Best Country Album

Fans of Waylon Payne had to wait a long time for new solo material from the country singer-songwriter — his debut album, The Drifter, came out way back in 2004. His second full-length Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me was well worth the wait, and is a triumph for reasons far beyond its cicada-like gestation period. Much of the album chronicles Payne’s addiction to methamphetamine and subsequent recovery, telling his story in raw, gut-wrenching detail over gorgeous arrangements that place Payne’s virtuosic vocals front and center. With Blue Eyes, Payne reminds us that he is not only one of the genre’s most gifted songwriters — he’s one of our best singers, too. BRITTNEY McKENNA

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