KC in the Afternoon

KC in the Afternoon

Megan Moroney wowed us at Stars & Guitars, and apparently has wowed many others with her incredible album this year.

Late last week Rolling Stone released their annual year-end list of the best albums of the year. Let’s take a look at which country albums made the cut!

Overall 2023 was an exceptional year for country music. Stars like Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs, and even Shania Twain put out new records. Relative newcomers to the country-sphere have also enjoyed outstanding success this year, including the likes of Megan Moroney, Bailey Zimmerman and Jelly Roll.

But which country artists did Rolling Stone think had the best albums of 2023?

I’m sure the selection was tough this year, as the publication takes a look at releases from across various genres and styles. But even still, I think the fact that only four country albums made the top 100 is mind-boggling.

One of the most baffling exclusions from this list, in my opinion, is Jelly Roll’s Whitsitt Chapel. I’d have bet money that it would’ve made the top 50 at the very least, but I guess that’s why I’m not a writer for Rolling Stone. Whatever.

Nevertheless, I agree that the country albums that did make it definitely deserve their inclusion. Each of these artists has put in a ton of work this year and deserves their flowers here at year’s end.

You can see the entire list here, but let’s see which country albums made the list and where they rank:

  • Kelsea Ballerini - Rolling Up The Welcome Mat (For Good)

    While technically an EP, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat still manages to pack the same emotional impact of a full-fledged album, earning it a spot at No. 98. Kelsea has been struggling with her divorce last year to fellow country singer Morgan Evans, which comes through painfully clear in this album.

    The fact that she was able to turn her emotional turmoil into a beautifully heartbreaking piece of musical art is certainly worthy of recognition. Listen to Blindsided one time and then try to tell me this album shouldn’t be higher up.

    The emotional kicker for the album came in the masterpiece short film video Ballerini produced, connecting all the songs into one video. The heartbreak comes in waves throughout, but it’s the perfect tie-in to an album that deserves every bit of praise.

  • Megan Moroney - Lucky

    Megan Moroney’s star has risen amongst country fans ever since her first breakthrough hit, Tennessee Orange graced the airwaves earlier this year. And with the widespread acclaim of her first ever studio album Lucky, Megan has proven to be more than just a pretty face or a one-hit-wonder.

    The album has a surprising emotional depth you might not expect from a pop-country style artist. But songs like Tennessee Orange and I’m Not Pretty are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s about as good a debut album as we’ve had in a while in country music.

    Lucky may be No. 43 on Rolling Stone’s list, but Megan is No. 1 in our hearts. (side note: she absolutely CRUSHED it at KML Stars and Guitars as well!)

  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Weathervanes

    Jason Isbell is one of the most consistently impressive country artists in the game right now, and his impeccable musical quality is put on shining display in Weathervanes. The fact that Jason was able to write an album with such depth and nuance while also starring in Killers of the Flower Moon this year is otherworldly.

    Multiple Grammy nominations this year proved the worth of this emotionally gutting album. From “Cast Iron Skillet” (where the title Weathervanes finds its way in), to powerful paintings of rural culture pain in “King of Oklahoma” and “White Beretta,” there’s power start to finish. It’s a zero-skips album, and arguably the best work since Isbell’s Grammy-winning Southeastern album.

    Jason Isbell is your favorite country singer’s favorite country singer, and anyone unfamiliar to his work will soon see why if they listen to Weathervanes in its entirety. It is a well-deserved entrant at No. 25.

  • Zach Bryan - Zach Bryan

    This should come as no surprise to any country fan that Zach Bryan’s self-titled album is considered the best of the best in country for 2023. Packing a surprising amount of versatility in nearly every track, Zach shows incomparable range in his fourth studio album. This is one of the many reasons Rolling Stone ranked it at No. 10.

    Bryan notably said he didn’t have much in the way of a theme for this album, as he just wanted to put a bunch of songs out. And boy did he. The duet “I Remember Everything” with Kacey Musgraves is garnering most of the attention, but there are hidden gems all over this album. Hey Driver is one of my personal favorites from the album. Such a great groove to cruise around town to!

    Zach Bryan has been praised for its sincerity and subversion of typical social norms found in country culture. Zach is not afraid to be his full, authentic self. Lucky for him (and all of us), his authentic self happens to make for a compelling musical experience with endless replay value.

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