40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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John Fullbright, 'Songs'
40
14/40

14. John Fullbright, 'Songs'

The subtle tunesmith from Bearden, Oklahoma crafted the most meta moment of the year. "Pen a line about a line within a line," sings John Fullbright on Songs, analyzing the plight of the writer with the delicate touch of a subtle love song. But continue through, and you'll see the true romantic affair develop with crisp, untrendy melodies, construction that echoes his vocals like a cave and zero attempts to invite any unwanted prefixes to the sound ("baroque-folk" this ain't). Fullbright's not trying to be cool — his lanky piano riffs are anything but. In the process, he creates a sound that's at once heartbreaking and painfully self-aware, as his voice floats from a rough ache to sweet vibrato, every note a story, every story a song. M.M.

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