Frankie Ballard, 'Sunshine & Whiskey'
The guitar hero scored his first Number One with the musical mantra "Helluva Life," an appreciation of being above ground. But while the song is certainly commendable, it's only a part of what makes his second album required listening. Ballard eschews country clichés and overly slick production for an album that feels like him — no small feat in today's prefabricated market. Songs like the bluesy plea "Sober Me Up" and the in-your-face "Young & Crazy" illustrate his diversity. They also help show off the Bob Seger acolyte's guitar playing, which, like Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, elevates him above his peers.