Another year, another round-up.
On a wintery afternoon in London, the team at Holler HQ gathered together to listen back through an incredible 12 months of new country, Americana and roots albums, to determine 20 of our ultimate favourites.
Here are Holler's Albums of the Year 2022:
Kelsey Waldon turned in one of her finest sets of country tunes on the assertive and reflective No Regular Dog.
Her sweet yet compelling voice wraps around melodies that resonate on first spin. She’s especially forceful when weighing the frustrations of her field of work in the melancholy title track and the road-life-is-tough truisms of ‘Tall and Mighty’.
John Prine signed her to his label and you know he’s looking down from songwriting heaven and smiling about this sublime and moving release.
- Hal Horowitz
More than two decades at the top might encourage some artists to play it safe. But not LeAnn Rimes, who gives us something more than country with god's work.
Flirting with blues, reggae and more, Rimes collaborates with Mickey Guyton, Aloe Blacc, Ben Harper, Ziggy Marley and Robert Randolph, showcasing her soulful, spiritual, feminist and introspective sides.
Most importantly, she dares to dream of better days ahead, all delivered with that towering, inimitable, surround-sound voice. Faultless.
- Helen M Jerome
Ways and Means is the trusty hum of an old engine you know well, easing into your driveway for the first time in far too long. But this album is simply too good to be considered just another reunion record.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a collective group that plays with more conviction than The Deslondes. The more you listen, the harder it gets to find a weak link in this 14-song set, offering up a sweet serving of honky tonk, blues and all round Americana goodness.
- Jonah Covell
The title of Breland’s debut album is a playful nod to its influences - ranging from gospel to hip-hop - which fuse to make up the polished collection.
What stands out most about Cross Country is its palpable sense of joy. With a writing credit on every track and an envious roster of collaborators, Breland doesn’t just shine but downright sparkles on standouts like the playful ‘Here For It’ and the honky-tonk-meets-soul ‘Natural’.
It’s evident that the New Jersey native is set to change the landscape of country music, one hit at a time. Praise the Lord, indeed.
- Soda Canter
S.G. Goodman’s sophomore album, Teeth Marks, saw the return of the scrappy vocal warble and sharp lyrical storytelling that she established with her early-pandemic breakout debut, Old Time Feeling.
Goodman stretches her range to include everything from uptempo rockers to haunting ballads, her subject matter weaves effortlessly between fly-on-the-wall social commentary and intimate excavations of her own soul and insecurities.
Though Teeth Marks is a comparatively slim collection, its 11 tracks are, in every sense of the word, bigger.
- Carena Liptak
Country music does not deserve Maren Morris. This has been apparent nearly from the jump, but never more so than earlier this year, when she became one of the very few figures in the mainstream willing to publicly condemn the bigotry of her peers.
More importantly, however, Morris also put out a damn fine country album. Showcasing understated production and some of her most sensitive lyrical work to date, (see 'Background Music', 'I Can’t Love You Anymore') Humble Quest pairs tender love songs with nuanced reflections on what it means to find success while staying true to one's values.
- Will Groff
It can't be understated just how big a year Whiskey Myers have had. Despite having built a fervent fanbase over the past decade, mainstream country audiences around the world have somehow only just clocked on to the superiority of this band.
Tornillo, their fifth studio album, has played an integral part. A sweaty, unwavering bout of southern rock fever, the band injected the smoky crunch of their sound with obnoxiously catchy brass, creating a hedonistic and euphoric record to devour.
- Ross Jones
Nashville’s best kept secret gave us a reason to believe in country rock again with their Margo Price-produced sophomore album.
Pulling apart the lost threads of 70s cosmic country, the band weaved them effortlessly back together with their own fresh take on the kind of country Gram Parsons and The Byrds were cooking up back in the day.
- Jof Owen
Clever marketing slogans might seem like a byproduct of the 2022 Nashville machine, but don’t roll your eyes at this one.
Lainey Wilson’s bell bottom country - country with a flare - lives up to the name on an album that is authentic, fun and perfectly pitched to satisfy traditionalists and modernisers alike.
With a voice that can deliver sweet nostalgia on songs like 'Watermelon Moonshine', handle huge notes on 'Heart Like A Truck', and even inject new life into 90s rock on a completely unexpected cover of '4 Non Blondes', Lainey Wilson’s star is only going to get brighter.
- Holly Smith
Country savior Tyler Childers’ Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? is a multi-part rumination on a religious upbringing – an exploration of fine lines where love and understanding become hellfire and brimstone.
One album in which the same eight songs get a Holy Trinity of a treatment, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? is unlike any other. Between the blistering ‘Hallelujah’, the soulful ‘Jubilee’ and the spacey ‘Joyful Noise’ versions, this album will have you believing in something.
- Alli Patton
ERNEST’s name may not be familiar yet, but his music is. With his debut full-length studio album, he's made a name for himself almost overnight.
He co-wrote every song, finding a way to make modern music that feels like a worn-in pair of jeans.
A full listen to the 11-track album tells you everything you need to know about him: he digs deeper, tries harder and unearths nuances about life that might make you rethink what kind of country music is truly country.
- Alison Bonaguro
With a sonic palette including horns, toy piano, Amanda Shires’ fiery fiddle-playing and Jason Isbell’s seamless guitar, 'Take It Like A Man' pushes against country music conventions into soul, pop and indie rock territory.
Shires' vocals are, by turns, delicately vulnerable, deliciously fierce and fearlessly honest, as she challenges gender norms, confronts marital discord and expresses frank desire.
The 10 songs on Take It Like a Man comprise the sound of an artist who has found her own identity and power.
- Deborah Crooks
Willi Carlisle is the kind of storyteller most can only wish to be, weaving captivating tales of loves and losses like old winding roads.
Peculiar, Missouri, his sophomore release, is a protest collection, but one whose songs are delivered through croon over shout, hug over punch. Carlisle assumes the role of wise poet-narrator to rich folk backing, addressing issues of rights, class, homophobia and mental health with skilful delicacy.
The album proves him a trusty soul to stick with, one ready to guide us through whatever the world throws next with a heart forever warm.
- Ciara Bains
Joshua Hedley mines familiar themes — heartache, loneliness and a troubadour’s tales flush with recklessness and rebellion — and filters them through a gruff, good ole’ boy delivery.
This sophomore set establishes him as a potent presence; an unapologetic traditionalist that infuses attitude with intent.
- Lee Zimmerman
Mixing eye-rolling girl group sass with the swagger of 70s outlaw country, Emily Nenni delivered on the promise of her Long Game EP with a tray full of perfectly baked country cookies that are bursting with charm, chutzpah and sweet sugary goodness. Needless to say, we absolutely stuffed our faces full of them.
- Jof Owen
You can always rely on Miranda Lambert to act up in her music. It’s no different with her ninth studio set. In fact, she perfects her style in surprising ways, offering up her most insightful songwriting to-date.
On Palomino, Lambert road trips around the states. She takes in gorgeous views only the open road can provide and camps out on dusty backroads to meditate on the meaning of life and love.
When she’s not yearning to be ‘In His Arms’ or calling out the home-wreckin’ ‘Geraldene’, she’s collecting memories like polaroids in her back pocket. “Nowhere feels like home, so I roam from town to town,” she sings on ‘Tourist’.
Palomino perfectly captures Miranda’s wandering spirit and that universal feeling of never knowing where we fit in the world, yet being content in the unknown.
- Bee Scott
Zach Bryan: proving you can break rules, records and hearts all at the same time. You simply can’t put him in a box (and being ex-Navy, he’d just fight his way out of it anyway).
Sometimes an artist comes along whose music smacks ya right between the eyes, leaving you questioning what’s just happened but knowing you’ve found your new favourite thing. This happened to millions when he shared 'Heading South', a song he’d written just moments before pressing record on his phone outside his navy barracks.
Bucking the convention of dribbling out EPs and singles, American Heartbreak has over 30 songs and we are here for every one of 'em.
- Baylen Leonard
Miko Marks experiences a triumphant rebirth on Feel Like Going Home, bringing together the sounds of Motown, Muscle Shoals, the Bay area and Nashville for her most vibrant collection of music yet.
Throughout the album she reflects on her roots, both personal and ancestral, on riveting ballads like 'River', 'The Good Life' and 'Feel Like Going Home', the latter of which both celebrates and documents the artist’s long-awaited return to music in 2020 following over a decade-long hiatus.
The end result is an empowering journey of country, blues and gospel that puts Marks’ soulful demeanor on center stage and makes her shine bright as one of the genre’s next certified stars.
- Matt Wickstrom
With Luke Combs as a mega fan, you can damn well trust that 49 Winchester are deserving of every ounce of hype they're racking up. The Virginia-hailing country rockers dropped Fortune Favors the Bold, their fourth full-length and New West Records debut back in May, and we've had it spinnin' on repeat ever since.
Raw, warm and beautifully ragged, the band trace the paths of their humble town with the frank outlook of those who've lived to tell its trials. Despite it all, they'll forever call it home; "If you wonder where my heart is / when I’m out on the road / It’s right at home, I left it honey / just for you to hold", frontman Isaac Gibson sings with rich, gravelly soul on 'Russell County Line'.
It's an album void of pretence - the songs aren't overly glossy, the stories are by no means glamourised - and rightfully so. It's in the sincerity, both lyrically and musically, where Fortune Favors the Bold's power is rooted.
Jump on the bandwagon - 49 Winchester are only just getting started.
- Ciara Bains
In the three years that Holler has compiled its end-of-year lists, we’ve never been so unanimous or assured in our decision of what deserves to be called Album of the Year.
Hailey Whitters’ third album, Raised, is an instant classic. In a genre that prides itself on the strength of a song and how it’s received by the gatekeepers on the radio, Whitters has delivered a record full of hits that embodies the term ‘All Killer No Filler’, while weaving a narrative full of consequence and growth.
That’s where Raised truly excels. Whitters teaches and guides with humility and candidness; revealing her own maturation through the life lessons she's sharing. ‘Boys Back Home’ and ‘Big Family’ are loving tributes to growing up in a close-knit, small-town community, informing the strength and defiance she possesses to deliver the empowering statements of ‘Plain Jane’ and liberating truths of ‘Pretty Boy’ and ‘College Town’.
It’s grounding and resoundingly relatable; a Revolution or Wide Open Spaces for the generation of TikTok and intense self-examination. Whether Whitters is licking her wounds and pulling up a bar stool (‘The Neon’) or eloquently observing traditions of the everyday (‘Middle of the America’), she does so with a vulnerability that could only bleed from someone that’s lived it - something that’s harder than it sounds to embody on record.
Raised is a love letter to home, growing up and a 12-year-old Hailey, looking out the window at the miles of fields and wondering what’s to come. If she could see herself now, she’d be proud.
- Ross Jones
Listen and subscribe to Holler's Albums of the Year 2022 playlist below. Plus, check out our Songs of the Year 2022 list here: