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Favorites of 2023

Here are the songs, albums, artists, live acts and more that were our favorites of 2023.





ALBUMS

The Wilder Blue - Super Natural












A true supergroup of musicians and songwriters in the mold of The Band or Eagles, this Zane Williams led outfit continues to write and produce some of the most arresting music on the roots music landscape.  Lush harmonies, bright melodies and superb instrumentation decorate each song.  A cameo by Luke Combs is just the cherry on top.



Stephen Wilson Jr - son of dad











Grief set to music takes on many forms.  Just as grief does itself.  Sometimes it’s quiet and somber, but at other points it’s loud and celebratory. On this album, Wilson takes quite the journey around all the phases of the human experience.  The project is straight from the heart and exudes an appreciation for the hard parts of life that make us all who we are.  


Turnpike Troubadours - A Cat in the Rain











Easily the most anticipated release of the year in Texas/Red Dirt circles, the guys from Tallequah returned loaded for bare.  The time off had not rusted the pen and Evan Felker and RC Edwards proved to have some more tricks up their sleeves.  New characters introduced, new sonics explored…same old Turnpike.


Jason Eady - Mississippi












An ambitious project that sought to soak up the Delta drenched vibes of Eady’s homeland and combine it with his Texas present and Nashville throwback sounds all added up to one of the most soulful entries in this year’s album release cycle.


Miles Miller - Solid Gold











Best known as Sturgill Simpson’s drummer, Miller steps to the mic on this effort that’s title matches its vibe.  It is pure, solid, country gold.  Steel guitars and sunshine.  Open roads and dirt sideways.  The music and lyrics combine to tell one heck of a story.


Gabe Lee - Drink the River











Gabe Lee continues to crank out formidable roots music in an underground fashion.  He’s one of the first names folks bring up when mentioning the best songwriters currently toiling down the highway.  Drink the River continues a streak of phenomenal albums that deserve more attention.


Lori McKenna - 1988











McKenna is perhaps the top songwriter in the game right now.  She speaks truths and tends to find slices of life that others don’t notice until she puts them in a song.  Her lyrics grab your heart and shake your soul.


John Baumann - Border Radio











Baumann has carved out a career on consistent songwriting rooted in his homeland.  Its ethos, its people, its geography, its vibe.  He puts it all on display here, musically and lyrically.  Baumann has proven he’s a cut above most others at the moment. He’s also staking claim to be in the conversations that include some of the best of all time.  


Charles Wesley Godwin - Family Ties











Singing about the rural way of life doesn’t need to always sound like it’s trying to sell you beer or F150’s. Godwin inhibits the American west and rural communities in a human, relatable way.  His tender lyrics belie the weathered voice he delivers them in.


Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Weathervanes












Isbell has been at the top of the game for a long time.  Some fans have been turned off by his politics or outspokenness and are missing out on some of his greatest music to date.  Weathervanes finds him channeling various characters and painting some of his most vivid lyrical pictures to this point in his career.


Brent Cobb - Southern Star












A funky, soul-stirring celebration of southern music that owes as much to Leon Russell as it does Merle Haggard.  Cobb’s effortless, easygoing vocal style evokes Don Williams and this entire album is the perfect complement to a sunny drive through the countryside.


Tanner Usrey - Crossing Lines












Usrey continues his rise with this latest release.  Usrey has developed a southern rock sound that is unique to him while embracing other elements that complement both his voice and his songs.

 

SONGS

Wyatt Flores - “West of Tulsa”

Flores was buzzing for the past couple of years, but truly broke out in 2023 on the back of this song that puts a new spin on the cheating angle of country songwriting.  The future is bright for Wyatt Flores and all the girls at last call.




JD Graham - “Pound of Rust”

JD Graham has lived through hell and lived to tell about it. He puts every lesson into each syllable in this moving testament.  A must listen.



Shaker Hymns - “Love in a Bottle”

Shaker Hymns have been a band on the bubble for a few years.  This song is a crowd pleasing bop.  Lead vocalist Nyles Robakiewicz is one of the most engaging and versatile vocalists in Texas Music and he puts all of his talents on display here.



Stephen Wilson Jr - “Year to be Young 1994”

From Wilson’s phenomenal album (son of dad), he takes a nostalgic trip through his adolescence and provides a vocal performance worthy of Springsteen.  



Wade Bowen - Lovin' Not Leavin'

Bowen remains the most consistent hit maker in Texas Music. His voice continues to gain new timbres and levels and he continues to write and find the most choice tunes. This one is another gem from one of the greats.




Turnpike Troubadours - “Brought Me”

Had several cuts from A Cat in the Rain on our most played of the year, and chose to put this song on this list because it seems to embody all the best parts of what make Turnpike great.



Vincent Neil Emerson - “I’ll Meet You in Montana”

A laid back gallop of a love song that turns new phrases on a bedrock subject.



Flatland Cavalry - “Last American Summer”

Cleto Cordero and company climbed another run this year with arena performances and new songs.  This one showcases the flip side of Isbell’s “Dreamsicle”, it’s a happy, warm nod to young summer love and long nights with your youthful transgressions.



Kat Hasty - “Why Do Good People Die”

Hasty cut through the bs a few years ago with her plaintive, direct way of expressing emotions. She lays it all bare on this track.  Being a mother, thinking she has life figured out and getting smacked upside the head by reality and grand questions we all have.  



Ellis Bullard - “Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution”

A thundering tele driven call to arms taking a play on the old AC/DC favorite “Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and repackaging it for a new purpose and era.




Jason Isbell - “King of Oklahoma”

In a canon that has songs like “Elephant”, “Dress Blues” and “Cover Me Up” just to name a few, it speaks volumes that many consider this Isbell’s best song ever.  Can’t say we disagree.



ARTISTS

Shane Smith and the Saints













The Saints have continued their Yellowstone-sparked world domination.  Down in Texas, we’ve always known they’re one of the best, the rest of the world continues to find out.


Kaitlin Butts













A brand. A force. A single artist unlike any others. Butts continues to break new ground and break down walls of expectations, stereotypes and possibilities in country music.


Flatland Cavalry










Flatland continue to get better and better.  They continue to find themselves on grander stages and in front of bigger audiences.  It’s become a whole production, but it’s all been built on solid songwriting.


John Baumann











From putting on one of the most entertaining shows on the road, to writing some of the best songs in Texas and beyond, to being chairman of the Bolo Appreciation Society, Baumann asserted himself in 2023.


Red Clay Strays









The most buzzed about band in Texas circles is actually from Alabama.  The boys exploded on the strength of a strong 2022 Mile 0 Fest and have never looked back.  They are on the verge of the big time.


Wyatt Flores











Flores has all the pieces in place to become a nationwide force.  The songs, the burgeoning fandom and most importantly the drive and talent.




LIVE ACTS


John Baumann

Who knew Baumann was such a showman?  Baumann turned singer/songwriter performances on their ear in 2023.  He embraced a lounge singer vibe and sprinkled in some Bob Wills showmanship to make his live experience the most unique in the scene.




Red Clay Strays

Brandon Coleman is a rock star.  In the most pure form of the term.  Sure, he looks and moves like Elvis in his prime, but Coleman has more tricks up his sleeve than that.  The rest of the band is just as entertaining.  Just take a gander at John Hall back there on those drums.



William Beckmann

He’s always had that voice, but he’s now got the best backing band of his career and is starting to make some bigger waves.  Go see him live to find out why.




Josh Weathers

The most naturally gifted musician and performer to be found anywhere.  As good as anyone you can think of…and better.  He can do any style and do it well.  His shows are full of joy.



Tanner Usrey

Major labels came calling due to Usrey’s knack for producing a live show that has tinges of Allman Brothers and Skynyrd with twin guitar ferocity and a passionate belting lead singer that makes everyone in the venue pay attention.



Charley Crockett

As put on display with his fantastic Live from the Ryman album and accompanying infomercial marketing rush, Crockett is an evocative performer who has created a style of music all his own.



Graycie York

Graycie York continues to grow into her talents.  She owns the rooms she’s in and commands the stage with a wit that is reminiscent of Dolly Parton.  At River Jam this year she opened up the full band portion in front of Shaker Hymns with just her guitar and captivated a rowdy Cheatham Street into silence.



Flatland Cavalry

From dueling fiddles to a reimagined live show production, the Flatland boys are doing it on a higher level than just about anyone else right now.



Garrett Bryan

A captivating voice and presence who demands your attention whether behind a guitar or piano…or sometimes with nothing but a mic in his hand.



Mike and the Moonpies

The Moonpies have transitioned from the tiny, dingy honky-tonk stages of south Austin to the entire country simply on the strength of their cache and hooks.  They know what they do and they do it better than anyone else. They dropped a fantastic snapshot of what they do this year with their Live from Devil’s Backbone release.



Bri Bagwell

Bagwell continues to deliver some of the most entertaining and invigorating live shows in Texas.  Her Banned are ace musicians and her personality shines through the banter and into each song.




DISCOVERIES

These acts were fresh to our ears in 2023.  Some we knew previously but they became more apparent to us in 2023.  Some are familiar faces from previous outfits doing new things (Tripiano, Exiles).  Others are poised for big things in 2024.  All are artists you need to know and pay attention to.


Ellis Bullard











Hank Weaver











Jessee Lee











Rio Tripiano









Shelby Stone










Taylor Hunnicut












Meredith Crawford









JD Graham











Julianna Rankin







West Texas Exiles


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