Now that Columbia Free Times has published its annual ‘best albums not from South Carolina’ list that I contributed to, here
I can post my own full list below, which shows it was a pretty good, diverse year for music.
1. Drive-By Truckers, American Band: The album that captures how I feel about this year better than anything else.
2. David Bowie, Blackstar: Tragic start to the year with Bowie’s death, but this parting statement is all the more powerful for his knowing absence.
3. Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker: Tragic end to the year with Cohen’s passing, but his dedication to the word and the song was strong all the way to the finish.
4. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service: Phife Dawg may be gone, but he lives on in the tracks here, and the Tribe manages to come back and say goodbye in the same instant with class, style, and precisely drawn vibes that nail the current state of things.
5. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth: Simpson doesn’t need today’s country music, but today’s country music sorely needs Simpson.
6. Volbeat, Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie: Groove metal with hammerblow intensity and a fun-loving streak that’s sadly absent from the music of their peers.
7. Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book: Kanye gets more props but my favorite rapper right now is probably this guy, who wraps funk and gospel into one big crazy mess like a kid with an actual coloring book who refuses to draw inside the lines.
8. Bill Mallonee & the Big Sky Ramblers, Slow Trauma; Mule: America’s greatest living songwriter, he puts out albums at such a clip it’s hard to keep up. These two from 2016 are both top notch representations of the world-weary, faith-infused point of view he has perfected over the years.
9. Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks in Whispers: Beyonce may be pushing more boundaries in more directions, but for late night jazzy R&B vibes, this lady put out the smoothest jams of the year.
10. Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, Shine A Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad: I think I watched this album more than I listened, as the recordings done in various train stations were all filmed and posted online. Two of my favorite songwriters playing songs about trains and traveling, it’s a musical and historical journey all in one.