a Brantley Gilbert show as the songs become all upper case. The metal influences and the Nu Metal screaming will take a lot of listeners some time to get used to but you can still hear the southern Country and Rock underneath it all.

HARDY really pushes the boundaries on this release, showing off the different sides of his persona. Those open-minded listeners who don’t just listen to Country music will love it. Zac Brown tried a similar thing and crashed and burned – let’s hope HARDY’s fan base is a little more willing to except something different!

Chase Rice – ‘I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs go to Hell’

Colour us both surprised and blown away at this forthcoming February 10th release from Chase Rice. He has turned inward for this album and produced an outstanding album full of introspective reflections and interesting sounds.

Speaking on the album, Rice states, “I’ve gotten to a place where I’ve faced a lot of stuff that has been tough in my life – a lot of it is self-inflicted – but I’ve gone into a lot of that stuff; I’ve gone into some addiction, some losses, some love lost, a lot of my personal life. I’m at the place in my life now where I just want people to know who I really am as opposed to who they think I am. I think this record’s a good start.” He’s not wrong. ‘I Hate Cowboys……’ is easily his best release – a proper, meaningful album that flows from beginning to end and when we tell you that the best song on it is an 8 minute epic called ‘Oklahoma’ your interest should be well and truly peaked.

Nate Smith – Self-Titled Debut Album

Out on February 17th this 20 track monster of a release showcases everything that Nate Smith has shown and teased us with over the past 18 months in full blown glory. There’s a production sound to it that reminds me of Mitchell Tenpenny’s ‘This is the Heavy’ release with 80’s leaning values and some absolute belting songs.

From raucous, ready-made concert opener ‘LFG’ to the very Fleetwood Mac sounding, ‘Sleeve’, this album has a little something for everyone. ‘Wreckage’ sees Smith in full diva mode whilst ‘You Only Want Me When You’re Drunk’ is one for the clubbers amongst you. Stand-out track, and future number one, should the label send it to radio, is easily ‘Better Boy’ and it is this song, alongside radio hit ‘Whiskey on You’, that we will look forward to seeing when Smith hopes over the pond in March to appear at the prestigious C2C festival in London.

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