1) State Champion - Stale Champagne
Being that it was released way back in January, I had all year to possibly forget about this one. But now, a year later, I still listen to it a couple times a week. The band calls their music garage-country, and I can't think of a better description. Here is what I wrote about it when I first heard it.
Truckstop Darlin' - Truckstop Darlin'
These guys from Portland, Oregon have put out a genre-defining alt-country album with their self-titled debut. See what I had to say about it here.
Andrew Combs - Tennessee Time EP
By far the best pure country album of the year, regardless of the fact it's an EP. Andrew has a great young-man-with-an-old-worn-voice thing going, but the ace up his sleeve is his songwriting. "Tennessee Time" and "Too Stoned to Cry" should set the standard for country radio if things were right with the world. My post from this past summer.
Reno Bo - Happenings and Other Things
This album might stick out like a sore thumb in this list. It's rock and roll with a strong pop tilt. Don't let my description discourage you though, because I'd describe Tom Petty in the same fashion. Read my review here.
Elizabeth Cook - Welder
Confession: This was my first exposure to Elizabeth and now I'm a fan. My goal for 2011 is to see if her previous releases are as good as this one is.
Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me
Would've made my best of list based only on "Jackson, Don't You Worry," but the rest of the album is great typical Two Cow and that will make my best of any year.
American Aquarium - Small Town Hymns
Another band carrying the alt-country torch and holding it high. They had a really good album last year and have followed it up with another one full of great songwriting and ragged vocals. You need this one in your collection.
Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song
I like good country music and Jamey is doing it better than any other mainstream artist out there. These songs aren't cookbook Nashville arrangements either. A lot of different chord progressions and tempos and a couple classic covers keep it interesting across both discs.
The Black Keys - Brothers
I like some of their earlier stuff. My wife bought this album. I
The Famous - Come Home to Me
Solid alt-country outing from the San Francisco gang. Lots of great guitar work on this one. Here's what I had to say about it.