It was a massive year in music, but one thing has remained consistent: the incredible music
2022 was a smorgasbord of country music releases. From Adam Brand’s heartfelt All Or Nothing, Casey Barnes’ award winning sixth album, Kelsea Ballerini’s introspective Subject To Change, Christie Lamb’s ‘Truth’ful release and more, it was difficult to narrow it down to only a top ten. Now, obviously there’s always going to be some bias in these types of lists, but we think we’ve complied a good mix of contemporary, alternative and traditional.
Adam Brand released his highly personal fourteen studio album in August. Conceived and recorded during lockdown, All Or Nothing was created in a non-traditional way for the country music veteran.
“I didn't really set about to make an album, which is strange for me,” Brand said of the process. “Traditionally - for me - making an album is like building a house from start to finish. All Or Nothing was different… We didn’t know if we were ever going to make albums again or what was going to happen.”
Featuring the hit singles Still The One, I’m Coming Home and the album’s title track, which was co-written with The Wolfe Brothers and peaked at #1 at Countrytown Hot 50 Country Airplay Chart, All Or Nothing is nominated for ‘Toyota Album of the Year’ and ‘Contemporary Country Album of the Year’ at the 2023 Golden Guitar Awards, while the self-titled track is also up for ‘Apple Music Single of the Year’ and ‘Song of the Year’. It also scored an ARIA nomination for ‘Best Country Album’ and was the second top selling album of 2022.
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Released in July, Living for the Highlights by Amber Lawrence debuted at #1 on the ARIA Australian Album Charts and Country Album Charts and #5 on the ARIA All Genre Album Charts, where she charted was among the likes of Harry Styles, The Weeknd, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran. It recently ranked as the third top selling album of the year and is nominated for ‘Toyota Album of the Year’ and ‘Contemporary Country Album of the Year’ at the upcoming Golden Guitar Awards.
While Living for the Highlights consists of uplifting songs about the pandemic and making it through, including the title track with Darlinghurst, it also features delicate tracks dedicated to the hard time Lawrence went through during lockdown, including track 10, the heartbreaking You Were Mine, which honours her late son who she and her husband lost at 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2020.
Ashleigh Dallas first teased her fifth studio album while accepting the 2022 Golden Guitar Award for ‘Female Artist Of The Year’. In The Moment dropped five months later on September 9 and is now nominated for ‘Toyota Album of the Year’ and ‘Traditional Country Album of the Year’ at the upcoming Golden Guitar Awards. The album features ten beautifully crafted songs – from the vulnerable Spinning Around to the fun and carefree Island Here To Me.
“It’s about family life, wanting more time together, and the middle part is about loss and how to deal with that," she said. "Writing is different now because I was a writer who would sit down and have songs finished in the one session, but In The Moment sums it up because you’ve just gotta just roll with it and accept what it is in the moment because when you’re a working mum at home.”
Light It Up is Casey Barnes’ sixth studio album and by far his best to date, having spent over ten months on the ARIA Country Album Chart. Featuring his non-offensive brand of catchy country pop tunes, the release brought such bangers as Come Turn Me On, God Took His Time On You, Get To Know Ya and Small Town, all of which reached #1 on the Countrytown Hot 50 Country Airplay Chart.
Produced by Melbourne based production team MSquared (Michael Delozrenzis and Michael Paynter), Light It Up earned Barnes numerous awards including the ARIA Award for ‘Best Country Album’ and the Golden Guitar Award for ‘Top Selling Australian Album Of 2022’. It’s up for additional nods at the 2023 Golden Guitar Awards including ‘Toyota Album of the Year’ and ‘Contemporary Country Album of the Year’, to be announced later this month.
Golden Guitar and CMC Award winner, Christie Lambreleased her heartfelt fourth album, Truth, on September 30 within weeks of giving birth to her first child, Charlotte Rose, with musician husband Jonathan English. Truth, which is the fifth top selling album of 2022, features the radio hits Kiss About It, Up All Night, Beat Of My Own Drum and Three Chords And A Woman’s Truth.
She said, “When writing the songs for this album, I wanted to challenge myself whilst being entirely true to myself. I wanted to go deeper and more personal than I’ve ever gone before. This album is definitely about me growing as a person and an artist. I have written the songs on this album from life experiences, my heart, and my truth”.
We couldn’t not include Jenny Mitchell’s impressive album, Tug Of War, which is nominated for ‘Alt Country Album of the Year’ at the upcoming Golden Guitar Awards, in our top ten list. The New Zealand native dropped Tug Of War in July, and a deluxe version in October which featured three live songs as well as The Bush & The Birds duet with her sisters, The Mitchell Twins.
The album finds Mitchell at her most raw and honest as a storyteller while creating a musical work that’s as rich and fertile as the farming country in New Zealand where she grew up. It features the singles Snakes In The Glass, If You Were A Bird and Trouble Finds A Girl with Tami Neilson.
Jon Pardi dropped his fourth studio album in September and has announced a deluxe edition with additional songs, including a duet with Luke Bryan, to be released later this year. Mr. Saturday Night was produced by Bart Butler, Ryan Gore and Pardi, the same team behind his critically acclaimed third album, Heartache Medication, which peaked at #17 on the ARIA Australia Digital Albums Chart.
Of the title track, Pardi said, "I feel like everybody wants to be Mr. Saturday Night at one point on the weekend and have a good time. But then you hear the song and – the way it's so well written – it's a sad song, but you don't go there right away, because it's also a fun song. That's the thing about 'Mr. Saturday Night', it's more than meets the eye. It's all fun until you get to the chorus."
Mr. Saturday Night is the perfect balance of loneliness and sadness mixed with having a good time. It also showcases his unique, neotraditional country style, and that’s why it’s worthy of our top ten.
One cannot overlook the star power of Luke Combs. Often reflective, introspective songwriting and with his signature knack for big-rig choruses, this is all perfectly captured in his third studio album. Released on June 24, Growin' Up peaked at #1 on both the ARIA Australian Albums and Australian Country Albums Charts. It was also the highest debut for a country album in the US in 2022.
He explained at the time, “Those first two records, I mean, people fell in love with them. In a way, so did I. I wanted there to be a taste of that, as well as a taste of where I'm heading. In my own life, I'm in this transitional phase – I still feel like a young college dude, but I'm also married and I'm about to have a kid. My whole life is about to change. I feel like I've grown up alongside my fans, in a lot of ways. This album, to me, is the bridge between where I was and where I'm going.”
It’s difficult to look past Kelsea Ballerini’s fifth studio album, Subject To Change, and not include it on the list when it was released during her highly publicised divorce from fellow country music artist Morgan Evans. The fifteen-track 90s-inspired album saw her write with more female songwriters to create a record about emotions that showcases Ballerini’s growth as an artist.
She also noted that the writing process for her 2021 poetry book Feel Your Way Through influenced her songwriting for Subject to Change, stating that "I credit a lot of the openness and the more poetic side of the songwriting to the book. I feel like that opened my mind creatively and helped me work outside of the [standard song] structure. That creative freedom unlocked a part of me I hope to keep pushing in any kind of project that I do."
Melbourne-based, married duo, The Weeping Willows have been kicking goals since their first release over a decade ago. In March 2022, they released their Golden Guitar nominated ‘Alt Country Album of the Year’, You Reap What You Sow, which debuted at #3 on the iTunes Country Albums Chart and was also considered for a ‘Best Folk Album’ GRAMMY nomination. No easy feat, HUGE for the award-winning couple, and nothing short of displaying their obvious untapped stardom potential.
Andrew Wrigglesworth (guitar, ganjo, lead vocals) and Laura Coates (lead vocals) regale their audiences with stories of sunshine and romance, the lost and the lonely, the heartsick and the harried, God and The Devil, murder, and decay, as boasted in tracks such as Black Crow, Singin’ The Blues, House Of Sin and more. We can’t wait to see what they do next!