Throughout 2016 we saw many talented male country and Americana artists put out great music. Determining who will win Country Perspective’s 2016 Male Artist of the Year award will be no easy feat. The main guidelines for determining who should win are the following: the quality of music (album/singles) they’ve released in 2016, the impact they have made on the genre over the course of the year and the amount of growth they made as an individual artist.
I will ultimately determine which artist will win, but I also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be considered for determining who wins and you could possibly sway who should be the winner. So be sure to sound off in the comments! Without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s 2016 Male Artist of Year (in alphabetical order):
The lead singer of American Aquarium delivered gold as he stepped out from the band and released his first solo album. Rockingham is one of the best albums of the year, earning a nomination for Country Perspective’s 2016 Album of the Year Award. It’s an album I certainly feel deserves more recognition than it has received. Barham really proved with this album the type of artist he is, delivering the best material of his whole career and proving that country and Americana fans need to pay attention. He’s one of the best songwriters in country/Americana today and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
In 2014 the Texas-based Americana artist delivered a pretty good debut album in 1983. But this year he delivered a great album, the sophomore release Animal. You could hear in the music that Chris King took many steps forward in both songwriting and production of his music. It felt more like him, a breakthrough of his creativity and vision. Animal was a clear, stark contrast to 1983 and took a risk going in a new sonic direction, but it paid off in spades. King probably showed the most growth I’ve seen out of all the artists I’ve reviewed on the blog. What’s even more promising is this is only his sophomore release and the music from King could get even better.
Eric Church makes his return to the nomination list for a second straight year. He surprised everyone last year by releasing the stellar Mr. Misunderstood, an album that still holds up quite well after a year. I said in my nomination write-up last year that Church should be a leader in 2016 alongside Country Perspective’s eventual 2015 Male Artist of the Year winner Chris Stapleton. And this proved to be right. I just didn’t expect Church to overwhelmingly exceed my expectations. Church released this year two of the best singles you’ll hear on country radio, with the #1 hit “Record Year” and current single “Kill A Word.” The former was one of the biggest hits in country music this year and just as I predicted in my original review, I think will go on to be a career song for Church. The latter is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year and features one of the best artists in Americana today, Rhiannon Giddens. Church has also taken on a leadership role in the genre, becoming a real advocate for quality music and putting the music in the hands of the fans.
Country Perspective’s 2014 Male Artist of the Year winner returns to try to win a second time. His third album and first on major label Atlantic Records, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth has gotten near unanimous praise from critics and fans. This was not an easy feat after delivering the classic Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which set the standards for Sturgill quite high moving forward. In typical Simpson fashion he gave us an album nobody expected and still blew many away. It’s up for our 2016 Album of the Year award and went #1 on the country, folk, Americana and rock album charts. Simpson like Eric Church just mentioned above, also became an outspoken leader in the genre. The normally quiet Simpson spoke out against the industries treatment of older artists such as the late Merle Haggard and called out the politics of the genre. He’s also vowed to become the biggest artist in the genre, as a giant screw you to the industry and labels who told him he couldn’t succeed without them. So this probably won’t be the last time you see Simpson’s name here.
This is probably the biggest surprise to you the readers, but Tim McGraw absolutely deserves to be nominated. Like Church he did not release a new album this year, but last year. Damn Country Music was a really good album and while it wasn’t amongst the year’s best in 2015, it was certainly full of good music. This year McGraw has released two great songs as singles to country radio, “Humble and Kind” and “How I’ll Always Be.” The former was one of the biggest hits in country music this year and went #1 on country radio and the hot country songs chart. Also like Church’s “Kill A Word,” “Humble and Kind” was the type of song that the world needed in 2016. It’s message is an important one that we could all use. Not to mention this song also helped give more exposure to the talented Lori McKenna, who wrote it herself. It’s the first song to be written solo by a woman writer to reach #1 on the country charts in years. While the new traditionalists of mainstream country are exciting, you can’t forget that McGraw has consistently put out some of the best music on radio in the last few years and one of the few you can count on to do so. 2016 has really put an exclamation point on this.