A year of tragic losses in the music industry. Losses such as David Bowie, Prince and George Michael. In the country community, we lost country music legend, Merle Haggard, one of the original artists that developed the “Bakersfield sound”. We also mourned the loss of Joey Feek, of Joey + Rory, after she lost her battle with cancer.
With loss comes opportunity. 2016 was a year of coming opportunity for many artists. 2016 was a year of redemption for many artists. 2016 was a year of breakthrough for many artists. 2016 was a year of incredible albums for many artists.
I am here to share my choices for the top 5 country albums of 2016. Disclaimer: the choices are biased, as they are my personal favorites.
Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings
Miranda Lambert’s latest album, released on November 18, is a two-disc special, complete with 24 songs. A disc for “The Nerve” and a disc for “The Heart”. The Weight of These Wings is Lambert’s sixth studio album since the release of Kerosene in 2004.
The Weight of These Wings is absolutely a top album of 2016 because of Lambert’s unique vocals and old-school, outlaw country music style. The album is a telling tale about Lambert’s scars, heartbreaks and lessons. The entire album is authentic and stimulating for the suppressed emotions in our lives.
The album includes her radio single “Vice” and a few of my favorites such as “We Should Be Friends”, “To Learn Her” and “Smoking Jacket”. Lambert’s songs are earnest and closely resemble the outlaw country style, which allows Lambert to stand out amongst many other female country vocalists in the industry.
Blake Shelton: If I’m Honest
Two of my favorite country artists are Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. Both of whom have released very emotionally direct albums this past year, possibly inspired by their 2015 divorce? I think so.
Shelton’s album, If I’m Honest, released on May 20, includes 15 songs and collaborations with his former co-star and newest love, Gwen Stefani and The Oak Ridge Boys. Much like Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings, Shelton’s album includes sincere songs, which seemingly imply letting go of old loves and letting new loves in.
The top songs from this album include “Every Time I Hear That Song”, “Bet You Still Think About Me” and “You Can’t Make This Up”. If I’m Honest is one of my favorite Shelton albums, though it is nearly impossible to choose a favorite amongst all of Shelton’s 10 studio albums.
Brandy Clark: Big Day In A Small Town
I discovered Brandy Clark at 107.9 Y108’s “Girls With Guitars” event at Heinz Field in October. Clark surpassed my expectations during this show. Her voice was powerful, her style resembled a sense of outlaw country and her songs were clever.
Clark’s album is in my top list for 2016 for many reason and one being because she writes her all her own songs. Her tracks have remarkable melodies, tones and witty messages that are inspired by personal narratives.
My favorite song from Big Day In A Small Town is “Daughter” which tells a tale of revenge but with a twist. A guaranteed favorite. Additionally, “Girl Next Door” and “Love Can Go To Hell” are other greats from Big Day In A Small Town.
Brothers Osborne: Pawn Shop
Brothers Osborne released their first studio album, Pawn Shop on January 15. All 11 songs on Pawn Shop were written by brothers John and TJ Osborne. I became a fan of Brothers Osborne at the “8 Man Jam” in May, another 107.9 Y108 event.
Brothers Osborne played a few songs from Pawn Shop and I was hooked on the intense rhythm guitar solos and the nitty-gritty tune. Most of the Brothers Osborne songs are heavy with the riffs from the rhythm and lead guitars.
Top songs from Pawn Shop include “Dirt Rich”, “Heart Shaped Locket” and “Greener Pastures”. The radio hits from Pawn Shop are “Stay a Little Longer”, “21 Summer” and “Rum”. There is not a song on this album that you wouldn’t tap your foot to.
Cole Swindell: You Should Be Here
You Should Be Here, Swindell’s second studio album was released on May 6. You Should Be Here is a beautiful album that truly emphasizes Swindell’s talent and his range of songs from upbeat country-pop to expressive country ballads.
Swindell is exceptional at providing an assortment of emotions within his album. From optimistic party anthems, such as “No Can Left Behind” and “Flatliner” featuring Dierks Bentley, to the title track, “You Should Be Here”, dedicated to the passing of Swindell’s father. This album hit home for me because of the sentiment and the elationt that I felt while listening. My favorite track from You Should Be Here is “Making My Way To You” which is a bit of a sappy love story that I cannot resist.
Narrowing down to 5 country albums from the more than 50 albums that were released in 2016 was tough. I chose the albums that I found myself rocking out to in the car, singing to in the shower and listening to when I needed comfort. I would like to list a few honorable mentions for new artists that were just shy of making it onto my list for the top 5 country albums of 2016.
- William Michael Morgan’s Vinyl
- Jon Pardi’s California Sunrise
- Dylan Scott’s Dylan Scott
- Maren Morris’s Hero
I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings to the country music industry. I am expecting big things. Patiently awaiting new music from Eric Church, Chris Stapleton, RaeLynn, and plenty more. New year, new country.