25 Best Country and Americana Albums of 2017 So Far

From Lauren Alaina's wise beyond her years collection to Luke Combs' stellar Number One debut

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Wheeler Walker Jr., 'Ol' Wheeler'
25
25/25

Wheeler Walker Jr., 'Ol' Wheeler'

Yes, Walker is a character, his lyrics are NSFW, and his "campaign" to be played on country radio was a PR lark. But none of that takes away from Ol' Wheeler as an album. Produced, like Walker's debut Redneck Shit, by Dave Cobb, the record reveals the man behind the character, comic Ben Hoffman, to be both a student of classic country and a guy who's fighting to make sense of his own early forties – albeit through the eyes of Walker. "Summers in Kentucky" evokes the most melancholy of nostalgia, "Pictures on My Phone" laments the detachment of the cellphone age, and "Fuckin' Around," a collaboration with Nikki Lane, reinvents the George and Tammy duets for the hookup generation. Along the way, he's earned the respect of his more serious-minded peers: Charlie Worsham recently recruited him for a night of Dwight Yoakam and Merle Haggard covers onstage in Nashville. J.H.

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