20. Don Henley, 'Cass County'
The Eagles singer-drummer's first solo album in 15 years is a record of minimal strumming, steel-guitar raindrops and warming vocal blends – country music the way Henley heard it the first time around in Cass County, the East Texas region where he grew up. Written and produced with ex-Tom Petty drummer Stan Lynch, Cass County is quietly, defiantly purist – absolutely free of millennial-country glitz and vernacular. The long line of celebrity guests – many of them women, such as Lucinda Williams, Trisha Yearwood and Alison Krauss – mostly serve in the backing harmonies. (A notable exception: Henley, Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger exchanging verses in a cover of Tift Merritt's "Bramble Rose.") But Henley is also a determined modernist, and his character studies and matured reflection in songs like "Waiting on Tables," "Praying for Rain" and "Take a Picture of This" are loaded with quietly visceral immediacy, contemporary portraits of everyday crisis and the search for solace. After more than 40 years in L.A.-outlaw country, Henley has finally made an album of stories that sound like home.