BORN Country’s 30 Best Country Albums Of 2016: #20-11
Released: August 12th, 2016
Label: Cody Jinks Music
Nothing on the latest offering from Cody Jinks is “radio ready.” In most cases, that would likely come off as an insult to an artist, but it’s quite clear that mainstream country radio isn’t quite the goal in this instance. Fans of “outlaw” country music are probably already quite aware of Cody Jinks, but if not, I’m Not The Devil should jump to the top of their lists immediately. Heck, the album even includes an impressive cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am.” It’s deep and it’s dark, the way it should be.
Standout Tracks: “I’m Not The Devil”; “The Way I Am”
Released: February 12th, 2016
Label: MCA Nashville
With the release of his 14th studio album, Down To My Last Bad Habit, Vince Gill continues to show exactly why he is perhaps the most sought after guitarist in Music City. Though country radio seems to have completely pushed Gill away, he is determined to keep the traditions of country music alive. Vince has recently announced that he will begin a country roots tour with Lyle Lovett in 2017. You can bet that this news has my fingers crossed for a quick follow-up to Down To My Last Bad Habit going even deeper into his country roots! We can dream!
Standout Tracks: “Sad One Comin’ On (A Song For George Jones)”; “Me And My Girl”
Released: April 15th, 2016
I might take some heat for this one. Struggle Simpson has, deservingly I might add, been made the “savior” of true country music by the masses who have given up on the mainstream. Rightfully so! Simpson’s sophomore album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, (produced by Dave Cobb) was one of, if not THE best country album released in 2014. This year, Simpson takes us on a whole new adventure with A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. I’ve been listening to this record since April and it truly is a great piece of art. However, unlike the previous albums from Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide doesn’t quite have the same country “feel” that I’ve grown to love from him. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from the project, but here’s to hoping that after this experimental album, we get back to a little more twang that we know is in Simpson’s repertoire. All of that being said, I absolutely look forward to Sturgill taking home that Grammy Award for Best Country Album in February!
Standout Tracks: “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)”; “In Bloom”
Released: October 7th, 2016
Label: Curb Records
This right here is one of the greatest examples that modern country radio is an absolute mess. Mo Pitney’s debut single “Country,” was released in 2014. The song peaked at a mind boggling #40 on Billboard’s country chart and it took another TWO YEARS until an album was released. All radio/label complaints aside, Behind This Guitar shows that Mo has a major career ahead of him. The latest single, “Everywhere,” just hit country radio in December of 2016, so let us all keep our fingers crossed that this one gets a little more love from the “powers that be”!
Standout Tracks: “Country”; “Everywhere”
Released: June 17th, 2016
Label: Liberty Records
In 2015, Jon Pardi was hand picked by Alan Jackson as his opening act for the Keepin’ It Country Tour. If that alone doesn’t give Pardi a great deal of legitimacy, give his second album, California Sunrise, a spin. Sure, elements are in place to allow for play on country radio but at its core, this is one heck of a true country album. Bonus: it even LOOKS like a country album! The album’s first single, “Head Over Boots” dominated the majority of 2016 as my favorite radio song. When the tide begins to lean toward traditional sounds in the mainstream once again, you can bet that Pardi will be one of the big names leading the charge!
Standout Tracks: “Head Over Boots”; “Dirt On My Boots”
Released: November 18th, 2016
Label: Post Oak Recordings
I’m sure that I don’t need to sell any of you on this one. Travis Tritt has been a massive fan favorite here with the BORN Country readers since Day 1! Tritt released the first live album of his career in 2016, and it’s all that one could possibly hope for! Simply titled, A Man And His Guitar features Tritt performing 24 tracks over a two-disc set. Both Marty Stuart and James Otto make appearances throughout the show, but for the most part, this is strictly Travis doing his thing in front of the Franklin Theatre crowd. The album includes the majority of Tritt’s major hits, but the true treasures are the stories in-between songs and the covers of country legends like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Hank Jr., and more.
Standout Tracks: “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin'” featuring Marty Stuart; “Where Corn Don’t Grow”
Released: August 5th, 2016
Label: CoJo Music
When an artist comes along that could easily fit in with any period of the genre, you know we have a true gem on our hands. Cody Johnson has been self-releasing country music albums since 2007 and they just get better and better as they come. 2016’s Gotta Be Me hit stores in August and quickly jumped towards the top of what would become this list in no time! Born in 1987, it’s no wonder that Cody’s music sounds the way it does, considering the era that he grew up in! Devoted fans of 90’s country music absolutely must give Cody Johnson a listen. This guy is the real deal!
Standout Tracks: “With You I Am”; “Kiss Goodbye”
Released: October 10th, 2016
Label: Self Released
Prior to 2016, Tracy Byrd had been on break from regularly touring since 2009. On top of that, the last album released by Byrd was Different Things way back in 2006! Perhaps I had missed out on the announcement, but I hadn’t even been aware that a new album was in the works! All American Texan hit digital streaming with little fanfare, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this release is STILL news to country music fans! Songs like the title track and “Texas Truck” ring true to the Tracy Byrd music that I grew up on. Whether you prefer the honky tonkin’ side or the love ballads, All American Texan is prime Tracy Byrd.
Standout Tracks: “All American Texan”; “Texas Truck”
Released: March 4th, 2016
Label: Sony Legacy
It took 12 years, but this 2016 saw the wait for Loretta Lynn’s follow-up to her 2004 masterpiece, Van Lear Rose, come to an end. Is Full Circle worth the decade plus of waiting for new music from the Queen of Country Music? In my opinion, absolutely! Unlike the previous record that was produced by Jack White, Loretta had John Carter Cash in the production seat, along with her daughter Patsy. Featuring new recordings of past hits and classic folk songs that she learned in her childhood, Loretta’s Full Circle not only lives up to the hype, but also leaves us hungry from more from the country music legend.
Standout Tracks: “Lay Me Down”; “Whispering Sea”; “Wine Into Water”
Released: October 14, 2016
Label: Mono Mundo Recordings
I had the opportunity to see nearly 40 artists perform over the course of 2016. Raul Malo and The Mavericks were hands down the most entertaining out of all of them! All Night Live, Volume 1, is documented proof as just how good these guys are live. While I’m not typically a fan of live recordings, this is a case in which I would have no problem with an artist releasing ONLY live album from here on out! Get this record, see The Mavericks live and you will likely agree with me. Here’s to hoping that Volume 2 is coming soon!
Standout Tracks: “Pardon Me”; “All Night Long”; “Back In Your Arms Again”