Country music absolutely thrived this year, and that doesn't include what the mainstream regurgitated out to the masses. No, there will be no Bro-Country records in this "Best Of" piece. In fact, what many of this list's artists are doing is what the mainstream should be doing. When it comes to remarkable storytellers and vocalists, you have to look a lot further than corporate-held radio to get a firm grip on compelling stories of love, loss, heartache and even happiness.
18. Daryl Wayne Dasher, 'Great Big Sky'
Honest introspection and memorable lyrics culminate in this truly country western album. He invokes passion and grit and easily navigates around insightful stories. Best tracks: "Again," "Soldier" and "Sun."
17. Alan Jackson, 'The Bluegrass Album'
Now, this is how a mainstream country record should be made. Sure, bluegrass is in the title, but when I think of real country music, this is the first to come to my mind. Best tracks: "Long Hard Road," "Tie Me Down" and "Blacktop."
14. The Avett Brothers, 'Magpie and the Dandelion'
This timely harmonica- and banjo-laced release (and their ironic "Another is Waiting") comes at a time when everyone is questioning the direction of country music. They might be onto something. Best tracks: "Another is Waiting," "Skin and Bones" and "Vanity."
13. Charlie Worsham, 'Rubberband'
The mainstream has never been so appealing. Amidst all the bro-country, this newcomer dares to laugh in the face of the norm by attempting to usher in stylistic change. He even enlists the talent of Vince Gill and Marty Stuart. Aces. Best tracks: "Tools of the Trade," "How I Learned To Pray" and "Mississippi in July."