It is hard to believe 2016 is already half over. The year has been emotional, vibrant, life-affirming, confusing and everything in between. When the world continues to come to terms with daily tragedies, music continues to prove its profound healing power. Country music has been especially uplifting and utterly moving in the way it unapologetically addresses the darker aspects of life, love, happiness and romance.
As such, many of the absolute standout records this year have been considerably more revealing and certainly out of the limelight of the mainstream. But regardless, the first six months have gifted fans with some damn good country music — not to borrow from Tim McGraw’s 2015 studio album. We take a look back at the past 6 months in country and have settled on what we think are the cream of the crop, in terms of storytelling and sturdiness with pushing the boundaries and living up to country’s past.
7 Best Albums Of 2016 (So Far):
Brandy Clark // Big Day in a Small Town
Clark’s sophomore effort is very much a concept album, comprised of the nitty-gritty aspects of small-town life. She boldly deals heavily in heartbreak, death and soul-shaking hurt. As always, she wraps in her classic wit to present her stories. Standouts include “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven,” “Homecoming Queen,” “Three Kids No Husband” and “Daughter.”
Maren Morris // HERO
The upstart’s influences run deep. Her new Sony Music debut record, you’ll find hip-hop, sugary pop and glossy rock. But underneath all the polishes, you’ll find some damn good country songwriting. Standouts include “I Could Use a Love Song,” “Rich,” lead single “My Church” and “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry.”
Margo Price // Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
If you’re itching for some straight-up classic country music, Price’s debut full-length is the perfect anecdote to the mainstream. Standouts include “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle),” “About to Find Out,” “Tennessee Song” and “This Town Gets Around.”
Todd Lewis Kramer // Fairground
Kramer’s debut studio album is decidedly more Americana-Folk, but the passion in his songwriting and his vocal is framed around traditions of country music. Standouts include “Tennessee,” “Anna” and “Counting Down the Days.”
Sturgill Simpson // A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
He’s ever the underdog, and for good reason. Following the surprise success of Chris Stapleton, it is likely Simpson could benefit from mainstream country being more accepting of traditional roots music. It’s about time. Standouts include “Breakers Roar,” “Oh Sarah” and “Keep It Between the Lines.”
Brothers Osborne // Pawn Shop
In modern terms, this breakout duo are exactly the kind of act which pushes the genre forward without ever losing sight of the past. Standouts include “Stay a Little Longer,” “21 Summer,” “Pawn Shop” and “Loving Me Back” (featuring Lee Ann Womack).
Wynonna & the Big Noise // Self-Titled
Wynonna & the Big Noise made a splashy return with an album stunningly and impressively country. Having taken some time out of the spotlight, Wynonna sharpened her songwriting and interpretative skills in obvious ways. Standouts include “Things That I Lean On” (featuring Jason Isbell), “Jesus and a Jukebox” and “Something You Can’t Live Without.”