1. Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott – “House of Gold”- The duo just released a live performance album called We’re Usually A Lot Better Than This that was recorded at two different Nashville-area school fundraisers. They’re both accomplished songwriters with dozens of album cuts between them. The stand-out track on the new album is done in old time mountain gospel style without any instrumentation at all. It’s good old fashioned a cappella. The fact that it is written by none other than the legend himself, Mr. Hank Williams, Sr., only gives it that much more of an aura surrounding it. You can listen to studio version of them singing the track here at YouTube: http://youtu.be/OWb4SHdfpJM
2. Emily West – “That’s How the Boy Gets the Girl in the Movies”- Former Capital Records artist West has put out some of the most interesting music of anyone in Nashville this year. Her I Hate You, I Love You EP will rank as one of our favorite five albums of the year with only six songs. This follow-up release and music video barely borders on country music, but is fantastic storytelling and beautiful instrumentation- the strings are heavenly. Her range and voice knock me out each time I listen to it. The fact that it is set to movie segments of love found throughout cinema is the perfect match.
3. Billy Dean – “Seed”- Dean has been missing off of the country music charts for the better part of a decade now, but he hasn’t stopped making music. He just released A Man of Good Fortune this past month and it’s Dean just how you remember him. He plays pure storyteller on most of the album, painting pictures right and left with an above-average album as a whole. The stand-out track, however, is this little song about positivity in the world. With all the negativity surrounding the world of politics here in the U.S., this stands out more than ever. If a small seed can turn into a tree, and that tree wood can supply all that it does, can’t we as a society change the world with just an idea? It reminds a little of Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree.
4. Lori McKenna – “Sometimes He Does”- Off of McKenna’s EP she released just two weeks ago called Heart Shaped Bullet Hole, this is one of our favorite tracks of the year. McKenna has an innate ability to share intimate feelings that are the same time tender, revealing, melancholy and inspiring- all in the same song. “Sometimes He Does” does just that. Marriage isn’t all roses and romance, but the times it is keeps it magical. She paints both sides of that equation perfectly. Eloquently. Truthfully. Thankfully.