Author: Leon Blair
2016 has been an interesting year in country music, enough to where it might arguably even be considered polarizing. On the bad side we had WAY too many country legends pass away (well, celebrities in general), and there are some critics out there who would even argue it's been a weak year for country music.
On the other hand, you have people who are optimistic about the future of mainstream country music, as it seems that room is being made for more traditional sounding country music as well as just substance in general. Moreover I've seen people argue that this has been a great year for country music's quality overall.
I'm somewhere in the middle, but I lean a lot more towards the latter stance. Nowhere have I seen more proof that Country and Americana have thrived this year than in the nine albums I have chosen for that "album of the year" position. Again, I know I've already spoiled it, but let's at least pretend I didn't.
Now, I take this coveted position VERY seriously, mostly because I think a true "album of the year" nominee is one that stirs you as a music listener and inspires creativity and nuance rather than enjoyment. That's what I believe the following nine albums have done. I regret not being able to cover them this year, but there's always next year. So without further ado, here are my candidates for "Album Of The Year"
(Presented in alphabetical order by artist name)
Author: Zackary Kephart
I really didn't know what to expect coming into an album named Circle Round The Signs by a guy from Chicago named Al Scorch. To be fair, you never know what you can expect from a member of Bloodshot Records, and that's not meant to be taken as an insult. Actually, it speaks to the level of creativity embodied under that label, and Al Scorch is certainly what one could call creative.
I'm honestly a little intimidated with how to start off this review folks. I've listened to Circle Round The Signs at least a dozen times by now, and all I can say is – holy shit. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that creativity is a trait that isn't evident in Country or Americana these days, but I think we need to award Al Scorch for crafting one of 2016's best releases thus far.
Circle Round The Signs is the complete package in terms of excellent lyricism, instrumentation, and vocals. Normally I go into albums with a notebook ready to jot down notes and write down anything I see fitting to talk about in great detail. I have to be honest folks, I didn't do that for this album. I was actually losing myself to the music, something that I don't think any album in 2016 has done for me thus far.