Best Country Albums of 2013: Midway Report


A tentative ranking of Country California’s best country albums of January through June 2013, ordered roughly from top to bottom but not numbered because I am a quivering pool of indecision.

Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose


Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park


Jason Isbell – Southeastern


Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting the War


Pistol Annies – Annie Up


Chris Wall – El Western Motel


Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis – Cheater’s Game


The Steeldrivers – Hammer Down


LeAnn Rimes – Spitfire


John Moreland – In the Throes


Holly Williams – The Highway


Alan Jackson – Precious Memories, Volume II


Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon


The Dallas Moore Band – Blessed Be the Bad Ones


Chris King – 1983

chris king

Besides the inevitable shifting around of existing entries, there will be many new albums contending for list space in the second half of 2013. A few major Best of 2013 contenders up ahead:

  • Brandy Clark and Chris Stapleton albums, whenever they’re officially out
  • Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You (July 23)
  • Vince Gill & Paul Franklin – Bakersfield (July 30)
  • Mike Stinson – Hell and Half of Georgia (July 30)
  • Robbie Fulks – Gone Away Backward (August 27)
  • Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay – Before the World Was Made (September)
  • Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien – Memories & Moments (September 17)
  • Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark (October 29)


  1. says

    Great choices. Really happy to see Chris King on the list and glad he’s gotten so much love for this album.

    Could AJ make the list twice with his upcoming bluegrass album?

    I’m also looking forward to hearing new music from Will Hoge and Lincoln Durham.

    Hoge – Never Give In on October 15
    Durham – Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous on October 22

  2. says

    I’ll have to check some of these out. I do love the Monroe, Musgraves, Rimes, Harris/Crowell, Willis/Robison, Williams, Pistol Annies, and SteelDrivers albums. I also enjoy the Mavericks, Patty Griffin, and Kim Richie albums. I love Presious Memories and like second Precious Memories album, but I don’t know if it’ll make it on my final year list. I don’t think it’s as good as the first one for some reason.

  3. says

    Our tastes are eerily similar. 9 of my 15 top albums match yours. (10 if you consider I included the magical Brandy Clark album early.) Must be something in the Northern California water that imparts good taste…

  4. TX Music Jim says

    I’m thrilled to see Chris Wall’s El WEstern Motel on the list. It is a wonderful project. Chris is criminally over looked and underrated.

  5. Brad says

    Not sure how Sturgill Simpson has been left off this list. One of the best country albums in the last 10 years in my opinion.

  6. says

    Thank you for taking the time to make this list, C.M. I’m trying very hard to catch up on my 2013 albums so that I can hopefully have a better and more well-rounded Best Of list when that time comes. I’m enjoying going through the list and checking out the albums that I haven’t already heard.

    Most of the albums on my working list are on here. Right now the only one I could think to add is the new Mavericks set.

  7. says

    Wonderful list, CM. Five of these are on my personal list, as well. I’m going to go ahead and add the Vince Gill/Paul Franklin album as one of the top releases this year – I’m not usually excited about covers albums but the sense of imagination they put into selecting the Buck and Merle tracks they recorded elevates the project to a higher level. I appreciate how they aren’t just covering known hits. The musicianship, as well as Vince’s vocals, are top notch. It likely won’t be my favorite release this year (why couldn’t they go a step further and evoke the style through newly written tracks?) but it’s darn good.

    Looks like I need to check out the Jason Isbell album. Between it’s placement on many of these mid-year lists and that lengthy feature in the NY Times magazine, do I really need to be hit upside the head to get the message?

  8. Renegade in Louisville says

    Glad to see that Dallas Moore is FINALLY getting some reconition that they deserve, If you haven’t had a chance yet to hear them in person, then either order his newest CD “Blessed be the Bad Ones”, or go to his website and check out one of the hottest groups around, you won’t regret it, I promise !!

  9. ann knouse says

    the dallas moore band is a awesome outlaw country band listen to there music you wont be disappointed or better yet check out one of there shows one of my favorite bands from ohio

  10. says

    Thanks for this list, as always. Some of them I have already been enjoying lately. And most of them are available on my Premium Spotify account for sampling.

    Anyone found anything new besides the ones mentioned here?

    “What are you Listening to?” by Stapleton ought to be a hit single on the radio. Did it get any play?


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