Author: Leon Blair
Here it is folks, our final award for 2016 – album of the year.
It's been a strange year for music. There are some who think that this has been a fantastic year for Country and Americana as a whole, especially with the mainstream finally starting to churn out the most quality it's had in a LONG time. On the other hand, you will have people argue that this has been a down year in terms of top tier stellar projects, and I think there's good points hidden within both sides.
Now, I'm somewhere in the middle on this whole dilemma. In terms of quantity, yeah, I'm not sure we had an abundance of truly stellar projects, but I would argue that we had a ton of great ones. Plus, in terms of quality I think everything has held up fine. Heck, just look at our song of the year candidates and winner if you want more proof of that.
Many people love to clamor about how there's no clear cut winner for this award this year for any music outlet. Really though, years such as 2014 when Sturgill Simpson completely dominated the field are years that are rare to find. Most years feature a diverse selection of the best albums throughout a calendar year, and while we know that some have received more of the spotlight than others, we're not running a popularity contest here. The winner of Country Music Minds' 2016 Album Of The Year is one that really had to connect in all areas.
Author: Leon Blair
I'm an album guy - always have been and always be. Here at Country Music Minds, we take the concept of an album very seriously, so much so that you could say we have higher (or stricter) standards than other blogs. That being said, 2016 had a lot of great albums, more so than we could fit in with our album of the year candidates. Therefore, we wanted to put together a list of what we considered to be the top 25 albums of this year. They aren't ranked in any particular order. All they are is proof of how great 2016 was from a musical standpoint.
Please note, OUR ALBUM OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES ARE NOT HERE. THEY ARE LISTED RIGHT HERE! However, these other eleven albums are also considered to be among the best that 2016 had to offer. Without further ado, here they are -
Author: Leon Blair
While many other blogs have already crowned their favorite song of the year, here I am just now announcing the candidates. I guess you can blame it on time, but no, I have not forgotten about this prestigious award. Admittedly, I'm more of an album guy, however this year is truly a great year to write about songs. Heck, trimming down my album of the year candidates was admittedly fairly easy, however when it came time to decide what my favorite songs were, I started with a huge list that I just had to keep trimming down. If anything, it's been an exceptional year for music, and the proof lies within the candidates that I present to you for Country Music Minds' first ever “Song Of The Year” award.
Please note, only songs that were released in 2016 are eligible to qualify here. If it was released as a single this year but came last year, it's not here. Sorry folks, that's just how I operate. The song HAS to come from this year whether as an album cut, a standalone release or some other way. Get it? Got it? Good.
Fans have been debating what country music is and what it should sound like probably for as long as the concept of "country music" has existed. Between the Nashville Sound and Chet Atkins, the outlaw backlash, the Urban Cowboy fad, the neotraditional movement, the Garth/Shania boom years, "Murder on Music Row", the rise of alt-country and Americana, Taylor Swift winning Entertainer of the Year, "old farts and jackasses", the emergence of bro-country, the out-of-nowhere success of Chris Stapleton and all the other notable events and eras, I'm sure you've heard all the arguments and back-and-forths by now. At this point, rehashing this whole debate is not beating a dead horse, it's exhuming the body and lighting it on fire. But if you'll indulge me, I'd like to give my thoughts on this subject.
I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, "What exactly is country music?" The biggest issue surrounding this whole debate is that there's no official, objective criteria that determines what is or isn't country. It's not like a deity has descended from the heavens to inscribe the one true definition of country music onto a stone tablet, nor have scientists discovered a new theorem that can be used to irrefutably prove whether a piece of music is or isn't country. Webster and Wikipedia are vague, and talk more about country music's influences and places of origin than what it actually sounds like. Ultimately, it seems people's conceptions of country music vary depending on when they were born, what music they've been exposed to, and what they like.
We're just about past the halfway point of 2016, and I thought it'd be a great time to share some of my favorite albums I've heard so far this year.
Please note that this is not intended to be a "Best of 2016" list, because that would imply an in-depth knowledge of 2016 new releases that I currently lack. The fact that I only joined CMM in April and didn't decide to do a midyear/endyear list until May has resulted in me being a little behind in new releases. There are several acclaimed releases I fully intend to listen to but haven't yet, as well as some I listened to and enjoyed but haven't yet spent enough time with to feel comfortable writing about. In other words, if you don't see an album here, it is almost certainly not intended as a slight. I will have a more conventional, ranked "best of" list at the end of the year when I'm all caught up!
Author: Zackary Kephart
I think there’s a certain fear that comes into play when our favorite independent artist reaches a certain level of prominence. Don’t get me wrong, there’s of course the happiness for said artist that should come from any true fan, however there’s also cause for concern. What if they chase fame rather than art? It’s an inner fear that haunts many country fans.
The praise that Brandy Clark received for her 2013 album, 12 Stories couldn’t have been more well deserved. It was only her debut album and yet the songwriting was already on an elite level, causing her to end up as a critical darling in my peoples’ eyes. This acclaim turned into signing with Warner Bros which then led to nominations for 12 Stories from the CMA’s and Grammy Awards. It’s safe to say that Brandy’s Clark world was changing rapidly as soon as she had released that album.
Author: Leon Blair
The best moments in music, especially country music have never been made alone. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings are cited as the fathers of the outlaw movement, and guys like George Strait, Randy Travis, and Dwight Yoakam are known for bringing back integrity to a genre that was once thought doomed. Even now, we look to guys like Chris Stapleton, Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan, and Mo Pitney to bring back a traditional country sound to the forefront of the mainstream. The theme of unity in country music isn't just prevalent in the songs submerged in its history, it's embodied within the artists themselves as well.
When Dave Cobb announced the birth of his super project, “Southern Family”, it seemed way too good to be true. The tracklist boasted arguably some of the best artists out there, and to have them all on one album? Yeah, my excitement for this was a tad high. So how is “Southern Family” anyway?