2012 was a great year for country music. Many artists released new albums this year, though many of the bigger names in the genre were still riding the highs of 2011 albums. Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Justin Moore and Luke Bryan are just some of the artists who did NOT release new albums this year.
The good side of this is that it left country music wide open for new, up and coming artists to take the spotlight. We reviewed some of these artists album this year, though not nearly as many as we would have liked. Some of them are featured in this countdown, while others just did not make the cut.
So without further adieu, the Top 12 Country Albums of 2012:
12. Rachel Farley - The Truth EP - Released in the early part of the year, this young singer did not nearly get the chance to shine as her EP deserved. She did, however, set herself up for success in 2013, opening for Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. At only 17, this artist is well on her way to a big national debut.
11. Chris Lane Band - Let's Ride - Chris Lane is a small time artist from North Carolina, but the artist already fits in well alongside artists such as Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. "Let's Ride" features a great combination of rocking country and smooth love ballads.
10. Colt Ford - Declaration of Independence - I have not been shy about my love of the unique sound of Colt Ford in the past. His August release, Declaration of Independence, returned Ford to a sound that made his debut album popular, letting country stars sing while Colt sticks to the rapping. Guest singers include Jason Aldean, Kix Brooks (Of Brook & Dunn) and Corey Smith. The lead single, "Back", featuring Jake Owen, helped Ford score his first #1 Country Album.
9. Toby Keith - Hope On The Rocks - Continuing with the pattern set by 2011's "Clancy's Tavern", Toby Keith kept strong his return to more traditional sounding country music. Gone are the partying days of old, Keith's album features songs that are more reflective in nature. The title track "Hope On The Rocks" is one of the strongest songs TK has released in recent memory.
8. Love & Theft - Self Titled Album - The lead single "Angel Eyes" took country music by storm earlier this year, securing the duo's place in country music. While not a new artist, L&T is likely new to most country listeners. Look for their star to rise even more in 2013.
7. Brian Davis Band - Under the Influence - Another locally known artist deserving of a much bigger stage. BDB's "Under the Influence" rocking country sound will be familiarly comfortable among those who listen to the more modern outlaw side of the genre. Fittingly, Brian Davis Band opened for Brantley Gilbert on his first headlining tour in the second half of the year.
6. Lee Brice - Hard 2 Love - It was a big year for Brice. His sophomore album was met with critical acclaim. The first two singles "A Woman Like You" and "Hard To Love" enjoyed long play on the radio. His third single, "I Drive Your Truck", changes from the love based pace that he is known for, but is still quickly rising up the charts.
5. Thomas Rhett - Self Titled EP - One of my favorite albums of the year, this EP is only so low on the chart because of the shortened length. The son of Rhett Akins, Thomas is enjoying success behind "Something To Do With My Hands", "Beer With Jesus" and opening for Toby Keith this previous Summer.
4. Florida Georgia Line - Here's To The Good Times - FGL's debut album benefited from having an EP released earlier this year, one of our highest rated releases of the year. The lead single, the summer tune, "Cruise", spent multiple weeks on top of the chart, and is still enjoying radio success in the cold months. Look for this duo on the Luke Bryan's "Dirt Road Diaries" tour in 2013.
3. Chase Rice - Dirt Road Communion - A cowriter on the aforementioned "Cruise", Rice did not get much, if any, radio play on his own. Nonetheless, "Dirt Road Communion" remains one of the top albums of the year, and is still a regular in my playlist, despite being released in March.
2. Jason Aldean - Night Train - After having giant years in 2010 and 2011, Aldean continued his success in 2012. His fifth album, "Night Train" features a diverse variety of songs, from the lead single "Take A Little Ride", to the risky "1994" (penned by Thomas Rhett) to the risque "Black Tears" (written by Florida Georgia Line). It is hard to find any song on Night Train that one can classify as a bad song.
1. Kip Moore - Up All Night - Newcomer Kip Moore took radio by storm with the catchy "Somethin' Bout A Truck". His soft, yet gruff, voice combined with a more traditional country sound makes his debut album the most played album on my playlist. Much like Aldean's "Night Train" it is hard to find fault with any of the songs on the album. "Beer Money", the second single from the album, is enjoying commercial success that is sure to make Moore a common sound on the radio in 2013.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Lewis, former lead singer of Staind, released his debut full-length country album, "The Road" late this year. Also of note, after a long break and some time as solo artists, Big and Rich returned together to release "Hillbilly Jedi".
So there it is. The top 12 albums in country music in 2012. We are looking forward to sharing our thoughts on 2013 albums, including new ones from Tim McGraw, Gary Allan, Darius Rucker, Randy Houser, Brad Paisley, Band Perry and George Strait.
Until then, Happy New Year and we look forward to seeing you off the dirt road.