In fact, in going over the list of CDs out this year, it was a strong year for excellent music - it's just that most of it was on the edge and not the mainstream folks like Keith Urban or the new artists who did not sound all that unique.
Without further adieu...
1. Brad Paisley - American Saturday Night - a complete album from one of the finest guitarists out there. He gets serious on the title track instead of relying on novelty. He is solid from start to finish in a bunch of songs that never lag.
2. Avett Brothers - I and Love and You. The Avetts went major label with a major league producer, Rick Rubin, and a different sound ensued. But they did not sell their souls to the devil. In this less (of a raucous sound) may be more (quality). A great album.
3. George Strait - Twang. The title says it all as Strait makes perhaps his best album ever, keeping it traditional except for Tex-Mex and Zydeco forays. He sounds great.
4. Dailey & Vincent - Brothers From Different Mothers. Great music from the newest bluegrass stars.
5. Charlie Robison - Beautiful Day. While the break-up of a marriage isn't encouraged, it sure can make for one excellent collection. Excellent music from start to finish.
6. David Rawlings Machine - A Friend of a Friend. Perhaps the surprise CD of the year because Rawlings heretofore has been playing the sidekick to Gillian Welch. He's a force in his own right.
7. Steep Canyon Rangers - Deep in the Shade. These guys did way more than back up Steve Martin, a great chance to extend their territory. Their best CD yet.
8. Patty Loveless - Mountain Soul II. If Loveless sang the phone book, that would sound great also.
9. Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies. Earle picks up a bunch of notches here, establishing himself as a force as well and not someone's son.
10. Mike Herrera's Tumbledown - Mike Herrera's Tumbledown. Herrera is better known for being in MXPX, which plays a different brand of music. Think Mike Ness of Social Distortion, but not quite as tough sounding in an album that is Country.
11. Miranda Lambert - Revolution. There's a lot of music here, and a lot to like. In concert, Lambert goes for more of a rock sound. Here's hoping she sticks more to country.
12. Those Darlins - Those Darlins. Tennessee trio of three young females who are on the punky side of country. The Murfreesboro 3 keep it ragged and definitely right.
13. Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces. The Texan ages real well on a very strong album.
14. Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel - Willie and the Wheel. Hmmm. This is an album that should have happened decades ago. Better later than never needless to say.
15. Rosanne Cash - The List
16. Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses - Roadhouse Sun
17. Buddy and Julie Miller - Written in Chalk
18. Radney Foster - Revival
19. Levon Helm - Electric Dirt
20. Tim McGraw - Southern Voice
21. John Fogerty - The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
22. Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women - Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women
23. Raul Malo - Lucky One
24. The Flatlanders - Hills and Valleys
25. Robert Earl Keen - The Rose Hotel
26. Eric Brace and Peter Cooper - You Don't Have To Like Then Both
27. Rhonda Vincent - Destination of Life
28. The Belleville Outfit - Time to Stand
29. James Hand - Shadows in the Ground
30. Chuck Mead - Journeyman's Wager
Honorable mention: WPA - Works Progress Administration; David Serby - Honkytonk and Vine; The Greencards - Fascination; Carrie Underwood - Play On; Holly Williams - Here With Me; Slaid Cleaves - Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away; Wayne Hancock - Viper of Melody; Arty Hill and the Long Gone Daddys - Montgomery on My Mind and Back on the Rail (latter was reissued to a wider audience); Neko Case - Middle Cyclone; Among the Oak and Ash - Among the Oak & Ash; Ramblin' Jack Elliott - A Stranger Here; The Band of Heathens - One Foot in the Ether.