2020 was a great year for country music, with the release of a lot of excellent albums. When came the time to choose the best ones, I had a lot of difficulties, with such quality. Usually, this blog publishes a Top 10 albums, but this year will be an exception: what you’ll read below is a Top 25 albums. I didn’t want to make a larger list, but the truth is that it’s still too short and a lot of excellent albums couldn’t be included, unfortunately. If some awesome albums that I love are not on this list, it’s just for one reason: there was too much quality this year. I also want to mention that live albums are not part of this list. That’s why the great albums of Sunny Sweeney (“Recorded live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio“), Cody Jinks (“Red Rocks Live“) and Midland (“Live From the Palomino“) are not part of it. But no more wait. Here are the 25 albums that made my year. Happy new year 2021, y’all, with joy, health, peace and love, from Country Music France.
25- Bella White – Just Like Leaving
“Just Like Leaving” is the debut album of the young Canadian artist and Calgary native Bella White. Listening to this brilliant record, you have the evidence that bluegrass music may have its roots in Kentucky but that it’s universal. Bella White is a name that all lovers of bluegrass music must know.
24- Johnny Falstaff – Lost in the City Lights
“Lost in the city lights”, the 8th album of the Texan artist Johnny Falstaff, who now lives in Germany, is a great one! It includes 10 amazing songs, all of them belonging to honky tonk style and traditional country music, with amazing instrumentation, particularly heavy pedal steel, and great songwriting. Brilliant!
You can check out my review of “Lost in the City Lights” here:
23- Josh Abbott Band – The Highway Kind
Josh Abbott Band released this excellent album on November 13th, after having released various singles all along the year, the beautiful “The Luckiest“on May and after the summer the title track and the great “Settle me Down“. Three years after their last record, their sixth studio album, is a great one.
22- Roo Arcus – Tumbleweed
Country music is not only a culture of the South of United States. As I often say it, this genre may have american roots but it’s universal. Inspired lyrics and quality music echo in our heart, no matter the continent. If you want to have an evidence of that statement, just listen to “Tumbleweed“, the new album of the Australian artist Roo Arcus. It’s real, authentic and pure country music. While listening to it, you can think that you are listening to Geroge Strait. A great album!
21- The Reeves Brothers – The Last Honky tonk
If you love honky tonk, this new album of the Reeves Brothers is made fo you. Matt and Cole Reeves, from Nevada, made a great record, with some songs that are real gems, like the title track and the fantastic “It gets cold at night in California“, one of the best country songs released this year. A fantastic album!
20- Sturgill Simpson – Cutin’ Grass Vol 2
Sturgill Simpson released two great bluegrass albums this year. The second, “Cutin’ Grass Vol 2“, includes 12 amazing songs. The Kentucky artist brillantly reinterprets his songs through bluegrass, as he did with the first volume, adding two unreleased tracks, “Tennessee” and “Hobo Cartoon“. This last one, a gem, was cowritten with Merle Haggard. A fantastic bluegrass record!
19- Kyle Nix – Lightning on the Mountains & Other Short Stories
The former fiddler of Turnpike Troubadours, Kyle Nix, released his first solo album in June, named “Lightning on the Mountains & Other Short Stories“, and it’s a wonderful one! It’s definitely one of my favorite albums of 2020, with such quality music and songwriting. A fantastic record!
18- Reckless Kelly – American Jackpot/American Girls
The double album released by Reckless Kelly last May is absolutely awesome. If you love Red Dirt music and Texas country, it’s an essential LP, with 20 excellent songs, including the beautiful “Lonesone on my own“, “I only see you with my eyes closed” or the catchy “Thinkin’ ‘Bout you all night” or “Mona”. Undoubtedly one of the greatest albums of 2020.
17- TJ Hernandez – Destination Unknown
I heard about this great album thanks to the famous blog “Saving Country Music“, an essential website for real country music lovers. I use to read Trigger’s writings and his website is unique to know about quality music and independent artists. “Destination Unknown” is a fantastic record released in May by TJ Hernandez. Songwriting and music are absolutely amazing and TJ Hernandez’ voice is great. This album is really unmissable! A gem!
16- Jarrod Birmingham – The Short Go
This album of Jarrod Birmingham, from South Texas, is a gem for all the lovers of real country music. I loved “The Short Go” immediatly and had it on repeat since its release, on November 27th. Its first track, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys“, is particularly outstanding and undoubtedly one of the best songs of 2020, but the whole album is brilliant and quality country music.
15- Rich O’Toole – New York
“New York” is the first album released by Rich O’ Toole since “American Kid” in 2017… and it was worth the wait! The new album of Houston native artist is a great one. Some of its songs were previously released, like the great “Mississippi Baby“, “Peter and Paul” or this great cover of “Coke” (performed with Flickerstick’s singer Brandlin lea, who wrote the song) and among the new ones, you’ll love the fantastic “American Steel“, the beautiful “Frank Lloyd Wright“, or the catchy “New York City” and “Back on my bullshit“. Rich O’Toole has an impressive talent for writing and singing what he feels. I never listened to a bad song of Rich O’ Toole, and “New York” is probably the best record he has released. If you love great songwriting and quality red dirt music, this album is for you.
You can check out my review of Rich O’ Toole’s album here:
14- The Wilder Blue – Hill Country
The Wilder Blue (ex Hill Country) is a Texas based band leaded by Texan artist Zane Williams and fellow singer and songwriter Paul Eason, both with solo albums of their own. The self-titled debut album of the band is absolutely awesome, with great songwriting and a fantastic music, perfect for lovers of Texas country, bluegrass and southern rock. All its 12 songs are great, particularly the beautiful “Dixie Darlin“, “Evergreen“, “Palomino Gold” or “Adios“. This album is a gem, and even Luke Combs recently endorsed it!
13- Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern
“Die Midwestern” is a great album, undoubtedly one of the most important released this year in country music genre. Arlo McKinley is a brilliant artist and his new LP, released on August 14th, via Oh Boy Records, the label founded by John Prine, is really outstanding. All its songs are real and quality country music. Absolutely brilliant!
12- Justin Wells – The United State
Justin Wells’ album, “The United State“, was awaited and the success it had this year is particularly deserved. This artist from Kentucky is very talented and his LP, recorded with Duane Lundy, is brilliant for its music, its conception and its songwriting. For all real country lovers, “The United State” is a major reference of 2020 and its songs were a great part of this year for me.
11- Colter Wall – Western Swings & Waltzes and other Punchy songs
He’s young and his career began only some years ago, but Colter Wall is a very important artist for country music genre. His voice and its authenticity are unique, and all his songs are always a major reference. “Western Swing & Waltzes and other Punchy Songs” is not an exception. This album is real country music since the beginning till the end, with quality music and excellent songwriting. A gem!
10 – Victoria Bailey – Jesus, Red Wine and Patsy Cline
I absoultely love the beautiful debut album of The Californian artist Victoria Bailey , “Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline“. Its songs are authentic and amazing country music. Listen to “Spent My Dime on White Wine”, one of the gems included in this LP, and you’ll know that country music is more alive than ever. Such an amazing album!
9 – Mike and the Moonpies – Touch of You- The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart
After the beautiful “Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold“, one of the best albums of 2019, Mike and The Moonpies released another fantastic LP this year. “Touch of you – the lost songs of Gary Stewart“, also produced by Adam Odor, includes ten songs of Gary Stewart never released before, beautifully covered by one of the best Texas bands. The result is a timeless gem. You love Honky Tonk ? Just listen to this amazing album on repeat!
8- David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town
This is pure and amazing country music, as I’d love to listen all day long on country radios. With “Neon Town“, David Adam Byrnes made a fantastic album, particularly outstanding for its quality and its authenticity. The Arkansas native artist is a strong reference for all real country lovers and his album undoubtedly one of the best released this 2020.
7- Tessy Lou Williams – Self-Titled
Tessy Lou Williams’ self-titled debut album, released on May 22d, is the quintessence of country music. All its songs are pure and beautiful country music, with great songwriting and perfectly sung by Montana native artist. This album is absolutely brilliant and it’s a record you absultely need to listen if you love quality music and real country.
6- Lauren Mascitti – God Made a Woman
“God Mad A Woman“, released on January 8th, is a gem for all those who love real country music. This album is absolutely excellent, with a lot of old-school country songs, including the title track and the beautiful “Losing My Mind” and “Lovin’ All Night“. Lauren Mascitti has a beautiful voice and this album is an evidence of her impressive talent.
5- Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On
I loved Jesse Daniel’s album since my first listening. “Rollin’ On” is undoubtedly one of the most important albums released this year in country music genre. Coproduced by Tommy Detamore, it’s the sophomore album of Californian artist, two years after his self-titled debut. Its songs are among the best country songs we have listened to this year. Brilliant!
4- Charley Crockett – Welcome to Hard Times
Charley Crockett is Country Music France’s 2020 artist of the year, as you could read it on this blog a few days ago.
His new album, “Welcome to Hard Times“, released during the summer, named in reference to the 1967 Burt Kennedy’s western movie, with Henry Fonda, is a fantastic album with its 13 brilliant songs, including 12 original songs, written by Charley Crockett, and a great cover of Louisiana artist Red Lane, “Blackjack County Chain“. Absolutely brilliant!
3- Ward Davis – Black Cats and Crows
Ward Davis’ new album, “Black Cats and Crows“, is a gem for all those who love real and quality country music. The second LP album of the Arkansas native artist includes no less than 14 songs and all real country. Five years after Ward Davis’ debut LP, this new record is brilliant and undoubtedly one of the very best of 2020.
2- American Aquarium – Lamentations
“Lamentations” is a brilliant album, particularly outstanding for its authenticity, its honesty, its songwriting and its high musical quality. Produced by Shooter Jennings, it was released in May, 15 years after the debut album of American Aquarium. With “Lamentations“, BJ Barham put into words and sings what a lot of American people feel. “Things Change” was #4 on my 2018 Top 10 albums, and its successor is an evidence that American Aquarium is better and better with the passing of time.
You can check out my review of “Lamentations” here:
1- Zephaniah O’Hora – Listening to the Music
When I listened to Zephania OHora’s new album for the first time, I knew immediatly that it would be at the top of my 2020 albums. For me, this record is a masterpiece, and I’m sure that in 20 or 30 years, they’ll consider “Listening to the Music” as a classic of country music. When you have at the same time such a voice, such a wonderful music and such a quality of songwriting, you are close to the perfection. And most important: Zephaniah OHora’s sophomore album is real country music.