JC’s Top Tunes of 2016

I played a lot of music during the January cold, streamed KRFC-FM more in February, March and April.  I’m still not quite sure why I spiked my last.fm scrobbles in May before spending more time outside in June.  July, August & Sept. were fairly steady.  As it cooled off in October, I spent more time indoors reading and listening to music.  In December, with Holiday Music playlists going pretty much whenever I was awake, and sorting out my favs, well, I played more music in 2016 than in any year since 2008.


Merle Haggard.  Guy Clark.  2016 took too many of our beloved icons.  Guy Clark was a contemporary and companion of Townes Van Zandt, who died on New Years Day, 20 years ago.  Johnny Cash, my favorite artist, is a staple year-round but especially as part of my routine Sunday morning Americana-gospel Spotify list.  New releases by artists including Brandy Clark, Tom Brosseau, Elizabeth Cook, Corb Lund (technically 2015, but close), Hot Club of Cowtown, and Lucinda Williams, put me back in touch with their back catalog.  Solid new releases from Left Arm Tan,  the Cactus Blossoms, Dori Freeman, Caitlin Canty, Reagan Boggs and Margo Price rounded out my Top Artists for the year.  I’m surprised I didn’t play Gretchen Peters more, though.

2016 was a decent year for new music.  I tried to keep up with the Americana Radio Chart with a Spotify list of new albums as they were released, plus what I noticed from people with good taste on Twitter.  A few new albums stood out, including Left Arm Tan‘s Lorene, Elizabeth Cook’s Exodus of Venus, and Brandy Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town.  I played the heck out of my Top 10 or 12, then the second tier shows up going down the chart.  Caitlin Canty and Tom Brousseau delivered from the folk side, Reagan Boggs and Margo Price from more of an alt.country/Classic country point of view.  Corb Lund’s Things That Can’t Be Undone was my favorite album of 2015 and I still like it a lot.  I missed Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizzell when it came out late in 2015, but I caught up with it on Spotify. Lucinda Williams did a nice job with The Ghosts of Highway 20, though with limited tracks on Spotify I had to remember to spin the album the old fashioned way—on the Mac at home.

Dori Freeman is a new Roots music voice out of Appalachian hills of southwestern Virginia, with a self-titled debut on Free Dirt Records.  Both singer and songwriter, Dori got a drop of PR from Rolling Stone back in February, “For Fans of Iris DeMent, Brandy Clark, Alison Krauss”.  The same article promoted The Cactus Blossoms, as well as Ms. Clark.  While Dori’s “Where I Stood” clearly stood out to me, Brandy Clark, The Cactus Blossoms and Elizabeth Cook both delivered albums with several prime cuts.  Its worth checking out Cook’s “Broke Down in London on the M25” and “Methadone Blues”, and most every track on Brandy Clark’s sophomore release, especially the rocking “Girl Next Door”—not a bad cut on the album.

My #2 most-played track was Caitlin Canty’s “Get Up”, which would have easily took the top spot but for Dori’s bewitching tune.  Margo Price’s “Hands of Time” is also a top track deserving to be a Country hit if Country Radio played Country Music anymore, outperforming on a good album.  Tom Brosseau opens his album North Dakota Impressions, with the catchy “No Matter Where I Roam”.  Carrie Rodriguez underplays her hand with the timely “Llano Estacado” off the lovely Lola.  Hot Club of Cowtown rounds out the top 10 with “Call of the Canyon” off Midnight on the Trail, their tribute to both kinds of music, Country AND Western swing.

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