The Shotgun Seat’s Top 15 Albums of 2014

Wade Bowen
Wade Bowen

Individual Rankings: #7 – Annie

The Texas artist partnered back up with some of our favorite Nashville writers for his eponymous release, and the result is a totally cohesive album that just feels good. It’s a strong next step for Bowen, and ventures between uptempo tracks like “When I Woke Up Today” and true-to-title “Sweet Leona” with unified grace. – Annie Dineen


Jason Aldean
Old Boots, New Dirt
Individual Rankings: #9 – Markus; #12 – Annie; #14 – Chris

Old Boots, New Dirt is just another solid Jason Aldean album. It has its well executed rockers like “Just Gettin’ Started”, its tender ballads like “Two Night Town”, and its refreshing mid-tempos like the title track, “Old Boots, New Dirt”. It’s radio friendly without straying too far from what made him successful in the first place. Good stuff. – Markus Meyer

(Check out: Jason Aldean Shines Once Again On ‘Old Boots, New Dirt’


Kenny Chesney
The Big Revival

Individual Rankings: #8 – Chris; #10 – Laura

Kenny Chesney never fails to “go big or go home” and this album is nothing different. “The Big Revival” dabbles in all the usual country topics like drinking, the beach, and driving (but never all at once). The album includes Chesney’s number one hit “American Kids” which became his 22nd number one song to date. – Chris Rollins

 (Check out: First Cut: Hear The Original Demo of Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids”)


Sturgill Simpson
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Individual Rankings: #6 – Annie

Can we just unofficially call 2014 the year of the Sturgill? Simpson brings classic country to new, weird, and compelling levels, with vibes that recall Johnny Cash or even The Beatles and an echoed distortion that’s all his own. While many are putting a modern spin on a classic sound, Simpson absolutely nails diverging in a unique way (and who doesn’t love a reptile aliens reference?) – AD

(Check out: Sturgill Simpson Stuns With Bizarre “Turtles All The Way Down”)


Caitlyn Smith
Everything To You

Individual Rankings: #3 – Chris

Caitlyn Smith is a well-known songwriter in the Nashville community, but made her solo debut this year with “Everything To You,” a cohesive statement of seven songs which prove Smith can sing (and write) literally anything. Just listen to the track “Novocaine” and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. – CR

(Check out: Caitlyn Smith Confirms She Can Do Anything on “Everything To You” and Caitlyn Smith Discusses Girl Songs, Meghan Trainor, and Loving to Cook)


Tim McGraw
Sundown Heaven Town
Individual Rankings: #4 – Markus; #12 – Laura; #13 – Annie

The unfortunate “Lookin’ for That Girl” is clearly the exception on Sundown Heaven Town, and for that I give thanks. Everything else that makes up the latest album from Tim McGraw is made up of the same formula that made him powerhouse to begin with. Songs like “Shotgun Rider” and the excellent “Overrated” are firmly planted within his comfort zone, while a song like “Still On The Line” is a bit more demanding (and the results are spectacular.) A return to form for an artist who I once feared had turned his back on his roots. – MM


Brantley Gilbert
Just As I Am
Individual Rankings: #3 – Markus; #9 – Chris

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Brantley Gilbert’s sophomore major label project. After all, the album’s first two singles were 100% bro-country tunes. However, it appears those were the two worst songs on the disc. The remainder of the project shows a different, more emotional view of the country-rocker. Songs like “My Faith In You,” “Let It Ride” and “I’m Gone” represent a personal side to Brantley, while a tune like the third single “One Hell of an Amen” is sure to tug at ones heartstrings. Simply a fantastic album. – MM

(Check out: Brantley Gilbert’s ‘Just As I Am’ Offers More Than Typical Radio Fare)


Hunter Hayes

Individual Rankings: #6 – Laura; #10 – Annie; #12 – Chris; #15 – Markus

The two singles released off of this album, “Invisible” and “Tattoo”, don’t do justice to the quality of work that is Storyline.  The work preserves the art of the album in that it has a strong narrative arc tied together by musical interludes that showcase Hayes’ instrumental aptitude. Not to mention the drums on the title track, played by Nir Zidkyahu, have an enjoyably infectious energy. – Laura Spinelli


Brad Paisley
Moonshine In The Trunk

Individual Rankings: #5 – Laura; #7 – Markus; #11 – Chris

Paisley’s 10th studio album carries on the genre tradition of poignant storytelling, along with his signature tongue-in-cheek humor and willingness to tackle themes that comment on hot topics of discussion in society, such as environmentalism.  The songs are indubitably clever, making for a meaningful, yet lighthearted, listening experience. – LS


Little Big Town
Pain Killer

Individual Rankings: #1 – Laura; #2 – Chris; #11 – Annie

“Girl Crush” alone could have earned Little Big Town a top spot on the list, and the track is only a taste of the brilliance that is Painkiller.  The CMA Vocal Group of the Year lends their beautifully-arranged harmonies to 13 different tracks that are fun, full of delicate emotion, and are even downright haunting at times. – LS

(Check out: Little Big Town’s Masterful “Girl Crush” Goes to Radio)

David Nail
I’m a Fire

Individual Rankings: #3 – Annie; #5 – Chris; #6 – Markus; #13 – Laura

David Nail shines most when he’s letting his vocals take front and center, and producer Frank Liddell (Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert and Eli Young Band) set the perfect stage on I’m A Fire. Songs like “The Secret” are storytelling at its finest, while “Burnin’ Bed” or “Counting Cars” dig into emotional truths. Solid and cohesive throughout. – AD

(Check out: David Nail ft. Little Big Town – “When They’re Gone (Lyle County)”)


Dierks Bentley
Individual Rankings: #1 – Markus; #5 – Annie; #7 – Chris; #9 – Laura

Riser is start to finish the best album in years. It’s a project that’s cohesive, diverse, raw, emotional. It’s poignant (“Here on Earth”), it’s personal (“I Hold On”), it’s heart wrenching (“Damn These Dreams”) and it’s clever (“Drunk on a Plane”). There is not a single recording on this collection that isn’t well-executed. Even the silly “Back Porch” doesn’t sound out of place. I can’t say enough good things about this record. – MM

(Check out: Hidden Gems on GRAMMY Nominated Albums)


Sam Hunt

Individual Rankings: #2 – Annie; #4 – Chris, Laura

Perhaps one of the most groundbreaking albums of the year, Montevallo‘s R&B infused country blurs genres lines in an unparalleled way.  Several singles off the album have also charted with little or no promotion, speaking to the depth of the work. – LS

(Check out: Sam Hunt Sets Himself Apart with Debut”Montevallo”)


Miranda Lambert

Individual Rankings: #1 – Chris; #2 – Laura; #4 – Annie; #5 – Markus

Miranda’s fifth consecutive number one country album Platinum was a massive commercial success. The album which includes the smash hits “Automatic” and the Carrie Underwood duet “Somethin’ Bad” speak a lot to Lambert’s character, makng Platinum what could be considered her most honest album to date. – CR

(Check out: Women in Country: It’s not them It’s the Format)


Eric Church
The Outsiders

Individual Rankings: #1 – Annie; #2 – Markus; #3 – Laura; #6 – Chris

Eric Church gave us a whole lot to love with The Outsiders. From radio-friendly yet still emotionally involved (“Talladega” and “Give Me Back My Hometown”) to soul-searchers like “Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” to sonic risk-takers like “Cold One”, Church manages to present an album that flawlessly toes the line between bold choices and signature styles. – AD

(Check out: The Death of Bro-Country: 2014 Year in Review)