The Shotgun Seat’s Best Albums of 2017

It’s that time of year again, when we look back on our favorite music of 2017! We’ve gathered our thoughts on our top albums of the year, with commentary from six of our Shotgun Seat Team members: Annie Dineen, Jackie Ebnet, Markus Meyer, Colin Buchinski, Lydia Simonetti, and Natalie Schumann. Be sure to check out our Best Singles of 2017, posted earlier today.

Luke Combs – This One’s For You

Individual Rankings: #9 – Jackie; #12 – Annie; #14 – Lydia

Luke Combs burst onto the country music charts with “Hurricane” and followed with some other notable releases such as “When It Rains It Pours” and “One Number Away.” His debut solo album This One’s For You proves that he’s got the chops to stand out in a genre already saturated with male artists. With a gritty, powerful voice and his authentic twang, his music is highly relatable. Combs proves he’s an impressive songwriter as well, having co-written every track on the album. The album is well rounded covering topics from love, regret, relief, and gratitude. – Lydia Simonetti


Erin Enderlin – Whiskeytown Crier

Individual Rankings: #1 – Annie; #13 – Colin

Erin Enderlin (whose writing accolades, by the way, include “Last Call” and “Monday Morning Church,”) released an incredible collection of songs this year, replete with murder ballads, story songs, and rich presentations of emotional moments. Whiskeytown Crier is expertly done from intro to close, with tasty treats like vocal accompaniment from Randy Houser and Chris Stapleton and production by Jamey Johnson along the way. – Annie Dineen


Old Dominion – Happy Endings

Individual Rankings: #7 – Jackie; #8 – Lydia; #18 – Colin

Old Dominion’s second studio album is appropriately named, as the entire record is full of grooves that you can’t help singing and smiling along with. Album standouts include “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart” (Jesse Frasure, Matt Ramsey, Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi) which hit number one on the country airplay charts, “New York at Night” (Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi, Jordan Schmidt) featuring Brad Tursi on lead vocals, and the infectious “Be With Me” (Matt Ramsey, Brad Tursi, Ross Copperman) complete with a heartwarming, all-female music video. If you’re looking for an album of infectious, well-written songs that will have you hitting replay for awhile, this album is it! – Jackie Ebnet


Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

Individual Rankings: #6 – Natalie; #9 – Annie; #18 – Jackie

Lukas Nelson & co.’s self-titled full-length is packed to the brim with soul and spirit. Nelson’s bona-fide vocals are flanked by attention-grabbing guitar, horns, and percussion, and the lyrics are authentic throughout. Even on slower, subtler numbers, Nelson’s passion for music translates easily. Notable tracks include “Find Yourself,” which features Lady Gaga on background vocals, the groovy, beachy “Carolina,” and the heart-wrenching “Forget About Georgia.” It’s a genre-bending LP made for music lovers and an on-point, unique offering from an artist who grew up surrounded by legends. – Natalie Schumann


Lauren Alaina – Road Less Traveled

Individual Rankings: #3 – Jackie; #6 – Colin

Lauren Alaina’s sophomore album features brilliant songwriting that is both personal and reflective. She shows a lot of confidence and growth here, and she has come a long way since her days on American Idol. The album’s lead single and title track scored Alaina her first (well-deserved) number one hit, and other notable tracks include the second single “Doin’ Fine” and the standout track “Same Day Different Bottle.” – Colin Buchinski


Charlie Worsham – The Beginning of Things

Individual Rankings: #6 – Jackie; #7 – Lydia; #11 – Annie

Charlie Worsham’s sophomore album, The Beginning of Things is full of quality songwriting along with some comedic endeavors. The intro song “Pants,” “Lawn Chair Don’t Care” and live show favorite “Birthday Suit” showcase Worsham’s humorous side while other standouts “Cut Your Groove,” “Call You Up,” and “Old Time’s Sake” offer life lessons and advice. The album also features a few odes to Worsham’s home state of Mississippi with the proud “Southern By The Grace of God” and the highly relatable homeward-bound story that unfolds in “I-55.”  With The Beginning of Things, Charlie Worsham shares with listeners the things that make him who he is and makes it an absolute pleasure to get to know him. – JE


Jillian Jacqueline – Side A

Individual Rankings: #4 – Annie, Colin; #11 – Lydia

2018 is going to be a fun year for Jillian Jacqueline. This year, she absolutely crushed it with Side A, which featured her top notch vocals over a set of incredibly compelling songs. One of Jacqueline’s strengths as an artist (aside from looking incredibly cool) is that her songs are fresh and nuanced, offering interesting perspectives on things like breakups, relationship dynamics, or life’s challenges. Jacqueline has something to say, and is a pleasure to listen to on Side A as she says it. – AD


Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Volume 2

Individual Rankings: #5 – Markus; #6 – Annie; #12 – Colin; #16 – Lydia

What Chris Stapleton demonstrates with the second volume of his From A Room series is consistency. At this point, Stapleton has perfected his craft of smart, mature, and well-sung music rooted in country, but slightly influenced by outside sources. It makes a wholly enjoyable project, and one that continues to showcase Stapleton as deserving of the accolades and success that are continually bestowed upon him. – Markus Meyer

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – That Nashville Sound

Individual Rankings: #1 – Markus; #2 – Natalie; #10 – Colin; #12 – Jackie

What Jason Isbell has given us this year is arguably his best work to-date, which high praise for someone with masterpieces such as Something More Than Free and Southeastern under his belt. That Nashville Sound is a tight, cohesive project that covers a wide range of topics with intricacy, and with depth. It’s equal parts anthemic, and detailed storytelling. His vocal is expressive, his performances convincing and the production blends edge with tenderness. It’s a record that’s bold, sends a message, and highlights the best aspects of Isbell’s artistry at their highest level. A truly outstanding piece of music that, at least in my mind, was truly without peer in 2017. – MM


The Cadillac Three – Legacy

Individual Rankings: #2 – Jackie; #3 – Lydia; #8 – Annie; #9 – Natalie

If you’re wondering exactly who Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray and Neil Mason are, one listen of Legacy will give you a pretty solid idea. The album is lyric after lyric about where they come from, who they are, and the legacy they hope to leave behind. With their signature gritty vocals and the little bit of lap steel their known for, the country fuzz rockers give us the anthemic stand out “American Slang,” opening rocker “Cadillacin’,” and smoldering “Love Me Like Liquor” which features songwriter extraordinaire Lori McKenna on vocals.  For those who like a little rock in their country and are fans of superb songwriting, Legacy is a must listen. – JE


Kip Moore – Slowheart

Individual Rankings: #1 – Lydia; #5 – Jackie; #8 – Colin; #10 – Markus

Kip Moore released his third studio album Slowheart and with it showed his fan base a more grounded artist. He found radio success with the  debut single off the project, “More Girls Like You,” as it reached number 1 on Mediabase charts, something that has eluded Moore since his debut album. For the first time, Moore cut two outside tracks (“Plead the Fifth” and “The Bull”), a change from his prior albums in which he had a hand in writing each and every track.

Early in 2017 Moore took a few months away from his nearly constant writing and touring schedule and the result was the highly impressive Slowheart. The tracks on the album present a more content, confident and relaxed Moore while staying true to his signature “I’m doing it my way” character.   Standout tracks on the well-rounded project include the highly autobiographical “Guitar Man,” the resilient “The Bull,” and the Motown-infused “Try Again” and “Good Thing.” – LS


Midland – On the Rocks

Individual Rankings: #1 – Colin; #3 – Markus; #4 – Jackie; #5 – Natalie; #15 – Lydia

Mark Wystrach and the boys from Midland have teamed up with producer Shane McAnally to create a traditional-leaning sound that would fit right in on 1990’s country radio. The opening track “Lonely For You Only” instantly blasts you to the past with a heavenly steel guitar riff. (Fans of traditional country, rejoice!) Other great tracks include the catchy, soulful “Drinkin’ Problem,” the fun, cheeky and classically country “Make A Little” and you can’t forget “Burn Out,” which features great harmonies. – CB


Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1

Individual Rankings: #2 – Markus; #3 – Natalie; #5 – Annie; #11 – Colin, Jackie; #16 – Lydia

Part one of Stapleton’s 2017 series, recorded with Dave Cobb in the legendary RCA Studio A, was a statement-making follow-up to his 2015 breakout album, Traveller. On Volume 1, Stapleton further asserts his songwriting prowess, and the project finds his wife Morgane taking a more prominent role with her stunning harmonies and background vocals (give the people what they want!). The stunning “Either Way,” originally recorded by Lee Ann Womack, is even more arresting in Stapleton’s piercing, gritty vocal, while “Second One to Know” and “Them Stems” infuse the project with a little more rock n’ roll to showcase his versatility. – NS


Brett Young – Brett Young

Individual Rankings: #2 – Annie, Colin; #4 – Natalie; #7 – Markus; #9 – Lydia

As if accolades like being the first country artist to reach Platinum status with a song released in 2017 weren’t enough (for “In Case You Didn’t Know”), nominations like CMA New Artist of the Year solidify it. Brett Young’s rise this year has been meteoric, centered in the strength of his self-titled debut albumThe introductory project is catchy, interesting, romantic, and expressive, and lacks any skip-over songs, for a release that’s deservingly one of the best and most recognized of the year. – AD


Little Big Town – The Breaker

Individual Rankings: #4 – Markus; #5 – Lydia, Colin; #7 – Annie, Natalie; #17 – Jackie

The quartet released their highly-anticipated eighth studio album The Breaker in early 2017, and it certainly did not disappoint. The Breaker includes elements of traditional country, soul, bluegrass, funk in addition to their signature harmonies. The album’s lead single “Better Man,” written by Taylor Swift, was the band’s fastest-rising radio single. The project tackles everything from gut-wrenching heartbreak to acceptance, positivity and nostalgia.  The band as a whole has unmatched harmonies displayed throughout the album, and the members share lead vocal responsibilities, which adds a beautiful dynamic to the collection. – LS


This list was compiled by The Shotgun Seat team and organized by Markus Meyer.