Before we officially get going I just want to stop to thank you all for taking the time for suggesting your nominees. Thank you all for making your cases for your nominees. I really appreciate hearing why our friends and readers feel the way they do. I appreciate the passion, and the support you’re all so willing to show for the artists you love so much.
That said however, this was nowhere near an easy process.
The truth is there were over 20 artists worthy of being considered for this list. There were a lot of strong cases to be made for many. In the end we narrowed the list of nominees down to 10 based on growth, accomplishments, production, and activity throughout the year.
When I cut the list to 10 in 2010 I hoped that 2018 would be a little kinder to me. 2018 showed no mercy on this process, and put 2017 to shame in terms of difficulty.
Not all will agree with every name on this list, and that’s fine. There are lots of good cases that could be made for tother to be nominated instead of the ones who are. In the end, however, I feel like we arrived with 10 outstanding and worthy nominations, and I think that when we all go to vote in two weeks we’re going to have to make some very tough decisions when it comes time to cast just one single vote.
The reigning winner of this award, Cody Jinks, is ineligible to receive a 2018 nomination.
It would be unwise to associate Cody’s name not being among the nominees with meaning he doesn’t deserve to be. Quite the opposite, in fact. The truth is, if Cody were nominated he’d probably be picking up the win for the second year in a row. And deservedly so. Cody somehow tops career year with career year. This year he’s moved into even bigger venues, he’s headlined some really big festivals, including the one he himself hatched, and he’s put out an album that stood at #2 on the charts behind only Kenny Chesney.
But as it is the rule is the rule, and despite the fact that if there was ever a case worthy of special exception this would be it, in the interest of long-term sanctity of the award Cody will preside over the nominees this year as the reigning Artist Of The Year and rejoin the nomination pool next fall.
And now, our 2019 Country Music Armadillo Award Nominees for Artist Of The Year:
(In alphabetical order)
Colter Wall earns his second consecutive nomination on this list this year. Colter has had another career year, managing to our-perform his previous effort, playing in bigger venues all the time, being featured on some really great festival lineups, and even headlining sold out shows overseas. Colter also put out yet another outstanding album this year for the second consecutive year (A trend he says he hopes to keep up in years to come) all of which make him pretty much an automatic bid for a nomination.
How many of you work more than 330 days a year? Because that’s what Dallas Moore is logging this year. The tireless road king has had quite possibly the biggest year of his own career in 2018 releasing his excellent “Mr. Honky Tonk” EP and tearing up the roads delivering those songs to audiences across the nation. Dallas played a couple of big festival stops over the summer, playing Tumbleweed and Tailgates N’ Tallboys respectively, and has already been confirmed to return to Tailgates ‘N Tallboys in 2019.
John Prine is an elder statesman of our music. He’s a guy who has been around forever, and is revered for his open, deep, and inspiring songwriting ability. That didn’t stop the wily veteran from raising his own bar, however, as his excellent album “The Tree of Forgiveness” wowed audiences and critics alike this year, climbing to #2 on the country charts and #5 overall. The album’s acclaim and ascent were career bests for Prine, and audiences have flocked to the 72 year old treasure this year in awe of his work.
Josh Morningstar crashes this list as a bit of a surprise, but definitely a worthy nominee. Josh has always been one of the hardest working out there tearing up the roads and this year was no different. His hard work paid off in other areas as well, getting a song cut as part of Cody Jinks “Lifers” album. He’s been on the road with Colter Wall throughout the year while still playing his own shows as well. The factor that edges him into a nomination though is the almost surprise release of his brand new EP “The Plea”. And while you haven’t heard it yet (it’s out December 7th) we here at the Armadillo have and once you get it in your ears you’ll agree that it’s good enough to get Josh a nod as a nominee for the second straight year.
Graduating from a Spotlight Award nomination to this one this year is Mickey Lamatia. Mickey has had an outstanding year, releasing his album “Every Bad Habit” which earned him some praise from the folks at Rolling Stone, exposing him up to plenty of new fans. He also increased his role at Tumbleweed this year serving as the host of the event. He’s played some shows with the legendary David Allan Coe, and steadily maintained his weekly “Whiskey Wednesday” broadcasts, drawing a great number of viewers to him on a regular basis. Mickey continues to make his own way, and he’s made it onto this list as a 2018 Nominee.
The Pistol Annies
2018 was dominated by the buzz surrounding a new record from The Pistol Annies. The record had been announced a year prior, but few details beyond that were to be had. Eventually “Interstate Gospel” was announced for a November release, and it did not disappoint, racing up the charts to #1 in country and #15 overall. The ability of the Pistol Annies to expose mainstream fans to a more traditional and authentic country music style cannot be understated, and with records as good as “Interstate Gospel” is they can do some really great things for our kind of music as a whole.
Shooter Jennings nabs a nomination for his 2018. Shooter is a guy who marches to the beat of his own drum and does whatever he wants to do (where have we heard that story before?) and in 2018 Shooter put out the most country record of his career working with Dave Cobb. He’s been up and down the roads touring in support of the record, and he’s made the rounds on some big festivals throughout the year.
The Tyler Childers train continued to pick up the momentum this year as he earns his second nomination. Tyler hit the road as hard as ever this year playing a ton of shows across the land. He played a truck load of festivals of all sizes and was a highlight from each. He graced the hallowed stage at the Ryman in the late spring in support of Margo Price (Complete a surprise appearance by Sturgill Simpson) he played The Grand Ole Opry the same weekend, and capped off the year with his now infamous Americana Awards win for Emerging Artist Of The Year.
Ward Davis makes for nomination #2 this year, sliding in late behind the long awaited release of new music in the “Asunder” EP. Ward admits he’s got a mountain of material done, but getting it out to listeners has been a fight. He landed a big right cross in that fight with “Asunder”, a deeply personal collection of songs written, in true country music form, about the events that he’s lived through. He’s remained very active on the touring side of things, headlining his own shows and making the festival rounds as well. It’s been a great year for Ward and he’s already promising us even more in 2019 with more new music.
Whitey Morgan and The 78’s
Whitey Morgan roars into a nomination this year like a Viking captain of his band the 78’s. Whitey and the boys rose to the occasion in 2018 delivering a long awaited badass album, and he hit the road with a fever in 2018 headlining his own shows, and occasionally joining Cody Jinks along the way. Perhaps the biggest moment of the year for him, however, was in August when he headlined the historic Ryman Auditorium in a show that meant more than words could describe to the Flint, Michigan native.
The First 5 Out: (In no particular order)
The Steel Woods had plenty of momentum to get a nomination, but the tangible details in the end made them a casualty of the list. They have spent a good portion of the year on the road with Cody Jinks, and headlining their own shows. In the autumn they announced a new album to be released in January which only increased the buzz surrounding them, but in the end the timing of the release is what kept them from getting a nod. They open as very, very strong favorites to get a nomination.
Alex Williams was nominated here last year on the whirlwind success of his 2017. He continued to build steam in 2018 headlining several of his own shows, and spending significant time on the road with Whitey Morgan and the 78’s including the August Ryman date. Like The Steel Woods, not releasing an album this year was the big deciding factor. Alex has plenty of new work ready to record, and if he can release another record in 2019 he will likely once again find himself on this list in 2019.
Amanda Shires is a workhorse. She manages to stay busy not just with husband Jason Isbell and his band, but with her laser focus on her own solo career as well. She released her album “To The Sun” in August to praise from fans and critics alike, and she’s worked tirelessly in support of that. Her live shows are held in high regard (I saw it with my own two eyes) and she has established herself as someone with no limit on potential, and worth your time and attention.
Brent Cobb released one of the best albums of the first half of the year. He’s been hitting the road and playing his own shows in support of the record, and he’s pleasing the crowds wherever he goes. In a year with competition this strong there had to be casualties.
Jason Eady kept the work coming in 2018, releasing another album after his 2017 self titled one. He continued to tour and play shows in support of the album, but again, the competition was just too much and even some who desired to couldn’t make it.
So there you have it! The 10 nominees and the 5 who came closest to earning a spot.
Voting will begin right here on the website DECEMBER 15TH and run through CHRISTMAS NIGHT. The winners will be announced on New Year’s Day.
Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page for nomination suggestions in all of our other categories!