The 26 Albums of 2014 You Probably Didn't But Really Should Hear

From Dolly Parton's 'Blue Smoke' to Frankie Ballard's 'Sunshine & Whiskey,' the stellar albums you may have missed in 2014

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John Fullbright, 'Songs'
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Courtesy Blue Dirt Records17/26

John Fullbright, 'Songs'

"Tell me, what's so bad about happy?" sings Okemah, Oklahoma's mysterious John Fullbright on his second album, Songs, posing a question that has plagued every songwriter from neophytes to seasoned pros: Must we all wallow in misery to tap into our most productive artistic life? But Fulbright doesn't need it so black-and-white for his breed of folk storytelling. He can whip an emotional tale from the thinnest fibers of experience, held together by a balance of uncommon earnestness and vulnerability that never feels cloying. Take the piano ballad "She Knows," which conjures a classic melody and insightful lyrics capturing love externally — mature and fragile, all at once.

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