Country Perspective’s Best Country and Americana Songs of 2016 So Far

As we look back at the best and worst of the first half of 2016, we take today to highlight over the songs that have stood out to us. Great lyrics, passionate vocals, and a good, fitting production all work together to create songs that connect with the listeners for a variety of reasons. Some of these songs were part of albums, others were released as singles with no albums attached, but all are great country and Americana songs.

Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release, and we do our best to cover the most songs possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert song) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

YouTube videos available for the top songs are provided, and all songs are compiled into a Spotify playlist at the end of the post.

So without further ado, Country Perspective’s ten best country and Americana songs so far in 2016 (in no particular order).….

(Click on the song name to see the full review)

“Hands of Time” by Margo Price

The opening track to Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a beautiful six-minute trip into Margo’s life growing up on the farm and trying to get her life established as an adult. Price’s higher pitched delivery stands out on top of the heavy bass line.

“Heaven Sent” by Parker Millsap

“Heaven Sent” brilliantly tackles a difficult and rarely seen subject in country or Americana music. Millsap sings from the perspective of a gay son trying to figure out why his preacher father can’t accept him for who he is. The vocals capture the confusion and frustration of the son.

“Goodbye Kiss” by Flatland Cavalry

This new country band from Texas tell a common breakup story a fresh sense of pain from the narrator. Before saying goodbye for good, the couple in the song share one final kiss, which leaves an aching memory for the song’s narrator. Great country production, and the vocals and lyrics work together to paint a picture of pain and regret.

“Pink Flamingos” by Erik Dylan

Murder ballads are a common theme in country and Americana, but Erik Dylan’s “Pink Flamingos” flips the trope on its head. It’s a justifiable murder because the victim was a child predator, and Dylan’s vocal delivery is the icing on the cake of a well-written song.

“Rhinestone World” by Breelan Angel

There are protest songs that are good, there are protest songs that are bad, and then there’s Breelan Angel’s protest song. Being released in the aftermath of Keith Hill’s tomato comments and Katie Armiger’s claims against her label, “Rhinestone World” gives a voice for the women who are expected to act differently to get their moment in the spotlight. It’s the only song to get a 10/10 rating on Country Perspective this year.

“Take It Down” by Chris King

Chris King’s Animal is a fantastic concept album detailing a man trying to move past the fall of his relationship. “Take It Down” is the emotional peak of the album, where the narrator deals directly with the hurt from the relationship’s end. It’s a hurt caused by seeing her picture in a bar they once visited together. Great songwriting and vocals from Chris King.

“Call to Arms” by Sturgill Simpson

The final song on Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a fiercely political song against the news cycle leaders in our culture today. The song features an extended musical solo of horns and guitars, making a blended country and rock melody.

“Ain’t Nobody” by Dori Freeman

One of the most unique songs we’ve heard this year, this song is beautifully sung A-Capella by Freeman accompanied by only her finger snaps. Dori Freeman’s self titled debut is an excellent album, and this song proved to be the standout from the album.

“Grandma’s Garden” by Zac Brown

It’s hard to pick only one song from Southern Family, as the album is full of great songs from some of country and Americana’s best. Zac Brown’s tale of a family matriarch and the family she grew is wonderfully sang from Brown. It touches on one of country music highest values, and shows how great Zac Brown and Dave Cobb work together.

“She Ain’t In It” by Jon Pardi

We haven’t reviewed this song from Pardi’s upcoming California Sunrise, but this song pre-release show’s Pardi’s devotion to keeping country’s tradition alive. “She Ain’t In It” is another well-written heartbreak song, and a features a production that calls back to the 90s country sound.

Honorable Mentions

  • “You Are My Sunshine” by Morgane Stapleton – We didn’t feel right bumping one of the great songs above for a cover song, but “You Are My Sunshine” might be one of the best recordings of the year.
  • “I Cried” by Brandy Clark – A third song on this list featured from Southern Family. “I Cried” is poignant, with great vocals from Clark.
  • “Holdin’ Her” by Chris Janson – A beautiful, personal love song from Janson, featuring great vocals and an excellent country production.
  • “Blue Besides” by The Honeycutters – A great country production on a song dealing with the pains of growing up.
  • “Breaker’s Roar” by Sturgill Simpson – Another great song from Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, where Sturgill Simpson sings to encourage his son during hard times in life.
  • “Record Year” by Eric Church – Released last year, but the song is still on the rising on the charts this year. “Record Year” has great lyrics with Eric Church’s word play with using music to overcome heartbreak.
  • “My Last Song” by Addison Johnson – As Josh said in his review, “the song tackles life so poignantly. It’s not so much dark, but rather looks at life in a simplistic, mature manner that can resonate deeply with anyone who listens.”

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Country Perspective’s Best Country & Americana Music – March 2016

March 2016

Time to take look at the best of March! If you’re not familiar or just started reading the blog, here’s the drill: Each month Derek and myself will take a look back on the month that was and share our thoughts on the music that was released and some of our favorites. Below that will be a Spotify playlist of all the songs we enjoyed. If you’re a fan of Spotify and use it, we have good news as we have a Country Perspective Spotify page. You can check it out and subscribe here. So let’s talk about the month of March!

Josh

The year of 2016 in country and Americana music just continues to get better with each month. March managed to top both January and February, as two very strong album of the year contenders emerged. The first of those contenders is Chris King’s Animal. This album knocked me flat on my ass and it’s one of the truest albums I’ve ever reviewed. Every song on this album connects to tell the story of a man who loses it all and finds redemption the only way he knows how to find it. Along the way he learns a lot about himself and does some introspection on his life. “Never Make It Last,” “Take It Down” and “Martinez Social Club” are the standout songs, but you need to hear this whole album.

The other album of the year contender to emerge was the much hyped Dave Cobb-produced project Southern Family. This album full of an all-star lineup of talent not only delivered what we expected, but kind of exceeded it. I expected the high quality, but what I didn’t expect is smooth and flawless the artists and songs mesh together to create a cohesive and deep album. It’s very hard to pick the favorites on this one, but if I have to choose one it’s Morgane and Chris Stapleton’s rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s hauntingly beautiful. Just like King’s album, you need to hear the entirety of Southern Family. It has something for everyone and it’s going to be on a lot of year-end lists.

If these two perfect albums weren’t enough to whet your music appetite, there was even more quality music. Loretta Lynn at the young age of 83 delivered the amazing Full Circle album. She doesn’t sound much different from what she did in her prime and if it’s indeed her final album of original music, she went out with an absolute bang. On the flip-side of the age spectrum, up and comer William Michael Morgan delivered a solid self-titled EP with the kind of music that every artist on a major label should be making. “Lonesomeville” was the standout of this EP for me, as the broken heart ballad is reminiscent of the music you would hear from Strait and Jackson in the 90s. Finally, the much-anticipated Margo Price released her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter and she reminded me so much of…Loretta Lynn (pretty ironic they both released great albums in the same month). Derek is writing a review for this one, so I don’t want to spoil it. However when listening to this album be ready from the start, as I find the best song on it is the first one, “Hands of Time.”

Derek

March was a fantastic month for country and Americana music! It’s still early in 2016, but March may have produced three of the best albums of the year. Firstly, Chris King’s Animal showcased a great concept of getting over a broken heart. The entire album is fantastic from start to finish, but songs like “Never Make It Last” and “Take It Down” are two of my favorites. Dave Cobb’s highly anticipated superstar album Southern Family didn’t disappoint. Bringing in the hottest Americana stars with a few of mainstream’s more quality artists, Cobb produced a solid album with songs about family life in the south. It wasn’t one story, but a collection of stories meant to paint a picture of southern families. Zac Brown’s “Grandma’s Garden” is one of his best songs he’s released. Brandy Clark’s heartbreaking “I Cried” proves why Clark is held in high regard as a songwriter. But it was Morgane Stapleton’s stunning rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” with husband Chris on guitar and harmonies that ended up being the album’s best song.

Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an excellent traditional country album. “Hands of Time” and “Four Years of Chances” are two of the album’s top songs. Country legend Loretta Lynn also released another album to add to her large catalog. Full Circle had a little bit of everything from old songs to new songs, and several great cover songs. Lynn’s rendition of “Always on My Mind” is excellent, but it’s the final song from the album, “Lay Me Down”, a duet with Willie Nelson, that will be a favorite for years to come. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention William Michael Morgan’s EP. A great record that captures the traditional sounds and values of country music but gives them a relevant spotlight in 2016. “Lonesomeville” and “Back Seat Driver” are my two favorite songs from the 22-year-old singer.

The Best Music Currently at Country Radio [March 23]

The best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. Here’s where all the songs currently stand on the chart:

10. Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame”

11. Maren Morris – “My Church”

14. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”

19. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”

23. Maddie & Tae – “Shut Up and Fish” 

24. Eric Church – “Record Year”

25. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”

27. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”

31. Kip Moore – “Running For You”

32. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately”

33. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl”

36. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” 

42. Cam – “Mayday”

45. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”

47. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”

51. High Valley – “Make You Mine” [New]

 

 

The Best Music Currently at Country Radio [March 16]

The best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. Here’s where all the songs currently stand on the chart:

10. Maren Morris – “My Church”

11. Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame”

16. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”

21. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”

23. Maddie & Tae – “Shut Up and Fish” 

24. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”

27. Eric Church – “Record Year”

29. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”

31. Kip Moore – “Running For You”

32. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl”

34. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately”

37. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” 

44. Cam – “Mayday”

49. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”

50. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”

54. Charles Kelley (feat. Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay) – “The Driver”

58. Toby Keith – “Beautiful Stranger”

 

The Best Music Currently at Country Radio [March 9]

The best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. Here’s where all the songs currently stand on the chart:

12. Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame”

13. Maren Morris – “My Church”

18. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”

20. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”

24. Maddie & Tae – “Shut Up and Fish” 

27. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”

28. Eric Church – “Record Year”

30. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”

32. Kip Moore – “Running For You”

34. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl”

36. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately”

39. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” 

43. Cam – “Mayday” 

44. Charles Kelley (feat. Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay) – “The Driver”

45. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”

49. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”

55. Toby Keith – “Beautiful Stranger”