Campfire Tales: Albums of the year 2015
We’ve reviewed a lot of records this year, some great, most good, a few not so. Missing out due to editorial issues (i.e. we didn't review them for one reason or another) are the really rather great Storyteller and Mr Misunderstood, as well Jana Kramer’s latest. But who cares about them. Onwards with the ones that matter: our Campfire Tales albums of the year; and they're a set of beauties. From Glaswegian bluegrass to country rock from the American heartland, by way of loves lost and found and the great American highways, these are the sixteen records that soundtracked our year.
Tennessee Love Song by Sarah Gayle Meech
Fiddle, steel guitar riffing, and tough times are the order of the day, but they're delivered with verve by Meech and really will knock your socks off. We caught up with Sarah Gayle for five minutes earlier this year. Oh, and 'Watermelon and Root Beer' will be swirling round your head for weeks.
Keep Right Away by Daniel Meade
A proper old school, no fuss record covering traditional country and bluegrass. And he's from Glasgow. The best pure country record of the year? Definitely.
Here We Go Again by Jess & the Bandits
A big voice, a set of big choruses, and big melodies dominate the best British country album by a band in 2015 (sorry The Shires). Jessica Clemmons finally found a home for her stunning vocal range, the Bandits are a top notch supporting cast.
Traveller by Chris Stapleton
Wow. That's pretty much all there is to say. If you've not already got Stapleton's debut then get the hell on with buying it. It delivers hearty American music in spades, with style, and tonnes of heart.
The Blade by Ashley Monroe
Another really tremendous record from the heart of Nashville. Also another record that wins despite a lack of mainstream (i.e. country radio) support in the US. The title track is one of the most heartwrenching songs of the 2015, though every song here is a winner. Monroe cements her position as one of country's best songwriters.
Nothing But The Silence by Striking Matches
Every once in a while you get something wrong, and we underscored this debut from Nashville duo Justin and Sarah. On record they're a whirl of perfectly written melodies with a vocal sparring that works perfectly. Live though they're on another level. Feverish guitar riffing and near maniacal guitar battles are order of the day. Enthralling.
Let It Lie by The Bros. Landreth
Big riffing blues rock is at the core of this debut record from Canadians The Bros. Landreth. With songs written by their father, 'I Am The Fool', and the rest written by themselves the band contain two brothers and a core of heartfelt roots rock.
Wild Ones by Kip Moore
All the comparisons have been made (Springsteen, 80's rock, etc) but what makes Moore unique in 2015 is his commitment to playing the music that he wants, and not really caring that much about being different. 'I'm To Blame', 'That Was Us' and 'That's Alright With Me' all show a man confident in himself and his path in life. Such a refreshing, unfiltered approach.
Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell
We're not picking an album of the year here but Isbell has certainly delivered one. If you thought it couldn't get any better than Southeastern then boy you were wrong. Moving away from his more personal stories Something More Than Free is littered with characters and places so vividly drawn you'll get to know them better than your best friend, in just four minutes. And 'Children Of Children' is astonishing.
American Middle Class by Angaleena Presley
Released in January in the UK Presley's debut is another that covers the stories and lives of its characters across twelve tracks. It differs though by dealing in the minutiae of small town life, 'Grocery Store', 'Drunk', and 'Knocked Up' all detail the finer points of their characters story.
Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves
Building on the cleverness of her debut, as well as on the enormous goodwill that she garnered for her plain speaking lyrics, Musgraves delivered on that most difficult of things: a second album. Moving from autobiographical on 'Dimestore Cowgirl' to the sweetest of sweet on 'Late To The Party' and bittersweet of 'Family Is Family', the rhinestone wearer writes delightfully relateable songs and is everything that can be great about modern country music.
Monterey by Milk Carton Kids
Sparse. Haunting. A little like Simon and Garfunkel. All these things are true but don't convey the simplistic beauty of this record. It's an elegant and classy listen.
Southern Gravity by Kristian Bush
If an album with a sunnier disposition existed in 2015 then it didn't cross our path. Whether it's the title track eulogising over the pull of home, the laid back chilling on 'Flip Flops', or the life affirming 'Trailer Hitch', the blokey half of Sugarland nails it.
All These Dreams by Andrew Combs
Getting strong review and a main stage slot at C2C Festival in 2016 made 2015 some year for the Nashville native. His smoky vocals enhanced the authentic feel of songs like 'Month Of Bad Habits' and the dark story of 'Pearl'. Smooth and hard hitting at the same time, that's a tough challenge but Combs manages it with aplomb.
Medicine by Drew Holcomb & the Neighbours
After a solid if unspectacular record in 2013 with Good Light there wasn't a huge amount of expectation on its follow-up. Even more stunning then that Medicine followed. Holcombe has a honey smooth voice but it's the melodies and harmonies that really make this shine.
The Firewatcher's Daughter by Brandi Carlile
'The Eye' was some way to announce the arrival of Carlile's fifth studio album, its trio of harmonies giving it a depth and soundscape unmatched anywhere else. Then there's the indie rock of 'Mainstream Kid' and painful, hopeful closer, a cover of the Avett Brothers' 'Murder In The City'. A beautiful and heartfelt record.
And as a bonus, here's our playlist of the best tracks of 2015. Give us a shout below if you think we're missed something.