When it comes to picking the best albums of the year, everyone’s got their own favorites. Which is how it should be since music can be intensely personal. It’s part of what makes listening to songs and albums such a meaningful experience.

But then again, so many music fans also love lists, and are curious how their own opinions stack up against those of others. You may have your favorite critic (or…not), but if you are looking for a general consensus on critical opinion, that’s where this Top Ten list comes in.

The data here is from CBS Interactive site Metacritic, which assigns a “Metascore” (from 1 to 100) to each album on its release week. These Metascores are based on the ratings given by noted critics across the country (at least four individual reviews are required for a score to be produced).

Below are the ten most highly rated albums from notable country artists released in 2012 (plus a handful of honorable mentions. For more albums and reviews, you can sift through the full list of country releases, sorted by their release date. Review snippets below are taken from excerpts provided on each album’s Metacritic page.

1) Kasey Chambers, Wreck & Ruin – Oct. 22, 2012 – Metascore: 86
Wreck & Ruin [is] an album that tempers its genuine, heartfelt romance with the darkest comedy.” (Slant)

2) Dwight Yoakam, 3 Pears – Sept. 18, 2012 – Metascore: 86
“Yoakam’s first release in seven years is a smashing return to form.” (Entertainment Weekly)

3 Pears

3 Pears

3) Shooter Jennings, Family Man – March 13, 2012 – Metascore: 81
“While Waylon’s shadow will remain a constant companion, the younger Jennings continues to prove that he’s a great shot in his own right.” (Boston Globe)

4) Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Nashville, Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down – April 24, 2012 – Metascore: 81
“These songs sound like old country classics.” (Mojo)

5) Jamey Johnson, Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran – Oct. 16, 2012 – Metascore: 81
“The arrangements are warm and understated while the performances fill the room, making Living For A Song a steady grower that sneaks up behind listeners and pickpockets their hearts.” (A.V. Club)

6) Iris Dement, Sing the Delta – Oct. 2, 2012 – Metascore: 80
“This is an album of rare truth and grace.” (Telegraph U.K.)

7) Jerrod Niemann, Free the Music – Oct. 2, 2012 – Metascore: 80
Free the Music is skilled and adventurous, never succumbing to pretension thanks to Niemann’s game sense of humor.” (All Music Guide)

cover freethemusic 1348261590 The Ten Best Rated Country Albums Of 2012

Free the Music

8) Kellie Pickler, 100 Proof – Jan. 24, 2012 – Metascore: 78
“An old-fashioned countrypolitan album-and a really good one at that.” (Billboard)

9) Punch Brothers, Who’s Feeling Young Now? – Feb. 14, 2012 – Metascore: 77
“The musical leaps Punch Brothers takes are invigorating, sometimes breathtaking.” (American Songwriter)

10) Taylor Swift, Red – Oct. 22, 2012 – Metascore: Metascore: 77
Red is [Taylor’s] most interesting full-length to date, but it probably won’t be when all is said and done in her career.” (Billboard)

Honorable Mentions:

Billy Joe Shaver, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas – Metascore: 76

Alan Jackson, Thirty Miles West – Metascore: 75

Little Big Town, Tornado – Metascore: 75

Lionel Richie, Tuskegee – Metascore: 74

Zack Brown Band, Uncaged – Metascore: 72

– Kurt Wolff, CBS Local


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