These are the albums, songs and artists that shaped our 2019. We call it favorites, because best is so subjective. These moved our needle, but perhaps you have other favorites…please drop them in the comments so people can discover them.
Austin Meade – Waves
Amped up follow-up to Meade’s debut LP, this collection picks up the Ragweed-esque torch and burns the joint to the ground. Centered around Meade’s solid songwriting, but driven by the best riffs of the year. This is a windows down, speed up jammer.
Chris Knight – Almost Daylight
It would be hard for Chris Knight to improve upon the canon of his songs from the past twenty years, but this record adds some new songs to his greatest hits setlist and is chock full of the Kentucky grit that has made him a legend.
Cody Jinks – The Wanting and After the Fire
Ambitious and prolific double album project from one of the biggest grossing Texas touring acts of the moment. Jinks has figured out a style that is all his own and continues to refine it to a stunningly perfect degree.
Dalton Domino – Songs From the Exile
Artists going through personal hell and demons then coming out on the other side of it stronger has been something we’ve seen with excellent results in recent memory (Isbell, Barham). But, it often goes the other way. DD’s latest set displays his journey warts and all, hell and back. He’s let the blurry times inform his clear-eyed present and we’re all the better for it.
Emily Scott Robinson – Traveling Mercies
The best songwriting always comes from a real place and it doesn’t get more real than the subject matter served up by Emily Scott Robinson. This is the type of album that stops you in your tracks and makes you press rewind and repeat over and over.
Hayes Carll – What It Is
One of the master songwriters returned to form with a record that mixed his unique knack for witty, underbelly storytelling with amped up rock melodies.
Ian Noe – Between the Country
An album of soaring contrasts between the dark subject matter with the rousing vocal performance from Noe. The songs here are about the darkness surrounding all of us in this life and Noe plies them with enough gentle wordsmithing care to make it transcendent.
Kelsey Waldon – White Noise/White Lines
Texas has a rich history of songwriting, but contemporarily Kentucky is peerless. Stapleton, Sturgill, Childers, Knight, and Noe among others have all dropped some serious material over the last ten years or more. However, this effort from Waldon is particularly charming, authentic and gripping.
Mike and the Moonpies – Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold
One of the most ambitious and grand projects ever attempted within the confines of Texas Music. The Moonpies snuck off to London’s famed Abbey Road studios to collaborate on a set of songs alongside the London Symphony Orchestra. The end result came out sort of like a studio version of Metallica’s S&M project, if it had been helmed by Rusty Wier and Dean Dillon. In other words…awesome.
Randy Rogers Band – Hellbent
The kings of the Teas Music mountain returned with an effort produced by Dave Cobb and featuring tracks written or co-written by the likes of Guy Clark, Adam Hood and Sean McConnell. It all showcases what a formidable machine the RRB can be when firing on all cylinders.
Sean McConnell – Secondhand Smoke
McConnell has always been a special talent with no ties to genre or geography to bind him. This album finds him exploring new themes both in content, melody and structure. At the heart of it all is one of the purest voices around who just happens to belong to one of the best songwriters around.
Seth James – Good Life
It had been a decade since James had released a solo project. During that time, he has been living the title track and that vibe is permeated throughout. This is a Texas funk-soul record that has as much in common with Doyle Bramhall II and Delbert McClinton as anything else.
Shane Smith & the Saints – Hail May A cinematic approach of an album from the artwork to the soaring sonics that completely captures the Saints live show on wax. The diverse mix of harmonies and folk elements take the Saints music back to the Celtic roots of all of it and it’s served up in a dish of Texas spices.
Tyler Childers – Country Squire
The most anticipated album of the year delivered on expectations and continues to unravel itself with each listen. Childers is the Americana maven of the moment and is carrying that weight smartly but letting the music do all the talking.
Ben Danaher – “We’ll Do the Business”
Erik Dylan – “The Good Life”
Hailey Whitters – “10 Year Town”
Hayes Carll – “Times Like These”
Ian Noe – “Letter to Madeline”
Kaitlin Butts – “White River”
Kathryn Legendre – “Sit Here and Cry”
Kelsey Waldon – “White Noise, White Lines”
Koe Wetzel – “Ragweed”
Mike and the Moonpies – “You Look Good in Neon”
Mike Ryan – “Dear Country Music”
Randy Rogers Band – “Hell Bent on a Heartache”
Susan Gibson – “The Hard Stuff”
Chris Jones and the Flycatchers
The Cole Trains
Giovannie and the Hired Guns
Joshua Ray Walker
Bri Bagwell – One of the ultimate road warriors, Bagwell is usually behind a microphone on any day that ends in -y.
Coby Wier – The son of the legendary Rusty Wier, keeps the legacy alive by delivering Austin infused groove rock in the vein of Ian Moore. Six strings of soul each show.
Dalton Domino – Domino is playing when and where he wants these days, in whatever configuration he finds suitable for the moment. Might be solo, might have a side player…might be at 11pm, or you just might find him playing a 7am breakfast show at Blaine’s.
Garrett Bryan – Bryan continues to impress, either with his full band scenarios or behind the keys or acoustic guitar solo.
Josh Ward – Ward dropped the latest in the line of Live at Billy Bob’s records for good reason. Few people packed more dancehalls and dancefloors this past year.
Josh Weathers – The ultimate showman. Joy and soul for days. Watching a Weathers show is an exuberant experience.
Koe Wetzel – A rock star with the band, ticket sales and attitude to back it up. Rowdy, fun, energetic and loud. Haters hate, Koe just keeps rocking out (and selling out).
Mike and the Moonpies – These Austin honky-tonkers paid their dues in dives and are now packing the more prestigious rooms of the circuit without losing any of their bonafides.
Read Southall – Young rock n’ roll, much like Austin Meade’s crew, the Southall crew is leaning on the blueprint created by Cody Canada and putting their own spin on it.
Shane Smith and the Saints – You know about the harmonies, but this year the outfit took the entire show next level. The scope, sound and presentation was epic each night out. Their entire rig caught on fire and they still played a gig that night. That’s special.
Shinyribs – Ain’t no party like a Shinyribs party because a Shinyribs party don’t stop. The band keeps getting larger and the times keep getting better.
Whiskey Myers – Wrigley Field. Rolling Stones.
ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
Bonnie Bishop – Soul sister full of strength and grace belted out the jams far and wide while dropping a new album. Her performances and interactions underscored that she’s usually being more real than just about anyone else you can find.
Cody Jinks – Released a double album and continued to set attendance records at venues near and far.
Dalton Domino – Redefined what success looks like on his own terms. Rebounded from hell and is carving a path that future generations of songwriters will look back on in a very reverential way. Due to both the quality of the songs and the manner in which they were delivered.
Mike and the Moonpies – Recorded at Abbey Road and then set the highway on fire for 12 more months.
Parker McCollum – Signed a major label deal and is energizing a completely new generation of Texas Music fans.
Shane Smith and the Saints – Reached the next rung of the proverbial ladder and fulfilled the promise so many of us saw years ago.
Tyler Childers – Building on the buzz from his last couple years, Childers went next level in 2019 and became one of the leading voices of Americana and country music.
Wade Bowen – Coming off one of the hardest years any major artist in this scene has ever experienced with a lost voice that threatened his career and the death of a crew member; Bowen did what he always does…turn to the music. He played more shows, put out a Christmas record and hosted the largest charity event of the year once again. All while keeping the bus rolling down the highway with one of the best live bands around.