Rolling Stone Country‘s list of the best country albums of 2015 is defined by its diversity. There are knockout albums by country-radio stars, must-hears by niche Americana singer-songwriters and under-the-radar gems from Red Dirt honky-tonkers. The mass appeal of Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights shares space with James McMurtry’s literary masterpiece Complicated Game. Carrie Underwood’s lush Storyteller buddies up to Don Henley’s down-home Cass County. And the Southern rock of Blackberry Smoke’s Holding All the Roses balances the pop-rock of Old Dominion’s debut Meat & Candy.
Then there’s Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, whose respective albums Traveller and Something More Than Free continue to infiltrate the earbuds of country, Americana and even rock fans with every award and nomination they pick up. Both artists were hurled into the Grammy Awards race when the nominations were announced on December 7th.
As 2015 fades to black, we take a look at the 40 country albums of the year that we think deserve a listen.