OFFSTAGE: Jerrod Niemann, Gary Allan Make New York Times List

It’s not every day you get to use Taylor Swift, Gary Allan and Jerrod Niemann in a single sentence. But I just did, thanks to the what-were-they-thinking year-end list published by the The New York Times . Their Top 10 albums list is particularly interesting when you look at it through country glasses. (Not to be confused with the beer goggles Neal McCoy sings about, by the way.) Swift’s Speak Now was in second place, Allan’s Get Off on the Pain was No. 6 and Niemann’s Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury closed the list. That must be some feather in his cap since Niemann is brand new to major-label fame and fortune. And Swift’s on pretty much every list that has anything to do with music this year. So the pleasant surprise here, to me, is Allan. He absolutely belongs on this list. And frankly, the songs themselves should be on all the Best Songs of All Time lists, if such lists existed. Especially “Kiss Me When I’m Down.” I mean, I don’t know anyone else who can sound that sexy rhyming “tube of toothpaste” with “empty Zeppelin three-CD case.” And like the Times says, Allan “has made music to match the hurt.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.