Since previously writing an article about how Texas country music died in 2011, I have received plenty of hate from the Texas country music community. I can’t really blame them either. I chose to attack the very music culture they hold so dear to their hearts.
The truth is however, I was once one of them. I grew up on Texas country music and it was a major part of my life. The difference is that I chose to acknowledge the rapid decline in the music quality after a certain point. Although Eli Young Band selling out to the Nashville sound we were once so admittedly against, I accept that my opinion was based heavily on nostalgia. While I still hold my belief firm, I thought it was only fair that I offer some of the music I listen to instead.
In no particular order, I have picked the 10 best alternative country albums that I enjoy. Obviously, the artists I am featuring have much newer albums and each musician or band still makes great music. I chose these albums because I believe it was their best work to date. So, I hope you enjoy.
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Sturgill’s second album in 2014, Metamodern Sounds, put him on the map. Mixing traditional country music with psychedelic rock, Sturgill delivered an authentic yet nostalgic sound country music fans had been craving for years. Not to mention, his many anti-Nashville antics has earned him the unspoken title of alternative country king.
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
On his third and latest solo album from 2015, Something More Than Free, Isbell once again outdid himself. Building off his outstanding career with the Drive-By Truckers and the 400 Unit, Isbell showed fans that he is not only a great vocalist but an amazing song writer.
Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
An alternative country band that has paved the way since the ‘90s, the Drive-By Truckers opened the door for many country fans to experience an alternative sound. Decoration Day from 2003 was the first experience to a great alternative country album for many millennials.
Ryan Bingham – Mescalito
Reminiscent of sounds from Bob Dylan and Steve Earle, Bingham shocked the country music world with his 2007 debut album, Mescalito. Bingham has gone on to have an extremely successful career and even created the theme song for the film Crazy Heart with his song The Weary Kind.
Tyler Childers – Purgatory
From yet another protégé within the Kentucky country music scene, Childers took the alternative country world by storm with his latest album from 2017, Purgatory. Through his Kentucky connections, Childers was able to meet Sturgill Simpson who was so impressed, decided to produce the album.
Colter Wall – Imaginary Appalachia
A young Canadian with a passion for Appalachian music, Wall shocked the world with his deep, gritty sound in his 2015 debut album, Imaginary Appalachia. Country legend, Steve Earle went as far as to say,
“Colter Wall is bar none the best young singer/songwriter I’ve seen in 20 years.”
Brent Cobb – Shine On Rainy Day
In 2016, Georgia native Brent Cobb made a name for himself with his album, Shine On Rainy Day. Cousin of producer Dave Cobb has worked with similar sounding artists such as Shooter Jennings and Sturgill Simpson. Although he relocated to Nashville with his friend Luke Bryan, Cobb maintains his alternative country sound.
American Aquarium – Small Town Hymns
North Carolina natives, American Aquarium derive their sound from legendary alternative country bands like Whiskeytown and the Drive-By Truckers. Although their 2010 album, Small Town Hymns may be my personal favorite, American Aquarium didn’t receive much notoriety until Jason Isbell decided to produce their successful 2012 album, Burn.Flicker.Die.
Shane Smith & the Saints – Geronimo
An Austin based band, Shane Smith & the Saints haven been slowly making a name for themselves throughout the South and Midwest. In 2015, the band released their third album, Geronimo, which delivered a classic fiddle-based country sound that mixed perfectly with Shane’s smooth East Texas accent.
Turnpike Troubadours – Diamonds & Gasoline
This Oklahoma based band quickly rose to popularity within the alternative country music scene with their 2010 album, Diamonds & Gasoline. By mixing roots rock, country, blues, Cajun and red dirt, Turnpike Troubadours exposed a wide demographic to the modern alternative to classic country music.
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