The 12 Best in 2012...So Far - The Albums

This week, we share with you our thoughts on the 12 best albums from 2012 so far. It's a list that includes some major label stars, superstars, indie artists and newcomers alike. We also have some other opinions following our Editorial choice from RS staff writers! Read on here!

The list runs the gamut from small indie labels to texas artists to up and coming mainstream artists (sometimes both) to big label newcomer and stars! 

What are your favorite new albums released in 2012 (go to your CD look for the "(c)2012" spot somewhere near the barcode or bottom of the CD and you'll know it was released in 2012.


12. JB and the Moonshine Band - Beer For Breakfast (Average Joes Entertainment)

Showcasing immense growth from their debut Ain't Goin' Back To Jail, JB and the Moonshine Band deliver a winning collection of rowdy tunes like the title track "Beer For Breakfast" to radio-ready songs like "The Only Drug" and "Kiss Me That Way." Toss in some sharp humor on a few other tracks along with tight playing from the band and guests and what we have is one of 2012's best surprises. 



11. Logan Mize - Nobody In Nashville (Big Yellow Dog)

Speaking of surprises, this Kansas native signed a publishing deal with Big Yellow Dog and before he knew it the indie publisher was crafting a record label around the unique singer/songwriter. Vocally different from most who are making the radio playlists these days. The melodies are crisp, the vocals passionate and the production's tight. What more can you ask for (outside of maybe a hit or two at radio)?



10. Jana Kramer - Jana Kramer (Elektra Nashville)

With "Why Ya Wanna" breaking on the charts and with over 200,000 singles sold this far, Jana Kramer has broken through. Released June 5, Jana Kramer finds the Michigan native to a natural and effortlessly charming vocalist with more than a little twang. "Good Time Comin' On," "I Hope It Rains" "Goodbye California" and "What I Love About Your Love" all feel like potential radio singles but if we're being honest, the label should be able to choose between any of the remaining unreleased 10 tracks on the record and we feel as if Jana fits into a niche not currently occoupied in country music, a place that is truly modern country pop.


9. Carrie Underwood - Blown Away (19/Arista)

It's hard for an artist of Carrie Underwood's level to consistently deliver and somehow she's able to do so (though we often feel she can do more). The record may have the artist evolving from her traditional country base but never does the album feel outside of modern country radio. There's the fun "One Way Ticket," the dark "sad" songs "Two Black Cadillacs," "Wine After Whiskey" and the epic  countrified Coldplay-style of the title track "Blown Away" along with traditional CU fare like "Do You Think About Me," "Thank God For Hometowns" and "Forever Changed."  The latter song one of her better vocals. The fun and very country "Cupid's Got A Shotgun" rounds out the notables. This record should keep Underwood in radio and fans good graces and if she had done a little bit more, perhaps she'd be up higher on this rundown.


8. Josh Turner - Punching Bag (MCA Nashville)

Josh Turner's album is set to be released June 19 and since it is a June release, it qualifies for this list. The album mixes the earworm tracks like the great lead single "Time Is Love" along with the strong title song "Punching Bag" and mixes in Turner's own gift for vivid storytelling with "Pallbearer" a song which rivals the best songs he's ever did. "I Was There" is one of the best spiritually-themed country songs I've heard in a while and "Deeper Than My Love" rivals the sensual tracks like "Your Man" and "Would You Go With Me." This one should be a massively strong seller when released.


7. Rob Baird - I Swear It's All The Truth (Carnival Recording Company)

Grownth. That's what I Swear It's All The Truth is about. The album features a winning collection of singer/songwriter fare, a collection of songs that is clearly from the schools of Towns Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell and Robert Earl Keen. These are songs that stick with you and that's something that wasn't always evident on Barid's debut, Blue Eyed Angels, as filled with potential as it was. Baird also knows when to pick a great song that's not written by him as he closes out this album with a stunning Julie Miller song.  


6. Turnpike Troubadours - Goodbye Normal Street (Bossier City/Thirty Tigers)

Mixing multiple influences into an interesting musical stew, the Turnpike Troubadours latest album Goodbye Normal Street is the kind of record that's hard to explain in terms of what it is but if you just take a listen to the band's mixture of roots and modern musical genres what we have here is a band that perhaps is the most modern sounding of old-time string bands you're ever gonna hear. Every song on the record is a gem but I dare you to not get feet a tappin' to "Gin, Smoke, Lies" and "Wrecked."


5. Kellie Pickler - 100 Proof (19/BNA)

She may not have a big ole mainstream radio hit from this album yet ("Tough" was Top 40, the title track is struggling to get there) but this isn't for a lack of quality songs. 100 Proof is easily Pickler's best album of her career and she wears the neotraditionalist flag well. "Where's Tammy Wynette," "100 Proof" and "Unlock That Honkytonk" feel like songs that should be radio hits while "The Letter (To Daddy) has to be the most personal song of Kellie's career.


4. Kip Moore - Up All Night (MCA Nashville)

"Somethin' 'Bout A Truck" is a strong opening single (and it hit #1 in late May) but that doesn't mean it's even close to the best song on the record. "Drive Me Crazy," "Crazy One More Time," "Reckless (Still Growin' Up)" "Hey Pretty Girl" and the title track are are pretty damn strong and potential radio hits but for my money "it is "Where You Are Tonight" and "Faith When I Fall" which are clearly the highlights of this gritty, springsteen-inspired singer/songwriter record. 


3. Lionel Richie -  Tuskegee (Mercury)

Lionel Richie did the impossible by teaming up with the best of the best in country music and turning his reliable batch of classic songs into a winning collection of modern country songs. These songs prove what we've always known about Lionel Richie: you can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country outta the boy. Tuskegee doesn't have one song which begs to be skipped over and there are particularly inspired pairings here with Little Big Town's "Deep River Woman" among the better tracks.


2. Jason Eady  - AM Country Heaven (Winding Road)

Fans looking for strong traditional country music need to look no further than Am Country Heaven. The Texas-based Eady's latest finds the singer/songwriter working with a collection of songs that are country as country can be. The title track finds Jason Eady singing a la Waylon or Merle or Chesnutt while singing about the loss of real country music. The rest of the album follows suit and damn if it isn't one of our favorite albums of 2012 thus far.


1. Lee Brice - Hard 2 Love (Curb)

Lee Brice's debut Love Like Crazy was a disjointed affair and for good reason, it was recorded in different sessions over a six year time frame. Fortunately for us all, Hard 2 Love isn't disjointed at all and is a cohesive collection of modern country music. It couldn't be any more different than Eady's Am Country Heaven but it clearly works in its own way. the title track "Hard To Love" (the new single) clearly showcases a man at the top of his form while "A Woman Like You" says thing nearly every woman would wanna hear. To make sure that it's all not romantic songs, Brice takes up partying on "Beer," and "Parking Lot Party." And as great as these songs are, "I Drove Your Truck" and "Life Off My Years" both feel like CMA and ACM "Song of the Year" types of songs if they're ever released to country radio.