It’s been another standout year for fans of country, Americana and roots music as rising stars kept the big names keen.
As more and more US stars made it back across the Pond, it felt like the UK’s bond with some of the world’s greatest singer songwriters grew ever stronger.
And picking The 10 Best Country Albums Of 2022 proved a tough task.

10. Luke Combs — Growing Up (Columbia)

Growing Up and blowing up.

Country music’s hottest star is only three albums into his glittering career.

But ever since Luke Combs exploded onto the scene with 2017’s This One’s For You his career’s been in overdrive.

And Growing Up somehow had to better Billboard chart topper What You See Is What You Get.

It didn’t quite get that far — peaking at number two — but Combs crafted another riot of a record.

Lead single Doin’ This and follow-up The Kind Of Love We Make set the standard.

And Growing Up successfully fused greater maturity with Combs’ trademark charm.

9. Ashley McBryde — Lindeville (Warner Music Nashville)

Five albums in and the mercurial McBryde hit her stride.

Grammy nominated and near faultless in its execution, a rich body of work showcased a luscious soundscape and an addictive narrative.

In tandem with producer and buddy John Osborne (one half of Brothers Osborne), McBryde introduced fans to the fictional town of Lindeville.

And her talent as a compelling storyteller and multi-talented musician shone bright.

McBryde stuffed Lindeville with specials guests: Brothers Osborne, Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack and more added to the mix.

And Pillbox Pattie — aka Nicolette Hayford — played a key role as Lindeville’s most colourful resident.

8. Thomas Rhett — Where We Started (The Valory Music Co.)

Inspired by Rhett’s return to touring, Where We Started took fans on a familiar journey.

A reflective Rhett was in no mood to rip up the country music rulebook.

But his sixth studio album represented another giant leap forward for an artist with 12 billion streams under his buckled leather belt.

The title track saw Rhett duet with superstar Katy Perry.

And a typically dynamic Dan Huff production perfectly showcased an assured songwriter at the top of his game.

Half Of Me, featuring Riley Green, was another hip swinging highlight.

But Church Boots was sublime — track number three kicking everything else into touch.

7. Lainey Wilson — Bell Bottom Country (Broken Bow Records)

Only last year Lainey Wilson stormed Rushonrock’s Best Country Albums Of 2021 with the supreme Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.

Twelve months on and she’s back in the chasing pack with the bullish Bell Bottom Country.

Fast emerging as one of Nashville’s most consistent performers, Wilson dropped another banger of an album.

Country with flare, BBC was beautifully conceived and eloquently executed.

Mixing funk, soul and rock with a core ingredient of trad country, Wilson made a play for mass appeal.

And it worked an absolute treat.

Tunes like the dreamy Watermelon Sunshine and bluesy This One’s Gonna Cost Me proved Wilson can do it all…and frequently does.

6. Laura Evans — State Of Mind (Self Released)

Blues rock? Outlaw country? Amped-up Americana?

Take your pick but whatever Laura Evans was aiming for, State Of Mind blew our mind.

The Welsh singer songwriter has been on the Rushonrock radar since the summer of 2020.

But nobody — not least us — was prepared for this peerless long player.

A rootsy, rebellious strand ran right through State Of Mind.

And tracks like Fire With Fire, Gone and Good At Getting Over You kept us coming back for more.

Evans aimed high and hit the target.

State Of Mind was stunning in every sense.

Read the full Rushonrock review here 

5. Kelsey Waldon — No Regular Dog (Oh Boy Records)

Heritage-heavy, heart-on-sleeve authenticity drove No Regular Dog.

And we’d be barking mad to omit this masterpiece from 2022’s Best Of lists.

From the off, Kelsey Waldon’s wonderful record struck a chord with its all-consuming narratives and instinctive musicality.

Producer Shooter Jennings targeted the voice…and hit the bullseye.

Waldon’s reassuring tone was the thread that held together this acutely moving album.

And she peaked on the sublime Season’s Ending and haunting History Repeats Itself.

No Regular Dog lead where others could only dream of following.

Read the full Rushonrock review here 

4. Conner Smith — Didn’t Go Too Far (The Valory Music Co.)

If label mate Thomas Rhett is the reliable face of modern country then Conner Smith’s the genre’s fast-rising risk-taker.

This six-track taster of things to come propelled the Nashville native towards the big leagues.

And the talk is Smith could — and probably should — take 2023 by storm.

Didn’t Go Too Far featured US Country Airplay breaker Learn From It.

But the 22-year-old is still best known for viral Tik Tok hit I Hate Alabama.

That song featured here but lacked the appeal of the reflective title track and set closer Somewhere In A Small Town.

Read the full Rushonrock review here 

3. Miranda Lambert — Palomino (SME Nashville)

Even Tiger Woods couldn’t swing it this good,” boasted Miranda Lambert on Palomino’s swampy opener Actin’ Up.

But one thing’s for sure…golf’s GOAT certainly couldn’t sing it this good.

Lambert’s honey-tongued vocals have always added a somewhat superficial layer to her best work.

But don’t be fooled by the disarmingly sweet tone: there was true grit at the heart of Palomino.

There was also humour, hurt, self-reflection and celebration as a well-rounded record went full circle and back again.

Lambert’s Music City Queen collab with The B-52s was one of the tracks of 2022.

2. Midland — The Last Resort: Greetings From (Big Machine Records)

Freewheeling trio Midland chose to push the boundaries and expand their horizons on The Last Resort: Greetings From.

And once we got past the bizarrely cumbersome title this was another example of trad country turned on its head to dizzying effect.

Longneck Way To Go, featuring Jon Pardi, echoed the band’s breakout hit Drinkin’ Problem.

And the jaunty Two By Two Step had our feet tapping all the way to the dancefloor.

Jess Carson’s King Of Saturday Night kept the country pot boiling.

But was there more to set closer Adios Cowboy than meets the eye? 

Only time will tell.

1. Nikki Lane — Denim & Diamonds (New West Records)

Lane’s first album in five years couldn’t come soon enough for fans of dark and dusky Americana.

Produced by Joshua Homme and smothered in trademark cynicism, Denim & Diamonds was an unadulterated joy.

Lane lived and breathed myriad tales of love, loss, living and loathing.

And her sultry vocals added serious weight to a wonderfully pitched set.

Opener First High played off a pounding bass line to deliver a Stones-flavoured indie rock banger.

But there was no pigeon-holing this expansive, explosive album.

The brooding title track, bullish Born Tough and slow-burning garage blues of Black Widow raised the bar.