• The Shotgun Seat’s Top Albums of 2016

    It’s that time again! 2016 is coming to a close, and we’ve rounded up our favorite albums of the year – a difficult feat, considering the incredible amount of great music released over the last twelve months. Five of our writers (Markus Meyer, Annie Dineen, Lydia Simonetti, Christina Bosch, and Natalie Schumann) made their personal lists, and from those we compiled a master list. We hope you enjoy – feel free to let us know your own favorite projects of 2016 in the comments, or on social media! And for more year-end tallies, check out our Top Singles of 2016, coming soon.



    Mr. Misunderstood On the Rocks Live and (Mostly) Unplugged – Eric Church

    Individual Rankings: #6 – Markus; #8 – Lydia

    Eric Church has always made a point of making sure his live shows are of the highest caliber, and this album is surely a reflection of said effort. Church portrays some of his biggest hits, as well as album cuts and a stunning cover of “Hallelujah”, in raw, unfiltered fashion. It’s an exceptionally well-done effort that adds another layer of depth to Church’s artistic tendencies. – Markus Meyer



    I’m Not the Devil – Cody Jinks

    Individual Rankings: #8 – Markus; #11 – Annie; #12 – Christina

    For fans of Stapleton, Cody Jinks’ album is traditional country, packing a real punch of great lyrics and even better melodies. Filled with steel guitars, fiddles and honest songwriting, I’m Not the Devil is a classic country album you will put on repeat. – Christina Bosch



    Sean McConnell – Sean McConnell

    Individual Rankings: #1 – Lydia;#11 – Natalie

    Listening to Sean McConnell’s latest album (his ninth to be exact) is like taking a nostalgic trip through his past. Though just ten songs, the album covers plenty of ground. He journeys through his band’s beginnings and the highs of young love in “Holy Days,” to “Best We’ve Ever Been,” a reflective love song in which a couple celebrates their long life together. The true highlight (and perhaps most autobiographical track) of the album is “The Queen of St. Mary’s Choir,” in which McConnell sings of his Boston roots and his parents’ influence on his career. McConnell is an exceptional singer/songwriter and storyteller, and his self-titled album is the perfect way to get to know him.  – Lydia Simonetti


    El Rio – Frankie Ballard

    Individual Rankings: #1 – Annie; #9 – Lydia

    Frankie Ballard‘s got style, and his third release, El Rio, showcases it in a bold and cohesive offering. From rocking uptempos to his more pensive side, Ballard presents a meaty set of songs with something to say and the swagger and style to go with it.  – Annie Dineen



    Shine On Rainy Day – Brent Cobb

    Individual Rankings: #2 – Natalie; #6 – Annie

    Brent Cobb writes songs about snap peas, small towns and making moonshine down in the gulley. I couldn’t tell you where the nearest gulley might be. And yet, I love this album, and the stories Cobb tells, and his ability to make authentic country themes sound so refined and relatable that any potential for corny cliches or down-home hokeyness is completely eliminated. Gold stars go to “Country Bound” and “Traveling Poor Boy,” two gems that make up the middle meat of this stellar debut. – Natalie Schumann



    New City Blues – Aubrie Sellers

    Individual Rankings: #3 – Christina; #11 – Natalie; #13 – Markus; #14 – Annie

    By creating her own lane and releasing her debut album organically, Aubrie Sellers defined a new subgenre of country with her New City Blues LP.  Her “garage country” sound is punchy, real and electric, and is the perfect representation of Sellers herself. – CB



    Southern Family – Various Artists

    Individual Rankings: #1 – Natalie; #5 – Markus; #13 – Annie; #14 – Christina

    Master producer Dave Cobb corralled some of the most talented names in the industry (Miranda Lambert, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark, Chris and Morgane Stapleton, to name a few) for this celebration-of-home compilation. Everyone brought their A-game with original new songs or original takes on old classics, and every time I listen I discover something – a lyric, a chord, a production element – I missed before. It’s simultaneously timely and timeless, and I’m adding it to the “play for my kids” list (see below). – NS



    The Bird & The Rifle – Lori McKenna

    Individual Rankings: #3 – Natalie; #6 – Christina; #8 – Annie

    Someday, when I have kids (Note: This life event is currently in the faraway future, but nonetheless worth planning for, right?), I am going to play them this album. All the time. Every day. I will plaster their walls with lyrics painted on canvases, and when they leave for college I’ll sneak copies between their stacks of T-shirts on move-in day. McKenna, along with producer Dave Cobb, has created a songwriting masterpiece. “Humble & Kind” alone is strong enough to carry the project, but each of the ten tracks deserves its own spotlight. – NS



    Pawn Shop – Brothers Osborne

    Individual Rankings: #1 – Christina; #5 – Lydia; #13 – Natalie

    Released very early in 2016, this album is the sum of years and years of hard work from two brothers from Maryland. Staying true to themselves, creating and releasing music they are proud of, TJ and John Osborne are as authentic as they come. Pawn Shop has something for everyone, making country fans proud of their favorite genre. – CB



    Big Day In a Small Town – Brandy Clark

    Individual Rankings: #4 – Markus; #9 – Christina; #10 – Natalie; #12 – Lydia

    After debuting a couple years back with the exceptional 12 Stories, it would have been understandable had Brandy Clark’s follow-up been a slight regression. It wasn’t. Big Day In a Small Town is a sterling example of everything modern country music should be, with confident and colorful songwriting, real-life thematic elements, and stunning traditional country production. It’s hard to find flaws with this album, as Clark continues to establish herself as a dominant presence in country music. – MM


    The Driver – Charles Kelley

    Individual Rankings: #4 – Annie; #6 – Lydia; #12 – Natalie; #13 – Christina

    Charles Kelley impressed in multiple ways on his solo debut The Driver, proving beyond doubt his skill as a vocalist, writer, and performer, and recording songs that will hold up for years to come. Much of the album nods lyrically to Kelley’s experiences as an artist (“The Driver,” “I Wish You Were Here,” “Leaving Nashville”), for an added sense of honesty, vulnerability, and strength of perspective.  – AD



    Wrong Side of the River – Rob Baird

    Individual Rankings: #5 – Annie; #6 – Natalie; #7 – Christina; #14 – Lydia

    Bluesy, brooding, brilliant. Rob Baird’s release this year was masterful in its writing and delivery, from the swaggering “Aint Nobody Got A Hold On Me” to the driving-in-the-dark introspective “Run Of Good Luck.” Wrong Side of the River was also dripping with character and aesthetic, for a project with a whole lot of feel. – AD



    A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

    Individual Rankings: #2 – Markus, Annie; #7 – Natalie; #10 – Christina; #13 – Lydia

    Has any artist demonstrated as much creative, album-to-album growth as Sturgill Simpson? He dominated the traditional market with High Top Mountain, took a huge artistic gamble with Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, and now takes a leap into the genre-blending world with A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Is it his most country effort? Of course not, but it is his strongest. It’s cohesive without feeling samey, unique without feeling sloppy. It’s a stunning effort that showcases Simpson’s softer (“Breakers Roar”) and rocking (“Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”) sides, and further establishes him as one of country’s finest ambassadors. – MM



    The Weight of These Wings – Miranda Lambert

    Individual Rankings: #3 – Lydia; #4 – Natalie; #5 – Christina; #9 – Annie

    Although it wasn’t released until November, this double album packs quite an impactful punch.  The project is split into Disc 1 “The Nerve” and Disc 2 “The Heart,” and is filled with raw, honest songwriting and a sense of vulnerability. Lambert wears her heart on her sleeve with heavy-hitting emotional songs such as “Tin Man,” “Vice,” “Pushin’ Time,” “To Learn Her,”  and “Things That Break.” The funky “Highway Vagabond” is about moving on and not looking back, while “We Should Be Friends” champions the common man & woman and reminds us that we’re all only human after all.  The Weight of These Wings presents a well-adjusted, confident Lambert who shows us how to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. – LS



    Fighter – David Nail

    Individual Rankings: #2 – Lydia; #3 – Markus, Annie; #4 – Christina

    With quite possibly his strongest album to date, the 11-track album kicks off with the good time, boot-stomping “Good At Tonight,” featuring Brothers Osborne. Nail then eases into more thought provoking songs like the title track.  Fighter boasts some impressive collaborations as well, such as “I Won’t Let You Go” with Vince Gill, and “Home” with Lori McKenna.  Many of the songs are quite reflective of his personal life and experiences, and the project serves as a fantastic representation of Nail as a person and an artist. – LS