• Mandy Barnett, Strange  Conversation. The singer, best known for portraying Patsy Cline, takes a disparate collection of pop, soul, and rock numbers and makes a riveting personal statement.
  • Shemekia Copeland, America’s Child. The powerhouse vocalist and daughter of the late blues great Johnny Copeland works here in Nashville with a bunch of Americana stalwarts and delivers her own state of the union.
  • Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis, Wild! Wild! Wild!. Fulks recaptures his early alt-country brilliance and teams with the piano-pounding sister of Jerry Lee Lewis for  a rollicking set that lives up to its title.
  • Mary Gauthier, Rifles  and Rosary Beads. Adapting the stories of combat veterans and the spouses  of veterans, the singer-songwriter paints a devastating portrait of the toll of war but also an uplifting one about service and sacrifice.
  • Buddy Guy, The Blues Is  Alive and Well. The music certainly is in the hands of this ageless blues  giant, who at 81 sounds as vital as ever.
  • Joshua Hedley, Mr.  Jukebox. This young throwback cannily mixes hard country and  countrypolitan styles with timeless songwriting for a classic sound that  is nevertheless squarely his own.
  • Loretta Lynn, Wouldn’t It Be Great. At 84, the country matriarch presents some new songs and revisits older ones, showing she’s as sage and salty as ever. 
  • JD McPherson, Socks.  The roots-rocker’s Christmas album joyously transcends the season with unabashed rock and roll and terrific original songs that evoke the  colorful storytelling and clever humor of Leiber and Stoller.
  • Pistol Annies, Interstate Gospel. On their third album, Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe (who had a strong solo album in Sparrow) again  take no prisoners with their tart and unsparingly candid takes on their  lives as women.
  • John Prine, The Tree of Forgiveness. On his first album of original material in 13 years, the  singer-songwriter delivers more incisive wisdom with a twinkle in his eye,  and shows why he’s more beloved than ever. 

Honorable Mention: Ry Cooder, The Prodigal Son; Jesse Dayton, The Outsider; Shooter Jennings, Shooter; Bettye LaVette, Things Have Changed; Gina Sicilia, Heard the Lie.