10 Things We’re Thankful for in 2016
Be thankful for good health and family first this Thanksgiving, but make sure to include a few current or fallen country stars in your meal-time prayer. We're grateful for newcomers and legends that paved the way, but also for outlaws, one country star's wife and Miranda Lambert, but not for the reason you're expecting.
This list of 10 things we're thankful for in 2016 includes new albums from Maren Morris and Brett Eldredge, along with what we think is the song of the year. One late country legend makes this list, while another traditionalist sets his chair at the table in cement when it comes to this yearly list.
Lambert released new music in 2016, but that's not why we're grateful for her this holiday season. Holiday music does make the list, as does a superstar collaboration and one man's personal musings about life, love and loss ... devastating loss. Read the 10 things we're most thankful for and then decide yours. Please share in the comments section below. We're more than happy to make our Thanksgiving prayer an hour long if that's what it takes.
While her new The Weight of These Wings album is a great artistic statement, that's not why we're thankful for Lambert this year. It's her undying support for women in country music at a time when the conversation has quieted. This year she established a scholarship to help women in country music, and #LetTheGirlsPlay artist Anna Vaus was the proud recipient. She also is sure to include female songwriters on her album and tours. There's still a lack of females on the radio, but Lambert is doing something about it.
We can't say we agree with Sturgill Simpson or Aaron Lewis' comments about modern country music; in fact, in most cases we don't. Simpson's points in defense of Merle Haggard were cloudy at best, and Lewis seems to be a little too new to the country format to be calling out other stars.
That said, we encourage freedom of speech and an open dialogue between artist and fans. Both men took a hard stance on an explosive topic. The greatest risk to country music isn't the music becoming too traditional or too "pop," it's if it becomes too predictable and boring.
Hero won't top Taste of Country's list of the Best Albums of 2016, but it may be the most important. Musically she deviates from the same radio-friendly brand of country music so many package up and sell for $12.99. However, her blues and rock-influenced style has still produced radio hits. Morris is an artist fans agree on right now, and an important new female artist in a genre that is sorely lacking female stars.
Randy Travis performed again in 2016 — twice! It was only a single word each time, but many had given up hope that he'd recover from a devastating stroke suffered in 2013. His wife Mary has been a loyal, loving and honest source for updates on the singer's condition, and her courage in stepping to the microphone in his place deserves recognition. We're also grateful for the team that's worked with him to rehab to the point where a full return to the stage seems possible, if still far-off.
Chris Stapleton has earned a permanent place in our Thanksgiving Day remembrances. It's not only what he represents — an honest turn toward musical integrity in country music — it's who he is as an artist. The 2017 Country on the River headliner's thick soulful voice is a yearly tradition that's perhaps only out-loved by turkey and fixings.
Along with Kacey Musgraves' A Very Kacey Christmas, Brett Eldredge's Glow is the season's best new Christmas experience. Most of the songs are Sinatra-inspired, and even his collaboration with Meghan Trainor seems timeless. It's an album that will stand the test of time.
The CMA Song of the Year winner stopped time every time it was on the radio. Tim McGraw's slow, mature vocal performance was as good as the best sunset, a quiet morning cup of coffee, a conversation with a grandparent or walk through the woods. Somehow the song reset the tension in life, something we sorely needed in 2016.
Nearly nine months after wife Joey Feek's death, Joey + Rory singer Rory Feek continues to inspire on his This Life I Live blog. The singer and father showed tremendous poise and grace in sharing his wife's pain and his own suffering. The journey continues as he learns how to be a great father to baby Indiana, a two-year-old with Down Syndrome. In Feek's story we all learned a lesson on humility and humanity.
Let's not forget this is the year Merle Haggard died. It happened in April, and since then dozens of country stars have paid tribute to him in some form or fashion. It was surprising to see the variety of artists the Hag influenced. He was a true original that cannot, and will not, be forgotten.
The superstar mashup of hits by Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and John Denver was a gift to all country music fans in 2016. Producer Shane McAnally and video director Joseph Kahn come together to create four minutes of emotional, poignant brilliance. The song outshined anything that happened during the 50th Annual CMA Awards in November.