In 2016 a year that saw up say goodbye to way to many legends and the craziest Presidential Election, at least we still had some great music come out to keep us sane! Here is my list of the best Country albums to come out this year. Now I will say that a few of these albums came out at the end of 2015, but I didnt get to really listen to them till this year so I’m including them here!
This album became one of my go-to’s for 2016 while I was studying. This album was solid front to back with good country music.
9 – Zan Williams – Bringing Country Back
If you don’t know the nameZane Williams, do yourself a favor and take a listen! I got turned on to Zane from Aaron Watson who said he was one of the best writers in music today. I respect Aaron’s opinion so I gave him a listen. To say he was right is an understatement! With Bringin’ Country Back, Zane brings back some of the real country sounds that seems to be missing in a lot of commercial country these days.
8 – Brothers Osborne – Pawn Shop
This was the first album released in 2016 that got played over and over in my truck. I love how the Bros have a unique sound and they are not afraid to let it shine through in their music and videos. Stay a Little Longer was one of my favorite songs in 2015, so I couldn’t wait for this album to FINALLY come out in January! I was not let down!
7 – Drake White – Spark
Drake White was one of the first artists I got to meet when I started at The Wolf in 2012. Since seeing him to a live acoustic set, I’ve been a fan and have been fiending for new music. Finally in 2016 we got a full album, and it was worth the wait! One of my top songs from 2016 was definitely Makin’ Me Look Good Again, fellas if you want to score some points with your lady, play her that song!
6 – Marren Morris – Hero
I had mixed emotions when Hero was released. After hearing My Church I thought that we were looking at another move back to a more traditional country sound with some edge, like Kacey Musgraves a few years ago. After my first run through of the album I was a liitle let down. Then I went back and listened some more. Marren definitely came with some vocals on this album and I can see why it is getting a lot of consideration for the album of the year from many people. I think the biggest mistake of the album was the label not releasing I wish I was as the 2nd single. That song had me hypnotized from the first time I heard it, and with the exception of one other song this year, I played it more than any other!
5 – Jon Pardi – California Sunrise
Jon Pardi released an EP in 2015 titled The B Sides that I felt was some of the best work of his career, and those were the songs that didnt make the album! So I had some pretty high hopes for California Sunrise. I always find it funny that the artist with the most twang in his voice is from Dixion California! Overall the album is a solid nod to those that came before him like Buck Owens and Dwight Yokam while still having some fun that will keep the city girls dancing!
4 – Bart Crow – The Parade
So technicially this album came out in late 2015ish… but I didnt get my hands on it until 2016, so its my list and I’m adding it! If music has ever been there for you to celebrate with, get through some tough times, or just get lost with, you need to hear Dear Music. It is an open letter to the friend that is always there for you no matter what life throws at you, and is my pick for the best song of 2016. I spend countless days walking to class listening to this song over and over again. The album is packed with songs that are strangely familiar to you (I spent months trying to figure our why Top of Rock Bottom sounded so familiar, hint Brooks & Dunn…) This was one of the only albums I actually purchased in 2016 (nope dont get all of them free!) and it was deffinitly worth the money!
3 – Eric Church – Mr Misunderstood
I can only think of a few times when an artist was able to surprise not only fans, but the whole industry with a full album release! Eric Church did just that last November with Mr. Misunderstood. This album wasnt just a compilation of songs that didnt make the cut on previous albums but a full album of great music. Eric has never been one to follow the trends or listen to what he is supposed to do (remember when he got kicked off the Rascal Flatts tour for playing too long??). This album came off as personal to the Chief, and it has paid off. Eric again bucked the system performing two sold out acoustic shows at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado to announce his big 2017 tour.
2 – Josh Abbott Band – Front Row Seat
An art form died with the birth of the digital music revolution. Albums used to by put together to tell a story. They were laid out from track one to the end to take the listener through a journey. Now music is consumed differently. Tracks are downloaded individually and the full story is rarely ever noticed if the album is even laid out to tell a story. That is what Front Row Seat brought back. While the album has plenty of songs that stand up on their own, the best way to consume it is to pop it in a press play. Its the all too familiar story of love. From the beginning butterflies and anticipation of not knowing where a relationship is going to the heartbreak of love lost, The Josh Abbott Band is able to take you on an emotional journey that I cant remember experiencing in music in a long time.
1 – Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
I have spent most of 2016 trying to figure out how to explain the sound of A Sailor’s Guide. The best I have come up with is take some renegade country, toss in some Motown, and sprinkle it with some Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar, and you have Sturgill’s album. This album is hands down one of the best that I have heard in years and ran away with my vote for album of the year by the time I was done listening to it the first time. Sonically it covers such a wide spectrum that there is something that will resonate with virtually every listener. Simpson did the impossible with one track, he covered the Nirvana classic In Bloom, and made it his. I played that song for some big Nirvana fans who all agreed that Kurt Cobain himself would have approved of it. I wish that I could put into words how amazing this album truly is, but for someone that talks for a living, I have no words. The fact that the CMAs completely ignored this album, in my view, is what is wrong with the Nashville machine. I did find hope when the Gramys not only nominated it for Country Album of the Year but also All Genre Album of the Year. This album may not be for everyone, but its one that everyone should listen to at least once to witness the true art.
Album Highlights: THE WHOLE DAMN ALBUM!