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TJ Music’s Best of 2017

Another year of great music is in the books. TJ’s best of 2017 celebrates the work of artists we love, ranging from country legends to impressive newcomers. Thank you to all of our TJ family, who contributed their time, taste and support and representing who we are as a publication. As we look forward to what 2018 will bring, we close the year highlighting some of the best music of we heard this past year.



Editor’s Top 10

By Courtney S. Lennon

1. For You To See The Stars Radney Foster (album: Devil’s River Records | book: River’s Edge Media)
“[Foster’s] latest release, For You To See The Stars, is both an album and a book. The two versions work in concert, telling the same narrative in two different forms. The instructions are simple: read the short story, then, listen to the song that it is based on. Although both stand on their own, following the intended sequence reveals the uniqueness and inventiveness behind the project. As a listener, one is able to better understand the depth of each song by reading the correlating prose. For You To See The Stars lends insight into Foster’s process as a writer and who he truly is as an artist. ”

Radney Foster: The Storyteller of Del Rio,” Oct. 2017 feature

2. From A Room: Volume 1, From A Room: Volume 2 Chris Stapleton (Mercury Records)

3. Close TiesRodney Crowell (New West)

“The song “It Ain’t Over Yet” (feat. Rosanne Cash and John Paul White), one that is hard to listen to without feeling the deep emotion that Crowell so honestly penned. It is a moving goodbye, to two of his closest friends [Guy and Susanna Clark], who were there with him as he set out on the path to become the master he is today.”

Rodney Crowell: Close Ties & Last Goodbyes Sept. 2017 feature

4. I Am NiceSammy Brue (New West)
“He has a confidence and easiness beyond his years. For most of I Am Nice, Brue sings with a shaky tenor and a sometimes angry growl that he didn’t have on his first EP, I Don’t Want You To Leave. Having re-recorded some of the songs from the EP on I Am Nice, it’s easy to hear the difference. His voice, no longer as high pitched and worlds different from when he started out six years ago.”

The Evolution of Sammy Brue,” July 2017 feature

5. Prayer For PeaceNorth Mississippi Allstars (Legacy Recordings)

6. So You Wanna Be An OutlawSteve Earle & The Dukes (Warner Bros.)

7. Colter WallColter Wall (Young Mary’s Record Co.)

8. Dale & RayDale Watson and Ray Benson (Ameripolitan/Home Records)
“On [Watson’s] last album, which was a collaboration with Ray Benson (Asleep at the Wheel), Dale & Ray, they recorded a song called “Feelin’ Haggard” after the death of Merle Haggard. The song, not so much a tribute to Haggard, rather it is a song about losing someone important, who despite passing on will always be with you. When Haggard died, Watson and Benson were already in the process of making their album.”

Dale Watson: On The Road To Memphis,” August, 2017

9. King of Country Music – The Reeves Brothers (Joe Missouri Entertainment)

10. This HighwayZephaniah OHora with The 18 Wheelers (BMI)



Americana Top 10 Albums

By Terry Roland

As Americana music moves well into its 3rd decade, what began as a place for real country musicians to be heard is now an umbrella for a diverse collective of American roots music.  It has become a shelter for artists whose sense of integrity gather after being discarded by the mainstream music industry. Today’s Americana is growing healthier with its feet firmly on the road of our finest music traditions and an eye toward the future for generations to come. We have seen blues, gospel, alt-rock and jazz come into the fold and they have all been welcomed.  This year has continued to take the Americana trail toward a greater metaphoric tree of oak with many branches.

1. Close TiesRodney Crowell (New West)
From the opening “East Houston Blues,” to the gentle acoustic memory of his first arrival in town on “Nashville 1972,” there is a sense of passage of time with its characters and stories that permeates every song on this album. The spirits that weave and haunt throughout is indisputably Guy Clark and his wife, Susanna. The album is a living memoir of the best in Nashville’s soul from Crowell’s earliest days in the town. The albums tells the truth with a sense of tragic irony. This may be his finest moments on record, which is saying a lot. The Grammy nominated “It Ain’t Over Yet,” beautifully tells the story of Guy and Susanna as it reaches toward a universal meditation on aging.

2. Bidin’ My Time Chris Hillman
With a recorded legacy that reaches back to the early 1960s, Hillman, along with co-producer, the late Tom Petty, has created one of the best of his career. Beautifully rendered revisions of older songs (“Bells of Rhymney”), and new songs that harken back to his Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose Band days; the album is exactly what Americana music aspires to be- a successful blend of what is best in country music. A soulful survey of past, present and future.

3. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
With nearly a decade of recorded work, Nelson has produced an album that is worthy of his pedigree. He began his career with a voice that was clearly inherited from his father. But, his guitar work was handed down from Stevie Ray Vaughn. This eponymous album shows Nelson confident and in peak form on his vocals, guitar and songwriting. He has his father’s (Willie Nelson) finesse in his acoustic guitar work and a similar songwriter’s sensibility. The result is a successful blend of New Orleans, Austin and Muscle Shoals.

4. TajMoTaj Mahal/Keb’ Mo’
This collaboration is so good, it’s a wonder it has been done before this album. Like blood brothers, these two artists are in celebration mode here. Both artists have solid L.A. roots-Taj Mahal moved from the east to Santa Monica, California in 1964 to form Rising Son with Ry Cooder, while Keb Mo’ was born in Compton, California commonly known for the roots of Hard-Core Rap. He was mentored in the early 70s by legendary blues violinist, Papa John Creach. It is a celebration of blues and R&B in the tradition of the Delta blues, Stax and Chess records.

5. Lost Vegas HiwayJeff Mix and the Songhearts

It’s hard to believe this is Mix’s debut album. It is that good. Lost Vegas Hiway is a reminder of how good country music can be when it’s from an original mind with a singular vision. A multi-media concept album that includes a well-produced movie tells stories traditional to country music. The twist is the looks at the darker edges of one of America’s prime tourist stops and show places. It is all about losers, dreamers, cheaters and redeemers.

6. For You to See the StarsRadney Foster
Radney Foster’s concept country album welcomes us to memories of his past with an album of consistently well-crafted songs. The companion book of short-stories allows the listener to find the core of the song as the world portrayed therein grows larger and more vivid. It is a look inside the depth of the process of writing from the pen and guitar, prose, poetry and melody of one of Americana’s finest artists.

7. If All I Was Was BlackMavis Staples
In today’s divisive and hostile political environment, Mavis Staples album is the remedy we all need, from all perspective, as a reminder of what gospel music-fused with its own sense of soul-can do for anyone who is willing to stepping out of the useless fire of current events. A voice for the ages, Staples is an artist who unites us musically in the church of life.

8. Lo-fi DreamsJeffrey Halford and the Healers
Halford and band are one of a handful of country-rock, singer-songwriter bands that are helping to grow California’s roots music scene. This album is a ride through the R&B and blues end of the country-rock spectrum with strong instrumentation, songwriting and performance. Highly recommended.

9. Under Blues SkiesCalico the band
Calico the band’s sophomore effort manages to skip over the second album curse that often follows the artistic success of a debut. They do so by keeping to their strengths with solid songwriting, instrumentation and the finest vocal harmonies this side of Crosby, Stills and Nash.

10. Rule #62Whitney Rose
On her third release Whitney Rose strengthens her hold on vintage country music with new, original songs that demonstrate why those who have championed Margo Price should be looking in this direction. This album recalls the best of 60s and 70s country music with a honky-tonk sensibility that his as modern as it is traditional. A much needed commodity in today’s mainstream country music.


TJWEST Top 10 Albums

By Kim Grant

1. Andy Warhols dreamTrevor Sensor

2. Canyons of My MindAndrew Combs

3. Ben BostickBen Bostick

4. In The AlpsPhoebe Bridgers

5. Wow and FlutterAmilia K. Spicer

6. Barefoot in the HeadChris Robinson Brotherhood

7. Brand New DayThe Mavericks

8. Lotta Sea LiceCourtney Barnett and Kurt Vile

9. Kings and KingsBlackie and The Rodeo Kings

10. Dale & RayDale Watson and Ray Benson


Rock’s Top 10 Albums

By Brian Rock

Dirt On Your HandsJared Taylor

Cures Just Like MedicineA.J. Croce

Kids In The StreetJustin Townes Earle

DuendeBand of Heathens

You Gotta Sell SomethingBlair Crimmins & The Hookers

From a Room Vol 1Chris Stapleton

Rule 62Whitney Rose

Laughing With The RecklessThe Contenders

The ValleyThe Whiskey Charmers

An Hour Before DaylightRob Williams


Tully’s Top 10 Albums

By Jake Tully

1. PrisonerRyan Adams

2. Lotta Sea LiceKurt Vile & Courtney Barnett

3. The Nashville SoundJason Isbell and the 400 Unit

4. All American MadeMargo Price

5. Roll With the PunchesVan Morrison

6. God’s Problem ChildWillie Nelson

7. The Hitchhiker Neil Young

8. Together At LastJeff Tweedy

9. A Crow Looked at MeMount Eerie

10. A Deeper Understanding The War On Drugs


Country Perspective Top 10 Albums

By Josh Schott

1. PurgatoryTyler Childers
Purgatory is the announcement of Childers upon the independent country scene and marks the arrival of the next big thing you’ll be hearing about in the coming years. Undoubtedly Appalachian folk tones combined with candid and timely songwriting makes this the best country album you’ll hear in 2017.

2. The Nashville SoundJason Isbell & The 400 Unit
One of the best songwriters alive today once again delivers big. This album has everything from songs that make you want to move your feet (“Cumberland Gap”) to poignant love songs (“If We Were Vampires”) to timely social commentary (“White Man’s World”).

3. On The RocksMidland
While many seemed to be turned off by this new trio’s backstory, the music is undeniably great in my mind. Recalling the sounds of 70s and California country, this album delivers infectious melodies and rich instrumentation that will light you right up.

4. From A Room: Volume 1Chris Stapleton

The hottest name in country music once again delivers a thrilling set of songs. It contains arguably his two best songs yet in the form of “Either Way” and “Up To No Good Livin’.” This album may be short, but each one packs a punch in all facets of music.

5. All American MadeMargo Price
I feel like this is the most underappreciated album of the year. This album intellectually explores complex issues from women’s pay inequality to the struggles of the lower class and dichotomy of America’s history. And of course Margo’s voice sounds great throughout too.

6. A Long Way From Your HeartTurnpike Troubadours
The Oklahoma group follows up their excellent self-titled album with another all-around solid album. Just like the last album, this album starts off with the best song, “The Housefire,” which perfectly displays the sharp storytelling skills of the group. Each song on the album is a scoop of country goodness.

7. TenderheartSam Outlaw
When Outlaw debuted a few years ago people were skeptical of a man who’s name is Outlaw. With his sophomore release I think this skepticism can be put to rest, as Outlaw delivers another great helping of his smooth country and impresses with his introspective songwriting.

8. Brand New Day The Mavericks
No group embodies the Americana label more than these veterans. Each album they impressively blend a fusion of genre to create something that just sticks with you and Brand New Day is no different. Fueled by the soulful Raul Malo, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a smile on your face after listening to this album.

9. Way Out WestMarty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives
Many artists tend to rest on their laurels as they get later in their career, but not Marty Stuart. Him and his Fabulous Superlatives instead deliver an album that takes you on a phantasmal, drug-fueled trip through the desert, while also evoking memories of the days when country was country and western.

10. Big Bad LuvJohn Moreland
One of the best songwriters in Americana today delivers his most accessible album yet. Newly married, we see a happier Moreland on this album. The beautifully written sad songs are still there of course, but it’s great to see a happier side of Moreland showcased too.


Mercedes Top 10 Albums

By Mercedes Mill

1. Soul of a WomanSharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

2. RetrospectBobby Thompson

3. Freedom HighwayRhiannon Giddens

4. New MistakesTerra Lightfoot

5. Carry FireRobert Plant

6. The Order of TimeValerie June

7. Semper FeminaLaura Marling

8. Stitch of the WorldTift Merritt

9. The Nashville SoundJason Isbell and the 400 Unit

10. You Don’t Own Me AnymoreThe Secret Sisters


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