Say what you will about the directions mainstream country is taking these days, but outside the Top 40 there’s plenty of honky tonk to go around. Top of the heap right now is Jason Eady, a Mississippi native (and Texas transplant) whose new album Daylight and Dark lays down some of the strongest country music I’ve heard all year.

Daylight and Dark in many ways picks up where Eady’s acclaimed previous album, AM Country Heaven, left off.

But it’s more than just a followup. Daylight and Dark takes the honky-tonk promise of Eady’s previous work and moves it forward, thanks to a Eady’s vocals and especially the songwriting, which feels richer and more mature. 

If you spend time on country radio but haven’t heard of Eady, that’s not surprising — his sound is not the kind that gets spins these days. It’s not that it’s gritty or dirty — in fact, Eady’s voice and melodies can be pretty darn sweet. It’s just that Eady’s music is edgier and feels more old school than the work of mainstream country A-listers like Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean.

Eady’s latest album, Daylight and Dark, is easily one of the year’s best country albums so far. I haven’t spent as much time with Eady as others (see Saving Country Music), but the album took hold right away and, between Eady’s vocals and songwriting, is only growing stronger with each spin.

Also notable is that the album was produced by Kevin Welch. Below you can hear some of what Welch and Eady got up to in the studio, and what Eady’s sound is all about.

Preview the full album Daylight and Dark on Eady’s website.