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. 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.
It has once again come that time of year for reflecting back on some of the best albums released in the last 12 months or so, not to treat country music as competition per se, but as an exercise undertaken with the intent of expanding your musical knowledge in hopes the gaps that formed due to the busy lives we all live get filled in with joyous little music projects.
Austin Lucas, Blackberry Smoke, Brandy Clark, Cody Jinks, Courtney Marie Andrews, Dori Freeman, Doug Bruce, Honest Life, I'm Not The Devil, I've Got a Way, Jack Ingram, Justin Wells, Kelsey Waldon, Like An Arrow, Lori McKenna, Luke Bell, Mark Chesnutt, Midnight Motel, Nick Dittmeier, Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters, Sturgill Simpson, The Bird & The Rifle, The Cactus Blossoms, Tradition Lives, Unsung, You're Dreaming
Not all music awards have to go to the worst artists of an industry like we’re used to, or be ushered in with “high school pageantry” (to quote Sturgill Simpson). For 15 years now, the Independent Music Awards have labored to highlight the artists that slip through the cracks in all the major genres of music.
Anna & Elizabeth, Baltic Crossing, Benny Turner, Cashavelly Morrison, Dori Freeman, Emily Roig, INdependent Music Awards, Jack Grelle, Little Freddie King, Rebecca Patek, The Danberrys, Tift Merritt, Tom Waits, Warren Haynes
List making either before or after events has become a dubious enterprise of mainstream outlets just looking to troll the fan bases of independent performers to get these performers to dutifully post the coverage to their social network feeds and drive unique views to the outlets while little if any true discovery for said artists by new fans actually occurs.
Americana, AmericanaFest, Angaleena Presley, Beverly Keel, Bluebird Cafe, Change The Conversation, Dori Freeman, Jack Ingram, Leslie Fram, Luke Bell, Matt Haeck, Sarah Shook, Tami Neilson, The Accidentals, Tommy Ash, Wanda Jackson
With over 200 artists playing AmericanaFest this third week of September, it can be a little bit intimidating for the folks either looking to attend in person, or experience the gathering vicariously through various social channels and video streams. So here is a curated list of artists battle tested and approved by Saving Country Music.
AmericanaFest, Austin Lucas, Brent Cobb, Caitlyn Smith, Dori Freeman, Jason Eady, John Moreland, Lori McKenna, Luke Bell, Parker Millsap, Sammy Brue, Sarah Shook, Tami Neilson, The Secret Sisters, William Clark Green, Willie Watson
As was said in reference to the Best Albums of 2016 So Far, it has been fairly slim pickings for the first part of the year for finding music that really touches the heart, and has the fortitude to last beyond the calendar year. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, and 2016 already boasts a number of serious, gut-punching songs.
Austin Lucas, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton, Dori Freeman, Dry Up or Drown, Evan Webb and the Rural Ramblers, Heaven Sent, Jeff Shepherd, Lew Card, Lydia Loveless, Parker Millsap, Ryan Scott Travis, Since You've Gone to Heaven, Someday, The Cactus Blossoms, Wrong Side of the Dream
The AmericanaFest keeps piling on names for their annual gathering, causing you to seriously question your September plans if they don’t involve trekking to Nashville to take in this years festivities. After announcing the first 68 names in early May, another batch of performers has just been released, swelling the participants to a solid 121.
With no disrespect meant to the albums highlighted here, which represent the exception and not the rule, 2016 has begun where the second half of 2015 left off, where it feels like country and roots music across the board is out of ideas, and the search for music that truly enlivens the spirit is becoming harder. Nonetheless, there are still some excellent albums out there worth highlighting.
2016 is still a young, fertile lass and much more still needs to be determined. But I get the sense we’ll be talking about this album again come December, and Dori Freeman will not be a name unknown, but the one of the select few to be measured by.