Country Perspective’s Best Country & Americana Albums So Far in 2016

We’ve reached the mid-point of 2016, so it’s time to look back at the year so far for country music and Americana. Up first we take a look back at the best country and Americana albums of 2016 so far. There have been a lot of fantastic albums already this year and sonically there’s a lot of variety. It’s quite clear Americana is gaining a bigger influence, while in the Nashville pop scene they’re still completely bastardizing country music to the point of no return making the appearance of major label artists on this list shorter than last year. Another story that has helped define this list is artists experimenting with different sounds in the independent and Americana scenes, straying from their original sound. While some may think this indicates they don’t know what they want, I think it’s just the opposite, as artists clearly are tired of genre lines and being put into boxes.

The first albums listed are considered candidates for Country Perspective’s 2016 Album of the Year. Remember for an album to be considered for Album of the Year, it must receive a 10/10 score. Those won’t be the only ones listed below though, as all the highly rated albums so far will be highlighted. Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release and we do our best to cover the most albums possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert album) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

So without further ado, the best country and Americana albums so far in 2016….

(Click on the album name to see the full review)

Album of the Year Candidates

Dave Cobb Super Compilation – Southern Family

Dave-Cobb-Southern-Family

After listening to Southern Family, you come away with a better understand and feeling of southern culture and lifestyle. It’s very easy to point out the problems that existed in southern culture in the past and the stigma this caused for the south is something that will remain with the culture for years to come. But it’s important to remember the redeeming qualities of the southern culture: family, friends, love, spirituality, home. All of these things southerners should rightly be proud of and point to as their defining qualities that make them great. This album celebrates southern pride with dignity and genuineness that should make any southerner smile. Cobb bringing together all of these artists who clearly understand southern culture, from both mainstream and independent realms, is not only a unifying moment for southern people, but country music in general. That’s something we can all appreciate.

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth 

Sturgill Simpson A Sailor's Guide To Earth

There’s nothing else to say except Sturgill Simpson did it again. A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is another masterpiece from Simpson. If you’re looking for another copy of High Top Mountain or Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, don’t bother listening. If you’re a fan of music and you trust Simpson, strap in and listen to this album because you won’t be disappointed. You will however be surprised, as Simpson once again takes a different approach in the sound department. There are multiple outright country songs and every song has country elements in them. But there’s also Memphis soul and the Muscle Shoals sound that deeply influence the album. Not to mention there’s lots of string production and horns in many songs. Is it a country record? Well I can tell you Sturgill Simpson wrote, produced and performed an album of phenomenal music. I can say this is Simpson’s most cohesive and tight-knit album yet. Perhaps the best answer to this comes from the late great Merle Haggard: “Good. If it’s what they’re calling country, you don’t want to go near that shit.” And Simpson did exactly that. Simpson gave us something we never expected and yet exactly what we wanted and that’s art straight from the heart.

Chris King AnimalChris King – Animal

Chris King delivers a storytelling masterpiece with Animal. Looking at each song individually on this album, you have some pretty good songs. Put them all together and they all connect for one long, spectacular journey. It’s the journey of a man exploring love, discovery, overcoming mistakes, the unknown and ultimately what we’re all looking for in this crazy thing we call life. Most albums are just a collection of songs, not really all connecting with each other. Sure you’ll find a lot of albums with similar themes and tones throughout, but very rarely do you come across albums that connect from start to finish like Animal does. It should also be pointed out that production on this album is just as flawless as King’s songwriting. Producer John Ross Silva really nails the tone and sound on this album, as it properly reflects the changes in attitude of the main story told throughout. Everything on this album works together perfectly. Chris King shows us all what a true album sounds like.Animal is one of the best albums you’ll hear all year.

Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Margo Price Midwest Farmer's Daughter

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a callback to country’s honky tonk heydays mixed with some blues and rock n’ roll, creating a dynamic record, with each song grounded in country music. Overall I think Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an excellent country album. Price’s vocals are great as she captures the solemness of the slower tracks, but has the appropriate bite and attitude on the rowdier songs. Margo Price has played on several of the late shows and performed on SNL on April 9. It’s still too early to tell, but given the recent success of Chris Stapleton, this could be a big album for country music. Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is one of my favorite albums so far this year.

Dori FreemanDori Freeman – Self-Titled

I’ll be surprised if there’s another debuting country or Americana artist in 2016 that shows more promise than Dori Freeman. This debut album from Freeman blew me away upon the very first listen. In fact I had to play it several times over because only hearing it once wasn’t enough. Freeman’s vocals are crisp, pure and undeniably Appalachian. She was born to sing and very few possess her talent. The songwriting is top-notch and I couldn’t pick out a flaw in the instrumentation and production choices. This album excels and thrives in every area. You can pretty much call it flawless. It’s an album that every true country and Americana fan needs to hear. Dori Freeman is a name you need to know. This is one of the best albums I’ve had the privilege to write about on Country Perspective.

Aubrie Sellers – New City BluesAubrie Sellers New City Blues

The debut album New City Blues from Aubrie Sellers proves that she is a very talented artist who is poised to make a lot of great music for years to come. Never before have I heard a debut album from an artist take so many creative risks. Sellers mixes country, bluegrass, Americana and rock like she’s been doing this for decades. There’s nothing safe about this album, from the lyrics to the production. While Sellers may sound just like her mother Lee Ann Womack, she proves to have her own style and more than enough talent to step out of this shadow and make her own name. New City Blues can feel like a bit of a slog to get through at 14 songs and many songs will take multiple listens to fully grasp. But I assure you it’s well worth your time to sit down and listen to this album over and over.

More Highly Recommended Albums

Flatland Cavalry – Humble Folks

Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day

Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis

Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions

The Honeycutters – On The Ropes 

Randy Rogers Band – Nothing Shines Like Neon 

Loretta Lynn – Full Circle 

Carter Sampson – Wilder Side 

Sierra Hull – Weighted Mind 

Caleb Caudle – Carolina Ghost 

Addison Johnson – I’m Just A Song

The Cactus Blossoms – You’re Dreaming

William Michael Morgan – William Michael Morgan EP

Wheeler Walker Jr. – Redneck Shit 

Ryan Beaver – Rx 

The Lumineers – Cleopatra

Sunny Ozell – Take It With Me 

Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories 

Speedbuggy USA – South of Bakersfield 

Harvest Thieves – Rival 

Waco Brothers – Going Down in History 

5 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s Best Country & Americana Albums So Far in 2016

  1. Zackary Kephart June 13, 2016 / 11:29 am

    For me, my album of the year contenders are as follows (Alphabetical order):

    Dave Cobb and others – “Southern Family”
    Robert Ellis – “Robert Ellis”
    Chris King – “Animal”

    Those 3 have set a very high bar for me. It’s been a pretty great year even looking past that. There’s a ton of great albums that have come out and lots of things worth highlighting. Here’s the rest of my personal grades.

    9/10 (no order, even though I have spoiled the order before haha)

    Austin Lucas – “Between The Moon and The Midwest”
    The Honeycutters – “On The Ropes”
    Dori Freeman – self-titled
    Brandy Clark – “Big Day In A Small Town”
    Michael Martin Murphey – “High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII”
    Sturgill Simpson – “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth”

    8/10

    Robbie Fulks – “Upland Stories”
    Doug Bruce – “Unsung: A Tribute To The Songs Of Buddy Bruce”
    Tyller Gummersall – “Long Ride Home”
    Hayes Carll – “Lovers and Leavers”
    Margo Price – “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter”
    Flatland Cavalry – “Humble Folks”
    Sammy Kershaw – “The Blues Got Me”

    On the bucket list to REVIEW

    Larry Hooper – No Turning Back
    Cheryl Desere’e – self-titled
    Wynonna & The Big Noise – self-titled
    Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day
    Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters – Midwest Heart / Southern Blues
    Aubrie Sellers – New City Blues
    Loretta Lynn – Full Circle
    Caleb Caudle – Carolina Ghost
    Wade Bowen – Then Sings My Soul, Songs For My Mother
    Randy Rogers Band – Nothing Shines Like Neon
    Aoife O’ Donovan – In The Magic Hour
    Carter Sampson – Wilder Side

    On the bucket list to HEAR

    Bonnie Bishop – Ain’t Who I Was
    Nathan Kalish – Continental Breakfast of Champions
    Al Scorch – Circle Round The Signs
    Jack Klatt – Shadows in the Sunset
    The Lumineers – Cleopatra
    Jeff Shepherd and the Jailhouse Poets – Self-Titled
    The Hackensaw Boys – Charismo
    Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions
    Sierra Hull – Weighted Mind
    Sunny Ozell – Take It With Me

    Btw, I don’t see Metamodern Sounds In Country Music here and that’s the greatest album ever so this list sucks. (Kidding! Haha)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jonathan June 13, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    These are all great albums (at least the ones I’ve heard). My top four would probably be Carolina Ghost by Caleb Caudle, The Very Last Day by Parker Millsap, Wrong Side Of the River by Rob Baird, and Magic Hour by Aoife O’Donovan. The Sturgill Simpson, Sierra Hull, Chris King, and Dori Freeman albums are all close runner ups. I also just listened to Sarah Jarosz’s new album which is streaming on Consequence Of Sound this week, and it will be one of my favorite albums this year. I got the chance to see her live last night which was awesome. Also, for those who like bluegrass, Familiar With the Ground by The Boxcars is an excellent album.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OlaR June 13, 2016 / 1:39 pm

    Best albums of 2016 (so far):
    Loretta Lynn – “Full Circle” (10/10)
    Margo Price – “Midwest Farmer’s Daugther” (10/10)
    Kaylens Rain – “In Our Blood” (10/10)

    From 2015 & i found 2016:
    Bri Bagwell – “When A Heart Breaks”
    Mario Flores – “Almost Famous”
    Paul Costa – “Wheels & Steel”
    Peyton Davis – “Country Road”
    Adam Harvey – “Harvey’s Bar …The Backyard Sessions”

    More good stuff:
    Lainey Wilson – “Tougher”
    Post Monroe – “Post Monroe” (Ep)
    Nestor Andress – “Falling In Love” (Ep)
    Meghan Patrick – “Grace & Grit”
    Gord Bamford – “Tin Roof”
    Craig Morgan – “A Whole Lot More To Me”
    Kristy Cox – “Part Of Me”
    Martina McBride – “Reckless”
    Mathew Ewing – “I Can’t Keep My Eyes Off Of You”
    Sam Riggs – “Breathless”

    Less mainstream Nashville, more music from Texas, Canada & Australia.

    Like

  4. Robert June 13, 2016 / 3:09 pm

    I don’t get into the whole rating-the-music aspect of it too much, as my own taste in music is different from everyone else’s, but I enjoy reading about a lot of new music from reading the articles and suggestions to add to my playlist (link included, which includes a few that aren’t especially well-known).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zackary Kephart June 13, 2016 / 6:07 pm

      Just want to say that’s an awesome playlist Robert!

      Like

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