As we quickly move
into the new year, it’s that time again to reflect, ponder
and try to name the best albums of 2008. And that’s not too
easy, given the amount of music that hits the turntables at
I move into what I consider my best listening of 2008, let
me give a celebratory clap to some albums that pushed my
stereo levels to high.
Hootie & the
Blowfish front man Darius Rucker came up with
Learn To Live. The album showed what sooner-or-later
tends to be the modern way – pop artists find not only a
home but also a reliable fan base when they lock on to
country. “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, the kick-off
single, is right up there with anything released this year
with their self-titled release, were an exciting listen.
Catchy tunes, memorable hooks and classy vocals make them a
band to watch and listen more for in 2009. Their CMA nod is
a signpost to better ahead.
Jackson never fails to please. He delivered a full load
in his unique and understated style on Goodtime. The
album, again, proves that a winning formula doesn’t need
was a welcomed visitor from John Michael Montgomery.
Out of the loop for a little while, JMM gave us an album
that was a refreshing reminder of what style and the right
lyrics can sound like.
confirmed their place on the country totem pole with the
cranked Love on the Inside. Jennifer Nettles has one
of the best voices in country; this album confirms it.
won me over with That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy, while
The Road Hammers instilled a new appreciation for
18-wheelers with me on Blood Sweat & Steel. Back When I
Knew It All, the Montgomery Gentry release
from earlier this year, confirmed, again, this dynamic duo
just don’t make a bad record.
To add some random
names to the above mix, I enjoyed James Otto and
Sunset Man, the troubadour George Strait, and a
couple of Indie acts that made me sit up and listen were
Michael Thomas, Big Bob Young, and Royal Wade
Kimes with his How The West Was Sung.
But, if you’re like
me, there are always a couple of albums that make you
continually reach for Replay. They’re albums that enjoy the
car ride, the work computer, and the familiarity of the home
For me, these are
an absence of eight years, the wait was worth it. Randy
Travis unveiled one of the best albums of the year with
Around the Bend. Clear and clean vocals, sharp and
poignant tunes of spiritual reflection and change, all added
to an album long overdue.
raved about her in my August review and I’ll rave about her
now: Ashton Shepherd. The gal with the sweetest
Alabama twang not only writes convincing tales of love,
loss, happiness, and changing circumstances, she does it
with a strong feel for her charged lyrics. I just know my
ravings will continue with her next album. Sounds So Good
more than lives up to its name.
Loveless revealed her country soul on a standout this
year, Sleepless Nights. Loveless gave us the best of
traditional country, packed strong with a voice and a career
that justified her saunter on the path least traveled these
Well beyond the
radio popular is an album that really, really grows. John
Hiatt and Same Old Man, an album recorded in his
home studio, is special and brilliant. Raw and telling, all
done in a lazy and laidback conversational style, the work
comes critically and industry hailed as his best. Have a
listen. You’ll soon hear why.
favored albums of 2008 comes Ralph Stanley11 and
This One Is Two. Stanley’s album worked on
many levels for me. His voice is smooth, melodic and honed
with solid country timbre – proving the son of bluegrass
icon Ralph Stanley did more than watch the passing traffic
from the back of the tour bus. Stanley has learnt his craft,
and he’s learnt it well. Good songs, good playing, good
voice, it all equals a better than great album.
Have I missed
anyone? Sure! Why not help me out and send along your “best”
of the rest to us here at CSO. We’d like to hear what worked
for you, what was your favorite album of 2008.
In closing, thanks
to Jim (our editor) for his ready wit and help, best regards
to all my fellow writers and, finally, warm wishes and safe
travels to you our readers.
2009, let's go.