Albums Of The Year, For A Decade, Pt. 2 (2015-2019)

Continuing on in our look back at the last decade of music. Part 1 was here.

2015–Chris Stapleton–Traveller

Chris Stapleton went from one of Nashville’s best kept secrets to full blown superstar in 2015, with the release of Traveller, his first solo album. Chris had written many hits within country, and earned street cred in bluegrass (The Steeldrivers) and southern rock (Jompson Brothers). Since Traveller, however, he has been selling out stadiums and amphitheaters ever since.

My first exposure to this album was the video for Fire Away, dealing with mental stability.

In a ironic twist of sorts, after years of having more famous people record his songs, it was his cover of someone else’s that put him on a much larger map.

But my favorite on the album was one he had written a decade before, for Tim McGraw. Chris’ version is much better.

2016–Sturgill Simpson–A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

Sturgill becomes the only artist to get my Album of the Year twice in this decade, with A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. This one was written mostly after he got his big break, and is a sort of guidebook for his just born son. That is no more evident than in the beautiful opening track. If I ever were to have a son, this album will be on a loop for a week straight.

Sturgill plus horns and some more life advice? Yes, please and thank you.

Plus, this album had an incredible, haunting cover of Nirvana’s In Bloom, completely making the song his own.

2017–Tyler Childers–Purgatory

If you read part one, you saw I mentioned Jason Isbell’s Southeastern was in a three-way battle for my Album of the Decade. Here is the second one of that threesome. It was damn near perfect. The only issue anyone could have, was what it didn’t include, as some of his live favorites didn’t even make the cut for this one. Like Sturgill, Tyler is form Kentucky. And yes, I have tickets to their upcoming tour together. I’ve already seen both live twice, now I get to see them again together.

Ultimately, Purgatory is an album about a lost, wayward, rambunctious soul finding redemption in the love of the right woman. Or, at least, that is how I took it, but it kind of paralleled a personal journey that amplified the meaning in my life.

I mean, this was the couple’s first dance at my wedding.

Tyler was well known within a small circle for a few years, but it was Whitehouse Road that kind of helped kickoff the rocket-like surge to the forefront of country music.

About that redeeming love of a woman…

2018–American Aquarium–Things Change

Speaking of rowdy boys growing up and finding the right path on this spinning rock, I’ve already covered my parallels with BJ Barham and his band, American Aquarium. Things Change is sort of the climax of a three-album “growing up” from BJ, following AA’s Wolves and the solo Rockingham. This album made me cry a few times, and it walks step-for-step with Southeastern for me.

This album comes out firing with my favorite track leading off, as some reflection on a November night in 2016 turns into something beautiful.

"Go boldly into the darkness, and be the light."

And as many of us do when we go through some stuff, we see the past in a different light. When We Were Younger covers some of that for BJ.

And some reflection on the ol’ upbringing.

2019–Zach Bryan–DeeAnn

I admittedly have not done my formal rankings for 2019, but I’m pretty confident in this choice for my album of the year. The story behind the making of it just adds to the mystique. A Navy ordinance man buying recording equipment, not having a clue what he is doing, other than the lyrics and the voice to kill. DeeAnn was recorded featuring songs largely written after his mother passed. Thus, the name. Zach still doesn’t even have a website. There is a Facebook group that is the best place to find info. Touring is difficult because of the Naval commitment. He is getting ready to hit it big, given the right breaks.

This album is as raw as it gets. A voice and a guitar. And it works. He bleeds these lyrics, on pretty much everything he records.

Part of me can’t wait to see what this kid can do with a little more polish and resources. Part of me would just fine if he keeps putting out stuff like this.

Artist of the Decade–Jason Isbell. Runner-up: BJ Barham.

Album of the Decade–Yeah, I’m not breaking that tie between Southeastern, Purgatory and Things Change. Cheap move, I know, but…my list, my rules.

Person of the Decade–Dave Cobb. Cobb was the common denominator of three of the 10 albums in this list, becoming the super producer of the decade. He produced Southeastern, Metamodern Sounds and Traveller, just to name the three from within list. There was a litany of other top 10 selections each year. Now, how do we make Zach Bryan + Dave Cobb happen?

The 2010s were a big shift for music consumption, as we by and large quit buying music. So much of what I enjoyed this decade was music you could find live in bars, until a few of them made it a little bigger. Remember kids, always to the show. You will rarely regret it. I once saw a shirt that said “Yeah, I may be older, but I saw all the good bands.” Well, I’m still working on it. Here’s to the next decade…

Oh, and yeah, I made a playlist.

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