Written by: Katelyn Hickman

Each year, the world of country music is captivated by incredible, meaningful albums.  The year of 2017 is no exception, as it specifically offered country music listeners a plethora of unforgettable country albums, singles, and moments.  Now that the year is coming to an end, it’s time to reflect on and acknowledge what should be considered the best country albums of 2017.  This specific list contains one truly soulful country talent, young female artists dabbling in some very personal and poetic songwriting, country groups that never fail to release hits and captivate fans, and a couple of male artists that continue to dominate the country sound.  2017 provided country music listeners with new songs and standout albums that will continue to thrive into the new year.

7. Wild Horse, RaeLynn

The finalist from the hit television show, The Voice, made the country music world turn its head in her direction this year with the release of her album, Wild Horse.  The wide-eyed 23-year-old Texas artist came into her own with this release, as she poured her heart into the album’s personal, heartfelt tracks.  Songs like “Love Triangle” and “Lonely Call” prove that RaeLynn has a voice that’s impossible to ignore, in addition to becoming a country force to be reckoned with.

Favorite Song: “Love Triangle”

6. Beginning of Things, Charlie WorshamCharlieWorsham

Charlie Worsham brings humor, light-heartedness, and fun with the release of his sophomore album, Beginning of Things.  A local music city favorite, it’s no surprise that this album lands on the list of 2017’s best country albums.  Worsham offers his listeners more intimate songs with this album, as he discovers his sound and who he is personally.  He is one artist that proves that vulnerability definitely pays off through his country, pop-rock sound and unique songwriting capabilities.

Favorite Song: “Call You Up”

5. Current Mood, Dustin Lynch

Current Mood offers a multitude of great records that could very well be considered underappreciated by some country music listeners.  Lynch took the time to work with incredible songwriters and producers to offer his fans an album that dives into the most recent years of his life.  Songs like “Seein’ Red” and “Party Song” provide upbeat and memorable melodies, while songs like “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” and “New Girl” offer a glimpse into Lynch’s softer side.  If you haven’t listened, you need to, and it will most likely be your go-to listening album as this year ends and the new one begins.

Favorite Song: “I’d Be Jealous Too”

4. Heart Break, Lady Antebellum

After a considerably long break, Lady Antebellum returned with their new album to shake the country music scene up a bit.  Heart Break could arguably be the best album the country group has released in years, proving that maybe some time off is beneficial in the hardworking world of the music industry.  While maintaining their love of harmonizing on slower tracks and ballads, this album specifically offers quite a few fun and upbeat songs like “You Look Good” and “This City” that make this album specifically stand out in the year 2017.

Favorite Song: “Heart Break”

3. The Breaker, Little Big Town

This list wouldn’t be complete without the groundbreaking album by arguably one of the best country music groups ever formed.  With their album, The Breaker, Little Big Town expanded their sound with southern rock and old country influenced records like “Night on Our Side” and “Rollin’.”  The beautiful blend of their voices and harmonies never fail to provide listeners with both soothing and intriguing songs that are bound to be set on repeat.

Favorite Song: “Better Man”

2. From A Room: Volume One, Chris Stapleton

Already considered by many to be a country music sensation, Stapleton did not disappoint with the follow-up to 2015’s Traveller.  A collection of beautifully blended songs exuding hints of old country, southern rock and R&B, the From a Room mini-albums offer listeners records that were personally penned by Stapleton over the last ten years.  No one in country music makes heartbreak quite as beautiful as Stapleton does with his songwriting capabilities and his rough, yet vulnerable vocal talent.

Favorite Song: “Broken Halos”

1. Unapologetically, Kelsea Ballerini

It’s safe to say that Kelsea Ballerini had one amazing year, as she celebrated the release of her sophomore album, Unapologetically, just weeks before marrying Australian country singer, Morgan Evans.  There isn’t one record on this album that couldn’t instantly climb the country charts.  Her songs are seemingly reminiscent of a young Taylor Swift’s, as Ballerini tackles issues of young love, heartbreak and adulthood.  Songs like “I Hate Love Songs” and “Music” prove that not only has Ballerini grown as a songwriter, but as an artist, as well.  It’s safe to say that she has proven herself worthy of Taylor Swift’s crown that she left behind in Nashville, and it’s quite possible that Ballerini could take that honor and run with it for many years to come.

Favorite Song: “In Between”

Artists to watch in 2018:

One of the most exciting things about country music is the acceptance and appreciation for new artists.  Each year, it seems several artists burst onto the scene out of nowhere and capture the ears and hearts of country music listeners.  Here are just a few artists to watch out for in the year 2018.

Logan Mize

If you love Chase Rice and Dylan Scott, you are bound to be drawn to the sound of Mize.  His current single, “Ain’t Always Pretty,” has acquired nearly 28 million Spotify streams.  He has also performed with Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

Morgan Wallen

Wallen’s single “Up Down,” featuring Florida Georgia Line, was the most added song to country radio the last week of November 2017.  The song has been included on Amazon Music’s Best Country Songs of 2017 and remains in iTunes’ Country A-list.  Additionally, he has also opened up for Granger Smith, Florida Georgia Line and Chris Lane.

Kalie Shorr

Shorr’s five-song EP, Slingshot, dropped in March 2017.  She has personally explained that the project sets out to showcase who she truly is as an artist.  She also notably appeared alongside Lindsay Ell and Kaleigh Bannen for a country rendition of Taylor Swift’s hit single, “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Morgan Evans

The Australian singer, also the new husband of Kelsea Ballerini, could potentially make 2018 his year.  Evans has been recently named CMA Global Artist of the Year, and his song “Kiss Somebody” is already becoming a hit within the United States.  If you enjoy the music of Keith Urban, Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett, be sure to check out his music sooner rather than later.

Carly Pearce

If you like Lee Ann Womack and Cam, and you haven’t listened to Carly Pearce, stop what you are doing and immediately open Apple Music or Spotify to see what you’ve been missing.  The young singer dropped out of high school to make it big in the country music world, and she is setting herself up to make 2018 the year of Pearce.  With an outstanding debut album and her hit song “Every Little Thing” in heavy radio rotation, Pearce has just dropped her second major single, “Hide the Wine.”