Top 5 Americana, Alt-Country and Folk Songs of 2016 (So Far)
It’s hard to believe, but we’re already well into the second half of 2016. Within the first six months of the year, there has been a huge amount of great new music from some of our favorite Americana, alt-country and folk artists. So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to pick some of the best tunes that have come across our desks.
Below, The Boot selects the best Americana, alt-country and folk songs of 2016 … so far.
Upland Stories is a genuinely fantastic album. It finds Fulks in a reflective, personal state, one that produces some beautiful and unforgettable listening experiences. And one of those experiences is wrapped up in a story about Aunt Peg’s latest love interest, a man who, against all common sense, “didn’t like the Scruggs style” when it came to banjos. Regardless of who this new man is, Fulks tells the story in his signature endearing manner, and will likely lead you to hitting repeat to listen to it all over again (and again … and again).
On his latest album, Lovers and Leavers, Carll bears his soul for all to hear. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Carll has always been a thoughtful storyteller, one who doesn’t rush to put anything out unless it’s … well, perfect. Since 2002, he’s only released five albums; in today’s musical landscape, that sort of thought-out, willful output is rare. But if the long wait between albums delivers songs like “The Love That We Need” — a tune packed with brutally honest lyrics like “If something was missing / We were too scared to look / Too busy telling our stories / Instead of writing the book” — then keep doing exactly what you’re doing, Mr. Carll.
The granddaughter of Hank Williams, Holly Williams released her full-length debut in 2004 with The Ones We Never Knew. Now, more than a decade later, she’s celebrating a different kind of release as she contributed to Dave Cobb‘s new album, Southern Family. “Settle Down” is one of the most stunning tracks on the record. Wrapping up the brief story with “Well I broke his heart and cut him deep / Thank God he still believes in me / I’m gonna settle down / We’re gonna settle down,” Williams’ beautiful vocals take the listener on a captivating journey — one that, sadly, ends in two minutes and 27 seconds.
Scott laid down the early tracks for this year’s Couchville Sessions back in the early 2000s. Over the course of nearly two decades, Scott’s music grew into an impeccable record full of mesmerizing Americana tunes. The song that sets the stage for the entire album is the opening track, “Down to the River,” which will no doubt have you singing along after just one spin, if not sooner. Adding to the beauty of the track, the late Guy Clark — who passed away a few days after Couchville Sessions hit the streets — jumps in around the 3:20 mark and tells a story that he proudly describes as “far out.”
Slightly subdued and driven by Williams’ powerful vocals, “Dust” is a tune that seems to be brimming with sorrow. The song’s melancholy centers around the legendary artist repeating a couple of disparate lines: “You couldn’t cry if you wanted to” and “Even your thoughts are dust.” Through the dark, contemplative tone on this opening track, Williams perfectly introduces listeners to her latest LP, The Ghosts of Highway 20, one of her most personal pieces of work to date.