Or, at least, the 126 albums I listened to and rated song by song.
For those of you who have not been here before, I have a very unscientific scientific approach to my album ratings. Utilizing a couple of spreadsheets, I rate every song on an album, 1-10, and then the albums score is the average of those tracks. Skits, interludes, instrumental riffs as solo tracks, etc. get weeded out. It’s not exactly the best way to do this, but it is the easiest way for me to do it in my spare time without overthinking it. My goal every year is 100 new albums releases. It forces me to continue to consume new music every year. This year, I got to 126.
So, without further ado: okay, maybe a little more ado. The table below is 21-126. I’ll have brief write-ups of the top 20 below.
|21||Molly Tuttle–Crooked Tree||5.85|
|22||Texas Hill–Heaven Down Here||5.83|
|23||Noah Guthrie–Blue Wall||5.83|
|25||Alex Williams–Waging Peace||5.83|
|26||Old Crow Medicine Show–Paint This Town||5.82|
|27||Town Mountain–Lines in the Levee||5.82|
|28||Jamestown Revival–Young Man||5.7|
|29||Adam Hood–Bad Days Better||5.7|
|30||Nikki Lane–Denim and Diamonds||5.7|
|32||Lester Slade–Burnt Out Lightning||5.67|
|33||Massy Ferguson–Joe’s Meat and Grocery||5.67|
|34||Eric Roebuck–Need A Change||5.67|
|35||Drive-By Truckers–Welcome 2 Club XIII||5.67|
|36||Method Man–Meth Lab Season 3||5.67|
|37||Colby Acuff–Honky Tonk Heaven||5.67|
|38||Wade Bowen–Somewhere Between The Secret and the Truth||5.67|
|39||Sunny Sweeney–Married Alone||5.67|
|40||Randy Rogers Band–Homecoming||5.64|
|41||Bonnie Raitt–Just Like That||5.6|
|42||Black Keys–Dropout Boogie||5.6|
|43||Ian Noe–River Fools & Mountain Shine||5.59|
|44||David Guinn–Country Fresh||5.58|
|45||Maren Morris–Humble Quest||5.58|
|46||Nas–King’s Disease III||5.58|
|47||William Beckmann–Faded Memories||5.57|
|48||Jack White–Entering Heaven Alive||5.55|
|49||Miko Marks & The Resurrectors–Feel Like Going Home||5.55|
|50||The Lone Bellow–Love Songs For Losers||5.55|
|51||The Damn Quails–Clouding Up Your City||5.45|
|52||North Mississippi Allstars–Set Sail||5.4|
|53||Nicki Bluhm–Avondale Drive||5.4|
|54||Amanda Shires–Take It Like A Man||5.4|
|55||Hellbound Glory–The Immortal Hellbound Glory: Nobody Knows You||5.4|
|56||Dropkick Murphys–This Machine Still Kills Fascists||5.4|
|57||Cordae–From a Bird’s Eye View||5.38|
|58||William Clark Green–Baker Hotel||5.38|
|59||Jack Barksdale–Death of a Hummingbird||5.33|
|60||John Moreland–Birds in the Ceiling||5.33|
|61||Keb’ Mo’–Good To Be||5.31|
|63||Billy Strings—Me / And / Dad||5.29|
|64||Jack White–Fear of the Dawn||5.27|
|65||Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs–External Combustion||5.27|
|66||Lil’ Wayne–Sorry For The Wait||5.25|
|67||Dolly Parton–Run, Rose, Run||5.25|
|68||Taylor Rae–Mad Twenties||5.25|
|69||The Red Clay Strangers–Moment of Truth||5.25|
|70||Melissa Carper–Ramblin’ Soul||5.23|
|72||Randall King–Shot Glass||5.18|
|73||Elvis Costello–The Boy Named If||5.15|
|74||Green Sky Bluegrass—Stress Dreams||5.15|
|75||King Khazm–Return of a MAD||5.15|
|76||Amy Ray—If It All Goes South||5.1|
|77||The Whitmore Sisters–Ghost Stories||5.09|
|78||Jenny Tolman–Married in a Honky Tonk||5.09|
|79||John Mellencamp–Strictly A One-Eyed Jack||5.08|
|80||The Wooks–Flyin’ High||5.08|
|82||Freddie Gibbs–$oul $old $eperately||5.06|
|83||The Dip–Sticking With It||5|
|84||Kendrick Lamar–Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers||5|
|85||Brennen Leigh, Asleep At The Wheel–Obsessed With The West||5|
|87||Ben Harper–Bloodline Maitenance||5|
|88||Kelsey Waldon–No Regular Dog||5|
|89||Tedeschi Trucks Band–I Am The Moon||5|
|90||Plains–I Walked With You Always||5|
|91||Matt Maeson –Never Had To Leave||4.92|
|92||Lee Bains and the Glory Fires||4.92|
|93||Andrew Bird–Inside Problems||4.91|
|94||The Dead Tongues–Dust||4.89|
|95||Lupe Fiasco–Drill Music in Zion||4.89|
|97||Kaitlin Butts–What Else Can She Do||4.86|
|98||Jim Lauderdale–Game Changer||4.83|
|101||Sarah Borges–Together Alone||4.8|
|102||Tyler Childers–Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven||4.71|
|103||The Cactus Blossoms–One Day||4.64|
|104||Benjamin Tod–Songs I Swore I’d Never Sing||4.6|
|105||Bonny Light Horseman–Rolling Golden Holy||4.6|
|106||Punch Brothers–Hell on Church Street||4.55|
|107||Rhett Miller–The Misfit||4.54|
|108||Joshua Hedley–Neon Blue||4.5|
|109||Trampled by Turtles–Rubberband Man||4.45|
|110||The Waterboys–All Souls Hill||4.44|
|111||Alma Russ–Fool’s Gold||4.44|
|112||Pusha T–It’s Almost Dry||4.42|
|113||Band of Horses–Things Are Great||4.4|
|114||Shovels & Rope–Manticore||4.4|
|115||Sarah Shook & The Disarmers–Nightroamer||4.4|
|116||Action Bronson-Cocodrillo Turbo||4.3|
|117||Seth Walker–I Hope I Know||4.3|
|121||Lyle Lovett–12th of June||4.09|
|122||Father John Misty–Chloe and the Next 20th Century||4|
|124||Kurt Vile–(watch my moves)||3.86|
|125||Kodak Black–Back For Everything||3.63|
|126||Bailey Zimmerman–Leave The Light On||3.13|
* If I took my favorite version of each track on the Childers album and made one album instead of three, it night have competed for top 20-30. On a whole, however, that third version really held the overall rating down in this system.
If you want full reviews of the albums below, there are people with more time than this little side project allows doing that. Below are some brief notes on my favorite albums of the year.
20. Frank Turner–FTHC
I am just now getting into Frank Turner, an English punk and folk singer. This was the first time I rated one of his albums (it was his ninth solo) and I need to go back to the others if this is an indication. FTHC is a punch in the face, but in the fun way. I mean, it even has a track called Punches that is basically a punch stadium anthem. This came out in February and several tracks have been in my Best of 2022 singles list. I’m always happy shuffle takes me there.
Fave tracks: The Gathering, Haven’t Been Doing So Well, The Resurrections, Punches, Perfect Score.
19. Ashley McBryde: Presents Lindeville
This is one that admittedly gets hurt by my rating systems as it is much better as a whole than any of the parts. Lindeville is a concept story album about a town and the people in it. It is this year’s Dude and Juanita. Not a ton of strand-out tracks, but a great album on the whole. Plus, that cover of When Will I Be Love just slaps.
Fave tracks: Gospel Night at the Strip Club, When Will I Be Loved
18. El Gant–O.S.L.O.
This wound up being my favorite hip-hop album of the year in a year I did not get to a ton of it. El Gant is New York MC Joshua Gent. (Everything Lacking Greatness Accomplishes Nothing Tangible). Gent rose to prominence on MTC’s Direct Effect and appears frequently with one of my favorites, The Beatnuts. O.S.L.O. is his first album since 2014 and has DJ Premier producing.
Fave tracks: Leave It Alone, Roar The Lions, Aladdin, Eagle Talents and Avirex
17. Paul Cauthen-Country Coming Down
I’ve been debating whether or not I take Paul Cauthen seriously. After seeing him live again this year (second time overall), I’m saying yet. Cauthen is tongue-in-cheek honky tonk. I think. Either way, it is crankin’ country. Fuck You Money was my “crank it on the golf course” song of the year. Big Velvet had a big year. Don’t take it serious. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, preferably with the windows down on a blacktop to nowhere in particular. And remember, real cowboys don’t rock to Kenny Chesney.
Fave tracks: High Heels, Country as Fuck, Caught Me At A Good Time, Fuck You Money, Country Coming Down
16. Ryan Culwell–Run Like A Bull
I really thought Ryan Culwell was going to break out after 2015’s Flatlands. The Last American got some attention, but we still have to settle for Culwell being underappreciated in the American scene. Run Like A Bull still has that west Texas sparseness. Flatlands came across as a love/despair letter to the land. Run Like A Bull seems like a cry of “what else do you need from me.” I got to see Culwell at Off Broadway a few years back and I always keep an eye on his tour schedule. Seriously, underappreciated.
Fave Tracks: All I Got, Let’s Go Crazy, Wild Sometimes, Keep Your Head Up
15. The Wilder Blue–The Wilder Blue
This is one of those albums that anytime shuffle play brings a track up, my wife asks who it is. The five-part harmonies here were as good as any harmonies out this year. It is a pretty incredible sophomore effort from the boys from Texas. This is what I hope for when I start a Texas rock album. Smooth enough to earn radio play, but with enough dirt to carry some legitimacy. They have some Brothers Osborne (Wave Dancer) meets Alabama (Picket Fences) to them.
Fave tracks: Wave Dancer, Picket Fences, Feelin’ The Miles, The Conversation
14. Cory Branan–When I Go Ghost
Hey, it made BJ Barham’s top 10 and who am I to argue. Branan has been around for a couple of decades now and most of his latest albums have been released to critical acclaim, not just from BJ. Branan is another one who falls in that country/punk realm, although not as punchy as Turner. Think more crooner punk.
Fave tracks: When in Rome, When in Memphis; Angels in the Details; That Look I Lose; When I Leave Here
13. Chris Canterbury–Quaalude Lullabies
Canterbury was another new discovery for me this year and I look forward to what is next as Lullabies was a heck of a start. At times, he will remind a new listener of Chris Stapleton with a tinge of John Moreland. Listen to The Devil, The Dealer & Me if you don’t believe me.
From his site bio: The project Canterbury is talking about is Quaalude Lullabies, a nine track collection of mostly sad songs that offers on-the-nose lyrical phrasing, subtlety loose production, and an honest insight into razor-edge topics like addiction, depression, and loneliness.
And I’ve never been in an Irish honky tonk, but Yellow Mama (A will Kimbrough cover) makes me want to. And there is Kitchen Table Poet, a downtrodden tale that just might describe me on my best days and now I’m rethinking some life decisions. Son of a…
12. Kendell Marvel–Come on Sunshine
Speaking of Chris Stapleton. His frequent writing mate and Thompsonville, IL native Kendell Marvel checks in at number 12 with Come On Sunshine. At this point, Marvel has a signature sound and I’m okay with him putting out more of the same, and this one falls within those parameters. I’m full aware that his wheelhouse falls within my wheelhouse. Marvel spent years writing for Music Row and has busted out the last couple of albums on his own as a singer, joining the modern Beard Brigade of Country Music.
Fave tracks: Don’t Tell Me How To Drink, Put It In The Plate, Habits
11. Ray Wylie Hubbard–Co-Staring Too
Ray Wylie is just a CAMF (cool ass mofo). Always has been, always will be. He just can’t help it. And that has helped him make some cool friends along the way. Co-Starring Too is the second album where he has taken advantage of this, featuring a guest on each track for some good ol’ buddy country fun. Features on this one include: Willie Nelson, Kevin Russell, Steve Earle, Lzzy Hale, Hayes Carll, James McMurtry, Dalton Domino, Last Bandoleros, Wade Woden, Randy Rogers, Cody Canada, Wynonna, Ringo Starr, Ann Wilson, Band of Heathens and a few more. I dare you to find a new-ish album with that kind of power. And not to just be a guest-laden gimmick, the songs deliver the same coolness you expect from Hubbard. Co-Starring was great, and soo it Co-Starring Too.
Now, we need to get BJ Barham on Co-Starring Three.
Fave tracks: Hellbent For Leather, Naturally Wild, Desperate Man, Groove, Fancy Boys, Even If My Wheels Falls Off, Ride or Die.
10. Marcus King–Young Blood
Marcus is the current king of blues, or at least among the up and comers. And I get to see him this summer in concert with Tyler Childers. And yes, it feels weird have a blues prodigy who was born the year I graduated high school Damn, I got old. While he is just 26, you can tell he is steeped in his predecessors–Duane Allman, Albert King, Robert Cray, etc. El Dorado was nominated for a Grammy in 2020 and I think I actually like this one better. Both were produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who might be my second favorite producer behind Dave Cobb at this point. King is burgeoning on superstardom at this point in his career, and earning it with some serious guitar licks and a distinctive voice that just hits at a different register than most.
Fave tracks: Hard Working Man, Blues Worse Than I Ever Had, Lie Lie Lie, Good and Gone.
9. Whiskey Myers–Tornillo
Some more Texas rock for you on the list. This is the sixth studio album for the boys from Palestine, Texas and harkens back to the 2014 release Early Morning Shake a little more than the last two did. It has everything you want from this band by now: heavy guitars, a southern rock vibe and some in-your-face blues rock. With tracks like John Wayne and The Wolf, it makes no apologies in letting you know what they are about. This is clearly an album made by guys who grew up on both Lynyrd Skynrd and Waylon Jennings. Self-produced, the fact they do not try to pigeon-hole themselves into a genre is a strength at this point. It might hurt them commercially, although they have been doing fine in that department ever since being the first band to “break out” thanks to Yellowstone. Plus, hey, Danny Trejo in a video!
Fave tracks: John Wayne, Antioch, The Wolf, Other Side, Heart of Stone.
8. Zach Bryan–Summertime Blues
The fact this was the “other” album by Zach and the boys is a testament to the year they had and just a meteoric rise to the top of the country world. At just 28 minutes long, I considered calling this one an EP, but with nine tracks, I decided to treat it as a tightly woven album of ear worm after ear worm. Zach’s first two albums were raw and sparse with zero production value. But the writing, raw, gritty, poetic writing was always there. Line after line. And this year we got to see what a fleshed out, full sound version looks like. Turns out, that looks like a beast that country could not hold. Spoiler alert, more on this later. Summertime Blues was released just months after American Heartbreak and featured rompers (Quittin’ Time, Oklahoma Smokeshow) and remade acoustic favorites from the YouTube-only days (Matt and Audie). Oklahoma Smokeshow became my wife’s favorite song to sign at me this year, but I’m pretty sure that was mostly for the “he’s an asshole from back home” line. We have a fun relationship.
Fave tracks: Quittin’ Time, Motorcycle Drive-By, Oklahoma Smokeshow, Jamie, Matt & Audie.
7. Adeem The Artist–White Trash Revelry
Adeem was another one I discovered through BJ Barham. They opened for him last year and then when this album came out, BJ was all over it. Adeem hails from North Carolina/Tennessee-land and that Appalachian feeling is present, even if smoothed out and refined through a different lens than what I typically listen to from that area. White Trash Revelry follows in the tradition of exploring what the South truly means in the way Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell have been doing, providing a different perspective on just what it means to be southern, the accepting and unaccepting alike.
Fave tracks: Carolina, Heritage of Arrogance, Baptized in Well Spirits, Middle of a Heart (this may make the Fetal Position playlist), Going To Hell, Books & Records.
6. Arlo McKinley–This Mess We’re In
When Arlo McKinley put out Die Midwestern in 2020, he became the new poster boy for “I need a good cry country”, supplanting John Moreland in that role. This year’s This Mess We’re In in a continuation of that role, even if arguable a small step backwards. Arlo sells “Arlo Made Me Cry” shirts at his shows. I own one. Because of course I do. He is my second favorite Arlo still, behind Givens, not Guthrie. The album was record in Memphis and Arlo is from Cincinnati, but make no mistake, this one has that Appalachia feel to it as well.
The opening song has this line: “I guarantee that I’m as high right now as you were once, and I don’t mind…anymore. And goodbye never is the easy part, I never thought that I would be someone that would break your heart, but I don’t mind.”
And then he spends 10 more tracks making you believe this declaration.
Fave tracks: I Don’t Mind, Stealing Dark From The Night Sky, City Lights, Dancing Days, This Mess We’re In, I Wish I, Where You Want Me.
5. Will Hoge–Wings On My Shoes
At some point along this last year, I hears an interview with (I think, but not sure) Jack Ingram where he joked something along the lines of “we are all just trying to be Will Hoge”, or something to that effect. Wings On My Shoes is an excellent example of why. I would argue a Best of Will Hoge could go toe-to-toe with a Best Of from the likes of Chris Knight or Robert Earl Keen. And a few of those tracks would come from this album. He has moved well past “that guy who did Little Bitty Dreams, which came close being our first dance wedding song. One of my favorite things to do this year was play Zach Bryan’s Matt and Audie and Hoge’s Dead Man’s Hand back to back. Hand was my favorite story song of the year. As for Queenie, yeah, I cried in my car the first time I heard it. Call your grandma if you can. And Whose God Is This was one of the funnier takes of the year.
Fave tracks: Dead Man’s Hand, John Prine’s Cadillac, It’s Just You, Queenie, All I Can Take, Whose God Is This
4. 49 Winchester–Fortune Favors The Bold
I was wondering if this one checked in so high this year due to the fact I was able to see them live right around the time this was released, and the Russell County, VA boys put on a hell of a live show, a bona fide rock show. But then I saw it making others’ best of lists and I felt validated, not that I worry about that too much. My life, my list, my rules, right?
Fortune Favors The Bold is 49’s first on New West Records, after building a fanbase as a purely independent. This is soul country that kicks it up a notch in the live act. Think Whiskey Myers with more organ. The album grooves more than it rocks, but having seen most of it played live, it rocks in that aspect. Like I said, it may have gotten a bump up in my mind due to that.
Plus, as I was typing this up, I noticed I made into a damn music video. I’ve made it mom! I’m a big deal now! Hate on me all you want, but fat, drunk and stupid is a way to go through life, huh? Front row at the Exit/In, which sadly has announced they are closing.
Fave tracks: Annabel, Russell County Line, All I Need, Fortune Favors The Bold, Neon, Damn Darlin’.
3. The Vandoliers–The Vandoliers
I took for granted every Saturday night
With my rowdy friends and the love of my life
We should’ve danced ’til they turned out the lights
I took for granted every Saturday night
I miss the taste of whiskey
And I miss the smell of smoke
I miss the last calls at the dancehalls
I miss the last songs before they closed
Used to sing along to Turnpike
Headin’ down an FM road
I always took the long way
The sun rose before we got home
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to my 2022 anthem song. The Vandoliers are Dirty Guv’nahs meet Flogging Molly meets Lucero. They are my party band of the year. Raucous, driving country punk. This tight little album checks in at 38 minutes of fun, with six tracks making by best of the year list. And yes, this is more Texas rock/country/puck/whatever on the list this year, hailing out of Dallas.
If you don’t know the backstory, lead singer Joshua Flemming was blinded by an eye infection shortly after his punk band broke up, and while in recovery he discovered the Marty Stuart Show and the Vandoliers’ sound was the result. Marty Stuart really is at the center of the country universe.
Fave tracks: Every Saturday Night, Bless Your Drunken Heart, Down and Out, Better Run, I Hope Your Heartache’s A Hit, Too Drunk To Drive
2. American Aquarium–Chicamacomico
Let’s be honest hear. BJ Barham could probably record himself shitting the morning after a chili night down at the VFW and I’m gonna sit hear and tell you all you can heard the sadness in the plops like I’m a Phish or Tool fan telling you to listen to the notes they aren’t playing.
BJ has a knack for devastating you all the ways you want to be devastated with some heavy stuff. The title track, as hard as it is to pronounce features a couple dealing with a miscarriage. The First Year is about the grief of losing a parent, and man does it smack you hard in the feels. Telling you what it is about still does not prepare you for the first time. BJ is well aware of his reputation, so I don’t think it was without a nod to this notion that a catchy slapper like Little Things slides right into the middle of this and provides some bounce to the album, even if there is still some sadness in the frequent absence of the narrator. “It’s the little things that let me know everything’s gonna be alright.” Those little things in life are the necessary ones in a life full of the sorrow and strife in the rest of these songs.
And if the Vandoliers song above was not my anthem for the year, then All I Needed Would be. When BJ released the video for that one, he called it the happy song on the album. Then the video starts with a layoff, a mourning and a breakup. He still wasn’t wrong.
Now I just need to get BJ to get going on that book club I requested.
Fave tracks: Chicamacomico, Little Things, The First Year, Wildfire, All I Needed.
1. Zach Bryan–American Heartbreak
I had already hinted at this up at number eight. American Heartbreak checked in a a whopping 34 tracks of what I call Kerouc Country. Zach has always bled his soul into his songs. He had poetic lines. American Heartbreak is an album of poetry set to music. Following Zach on social media, he posts some of the poems he has been reading. But even if you didn’t follow him, you could tell he has been. Remember kids, if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.
Zach took over country music the last couple of years. He was not an industry build, but he is the industry power at this point. When listening to his music, guys my age tend to have to look past what the typical Zach fan has been. He is the modern king of the fukboi. But I try to look at it this way. He has a lot of high school and college age kids listening to a band with a fiddle again. That probably hasn’t happened since Goodbye Normal Street.
As for the 34 tracks, only a couple were throwaways. Hell, even the If She Want A Cowboy mock song slaps in the way Hopsin’s No Words did. Sometimes you beat them at their own game by making fun of them. Cold Damn Vampires and Oklahoma City were acoustic holdovers that got the full band sound and did not disappoint. Billy Stay made the Fetal Position playlist. Sun To Me is featured on some artwork now hanging in my bedroom. Something in the Orang took over the damn world this summer.
Speaking of the full band, Zach’s first two albums were no-production, a man and a guitar albums. But the guts of the songs were there. You could still imagine what they would be with a full sound. And now that he has a touring band, we have gotten an idea of what that is. And it is damn near exactly as I was hoping it would sound. It adds to the lyrics and the lines instead of fighting with them. Highway Boys, From Austin and Open The Gates are all bangers that teenagers and middle-aged-folk alike sing along to.
Between American Heartbreak, Summertime Blues, the unreleased YouTube and TikTok songs and the live Red Rocks album (probably the album I will wind up listening to the most from this year, but I don’t rate live albums for this list), Zach and the boys were as prolific as anyone in music not named Ryan Adams this year. For some, it was overkill. I wasn’t one of those people.
I keep EPs in a separate list, but the top three of the year were J.R. Carroll’s Raging In The Dark, Tobe Nwige’s moMINTs and Drayton Farley’s Walk Home, in that order. And you aren’t aware (if you are reading my blog, that is probably impossible) J.R. is in Zach’s band, so that makes that man partly responsible for two of the top 10 albums and the EP of the year here at IAmWeez. Ladies and gentleman, your 2022 Music MVP, J.R. Carroll.
Let me know what I missed. And if you disagree, well, you’re wrong, or something.