2016 was a difficult year to be a traditional country music fan in many respects, and not just from the death of so many legends—a phenomenon that didn’t leave any sector of popular music untouched. Of all places, it was the mainstream of country that experienced what could be considered a renewed resurgence in the traditional country direction. Yet in independent circles, it was a year of having to settle for albums prefaced with explanations of why the artist decided to move away from their country influences, even if it was just slightly, or just on a temporary basis.
And we’re not just talking about Sturgill Simpson, but a fairly healthy swath of artists from the Texas scene to Americana and in between. That doesn’t mean those albums were bad, or those artists are dead to us all of a sudden. We’re all music fans first. But we’re also country music fans because there’s something about the moan of the steel guitar and those half time rhythms that tugs on our heartstrings like nothing else.
You didn’t get much of that in 2016 though. Yet here was Cody Jinks, unflinchingly and stern faced presenting an album that so unmercilessly relied on the most potent of country textures—the ones that stimulate those positive chemical reactions in the brain of true country music fans with stories of heartbreak and sorrow that they can pry open the stone edifices surrounding the souls of even the most Stoic listeners—it made up for the dozens of other albums that didn’t.
Cody Jinks didn’t just double down on country in 2016, he went all in. And unlike some of the dry and rehashed “real” country projects that think it’s enough to be country for country’s sake, I’m Not The Devil also had the creativity and originality to make it something not just familiar, but something new.
Album of the Year is not solely awarded due to musical output though. Cody Jinks is blazing hot right now in country circles, partially due to how other artists created an appetite for this new generation of country music, but then vacated the space Cody Jinks has moved in to help fill. And now it feels like we’re on the brink of watching yet another independent country artist rise out of the pack to to the point where their music has a mainstream impact.
Additional accolades are due all of the nominees for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year, especially Dori Freeman and Courtney Marie Andrews who both with limited resources and exposure were still able to arrest the public consciousness enough to end up with almost universal consensus on their brilliance in the parade of end-of-year lists. Jack Ingram and Kelsey Waldon released records that maybe not everyone realized the deeper theme to, but those who did walked away with a better understanding on what’s important in life for it. And all the Album of the Year nominees helped move the effort to save country music forward.
But I’m Not The Devil was the album in 2016 that was the full package, and the one that showed great appeal and creativity, and within the loving confines of the country music space. And though this doesn’t happen with every Saving Country Music end-of-year winner, Cody Jinks also took the popular vote among readers.
And the greatest things about Cody Jinks is you get a sense the best may be yet to come.
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