The 9513 Staff Picks For Top 10 Albums Of 2007


Click a name or scroll down to view that staff member’s top ten.

Brady Vercher

10. Dollar Theater Movie, Drew Kennedy
Cleverly penned lyrics–all written himself with only two co-writes–and a unique voice come together on Kennedy’s Dollar Theater Movie to create an original, surprisingly good album.

9. Dark Days, Jackson Taylor
This quintessential outlaw album from Taylor fills the void left by Waylon and even Shaver admits that Taylor’s version of “Honky Tonk Heroes” is the best he’s heard.

8. From the Cradle to the Grave, Dale Watson
Watson spent three days in Johnny Cash’s cabin coming up with the songs that comprise this album and the Man In Black’s influence is readily apparent, creating a satisfying album for the traditional country fan.

7. Wagonmaster, Porter Wagoner
It took an indie label to revive an aging country star’s career and give him and producer, Marty Stuart, the freedom to create a truly compelling album worthy of being named among the top albums of the year despite the associated names and their accomplishments, not simply because of them.

6. It’s Not Big It’s Large, Lyle Lovett
Lovett brings a wide array of stylistic influences, including an entertaining instrumental to kick the project off, together to create an artistic masterpiece to add to his catalog already lauded for its artistry.

5. That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson
What Johnson delivers on this under the radar release is a reflective, sometimes somber album, that no doubt derives inspiration from his semi-recent marital “freedom.” It can be harsh and hilarious, but wholly authentic. Try finding an album like this on a major label.

4. Everything is Fine, Josh Turner
A commendable offering from the torch bearer of traditional country music that manages to bridge the chasm between traditional country and contemporary country without sounding dated or awkward.

3. More Behind the Picture Than the Wall, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
That time when you were 14 / That bully blacked your eye / And we tracked him down / I made you fight until you made him cry.” That might be the most shocking and hilarious lyric I’ve heard all year. I love it! The album is chock full of great instrumental arrangements and classic interpretations.

2. Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love, Trisha Yearwood
Deserving of every praise heaped upon it, this album is the essence of what an artist should strive to achieve.

1. Easy Money, John Anderson
The uptempo songs don’t sound like they’ve been rehashed a million times over, but the slower ballads are where the album earns its keep. Couple John Anderson’s voice with the strong material from Easy Money and you have one of the best albums of the year.

Brody Vercher

10. Balls, Elizabeth Cook
Has perhaps some of the most fun songs of the year, but provides a balanced blend of brooding to remedy any feelings of accidental euphoria. Cook infuses a welcome twang back into her “extra helping” of country music.

9. Down the Road, Rodney Hayden
After two years writing for a publishing company in Nashville Hayden packed his bags and left for Texas to release a new album–on his own label, nonetheless. Swimming in western influence, Down The Road reinvigorates the romanticism of the dime novel Old West without coming off as the least bit dated.

8. It’s Not Big It’s Large, Lyle Lovett
Like a master luthier building his latest guitar, Lyle Lovett provided an artisan’s touch to his eclectic brand of music on It’s Not Big It’s Large and ended up with one of the most beautiful pieces of musical art this year.

7. Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love, Trisha Yearwood
In order to gain creative liberation, Trisha Yearwood jumped ship to a new label (Big Machine), and subsequently released one of, if not, her finest albums to date.

6. That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson
Complete with well-meaning sound effects and plenty of incandescent reflections, Jamey Johnson exquisitely captures the innate hypocritical intricacies of human nature. It’s utterly awesome. (Alliteration is my friend.)

5. From the Cradle to the Grave, Dale Watson
Within the span of fifteen minutes Watson is able to traverse from the subject of a father of a murdered child taking justice into his own hands to an ode to Johnny Knoxville and on to a song that deals with suicide, and he does so without ever coming off as disingenuous. Throw in the charm of strummed guitar strings minus the over-produced polish; a song from the perspective of a man facing Alabama’s infamous electric chair; some channeling of Watson’s inner Johnny Cash; and a train song and you’ve got the foundation for a solidly executed album from one of the genre’s most unwavering traditionalists. Dale Watson is a genius of melancholy.

4. Easy Money, John Anderson
I’m less than smitten with the funky country, but aside from George Jones is there a country singer alive who can even come close to breaking your heart like Anderson?

3. Wagonmaster, Porter Wagoner
Wagonmaster is laced with a haunted aura throughout–particularly apparent on the much ballyhooed “Committed to Parkview” and as Wagoner conjures up the ghost of Hank Williams to conclude with the “Men With Broken Hearts” recitation and “I Heard The Lonesome Whistle Blow”. It’s enough to make you feel entirely empty.

2. Everything is Fine, Josh Turner
Whether Turner is bellowing blistering honky-tonk numbers or crooning poetic ballads he sounds wholly within his element and with the possible exception of “Trailerhood”, he couldn’t have picked a better collection of songs to effectively highlight his strengths and carry forward the momentum set in motion by his early radio success.

1. Dollar Theater Movie, Drew Kennedy
Melodically addicting and lyrically introspective. Take just one listen to Dollar Theater Movie and you can tell the silver-tongued Kennedy is an acute observer of human interaction. He’s able take a solid, relatable theme or idea and meticulously craft an entire song around it without tripping over tired cliches–and he’s able to sustain that innovative glow for thirteen songs. There’s no skipper material here, folks. If you’re one of those listeners who champions fresh, intelligent song writing, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

Jim Malec

10. That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson
Jamey Johnson is the artist that Shooter Jennings wishes he could be. Johnson’s starkly traditional sound on That Lonesome Song was in striking contrast to his earlier Honky-Tonk Badonkadonking, and the syrupy-sweet sentimentality of his only radio hit, “The Dollar”. And hey, let’s face it–successfully working the phrase “eight ball” into a country song that had nothing to do with billiards is pretty damn impressive.

9. Family, LeAnn Rimes
The only reason this album isn’t ranked higher on my year-end list is because it was startlingly overproduced. Now, for the good news: Rimes’ songwriting–a newly discovered talent–is surprisingly fresh, edgy, and captivating. With Family, for the first time in her career Rimes delivered an album that reads as a true artistic statement. This little girl has grown up, folks.

8. Easy Money, John Anderson
Is there a better country singer than John Anderson? Anderson’s voice was made for the sole purpose of singing great country songs–and there were quite a few of those on Easy Money, one of the year’s finest albums, and one of the finest of this old chunk of coal’s career.

7. Everything is Fine, Josh Turner
The best sounding record of the year, Turner’s third studio release found him taking a number of risky creative steps, including a sparkling debut with R&B/Soul star Anthony Hamilton. Turner needed to prove that he was more than a one trick pony, and Everything is Fine did just that, showcasing improved interpretive technique and considerable maturation as a songwriter.

6. The Calling, Mary Chapin Carpenter
My, how times have changed. Once a superstar, Carpenter has been cast away from country radio, her music relegated to the late-night (or early Sunday morning) Americana shows. Why, you ask? Is it because she’s too artistic? Too liberal? Who can say. But one thing’s for sure–MCC ain’t happy about it, and this smart, edgy, sometimes angry (but often surreal) collection of singer/songwriter-tinged material is a fascinating internal dialog.

5. It Came From San Antonio (EP), Bruce Robison
Every time I think Bruce Robison has crafted his masterpiece, he proves me wrong again. “When It Rains” is the kind of poetic-but-rootsy narrative that only a few people on the planet can write. “Lifeline” and the rest of the EP’s material, ain’t too shabby, either.

4. The Ultimate Hits, Garth Brooks
Despite the fact that the four new songs on this hits package left a lot to be desired, and the fact that there are four notable omissions that could have (should have) replaced them–(“Somewhere Other Than The Night”, “She’s Every Woman”, “That Old Wind”, and “It’s Midnight Cinderella”)–the collection of songs contained in this 3-disc set may be, pound for pound, the most influential in country music history.

3. A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection, Alison Krauss
Only die-hard Krauss fans–die-hard meaning those who took the time track down all of Krauss’ soundtrack appearances, guest spots, and other various non-Union Stations gigs–had heard most of the “collected” material on this album prior to it’s April, 2007 release. So while it may not have been “new,” it was new to us. And boy was it good. A Hundred Miles Or More offered up a surprisingly varied set of material, and Krauss has never sounded better.

2. 5th Gear, Brad Paisley
Paisley was able to brilliantly tap in to the male psyche on 5th Gear, an album that captured all of the goofiness, ruggedness, and yes, sensitivity, that was being a “guy” in 2007. Oh, and the album featured a ton of kick-ass guitar work, too.

1. Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love, Trisha Yearwood
With Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love, Mrs. Garth Brooks reasserted herself as a country music powerhouse, delivering a string of captivating vocal performances over a core of wonderfully crafted, musically diverse songs. While most of her female contemporaries tried to find their niche market (and thus, their niche musical approach) in 2007, Yearwood’s 10th studio album shattered expectations by successfully drawing from many of the genre’s root influences. Western, Blues, Americana, this album brought them all together under the big tent of country music, and the result was a rich, textured album that will be remembered and listened to for years to come.

Matt C.

10. Last of the Breed, Last of the Breed
A collection of strong cover songs that never really attempts to move beyond the historical significance of three legends recording together.

9. Everything is Fine, Josh Turner
The finest album of Turner’s career and one of the best traditional country albums by a contemporary radio artist in recent memory. However, there are too many ups and downs for it to be considered truly great.

8. That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson
Johnson lost his major label deal in the ill-fated Sony-BMG merger but emerged on an indie label to produce a fine collection of songs that are traditional and renegade without really trying to be.

7. Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, Sunny Sweeney
Sweeney pays homage to her Texas heroes and the result is a good album. Nonetheless, if the quality of two of the album’s originals, the title track and “Slow Swinging Western Tunes,” is any indication, a Sunny Sweeney album would have been not good, but great.

6. Unglamarous, Lori McKenna
McKenna’s much-heralded debut album at times strayed from country to coffeehouse, but McKenna’s songwriting is remarkable enough to rescue her vocal deficiencies.

5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert’s sophomore effort is inferior to her debut, Kerosense, but there’s no reason to suspect the Lambert’s talent is on the decline. Three excellent cover songs on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend prove that she’s equal parts singer and songwriter.

4. Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love, Trisha Yearwood
Yearwood’s latest album features stylistic diversity and is highlighted by several breathtaking vocal performances, including “This is Me You’re Talking To” and “The Dreaming Fields.”

3. Rhinestoned, Pam Tillis
Perhaps the best and most cohesive album from one of the genre’s greatest album artists, it’s also one of her most traditional. Tillis navigates a superb collection of songs that are celebratory, mournful and reflective.

2. More Behind the Picture Than the Wall, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
When you take country songs, add bluegrass instrumentation and interpret them like Gospel hymns, the result is an album of great lyrical depth and timeless arrangements.

1. Wagonmaster, Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner’s final album is a remarkably vital survey of the music that made him famous. Most tracks on the Marty Stuart-produced collection could have become legendary recordings if given to Wagoner in 1958. It’s year’s most historically significant album and also the best.


Juli Thanki on WAMU's Bluegrass Country

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