Along with the full return of live music across the world, 2022 has also seen the release of many artists' most powerful, personal and creative albums yet. Below, we've compiled a selection (in no particular order) of 10 of our country and Americana favourites so far.
Here's to more great music throughout the rest of 2022!
Could we have loved Hailey Whitters any more than we already did?! Yes, it turns out we absolutely could!!
The follow up to The Dream was every bit as amazing as we hoped it would be, as Hailey took us back down memory lane on an all-inclusive guided tour around her hometown of Shueyville, Iowa.
Putting her playful pop spin on traditionalist country, Hailey introduced us to all the characters that make growing up in a college town in midwestern America so colourful and peculiar. There's barely been a day we haven't listened to it since it came out.
There aren't many artists around right now that can command a singalong of every word they utter quite like Zach Bryan. It's with good reason.
American Heartbreak, his major-label debut, is a 34-song-long meditation on pain, love, loss and coming of age. It's heartbreaking, buoyant and cleansing in equal measure.
It's no wonder that everyone is growing to adore this 26-year-old ex-navy man from Oklahoma; he sings what we're dying to say, without even intending to.
It feels like Miranda Lambert has always been carefully perfecting the recipe for her unique cocktail of country traditionalism and crunchy rock, and with her ninth studio album, she added an eccentric glam rock swagger and country funk to the mix - with intoxicating results.
Palomino might just be Miranda’s most fully formed and perfectly realised album yet. A weird and wonderful road trip across America that never runs out of gas, splitting its time between raucous road songs and late-night campfire sing-a-longs, as she ponders her own peculiar double binds.
By a little way her best album yet.
With Humble Quest, her third album, Maren Morris honed in where we least expected her to.
Where a push for pop superstardom was expected, Morris shed her slick RnB polish for something more country, organic and personal.
It's her finest work yet. She approaches love songs with dry subtlety and sharpness, retorts at the idea of everyone having her all worked out and makes sure you know she ain't letting her foot off the gas anytime soon.
This is Maren at her most brazen, and we absolutely love it.
On his first album for New West, Mr Jukebox took us back to that golden age of country music between 1989 and 1996 with a sound that would have been right at home on a playlist with Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and the rest of the neo-traditionalists at the start of the 90s.
With bigger-than-life choruses, razor sharp production and the same sad-eyed ballads and deeply relatable lyrics as we were used to from him, Hed upped the ante on today's throwback country traditionalists with an album that was almost a guaranteed party starter.
"A crash course in pure country from one of the music university’s finest and most knowledgeable professors", as our reviewer said at the time.
Fortune Favors the Bold, the latest album by Virginia natives 49 Winchester, is a warm and rustic collection; one in debt to Castlewood, the Virginia town where the band formed, found their name and their sound respectively.
Where they could've fallen in line with the rest of the country artists who dedicate their time to observing and documenting the concept of 'Small Town' living, the group pleasingly spin the understated emotion and displacement of being away from home into the mix, pacified by the notion that everyone comes from somewhere.
Here, Isaac Gibson and the band have delivered a collection of homely and sincere songs, cementing themselves as a trustworthy, comforting voice.
Drawing from the sounds of 70s California, Lighten Up comes wrapped in a delightfully retro warmth, offering a charming vision into the inner musings of Erin Rae.
Fusing elements of classic pop, cosmic country and singer/songwriter indie, Rae is breezy and self-assured on her third full-length, as she navigates themes of love, gender identity, growth and self-acceptance amidst her band's lush instrumentation.
As she puts it herself, Lighten Up is “about blossoming, opening up, and living a little more in the present moment. Fully experiencing what it is to be human.”
It's a rich and immersive listen; wistfully cinematic in its own swirling world.
Grief both consumes and guides True North, the latest album by Caroline Spence.
A heartwrenching album of despair and enlightenment, Spence crafts an evocative picture through 12 tightly knotted songs that were instinctively constructed; reassembling herself as she pieced the music together.
As our review stated; "In an era where we are collectively reassessing meanings of life and death, True North will stand as a lasting memento 一 an apt discernment of time and ageing".
Steeped in caustic wit and social commentary, S.G. Goodman's Teeth Marks is an undeniable powerhouse of a record.
Few can craft a set of songs so sonically varied yet intimately connected as Goodman, who intertwines post punk, Appalachian folk, garage rock, a capella eulogies and alt-country to soundtrack the vivid scenes and temperamental characters that story her life.
In particular, the Kentucky born-and-raised artist explores in depth stereotypes of the South - its many faces, its trials and tribulations, its suppositions and actualities -grounded in the embodied trauma of coming out as queer in her rural hometown, and the homophobic prejudice and ostracisation that followed.
Teeth Marks is complex and poetic, demonstrating Goodman's uniquely skilful and artistic writing.
Izaak Opatz is one of our favourite modern anti-country stars, as we like to call it here at Holler.
Extra Medium, his third full-length release, is grounded in witty, observational storytelling, documenting heartbreak with wry humour and a humble dose of self-deprecation, whilst also addressing the unsettledness of time spent between Montana and L.A. "All of these songs represent a metabolism of unique disappointment into something new", he told us.
There's a particularly familiar yet strangely indescribable sense of nostalgia running throughout the songs, which may be one of the reasons we fell in love with Izaak's music so quickly - it's personal and grounded, taking an outlook we can all easily find ourselves relating to.