3. WHISKEY MYERS – MUD: These Southern rockers, I don’t believe, get the respect that they deserve. Mud isn’t as strong an outing as 2014’s fantastic Early Morning Shakes, but still a top-notch effort with some hell-raising Southern rockers and heartfelt odes to life, and a nice tribute to No. 2 on my Best Country and Southern Rock of 2016 list.
2. HANK WILLIAMS JR. – IT’S ABOUT TIME: Indeed, it is. I grew up loving Hank Jr., but in recent years his albums have become so much political grandstanding and soapboxing that I couldn’t stomach it. He drops that for this record and focuses on the music. The result is some of the best music that he’s produced since the 1980s. Sure, there are the ridiculous moments you’ve come to expect from Bocephus (“Dress Like an Icon”), but songs like the title track and the introspective “Just Call Me Hank,” recall the sounds that made him the man. It’s About Time was perhaps my most pleasant musical surprise of the year.
1. JACKSON TAYLOR AND THE SINNERS – WHICH WAY IS UP?: There’s certainly a leaning toward a more traditional sound on this final entry in my Best Country and Southern Rock of 2016 list. The cover of Cheap Trick’s “He’s a Whore” notwithstanding, there’s less of the wild-eyed middle finger here and more respect for Jackson Taylor’s influences. There’s also some timely and sincere commentary on the world. The title track, I think, should be required listening for everyone. It perfectly sums up the unprecedented election-year nastiness that we experienced in 2016 and will likely continue to experience for the foreseeable future.
DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR
BLACKBERRY SMOKE – LIKE AN ARROW: Two releases ago, Blackberry Smoke gave me one of those rare life-impacting albums with The Whippoorwill. It was a record that touched my life deeply and helped me through a very dark time. It’s also an album that I have difficulty listening to now for that very reason. So, I badly want another kick-ass album from Blackberry Smoke, but they haven’t yet been able to deliver it. For the most part, Like an Arrow just bores the heck out of me.
STURGILL SIMPSON – A SAILOR’S GUIDE TO EARTH: I’ve been a huge fan of Simpson’s first two solo records and even his work with Sunday Valley, but his major label debut takes a hard left turn from what he’s done before. I’ve read raves about this record, and I can hear the artistry in it and understand the sentiment behind it, but ultimately, I just don’t get it. That’s OK. But I do hope that we get a little more of the country sound from him in the future.