ROLLING STONE: 30 Great Country Albums of 2015 You Probably Didn't HearThe great tragedy of music is that so many high-quality albums go unheard. Blame it on the glut of material released every year or the fact that the majority of artists don't have the big-budget promotional push to bring their records to the masses. With the year more than half over, we looked at LPs that deserve a second (or, in some cases, even first) listen, from big-name country releases like Dwight Yoakam's Second Hand Heart and Kristian Bush's Southern Gravity to the sublime singer-songwriter fare of Butch Walker and Kasey Chambers. Here are 30 albums from 2015 that you probably haven't, but really should listen to in their entirety.
#15: Happy Prisoner (The Bluegrass Sessions)
Texas-country mainstay Robert Earl Keen reached across the roots-music aisle in February for a bluegrass-covers album, and the result was an interesting change of pace for fans of both. Keen's title says a lot about how he approached the project, and it's the perfect name. Not only is he having fun within the structural confines of bluegrass, he just can't sound sad — even on the darkest of murder ballads. Take "99 Years for One Dark Day," for example: The guy is locked up for killing his wife and has no hope for release from his personal hell, but Keen sings it like he just won the lottery. Similarly, the devastating no-win-situation in "Long Black Veil" sounds downright uplifting. Natalie Maines, Lyle Lovett and Peter Rowan offer guest vocals, and Keen's band is in fine form despite the unusual material, making the whole thing a weird, fun take on bluegrass that does justice to the tradition without being too serious.
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