The year 2012 brought forth many great country releases. Some were traditional albums from established artists, others were by emerging artists experimenting with the form, while other releases showcased country at its most poppy.
Here are the five that CBC Music's country community deem the most defining releases of the year that was.
1. Little Big Town, Tornado
It seems that the Alabama quartet of Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, and Phillip Sweet have been building up to an album like this - a raw showcase of their four-part harmonies and percussive, boot-stomping rhythms. It all combines into an album filled with highly listenable songs.
Little Big Town, Tornado
Full Album Stream until Dec 23
2. Taylor Swift, Red
The only reason we couldn't name this one number one was because we still aren't sure if this is a country album by a pop star or a pop album by a country star. Not that it matters. The sales on Swift's album have been sky-high since it was released this autumn, and her star power continues to rise across genres.
3. Corb Lund, Cabin Fever
If you like your country music with an edge — like, say, the edge of a sharp axe driving through firewood, the echoes pounding through the caves and canyons atop a snow-covered mountain peak — then Cabin Fever from this Canadian country growler is your new soundtrack.
[PLAYBUTTON] Listen to songs from Cabin Fever.
4. Dwight Yoakam, 3 Pears
As solid and unique as Kentucky mahogany, Yoakam could release an a capella album of ballads and still weave his way onto a list like this. However, he and his band back up that voice with enough hooks and unexpected surprises to keep his fans on their feet.
5. Paul Brandt, Just As I Am
What do you do when you've won every accolade in Canadian country music, and then some? If you are a brave artist, you do something unexpected. For Brandt, it was a gospel album. Brandt called up a few friends — including High Valley, Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs — and made one of the best country albums of the year, gospel or otherwise.
Listen to the album in full below:
PLAY Paul Brandt/Just As I Am
Who is Canada's Taylor Swift?
Spoon made me fall in love with Dwight Yoakam
Taylor Swift to Blake Shelton: on the road again
Best moments from the 2012 CCMA Awards gallery
Q&A: Paul Brandt finds gospel gold on Just As I Am
The Strombo Q&A: 10 Questions With Paul Brandt
on Dec 17, 2012