BORN Country’s 30 Best Country Albums Of 2016: #10-1
BACK Part 1: Albums #30-21
BACK Part 2: Albums #20-11
Released: February 12, 2016
Upon first listen to Lorrie Morgan’s latest studio offering, I was hooked. From her renditions of Patsy Cline’s “Strange” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe,” to the witty “Jesus And Hairspray,” I’ll say it right here: This is the BEST album that Morgan has ever released. I have yet to experience a full Lorrie Morgan show, but after taking in a brief Opry performance this year (in which she sang two songs from Letting Go… Slow) she is right at the top of my 2017 bucket list. Do not miss out on this album, bottom line.
Standout Tracks: “Ode To Billie Joe”; “Is It Raining At Your House”
Released: June 10th, 2016
Label: Warner Bros.
Gosh. What’s left to say about Brandy Clark’s sophomore album, Big Day In A Small Town, that you probably haven’t read in a hundred other reviews since its release in June? I imagine that most folks that are reading this here at BORN Country aren’t out partying on tailgates or at the lake all of the time, right? Are you looking for music about everyday real life? Clark’s songs aren’t about how “country” you are or how much beer you drink on the weekends. This is about growing up in a small town, heartbreak, being a single mother, and in short, the fight to find and live a happy life. If you can’t find a single thing to relate to in Brandy Clark’s latest album, you might be lying to yourself.
Standout Tracks: “You Can Come Over”; “Girl Next Door”; “Since You’ve Gone To Heaven”
Released: June 3rd, 2016
What huge year 2016 has been for John Berry. His tenth studio album (which was fan funded, no less!) hit stores, he toured like crazy, celebrated the 20th Anniversary of his Grand Ole Opry debut, released his fifth Christmas album and on top of all that, spent the last month on his sold out 20th annual Christmas TOUR! I had to the opportunity to take in three John Berry shows this year in support of What I Love The Most, and the fan following this man has is just incredible. I have never experienced an artist so willing to spend time with fans after the show than John Berry. If 2016 has been any indicator of how big 2017 will be for John Berry, I’ll be waiting at the edge of my seat!
Standout Tracks: “I Get That All The Time”; “She’s Mine”; “Gotta Lotta Love”
Released: August 19th, 2016
Label: Dot Records
I maybe listened to Drake White’s “Livin’ The Dream” more than any other song in 2016. I understand that music evolves over time, so the fact that White’s music isn’t necessarily traditional doesn’t affect my enjoyment at all. Here is where the divide is between this and the majority of today’s other country stars lies: I BELIEVE Drake White. Everything from Drake White’s debut full length album, Spark, feels like TRUTH. Sure, writing a radio is hit is typically the goal, but I get the feeling that White isn’t willing to sacrifice his integrity for a Top 10 candy-coated pop song. Spark is an absolute breath of fresh air.
Standout Tracks: “Livin’ The Dream”; “Makin’ Me Look Good Again”; “It Feels Good”
Released: November 18th, 2016
Label: Sony Music Nashville
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to find an album these days that provides a solid 10 to 12 tracks that you can consistently listen to straight through. Now, how many non-greatest hits albums can you name that can do that with a whopping 24 songs? Miranda Lambert takes on the challenge with her sixth album, The Weight Of These Wings. In my opinion, she has strongly succeeded in that task. For those of you who avoid the new era of country music like the plague, I’d like for you to give this a shot. Put aside all of the press that Lambert has faced over the last few years involving her relationship with Blake Shelton and and take this in. Lambert having co-written 20 of the 24 tracks makes The Weight Of These Wings one of the most personal projects that we have seen in years.
Standout Tracks: “Tin Man”; “To Learn Her”; “Use My Heart”; “Runnin’ Just In Case”
Released: November 11th, 2016
Label: NASH Icon
I have enjoyed the previous two releases from Ronnie Dunn since his official split with long time partner, Kix Brooks. However, those two albums, along with Kix’s solo effort from 2012 only made my desire for a Brooks & Dunn reunion even stronger. Six years after the official break-up, Tattooed Heart has finally allowed me to cope with the split of the best country music duo of all time. Ronnie Dunn may be the most fitting use of someone being able to sing the phonebook and still draw a crowd. The proof is right here: The title track, “Tattooed Heart” is a cover of an Ariana Grande song. I mean this in no offense to Miss Grande, because the little that I’ve heard of her shows that she is a tremendous talent. She just falls outside of my wheelhouse. However, had I not read into it, I never would’ve known that Ronnie recorded a song that the pop-star had co-written! Of course, we also get a little tease as Kix Brooks joins in on the second single, “Damn Drunk.” Okay, I lied. I still want a full time B&D reunion.
Standout Tracks: “Damn Drunk”; “Ain’t No Trucks In Texas”; “Tattooed Heart”
Released: September 30th, 2016
Label: Warner Music Nashville
When I heard “I Met A Girl” on country radio for the first time, I was hooked immediately. It sounded like the kind of country music that I grew up on, which is not something that makes it to the radio everyday, as most of you will agree. Because of that, I had feared that after a few weeks of being “fresh,” it might disappear from radio. Much to my surprise and pleasure, the first single from William Michael Morgan continues to receive a wealth of air-time, months later! Later in the year when the full length debut of WMM, Vinyl, hit stores, I had a feeling that we were in for a treat. Boy, was I right! While I admittedly enjoy a good deal of “today’s country,” I have no problem including Morgan with the company of Chris Stapleton, Margo Price and others who are making waves in the return of true country sounds.
Standout Tracks: “I Met A Girl”; “Vinyl”; “Cheap Cologne”
Released: January 29th, 2016
Label: Aubrie Sellers Music
New City Blues, the debut album of newcomer Aubrie Sellers, caught my attention immediately upon its release. By no means is this record strictly a traditional country album. There are hints of rockabilly and punk throughout New City Blues, but what truly brings it all together as a overall fantastic country record is Sellers’ vocals. I wrote a preview for this record back in January and compared her to the wonderful Lee Ann Womack. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Aubrie is actually Womack’s daughter!
Standout Tracks: “Sit Here And Cry”; “Liar Liar”; “Light Of Day”
Released: March 25th, 2016
Label: Third Man Records
Rolling Stone Country named the lead off track from Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, “Hands Of Time,” as the best country song of 2016. While I have a few contenders in mind, this is incredibly hard to argue. It’s also very likely that a lot of the BORN Country readers have yet to actually hear this incredible album. Although Margo Price lands one spot away from the top of our list, I can suggest whole heartedly that if you branch out to listen to anything new from this Top 30 list, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter absolutely MUST to be it. With any luck, Margo Price is the future of country music.
Standout Tracks: “Hands Of Time”; “Hurtin’ On The Bottle”
Released: July 8th, 20th
“They say you can’t sell the truth no more, the kind that Jones and Hag are famous for.”
Growing up on country music of the 90’s, there is a specific sound that I truly desire to hear every time that I put on a new album for the first time. No other album that was released in 2016 comes even close to touching that honky tonk sound like Mark Chesnutt’s Tradition Live has. From the very first track, I knew even back in July that this would be a top contender for my favorite album of the year. Whether it be the toe-tapping “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket” and “Never Been To Texas” or the heartbreaking “Is It Still Cheating,” any number of these songs would have undoubtably been chart toppers throughout the 90’s and it is an absolute shame that none of these 13 tracks had even a slight chance on today’s country radio. I suggest Tradition Lives, hands down , be added to your CD collection as soon as possible. If you are looking for true, traditional sounds in today’s country music world, look no further.
Standout Tracks: “Never Been To Texas”; “Is It Still Cheating”; “I Got A Quarter In My Pocket”
BACK Part 1: Albums #30-21
BACK Part 2: Albums #20-11
That wraps it up for our Best Country Albums Of 2016 list! With albums from Brad Paisley, Joe Diffie, Alison Krauss and Reba already announced, and rumored albums from Pam Tillis and Toby Keith, 2017 is looking like another strong year for country stars of the 90’s! Is there any particular artist that you are looking forward to hearing new material from in the coming year? Tell us below!