Shemekia Copeland, Outskirts of Love (Alligator). She's known as a blues singer, but this powerhouse vocalist again refuses to be boxed in by that label on another commanding set that features not only blues but also gospel, country, and soul.
Donnie Fritts, Oh My Goodness (Single Lock). The great Muscle Shoals songwriter returns with a rare album of his own, and it's a beauty, full of spare, supremely moving versions of some of his best songs.
Nikki Hill, Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists (Deep Fryed). This big-voiced young dynamo delivers one knockout after another on a scorching set that mixes rock and soul.
Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Ruffian's Misfortune (Bordello). The Texas sage does some "Bad Ass Rockin' " and also does some more reflective philosophizing on an album that often celebrates music and musicians.
The Mavericks, Mono (Valory). The title belies the dazzling color and richness of the impossible-to-define Latin, Tex-Mex, and country amalgam here. Raul Malo's booming, Orbison-esque baritone remains as transporting as ever.
Jon Regen, Stop Time (Motema). The pianist with a jazz background delivers a set of smart, sturdily melodic numbers with rootsy, Randy Newman-ish shades that exude both emotional immediacy and urbane grace.
Daniel Romano, If I've Only One Time Asking (New West). This young Canadian wallows in classic country heartache on an assured collection that stylishly ranges from lush countrypolitan to lean honky-tonk.
Tom Russell, The Rose of Roscrae (Frontera). The veteran troubadour intended to create a less romanticized version of the frontier musical, and he succeeds spectacularly with this epic, audaciously ambitious two-CD set
Chris Stapleton, Traveller (Mercury Nashville). The country and Americana veteran delivers a stunner of a solo debut that sounds nothing like a major-label Nashville production and deservedly earned him three CMA awards.
Dwight Yoakam, Second Hand Heart (Reprise). Three decades after he helped lead a return to country traditionalism, the progressive classicist sounds as fresh and inspired as ever on this twangy and ringingly rocking collection.
Dave and Phil Alvin, Lost Time (Yep Roc).
Kinky Friedman, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met (Avenue A).
Chris Isaak, First Comes the Night (Vanguard).
Sam Outlaw, Angeleno (Six Shooter).