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Country Standard Time's best CDs of 2007

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2008

Making a best of list, of course, is no exact science. After all, what one person likes, another can't stand. So it's with that in mind that a top 18 list (forget about Top 10) is unveiled.

And the top disc of 2007 was Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's ultra unique collaboration "Raising Sand" by a hair over Miranda Lambert's excellent second disc, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

Here is the best of 2007:

1. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (Rounder) - Totally out of left field obviously, but Led Zep's lead singer and Krauss make lovely music together, especially on the uptempo songs. Not always rootsy, but it's always real good and precious.

2. Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (SonyBMG) - Lambert puts it all together, excellent songs, attitude, fine voice and keeps it country. Sophomore slump? No way.

3. Brad Paisley – 5th Gear (Arista) - Paisley offers a likable album with his usual blend of humor (sometimes too much), quality songs and his fine voice and playing. This guy is money in the bank.

4. Elizabeth Cook – Balls (Thirty Tigers) - Cook has a lot more than great looks. A keen sense of humor ("It Takes Balls to Be a Woman"), a great country voice and lively songs make this a big winner.

5. Josh Turner – Everything is Fine (Universal) - And why wouldn't it be? Turner has such a hard core country voice and uses his gift so well. Slew of solid songs without crossing over. His live disc at the Ryman wasn't shabby either.

6. Kelly Willis – Translated From Love (Rykodisc) - Five years away did not seem to mean Willis lost any of her skills. A mix of country, pop, rock and '60s sounds, Willis sounds vibrant throughout.

7. Gretchen Wilson – One of the Boys (SonyBMG) - Don't think that just because there were no big hits here that the hard core country album artistically tanked. Far from it. Great music.

8. John Fogerty – Revival (Concord) - If anyone thought Mr. Credence needed to live up to the title, he did so and more. Sounds great and makes sure to get political. Energetic music from a music great.

9. Merle Haggard – The Bluegrass Sessions (McCoury) - The Hagg doesn't age gracefully – he just doesn't seem to age at all in this left turn into bluegrass. The voice is golden, and he knows his way around grass.

10. Sarah Johns – (SonyBMG) - The Kentuckian is the only female country singer whose debut made any kind of mark. Big ballsy voice belting out traditional country songs.

11. Porter Wagoner – Wagonmaster (Anti-) The swan song from the country great, who owed a huge debt to producer Marty Stuart. Porter went out in style.

12. Uncle Earl – Waterloo, Tennessee (Rounder) - Another Led Zep connection with John Paul Jones producing, but that's no meal ticket These four women know how to play and sing. Excellent live too.

13. Joe Nichols – Another Side of You (Universal South) - Quite a year for Nichols – new wife, new music and rehabilitation. Two out of three ain't bad. Nichols got a lot of twang in his music and keeps showing his good side.

14. Bobby Osborne – Bluegrass Melodies (Rounder) - The title is not the only similarity with The Hag. His tenor remains vibrant and lively well into his 70s in an album that sounds just as fresh.

15. Avett Brothers – Emotionalism (Ramseur) The Americana act of the year and deservedly so. Their DIY approach pays off big time with heavy-duty touring and, oh yeah, a very enjoyable rootsy disc.

16. Lyle Lovett And His Large Band – It's Not Big It's Large (Lost Highway) - Soulful and fresh while stretching out musically.

17. Raul Malo – After Hours (New Door) - Malo slows it down on another covers disc, putting his own stamp on classics.

18. Tim McGraw – Let It Go (Curb) - McGraw hews closer to country fortunately with much feeling in his voice. He's a low-key superstar getting better with age.

Honorable mention

  • Toby Keith – Big Dog Daddy (ShowDog Nashville)
  • Gene Watson - In a Perfect World (Shanachie)
  • Big & Rich – Between Raising Hell & Amazing Grace (Warner)
  • Graham Parker – Don't Tell Columbus (Bloodshot)
  • Steve Earle – Washington Square Serenade (New West)
  • Dwight Yoakam - Dwight Sings Buck (New West)
  • Reba McEntire – Duets (MCA Nashville)
  • The Eagles – Long Road Out of Eden (Eagles)
  • Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer (Vanguard)
  • Lucinda Williams – West (Lost Highway)
  • Trisha Yearwood – Heaven, Heartache & the Power of Love (Big Machine)
  • Lori McKenna – Unglamorous (Warner)
  • Steep Canyon Rangers – Lovin' Pretty Women (Rebel)
  • Billy Joe Shaver – Everybody's Brother (Compadre)
  • Teddy Thompson - Upfront & Down Low (Verve)
  • King Wilkie – Low Country Suite (Zoe/Rounder)

Special awards from the staff of Country Standard Time

Best debut: Hands down, it's Sarah Johns. Nice and twangy with Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn as welcome reference points. She had no competition on the female side. On the male side, there were some decent CDs from Luke Bryan and Jason Michael Carroll, but nothing as exciting as Johns.

Most overrated newcomer: Bucky Covington. The guy's more of a rocker than a country guy anyway. That American Idol background doesn't give street cred either.

Most surprising success: Reba McEntire's "Duets" smacked on its surface of following the recent path of rounding up a bunch of stars in varied genres to broaden the appeal. McEntire may have done that, but this CD was surprisingly strong, putting her vocals to good use.

Dumbest comment: John Rich of Big & Rich when he said an aunt marrying her nephew was akin to gay marriage in campaigning for Fred Thompson for president. Rich backtracked a few days later.

Humanitarian of the year: Big Kenny Alphin of Big & Rich. Big Kenny deserves loads of credit for bringing supplies to Darfur personally with his wife and speaking out about the crisis there. Not exactly a bread and butter issue in the country community.

If at first you succeed, try, try again: Taylor Swift. Her self-titled debut sold so well that Big Machine Records decided to release an expanded ka-ching version (with extras, of course) a year later. And boy has she succeeded.

Mistruth in advertising: Angela Hacker. What you don't even remember who she is – she was the winner of Nashville Star, quickly released a CD which was a bust, and hasn't been heard from since. Just as well because the music wasn't good.

Saddest: Mindy McCready. She's the Britney Spears of country music without the same profile. Very sad how someone's life got so screwed up.