Monday, December 5, 2016

That Nashville Sound's Best Albums of 2016

For those that follow this site on a semi-regular basis, you recognize that we cast a very wide net with our definition of country music. The genres of traditional classic, bluegrass, Americana, red-dirt, pop-country and even a little Delta blues make it across these pages. Hell, we even give some print to the bro-country movement sweeping the FM dial. But for the most part, it isn’t that proverbial radio dial that is producing what That Nashville Sound considers to be the finest music released thus far this year.

Before I get commentary about how we consciously exclude any modern trends or mainstream artists, let it be known that they represent on the list as well. But clearly the finest music being released thus far is far from the party-first summer dirt road anthems that are claiming to be more country than you. No, these artists are releasing deep lyric-first songs with drama. They make you feel. Pleasure. Pain. Happy. Sad. They tell stories that, like a great movie, run the gamut of emotions and make you stop and take notice. And there have been some fantastic releases so far.

Here's a list of our favorite albums over the last few years for comparison:

2007 - Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - Raising Sand
2008 - Lee Ann Womack - Call Me Crazy
2009 - Eric Church - Carolina
2010 - Zac Brown Band - You Get What You Give
2011 - Pistol Annies Hell on Heels
2012 - Marty Stuart - Nashville Volume 1- Tear The Woodpile Down
2013 - Brandy Clark12 Stories
2014 - Don Williams - Reflections
2015 - Chris Stapleton - Traveler

There will certainly be some names on here that you don’t immediately recognize. I encourage you to track them down and sample some of their music. I promise you will not be disappointed in the least. Without further ado… That Nashville Sound’s Best Albums of 2016.

1. Ryan Beaver - RX - "This album is titled Rx because these songs are like medicine to me," Ryan Beaver says of his consistently compelling new release. "Making this record was so much fun, and so therapeutic. These songs serve as a prescription for getting excited about music and life. And if they're like medicine for me, maybe they will be for the listeners."

Indeed, the 12-song set, the Texas-bred, Nashville-based singer-songwriter's third longplayer, offers a potent mix of haunting emotional depth and resonant melodic craft. His insightful, infectious compositions and deeply expressive voice honor the artist's deep country roots, while transcending the genre's stylistic boundaries to incorporate a widescreen sense of drama that's anchored by his lifelong love for raw, gritty rock 'n' roll.

The resulting album, which the artist co-produced with longtime compadres Jeremy Spillman and Ryan Tyndell, makes it abundantly clear why Ryan Beaver has already been widely acclaimed as an artist to watch. Rolling Stone recently named him one of "10 New Country Artists You Need to Know," and he's received acclaim from the likes of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Lee Ann Womack, with whom he's toured as an opening act.

The surging, anthem "Dark," Rx's opening track and emotional centerpiece, makes it clear why Beaver's work has generated so much excitement. A startlingly direct declaration of emotional perseverance, it's a powerful anthem of hope and survival in the face of loss and disappointment. A comparable level of emotional gravity powers such memorable tracks as "Rum & Roses," "Habit," "When This World Ends" and the stirring album-closer "If I Had A Horse." The artist reveals a more humorous attitude on "Fast" and "Vegas," and pays tribute to one of his creative role models with "Kristofferson," which he prefaces with a section of Kris Kristofferson's own "Jesus Was A Capricorn."

2. Brandy Clark - Big Day In A Small Town
3. Aubrie Sellers - New City Blues
4. Dave Cobb - Southern Family
5. David Nail - Fighter
6. Lori McKenna- The Bird & The Rifle
7. Jack Ingram - Midnight Motel
8. Jon Pardi - California Sunrise
9. Charles Kelley - The Driver
10. Brothers Osborne - Pawn Shop
11. Darrell Scott - Couchville Sessions
12. Margo Price - Midwestern Farmer's Daughter
13. Brent Cobb - Shine On Rainy Day
14. Kree Harrison - This Old Thing
15. Mo Pitney - Behind This Guitar
16. Aaron Lewis - Sinner
17. Frankie Ballard - El Rio
18. Bradley Walker - Call Me Old-Fashioned
19. Joey + Rory -Hymns- Songs That Are Important To Us (tie)
      Joey + Rory - To Joey With Love (Soundtrack)
20. William Michael Morgan - Vinyl
21. Cam - Untamed (Yes, officially it was a late 2015 release, but it didn't get in the ears until early 2016)
22. Josh Kelley - New Lane Road
23. Buddy Miller  - Cayamo: Sessions at Sea
24. Becky Warren - War Surplus
25. Sarah Darling - Dream Country
26. Jamie Floyd - Sunshine and Rainbows
27. Cody Jinks - I'm Not The Devil
28. Vince Gill - Down To My Last Bad Habit
29. Jenny Gill - The House Sessions
30. Henningsens - World's On Fire
31. Wynonna and the Big Noise - Wynonna and the Big Noise
32. Maggie Rose - The Variety Show Vol. 1
33. Cody Johnson - Gotta Be Me
34. Mark Chesnutt - Tradition Lives
35. Johnny Cash - Unchained In A Rusty Cage
36. Craig Morgan - A Whole Lot More To Me
37. Marc Broussard - S.O.S. 2: Save Our Soul: Soul On A Mission

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