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 

Country Perspective’s Best of Country & Americana Music – January 2016

January 2016

Welcome to the revamped and improved monthly best of lists from Country Perspective. Last year Derek and myself would each pick the top ten songs of each month and then write something about each of them. By the end of the year I felt like the feature was getting stale. With the addition of Zack this year, I realize putting out three different playlists would be overkill. Not to mention there’s so much good music that can be released each month that it can be hard to choose just ten songs. So I went to the drawing board and came up with some tweaks to make it better. Now each month we will have one post where all three of us share our thoughts on the music that was released and some of our favorites. Below that will be a Spotify playlist of all the songs we enjoyed. If you’re a fan of Spotify and use it, we have good news as we now have a Country Perspective Spotify page. You can check it out and subscribe here. So let’s talk about the month of January!

Josh

There was certainly plenty of music to enjoy this month. Many people think January is a dead month for new music, but I learned last year that this stereotype is wrong. Once again this is proven to be true. One of the most anticipated releases of the month was Randy Rogers Band’s Nothing Shines Like Neon and it certainly lived up to my expectations. I think this group has found their perfect niche and that’s an early 90s, neo-traditional sound along the lines of Strait and Jackson. A softer sound suits them over trying to rock hard like some of their fellows Texas country artists. “Old Moon New” and “Neon Blues” were the songs that really stood out to me on this album. Aubrie Sellers delivered big with her debut album New City Blues. It’s getting near universal praise for its garage country sound that is diverse and engaging. It’s an album you need to hear if you haven’t yet. I find it hard to pick a favorite from it, but if I had to choose one it would be the “Dreaming In The Day” with its spacey production.

Outside of these two big releases, there were some really enjoyable singles put out by both mainstream and independent artists. Jennifer Nettles’ “Unlove You” is very much in the same vein of Cam’s “Burning House.” Mary Fletcher’s “I Called Him Dad” showed how to properly write a memorial song for a deceased loved one. Andrew Pope impressed me with his new single “Stormchaser.” Brothers Osborne put out a decent debut album in Pawn Shop that featured enough solid tunes that keep me optimistic about their future. And The Cactus Blossoms dazzled me with their throwback sound on their new album.

Derek

I’d say that January has been a strong start to country music this year. Nothing Shines Like Neon not only brought Randy Rogers Band back to their truest form, but gave fans some great country songs from the album. From the heartbreak song of “Neon Blues” to reinvigorating love in “Old Moon New,” Randy Rogers Band put a fresh spin on old stories. The Brothers Osborne’s debut album was rather average, but a song like “Heart Shaped Locket” showcased the duo’s full potential as a musical act. Aubrie Sellers’ New City Blues introduced us to an impressive garage country style of music with an album of many great, well written songs. “Losing Ground” was the song that stood out to me the most from New City Blues.

Established artists released some well-written songs detailing their struggles of moving on. Jennifer Nettles’ soaring “Unlove You” and Will Hoge’s subdued, quiet “Through Missing You” took different approaches to heartbreak, but both singers carry the story with confidence. Sierra Hull’s bluegrass album Weighted Mind featured song after song of beautiful vocals and impressive instrumentation, but the heartbreaking “Birthday” finds Hull having difficulty getting over a failed relationship.

Zack

The month of January definitely brought about a fine start to 2016. With new releases from Randy Rogers Band, Brothers Osborne, Aoife O’Donovan, and Aubrie Sellers, I certainly think the bar has been set for this year. Here’s my favorite music from this month.

My favorite album this month was the debut effort from Aubrie Sellers, and honestly it wasn’t even close. The combination of edgy rockers like “Paper Doll” combined with softer tracks such “Like The Rain” fuse to make one hell of a debut effort. You can waste time saying how much she sounds like her mother, but with her “garage country” sound, we have an artist who isn’t afraid to be herself and show the world who she is. Another album that I thoroughly enjoyed was Aoife O’Donovan’s “In The Magic Hour. I still want to review this album, and it may come soon, but for now I’ll tell you that Aoife’s divine, almost ghostly voice fits the melancholy vibe of these tracks like a glove. If you don’t believe me, then just check out “Stanley Park,” “Hornets,” and “The King Of All Birds.” Another album that I thought was seriously underrated was Randy Rogers Band’s “Nothing Shines Like Neon.” The major complaint I saw with this album was that it didn’t go “deep” enough. With tracks such as “Old Moon New”, and “Look Out Yonder” combined with nice mature love songs such as “Rain and The Radio” and “Meet Me Tonight” I thought there was certainly a lot to enjoy here.

Album Review – The Cactus Blossoms’ ‘You’re Dreaming’

the-cactus-blossoms-youre-dreaming-album-cover1

This post was written by a past guest contributor of Country Perspective. 

Often times in music, we tend to focus too much on the next big thing. Who’s advancing the sounds of yesterday? Who’s next in line to take over the musical throne? It’s certainly not a bad thing to keep track of. After all, music does have to evolve. Sometimes however, it’s best to reflect back on the history of the music that shaped the music today, as well as stay true to your roots, and that’s exactly what the brother duo The Cactus Blossoms do on their debut album You’re Dreaming.

Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and signed to Red House Records, The Cactus Blossoms is made up of Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, two brothers who formed a duo in 2010. They got their start by playing around various venues in Minneapolis covering songs from some of their biggest influences such as The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan. In 2013, they released a live album titled, Live At The Turf Club which garnered attention for the duo, especially for their old school approach in sound. Eventually, the brothers met up with rockabilly artist, JD McPherson who produced their newest album, You’re Dreaming. Their throwback sound stems not from the desire to “shun” new sounds, but rather because making throwback sounding music is just what the brothers love to do. As Jack and Page state, “we weren’t born in the wrong era. We just got into some music from a different era and found a way to make it our own.” After listening to You’re Dreaming, you better believe that statement is true as can be.

The album begins with “Stoplight Kisses” and right away The Everly Brothers influence is apparent. The song sounds exactly like something out of the 50’s and 60’s, and is the first of many, many times we hear the heavenly harmonies between Jack and Page. Next up is the title track. In this song, a man thinks some things to himself as he watches his lady sleep. He thinks about how he’s the luckiest man in the world to have a woman like her. He also thinks about a former lover of hers and is bothered and jealous at the fact that there’s a chance he may come back and steal her away. It often clouds his thoughts whenever he thinks of his lady. There’s a bit of mystery to this track that gives it an alluring quality (such as just how big of a role this other man plays). There’s a mellow, laid-back vibe apparent on this track that suits the brothers vocals exceptionally well, and get ready, because I’ll be using the phrase “mellow vibe” a lot for this album. This song is also rooted much more in the vein of traditional country than the pop sound of “Stoplight Kisses.” The classic country sound continues on in “Queen Of Them All”, which is a nice simple love song that is once again accentuated by the brothers delicious harmonies and mellow vocal tones. The duo switches up the sound with the rockabilly number, “Clown Collector.” This is just a really fun song about a woman who possesses the ability to have men wrapped around her finger, pleasing her every demand. My favorite line from this song is,

 “Listen up man, she’s giving a lecture, she’s a clown collector”

It’s not going to punch you in the gut or anything, but I still found it quite humorous. The soothing sound of drums leads us into “Mississippi.” Once again, there’s a very mellow vibe to this track, I’d even go as far as to say sort of “beachy” sounding (or at least beach adjacent). The theme of this song is a little vague, centering around a man who goes down to Mississippi in search of something, but of what we don’t exactly know. There’s talk of an old lover, but when he talks about seeing an angel, I’m led to believe that he’s searching for something internal, like possibly his soul. It’s a very intriguing track, and with its thematic content, it sort of reminds me of Charlie Robison’s “El Cerrito Place.” “Powder Blue” is next, which lyrically is probably the weakest of the bunch, but it’s still an effective, simple love song that has a great throwback bluesy sound to it. As with every song on this album, the vocals here are soothing and pleasing to the ears.

The best songs on the album follow. “Change Your Ways Or Die” begins with a somewhat ominous, sinister guitar lead that really sets up the whole atmosphere of the song. It also has a driving beat, which I would compare to that of a train chugging along. While the other songs on this album draw influences from classic country, rockabilly and pop, “Change Your Ways Or Die” is essentially folksy in its nature. The song is centered around a man who lives his life on the run. He warns the listener that when you live like him, you have to change your ways, meaning to not stay in one place too long, or else you’ll die. It’s a really cool and very well written lyrical song that you have to hear for yourself to enjoy. “If I Can’t Win” is very reverb-heavy, and also goes back to the mellow vibe that at this point, seems to be the duo’s bread and butter. It’s a little bit country and a little bit bluesy. It’s a seemingly introspective ballad that focuses around a man who deals with the aftermath of a lover leaving him, which makes him act forlorn, often times talking to himself in an effort to cope with his new life. The emotional delivery here is superb and for that this might be the best “mellow” track here.

“No More Crying The Blues” is a cover of an Alton & Jimmy tune. This rockabilly tune is another song that is just flat-out awesome to listen to. In this song, we have a man who has finally cried out all the tears that he shed from a previous relationship. The energetic tone and delivery with which the brothers convey the song goes hand in hand with the theme of being happy again. “Adios Maria” finds the duo doing a waltz style number. The chorus has a strong melody to it that once again works for the mellow tone. The album closes with “Traveler’s Paradise.” It’s a fitting end to the album, as the man in the song leaves his town behind in search of a paradise, a better life. As he proclaims when he leaves, “he’s gone, but not forgotten.” Really, that’s how it is with the album too. It’s over, but with all of the strong songs on this album you surely won’t forget it.

A while back Country Perspective reviewed another brother duo, The Malpass Brothers. One thing that Josh noted about the duo was that they had a very retro, old-school sounding country sound. Really, that’s the same thing I think of when I hear The Cactus Blossoms, except this duo isn’t tied down to strict hardcore traditional country music, which should be evident considering the album was produced by an Americana artist. With songs that draw from country, pop, rockabilly and even a little bit of folk and blues, the brothers manage to tie all of those influences into one cohesive package with You’re Dreaming. With this album, you’ll find yourself more hooked more by the vocals and the sound than anything else, as this album features some of the best harmonies you’ll hear in all of music this year. I realize that it’s only January, but after hearing the duo I know that I won’t have to retract that statement. If I had to nitpick with this album, I would say that the duo relies on the mellow vibe a little TOO much, which makes for easy listening sure, but also can cause attention to scatter elsewhere at times. All that aside however, You’re Dreaming is an album that will make you a reminisce on a time that you were most likely not even around for, making You’re Dreaming one of the albums you have to hear this year.

 Grade: 8/10

The Hodgepodge: Artistic Expression vs. Profit

Moneymusic

When it comes to singers and bands, there seems to be a general consensus of either making songs that are radio hits, or album cuts that are more rich in artistic expression. I think you can make the argument for any genre with a radio outlet that there are songs written and recorded for the sheer purpose of making money without any regard for the content of the song. If it’ll sell, it’ll be made. This has been the idea in country music for years from the Nashville sound of the 60s and 70s to bro-country and metro country today, producers and labels cater to the hot trend and nothing else. In the minds of the label executives and producers, making music for profit and making music on the basis of artistic expression seem to be mutually exclusive values.

Dierks Bentley’s new song, “Somewhere On a Beach,” hits all the checklist points of a cater-to-the-radio-trend single. After announcing an album that promises to be a personal one about relationships, a screw-you single is a release way out of left field. It’s not hard to imagine that this Dierks Bentley playing give and take with his label and producers. Dierks wants to release an album with heart and soul. His label says yes, but you must record this song so we can have a guaranteed radio hit from the album. Dierks comprises. Riser was an album full of heart written in the wake of Bentley’s father passing on. Singles like “I Hold On” and “Bourbon in Kentucky” and album cuts like “Here on Earth” were responses to that tragedy. Dierks also had balled singles from “Say You Do” and “Riser” while party songs like “Back Porch” and “Pretty Girls” were left on as mere album fillers. If anything, Riser proved that an album in this decade and era of country music could be filled with soulful radio singles and remain mildly successful, even if “Bourbon in Kentucky” and “Riser” didn’t make the desired chart impact.

Did every country fan in 2013 really want to listen to 15 remakes of “Cruise”? Were producers naive to think that they, too, could have a country/rap crossover hit? Or did label executives see an ignorant fan base and take advantage of the listeners’ blind acceptance of music on the radio? Whatever the reason for the sudden rise of bro-country and its lingering effects, artistic expression in mainstream country music was a victim.

The approach to country music for the past couple of years has been radio hits. That’s why we get albums with 90% radio ready hits: some bro country, some slow jam inspired ballads, club-like jams, etc. They’re not albums in the artistic sense; they’re collections of songs. Committees are brought into the music lab to write, mold, listen, create, and conjure up the perfect song for radio to go on the perfect album. This album will sustain the artist through a long tour with at least four singles ready for whatever radio trend they predicted to arise.

But country music was built on artistic expression. Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon, Cash, Yoakam, all our country music heroes are icons because these are the artists who dug deep, allowed themselves to be vulnerable, and put their hearts and souls into the music. These guys have the reputation of fighting the establishment because they’re not just singers, they’re artists. They have a voice, a purpose, and story to tell. Most singers on the radio today are just that: singers. They’re not artists with a story to tell. They are merely singers whose sole purpose is to make money.

Every now and then, these producers realize that they need to remind these radio listeners that country singers are artists. They try to convey a facade of artistry with a committee written ballad. The result of which are contrived songs like “Confession” and “You Should Be Here.” These songs are labels trying to convince fans that Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell aren’t just party animals, but also “deep” artists. This is the problem though, when you create a persona through several singles than try to backtrack and reset the image. They want these singers to seem deep, but they can’t compromise any chance of losing traction on radio in the process. So throwaway lines about cold ones and cold beers are thrown in to remind the fans that it’s still a party.

The artistic expression of mainstream country is lost. Maybe it wasn’t the best option for Bentley to go back-to-back with ballads as singles, but was “Riser” such a bomb that Bentley’s label had to back track to a generic, soulless song? Or are label executives just afraid to let their singers dig deep and actually be artists? And the real victim of it all is the general radio fan of country music. These are fans who probably don’t know that there are singers like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Tami Neilson out there making some of the best music today. Instead, these fans are subjected to party anthems, classless revenge sex songs, and half-assed ballads. And because of this, songs like “You Should Be Here” and “Die a Happy Man” are praised as deep, thoughtful, expressive ballads. And that’s exactly what will happen when you put three people in a room to conjure up a hit ballad. However, true artistic songs are ignored. Songs which are true expressions of the artists’ heart. Song which required the writer to be vulnerable and dig deep within him or herself, sometimes in the most painful places, to find the words. Those are the real, powerful songs country music needs. You don’t get a song like “Cover Me Up” from a committee writing session.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Aubrie Sellers, daughter of Lee Ann Womack, will release her debut album New City Blues on January 29. Sellers recently released the music video of her single “Sit Here and Cry.”
  • Tomorrow, The Cactus Blossoms, will release their album You’re Dreaming. 
  • Bluegrass and Americana artist Sierra Hull will release her new album, Weighted Mind, on January 29. 
  • “Humble and Kind” is officially Tim McGraw‘s next single.
  • Another 90s rock act has gone country. Sister Hazel will release a country album called Lighter in the Dark on February 19.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Reno” by Nic Cowan. Nic Cowan (now officially named Niko Moon) is a Georgia based singer/songwriter who has collaborated with Zac Brown on many songs for the band’s albums. The narrator meets a singer and a painter and is mesmerized by their creative passion. In light of today’s post on artistic expression, this song seemed appropriate. “What is it that drives you to create? She said ‘I never had a choice to make. It chose me long before I wrote a song. It’s what I feel, boy.'” That first chorus says it all.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Daughter Not To Disappear. This English indie folk trio released their second album last week. Lead singer Elena Tonra’s voice is quiet, yet haunting as she sings her songs of loneliness, love gone wrong, and even a mother dealing with Alzheimer’s. The album is hindered by a production monotony among several of the songs, but poignancy of the music and lyrics are worth giving this album a listen.

Tweet of the Week

I certainly hope that “if” becomes a “when” because an Isbell – Simpson collaborative album would be incredible!

Two Simple, But Great iTunes Reviews 

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.13.18 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.12.49 PM

The effective review of “absolute garbage” was left on Drew Baldridge’s EP. If you don’t know who Drew Baldridge, he’s a pop/dance/disco singer being passed off as country. Do your ears a favor and take this reviewer’s for it.

The eloquent “pure unadulterated garbage” was left under The Raging Idiots’ kids’ music EP (The Raging Kidiots). It’s children’s music so it’s meant to be goofy, but the EP popped up in the country section in iTunes, so why not put it here. Who would want to pass up a chance to make fun of Bobby Bones?

New Country & Americana Music Albums Set to Be Released & Expected in 2016

Time for another year of new music ahead! Last year I did a special post outlining some of the upcoming album releases in country and Americana and it was a very popular post that I knew I had to bring back again in 2016. There has already been a number of announced projects with release dates and a few that are certainly eye-catching when looking at the details of them. There are also a lot of projects that we can expect to see in 2016, but nothing is confirmed. And then of course there are a lot of rumors and stuff up in the air. This post covers it all. Will this cover everything? Probably not. So don’t go into the comments and immediately point out what is missing. Instead add anything not in the post to help out us and your fellow readers. Complaining gets you nowhere except pissing me off. Most importantly have fun speculating and discussing all of the new music that lies ahead.

Officially Announced & Set for Release

Randy Rogers Band Nothing Shines Like Neon

January 15

Randy Rogers Band – Nothing Shines Like Neon

The Texas-based country band is set to release their first album of new music in three years and their first independently in 11 years. Randy Rogers Band had released their last four albums on major labels Mercury and MCA Nashville. But like many Texas country artist who try their hand on Music Row, they got tired of the bullshit and politics and being forced to make music that appeases record executives. They’re now going back to their roots. Rogers is coming off a fantastic year in which he and fellow Texas country artist Wade Bowen put out one of the best country records of the year, good enough to earn Country Perspective’s Song of the Year and Duo of the Year. This causes enough excitement on its own, but the guests set to join on this new record put up even higher. The guests are Alison Krauss, Jerry Jeff Walker and Jamey Johnson. Needless to say I can’t wait to hear this one. Well known country producer Buddy Cannon will be producing this new record.

Brothers Osborne – Pawn Shop

The debut album from Brothers Osborne was expected early last year and even made last year’s list, but it never came out and got pushed back to now. It’s looked like the best choice, as their current single “Stay A Little Longer” will at least be a top five hit and provide buzz for their long-awaited debut album. Their debut EP I reviewed back in 2014 was solid, but the newest song they just released off the album has me more excited. It’s called “Loving Me Back” and they’re joined on it by LeeAnn Womack. If this song is an indication of the whole album, I think this could be one of the better mainstream country albums we hear in 2016.

Hank Williams Jr. – It’s About Time

This will be Hank Jr.’s first album released under the NASH Icon label. The first single off it was a new recording of “Are You Ready For The Country” where Williams was joined by special guest Eric Church. Other guests on the album include Brantley Gilbert, Brad Paisley and Justin Moore.

January 22

The Cactus Blossoms – You’re Dreaming

Will be released via Red House Records and produced by JD McPherson.

January 29

Sierra Hull – Weighted Mind

Will be released via Rounder Records.

Aubrie Sellers – New City Blues

Many critics and music insiders are buzzing about this release. For those who aren’t familiar with Aubrie Sellers, she’s the daughter of LeeAnn Womack. I bet you’re interested now. Sellers is poised to be one of the early breakouts in country and Americana in 2016. The album will be released via Carnival Records and Thirty Tigers.

February 5

Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts of Highway 20

The Americana icon returns with her first new album in two years via Thirty Tigers.

Freakwater – Scheherazade February 5 

Will be released via Bloodshot Records.

Charles Kelley – The Driver February 5

The frontman of Lady Antebellum has set out on his own solo career at the moment and his first single, the very name of his debut album, has been nominated for a Grammy. But with the single struggling at radio at the moment and Kelley being forced to cancel a lot of 2016 tour dates, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this release get pushed back. But when it does come out I’ll be interested in its sound.

Vince Gill – Down To My Last Bad Habit February 12

You know how much of a sucker I am for Vince Gill. Being released via MCA Nashville, it’s the first album of new music from Gill in five years. It’s Vince freaking Gill and you will want to hear it.

Wynonna & The Big Noise – Self-Titled – February 12

Wynonna Judd will be releasing his first album under her and her band’s name via Curb Records. Jason Isbell will be making a guest appearance on it.

Lorrie Morgan – Letting Go…Slow – February 12

Her first new album in five years will be released via Shanachie Entertainment.

Lake Street Dive – Side Pony February 19 

Not a lot of details, other than Dave Cobb is producing it. That should be enough to warrant your attention.

Waco Brothers – Going Down in History February 26 

This will be the first new record from this group in over ten years. Will be released via Bloodshot Records.

Loretta Lynn – Full Circle – March 4

The country music legend will be covering old classics, collaborating with legends and releasing a few new tunes on this record.

Dave-Cobb-Southern-Family

Various Artists – Southern Family – March 18

There’s no other project in country and Americana circles right now that has people more excited than this album. Let’s run down the details:

  • Dave Cobb is producing it and will be released via Cobb’s Elektra Records
  • The inspiration for it comes from the classic White Mansions album that included Waylon Jennings and Eric Clapton
  • The artists on this record are staggering and impressive. The list of artists on this record include: Chris & Morgane Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Holly Williams, Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings, Rich Robinson, Anderson East, Zac Brown, John Paul White, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark and Brent Cobb.

I could very easily see this end up being one of the best records of the year in all of music. It could also end up being one of the most important albums of the year and maybe in country music history, as this album unites the brightest names of country and Americana. All of this talent working together under the guidance of Dave Cobb has me giddy in anticipation to hear it. It could be what unites mainstream country, independent country and Americana together. Can March 18 get here?

Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter – March 26

Brandy Clark – Big Day In A Small Town – April 1

This will be the sophomore album from the accomplished singer-songwriter. I expect this to be even better than 12 Stories, which means I think this has the potential to be an album of the year candidate.

Hayes Carll – (Yet To Be Named) – April 8

Will be released via Thirty Tigers.

Expected in 2016, But No Official Release Date

Keith Urban – Ripchord

We know the name, but no release date.

The Band Perry – Heart + Beat

There were rumors of them collaborating on a song with Nicki Minaj, which supposedly forced the release date back. But really it was because “Live Forever” bombed at radio and commercially. They would be better off just scrapping this album.

Karen Jonas – Country Songs (?)

Back in November Jonas said on Twitter she was working on her record. We could be seeing it sometime as early as spring 2016. Whenever it comes out I’m anxious to hear it, as her 2014 debut album Oklahoma Lottery netted her our 2014 Female Artist of the Year award and was an album of the year finalist.

Reckless Kelly

Matt Woods

Would be the followup to Country Perspective 2014 Album of the Year finalist With Love From Brushy Mountain.

Holly Williams 

Working with Dave Cobb on a new record.

Jack Ingram – Midnight Motel (?)

Ingram supposedly has enough music recorded for several records.

Natalie Stovall & The Drive – Heartbreak

Rumors & Speculation

Sturgill

Sturgill Simpson’s Third Album

You have to think Simpson will be releasing his third album this year and his first under major label Atlantic Records. His first two albums were released less than a year apart. Last year Sturgill didn’t release any new music and didn’t need to as more people continued to buy Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and pack his concerts full. The little bit we know about this third album is that Dave Cobb is producing it again, it’s already been recorded last year and there’s plenty of material that could be considered for it based off a 2014 interview Dave Cobb had with Rolling Stone. Cobb also said in the same interview regarding Sturgill’s next record: “We’re already doing something totally different and it will probably make a lot of people mad.” So the intrigue for this album should be varied and high when it’s announced.

Garth Brooks

When he released his comeback album in 2014, he also said there would be another album to follow it. But nothing has been said and Garth has ceased releasing singles to radio. It’s hard to tell with Garth, but a new album from him could come in 2016.

Jamey Johnson

Jamey Johnson did a lot of cool collaborations in 2015 (George Strait, Don Henley) and yet he didn’t release a new album. What gives Jamey? He promised at the beginning of last year we would see multiple releases from him throughout the year and he only released two singles. Last year I guaranteed we would see a new album from him. This year I’m just going to say we’ll see it eventually.

Miranda Lambert

It wasn’t a good 2015 for Miranda Lambert, personally or professionally. She divorced fellow country music superstar Blake Shelton and was practically non-existent at country radio and awards shows. It was a down year in every way for Lambert. But 2016 could be a huge year for her, as it’s been two years since her last album, so she’s poised to released a new record. You have to think this past year will fuel many of the songs on the record and make for some interesting music.

Dixie Chicks

They’re embarking on their first North American tour in several years. You have to think a new album may come out too. And if they release an album I’ll be highly intrigued to see the reception and reaction of the country music industry.

Pistol Annies

I haven’t seen any clue for a new album from this supergroup, but I have a hunch that it’s possible. What makes me think this is after the year women had in country music in 2015, Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley all want to make a statement. What better way than release another Pistol Annies album?

Florida Georgia Line

In an interview with Billboard, the duo said they will “probably” release a new album in spring 2016. With bro country dead, Florida Georgia Line will be forced to take a new direction. Their last big was the best song they’ve ever released, “Dirt.” It was also their most serious song. So maybe they might take a more serious approach. I could also easily see them donning three-piece suits and ripping off Bruno Mars. I think it’s best to keep expectations low with these two and then be pleasantly surprised later if they release something good.

Josh Turner & Gary Allan

I put both of these artists together because both are in the same exact situation. Both released singles in 2015 and neither lived up to their usual expectations. Turner released a solid love song in “Lay Low” and ended up peaking just inside the top 30, which was unfortunate. Allan catered to trends with “Hangover Tonight” and it bombed in every way. This caused both of their labels to put albums that were expected to come out in 2015 on an indefinite hiatus. It’s a shame because I think both will be good albums. I heard some of Allan’s new songs in-person and they were very good. Turner always delivers. Let’s hope we hear both albums in 2016.

Others Highly Likely/On Track To Release New Albums This Year:

  • Brantley Gilbert
  • Cole Swindell
  • Granger Smith
  • Jason Aldean
  • First Aid Kit
  • Shovels & Rope
  • Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Sunny Sweeney
  • Wade Bowen 
  • Lee Ann Womack
  • Blake Shelton
  • Jon Pardi
  • Mo Pitney
  • Eric Paslay
  • Brad Paisley
  • Kenny Chesney 
  • Little Big Town
  • Sam Hunt