With 2007 now in the books and the best singles discussed, it’s time for The Lost Highway to disseminate its favorite albums from the year. There were some surprising releases on this list along with some that weren’t so surprising. Also, there are a few albums that just didn’t hit the mark they were intending to hit. The rules for our list are simple. The only qualifications are that the album should be released in the last calendar year, contain all-new material and be released for the country music market. So, pour yourself your favorite beverage and sit back and enjoy the list.
15. Josh Turner – Everything Is Fine
Josh Turner has a voice for the ages. It’s a strong resonating baritone that can convey every lyric he sings with honesty and sincerity. It’s that kind of vocal ability that made Randy Travis a superstar and has also found Turner doing quite well. “Firecracker” started the record off on a nice note but it’s the two ‘duets’ “Another Try” and “Nowhere Fast” that really make this a record worth owning. The second single from “Everything Is Fine,” “Another Try” is also Turner’s first real ballad released to radio since he became a radio star. Trisha Yearwood adds her sterling vocals to the song. Anthony Hamilton co-wrote and duets on “Nowhere Fast” and who’d have thought these two seemingly different vocalists would turn out a great track? “So Not My Baby” is a fun little summer song while “Soulmate” is a classic sounding love song that may just end up a wedding anthem in the years to come.
14. Bobby Pinson – “Songs For Somebody”
(Cash Daddy/CuBJ Entertainment)
Bobby Pinson has the kind of haggard, expressive voice that is easily identifiable. Unfortunately that seems to be the kind of thing that radio really doesn’t want nowadays. Sometimes it seems as if they don’t want music with any identity but instead ‘background’ music that people don’t mind hearing in between the commercial breaks. With that said, Bobby Pinson self-made and released “Songs For Somebody” and used the internet to initially distribute it. Songs like “Back In My Drinkin’ Days” and “Just To Prove I Could” are as well produced and written as anything on radio but they go deeper because they have that great voice emoting each lyric. Songs like “ Past Comin’ Back” and “If I Met God Tonight” help to clearly identify Pinson as a superstar songwriter.
13. Miranda Lambert – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
While Miranda may be a bit ‘over-rated,’ she still delivers good records. The title track, “Gunpowder & Lead” and “Guilty In Here” showcase her raucous side while “Down” and her biggest hit to date, “Famous In A Small Town” showcase the more literate, Mary Chapin Carpenter-like songwriter in her arsenal. It all adds up to a wonderfully complete sophomore record. It’s the kind of sophomore record that Gretchen Wilson probably wishes she had made to follow-up “Redneck Woman.”
12. Jack Ingram – “This Is It”
(Big Machine Records)
Jack Ingram has always been a favorite of the Lost Highway, and his emergence in 2006 as a radio star was well-earned. “This Is It” contains all of the previously released singles, the chart-topper “Wherever You Are,” and Top 20 singles “Love You, and “Lips Of An Angel.” Also included are “Measure Of A Man” and new single “Maybe She’ll Get Lonely” Another standout is “Hold On.
11. Sarah Johns – “Big Love In A Small Town”
While there wasn’t a hit single released from the record, Sarah Johns was able to see her album get released to radio. This is the kind of record that could remind some of Sara Evans’ debut record in that it is unabashedly country. Such a record seeing the light of day on a major label and without a true hit single is something we all should be championing. Standout tracks include the title song, “The One In The Middle” and “He Hates Me.”
10. Elizabeth Cook – “Balls”
(Thirty One Tigers)
Formerly on Warner Brothers Records, Miss Cook has managed to release a record that out does that WB one-off. Too ‘traditional’ for radio, Cook released one of the better singles in “It Takes Balls To Be A Woman” (which was somehow forgotten on our best singles list). There isn’t a bad track on the whole disc and if radio were not so ‘pop-oriented,’ Elizabeth would most surely have had a hit or two already from this classic release.
9. Tracy Lawrence – “For The Love”
(Rocky Comfort Records)
The first release from his own record label, Tracy Lawrence sure hit the mark with “For The Love.” It is his best record in about a decade and features a nice mixture of traditional country tunes (“Just Like Her) with more mainstream fare like the stellar “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” single. The second single of this solid selling record , “Til I Was A Daddy Too” is a wonderful song which shows off the newer, softer side of Mr. Lawrence.
8. Brad Paisley – “5th Gear”
Brad Paisley may make some goofy songs like “Ticks” but it’s songs like those, along with his strong vocals that help keep him country. His stellar guitar playing doesn’t hurt matters either and lead-off track (and future single) “All I Wanted Was A Car” showcases all that has helped Mr. Paisley become a superstar. Other strong tracks on the CD are “Letter To Me,” “Better Than This” and the Carrie Underwood duet “Oh Love.”
7. Blake Shelton – “Pure BS”
Warner Brothers Records
2007 is the year in which Blake Shelton seemingly put it all together. His record featured two strong singes, the more mainstream “Don’t Make Me” and the more traditional sounding “The More I Drink.” But they’re not even the best songs on the record. “Back There Again” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” get that nod.
6. Tim McGraw – “Let It Go”
Even without “If You’re Reading This” “Let It Go” is one of the best releases of the year. But when you add one of the years best singles to a record full of all kinds of great country songs, you have a stellar record. Aside from the Number one hit “Last Dollar (Fly Away),” the record also contains “I Need You,” I’m Workin’” and “Between The Devil And Me.”
5. Gary Allan – “Living Hard”
Gary Allan has sung just about everything in his career and there isn’t a time that we didn’t like it. Even when singing songs that did not really fit his mold, Gary managed to place some grit onto them. More often than not “Living Hard” comes off as sounding like a record from a man firmly in his groove. “We Touched The Sun,” “Like It’s A Bad Thing,” “Learning How To Bend,” and “Half Of My Mistakes” are the standouts here.
4. Joe Nichols – “Real Things”
From the moment “The Impossible” was released to radio, we knew Joe had everything it took to be a country music star. Joe has managed to continue to make compelling singles but never has really pulled-together a top-flight album until now. The title track could be the best song he’s ever recorded while singles “Another Side Of You” and “All Good Things” only tell part of the story as Joe’s recording of “She’s All Lady” proves that a great song is a great song and it does not need to be ‘pop-sounding’ to be worthy of airplay.
3. Jamey Johnson – “That Lonesome Song”
(Big Gassed Records)
Jamey Johnson released one record in 2006 with major label BNA Records. But, for some reason, they didn’t like him enough to get passed a half-hearded promotion of his second single. Jamey took back the reins of his career and steered it towards songwriting and scored when George Strait won the ACMs with “Give It Away.” Jamey based the song on his own life and much of what’s found on “That Lonesome Song” follows the same path. “High Cost Of Living,” “In Color” and “Next Ex Thing” are but three of the great tracks found on this record.
2. Porter Wagoner – “Wagonmaster”
While it won’t have the same ‘iconic’ status among all music genres as Johnny Cash’s “American IV” record did, “Wagonmaster” nonetheless had a smaller impact on those who’ve given the record a chance. It’s one for the ages, a piece of quality material from a legendary artist. Like Cash’s last few albums, “Wagonmaster” showcases a great artist making vital music. There isn’t a bad track on the record and Marty Stuart’s production is reverential and the stories told by Porter are nothing short of genius. “Committed To Parkview” and “Albert Ervin” are just two of the standouts.
1. Trisha Yearwood – “Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love”
(Big Machine Records)
The title track was a Top 20 hit for Garth Brooks’ bride but it did more than enough to announce the re-emergence of a superstar vocalist of the highest order. Trisha Yearwood is the best vocalist of her generation (in any genre of music, male or female) and rivals some of the all-time greats. Her voice is an instrument that can wrap itself around a lyric and pull out every ounce of drama and emotion out of it. Every track on the record stands up to the best of her work and “This Is Me You’re Talking To” is perhaps the finest moment of Trisha’s career. It’s a career record. She reaches for the sky but never over sings and always controls her voice, something the younger female vocalists could learn from. Trisha’s had a few hits that were penned by Matracia Berg and a couple here, “They Call It Falling For A Reason” and the gorgeous “The Dreaming Fields,” could both be hits. “Sing You Back To Me” is another beautiful song from Tony Arata and it works as a perfect ending to 2007’s best album.