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40 Best Country and Americana Albums of 2017

Kip Moore flipped off the industry, Willie Nelson taunted mortality, and Margo Price questioned the American dream

While a number of country veterans released their strongest albums in years – Willie Nelson’s God’s Problem Child and Brad Paisley’s Love and War, among them – 2017 belonged to new artists. Fresh faces like Carly Pearce, Luke Combs, Midland and RaeLynn delivered debut LPs that both looked forward and revived the tenets of the genre: personal stories, smart lyrics and sing-along hooks. After a few years of awkwardly wandering in the trend-chasing wilderness, Nashville is once again finding its footing, realizing that pop, rock and hip-hop influences can fully exist in country if they’re allowed to occur naturally. Elsewhere, the Americana world was also reliably on point, with LPs from David Rawlings, JD McPherson, Becca Mancari and Rhiannon Giddens illustrating the scope of modern roots music – there were records of introspective folk, twangy country, early rock and even Sixties protest songs. Herewith, our picks for the 40 best albums of the past year.

Tyler Childers, 'Purgatory'
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Tyler Childers, ‘Purgatory’

Tyler Childers’ second album, Purgatory, was no great surprise for many in Kentucky and West Virginia, where the young country singer-songwriter has been heralded as a local legend for years. But for most of the country, the Sturgill-Simpson-produced LP was the most exciting roots-leaning country debut of 2017, a thrilling mix of brutal realism, literary narrative and romantic autobiography set to a delicate mix of Kentucky bluegrass, folk-rock, honky-tonk and stadium rock from the singer’s longtime backing band the Food Stamps. In his East Kentucky drawl, Childers pulls off sensitive storytelling (“Feathered Indians,” “Universal Sound”) just as adeptly as he leads his band through roadhouse anthems (“Whitehouse Road,” “Purgatory”), resulting in a fully-formed, vivid portrait of Saturday night excess and Sunday morning reality in 21st-century Appalachia. J.B.