Keepin’ It Country’s Top Albums of 2013

Although everyone on our staff loves country music, we have different tastes and don’t always agree. For this reason, we didn’t compile a comprehensive list of our favorite collective country albums of the past year. Instead, some of our staff picked their individual faves. Make sure to let us know your faves of 2013!

Jen’s Picks: 

Cassadee PopeFrame By Frame: I am admittedly one of those music lovers who listens to an album the first time and is simply incapable of forming an opinion. No matter how much I love the artist, I sit there with a blank stare after the first spin. So, in all fairness to the artist, I listen again. That was my experience with Frame By Frame. I listened the first time, and the true stand outs to me were, the already loved, “Wasting All These Tears,” “Easier to Lie,” “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart,” and “11.” And for me to find four songs I like in the first spin is pretty impressive. In subsequent attempts to listen to Frame By Frame, I have found myself loving every track and even using Cassadee’s debut country album to accompany me during long, tedious runs to help the time go by. Each track exemplifies Cassadee’s gorgeous vocals, versatility, and incredible range. Give it a whirl … you will be begging for more from this CRS New Face!

Garth Brooks - Blame It All On My Roots: It may not be all new music, but, dadgummit, Garth Brooks released something new and, yes, I was there on Fake Black Friday (6:00pm on Thursday night, thank you very much) to buy my copy … and I might have hugged it when I got it! Eight discs; six CDs; eleven country classics; eleven classic rock songs; eleven soulful classics; eleven cross-genre songs; thirty-three Garth hits … If this box set is wrong, I don’t want to be right! Listening to Garth’s oldies that I grew up on (as well as the songs that influenced his career) led me to two thoughts — I cannot stand how much I love Garth and I’m much too young to feel this damn old.


The Sound of Music LIVE! Soundtrack: That’s right, I went there. And ashamed, I am not. I’m never one for the conventional choice, nor did I want to be predictable in this post. Let’s be pragmatic here and leave all critical commentary regarding certain portions of the live production at bay. Using a step-by-step process, let me explain to you why this soundtrack deserves these self-proclaimed accolades: 1) the show’s score is simply flawless … it doesn’t get any better than the music that was created for this classic Broadway production; 2) no, Carrie Underwood isn’t Julie Andrews, but she isn’t supposed to be! Look, I have wanted Julie Andrews to be my adoptive grandmother for my entire existence, but it is only fair to look at Carrie as Carrie. Her vocals are stellar; she does classic music justice; she nails every incredibly difficult note, no matter where it is. You can say she isn’t Julie, and you’d be right … but she isn’t supposed to be. Very few others could have handled this role. Chew on that, folks; 3) Audra McDonald. So long, farewell, au wiedersehen, goodbye.


Jeanna’s Picks:


The Band PerryPioneer: I think The Band Perry’s Pioneer album may be the most underrated album of last year. Not only did it produce the hits “Better Dig Two”, “Done”, (which is hands down one of the best songs of 2013), and “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”, the entire album is full of amazing songs and lyrics with endless chart-topping potential. I would put Pioneer head to head with any album released this year as a number one contender, but it is definitely one of my favorite and most listened to albums of 2013.


The Pistol AnniesAnnie Up: I am not sure about the future of The Pistol Annies, but it would sure be a shame if we did not get anymore Annies’ music. Due to unknown circumstances with the group, the album never got to reach its full potential commercially or across radio, but it was such a fantastic album from Miranda, Ashley, and Angaleena. From tracks one through twelve, I think the girls created a perfect country record.


Kacey MusgravesSame Trailer Different Park: You cannot have a Best of 2013 without Kacey Musgraves’ excellent debut album, Same Trailer Different Park being on the list. Musgraves’ talent is undeniable and her songwriting skills are some of the best around. While she had been writing successfully for other artists, I’m so glad she was able to shine and bring her name to the forefront with her own album release.


Tim McGrawTwo Lanes of Freedom: Two Lanes of Freedom is one of my favorite McGraw albums yet. The record produced quite a few hits and is full of great songs. “Highway Don’t Care” was definitely one of the best singles of the year. Bringing in Keith Urban and Taylor Swift for the track resulted in the perfect trio. While I do love that one, my favorite song on the album is “Annie, I Owe You A Dance.” In my opinion, “Annie” is country music at its best.


Blake SheltonBased On A True Story: Blake Shelton… what can I say about Blake? I have been a fan since the “Austin” days and I was so thrilled to see him grab the CMA for Album of the Year for Based On A True Story. A success both commercially and critically, the album was unstoppable in 2013. “Mine Would Be You”, “Boys Round Here”, “Sure Be Cool If You Did” – all topped the charts as well as ended up being some of my favorite Blake songs. The album also garnered him three Grammy nominations… and I hope he takes those Grammys home at the end of this month. He more than deserves them!


Nicole’s Picks:


Brandy Clark12 Stories: More than any other album that came out in 2013, 12 Stories is the one I keep going back to and imagine I’ll never tire of. Brandy manages to do just what the album title suggests, telling 12 unique stories with each track, including the humorously punchy first single “Stripes,” the incredible “What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” and the heartbreaking “Just Like Him.” Considering that Clark has written songs for some of country’s biggest names, I suspect she has many more stories to tell of her own. I’m anxiously awaiting 12 (More) Stories.


Ashley MonroeLike A Rose: The biggest crime that Like A Rose commits is that it is WAY too short. With only nine tracks, the album leaves me immediately wanting more of Ashley Monroe’s type of country music. She’s tongue-in-cheek on “Weed Instead of Roses,” delightfully honest on “Like a Rose” and Blake Shelton’s perfect duet partner on “You Ain’t Dolly (And You Ain’t Porter).” I have a feeling that 2014 has a lot in store for Ashley Monroe and I can’t wait to see her come out “Like A Rose” this year.


Brett EldredgeBring You Back: I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a soulful raspy growl and a country twang. I’m also a sucker for blue eyes and hilarious tweets. Lucky for me, Brett Eldredge combines all of the above and his debut album shows off his incredible voice and writing abilities. For the most part, this album skews away from the “bro-country” that ruled 2013 and his songs focus on more than tailgates, daisy dukes and drinking. On “Raymond,” Brett is a story-teller, on “Don’t Ya,” he’s a refined redneck Romeo and on “One Mississippi,” he’s one fine country crooner.


Tyler FarrRedneck Crazy: The single “Redneck Crazy” was one of my absolute favorite singles of 2013, and I had high hopes for Tyler Farr’s debut album. Although this album has a fair mix of up-tempos, Farr shines on his ballads including “Whiskey in My Water” and “Hello Goodbye.” However, I have to admit that I can’t wait to attend a Tyler Farr concert, hold up a Bud-light and sing “Makes Me Wanna Drink” at the top of my lungs. Hell yeah, raise up your cup!


The Pistol Annies – Annie Up: If Annie Up is the last album that the Pistol Annies ever make together, it would be a tragedy of epic proportions. For me, it would be right up there with the fact that The Wreckers only put out one studio album. (Moment of Silence, please) Although I enjoyed their debut, Hell on Heels, it was Annie Up that showed the Annies as both a cohesive unit and also three individual talents. This album proved them as more than Miranda Lambert and those two other girls, and they shined on songs like “Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty,” “Hush Hush” and “I Hope You’re the End of My Story.” For my sake, I hope this ain’t the end of their story.


And since I’m super indecisive, I have to give honorable mentions to Charlie Worsham‘s Rubberband, The Band Perry’s Pioneer, Blake Shelton’s Based on a True Story…, Sheryl Crow‘s Feels Like Home, Kellie Pickler‘s The Woman I Am and Jason Isbell‘s Southeastern.