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30 Great Country Albums of 2015 You Probably Didn’t Hear

From the bright country-pop of Kristian Bush’s ‘Southern Gravity’ to the defiant reinvention of Allison Moorer’s ‘Down to Believing’

Kasey Chambers and Butch Walker

Kasey Chambers and Butch Walker are two artists with new albums that shouldn't be overlooked.

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty; Scott Legato/Getty

The great tragedy of music is that so many high-quality albums go unheard. Blame it on the glut of material released every year or the fact that the majority of artists don't have the big-budget promotional push to bring their records to the masses. With the year more than half over, we looked at LPs that deserve a second (or, in some cases, even first) listen, from big-name country releases like Dwight Yoakam's Second Hand Heart and Kristian Bush's Southern Gravity to the sublime singer-songwriter fare of Butch Walker and Kasey Chambers. Here are 30 albums from 2015 that you probably haven't, but really should listen to in their entirety. 

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Medicine
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Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, ‘Medicine’

Inspired by everyone from Jack Keruoac to Tom Petty, Medicine feels like Drew Holcomb's ultimate road-trip companion. It's a mix of Seventies folk, stadium-sized Americana and California country-rock, with everything designed to churn up memories of the American landscape that Holcomb and his group of do-it-yourself road warriors have spent the past decade traveling. "Shine Like Lightning" swings for the fences, but it's the album's quieter moments — particularly the opener, "American Beauty" — that really connect. A.L.

Will Hoge, Small Town Dreams
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Will Hoge, ‘Small Town Dreams’

Will Hoge solidifies the years of John Mellencamp comparisons with an album that paints cinematic pictures of his upbringing in the small town of Franklin, Tennessee — in which the now Nashville resident realizes he wasn't really confined but rather inspired to make the kind of music that's earned him a Grammy nod and loyal following. Tracks range from the carefree to the profound, with songs such as the barroom stomping, hangover-ignoring "Til I Do It Again" giving as much of a glimpse into Hoge's Franklin-reared persona as the thoughtful "Guitar and a Gun" — a Gary Allan co-write about a boy making a life-altering decision in a pawn shop. But wholly encapsulating the album's theme is anthemic opener "Growing Up Around Here," which finds the artist embracing his roots after "17 years trying to find my way out." B.D.

Honeyhoney, 3
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Honeyhoney, ‘3’

Recorded at the tail end of their two-year stay in Nashville, Honeyhoney's third album finds the duo mixing the stomp of Americana with the swagger of indie rock. Suzanne Santo has never sounded better, her voice alternating between the husky huffs of a soul singer and the ballsy acrobatics of a bar band frontwoman who's slammed just enough shots to convince her to try all of those difficult runs. Matching her pace are bandmate Ben Jaffe — the calm, steady anchor to Santo's stormy seas — and producer Dave Cobb, who keeps the mood raw and rough-edged by capturing everything in a handful of first takes. A.L.

Andrew Combs, All These Dreams
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Andrew Combs, ‘All These Dreams’

If the legendary Quonset Hut Studio, recording den for Simon & Garfunkel, Patsy Cline and others, never closed, Combs' All These Dreams is the kind of work that would be currently pouring out of it. But don't be mistaken — the sophomore LP from the Nashville-based singer-songwriter is no retro revival; it's just built in the spirit of an era where lush orchestrals and strong narrative songcraft were the keys to the castle, not Autotune or hip-hop infusions. Countrypolitan may have been a dirty word in its day, but this is its modern incarnation — layered, evocative arrangements over lyrics much more interested in telling stories than treating music as a confessional both. Holding it all together is Combs' stellar, gravelly-soul vocal, which can be perfectly delicate on songs like "Strange Bird" or as worn as a tarnished heart on "Month of Bad Habits." M.M.

Allison Moorer, Down to Believing
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Allison Moorer, ‘Down to Believing’

Moorer pours heartbreak, rage, bitterness, regret and hope into the most exquisitely crafted album of her distinguished career. Although most of the record deals specifically with her divorce from musician Steve Earle and their young son's autism diagnosis in one way or another, Moorer is Everywoman. She's a wife and mother faced with adversity and moving forward the only way she knows how, by channeling her emotions — and that soul-grabbing Southern voice — into a mesmerizing collection of songs to which we can all relate. Like her sister, Shelby Lynne, who released the fantastic I Can't Imagine this year, Moorer holds nothing back. Every aching not