As was the case last year, https://mykindofcountry.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/top-10-hidden-gems-of-2016/ I haven’t compiled a singles list this year, but this list of hidden gems highlights some of the great album tracks from records that didn’t make my albums of the year list. A few were also singles. I have omitted tracks which were singles only, or Alan Jackson’s outstanding new single ‘The Older I Get’ would undoubtedly have vied for one of the top positions.
10. Mike Bentley – ‘The Little T’ (from All I’ve Got)
An absorbing story song from a great bluegrass album which I hope to review in the new year. Bentley, formerly lead singer of Cumberland Gap Connection, is now out on his own, and developing into one of the best current male bluegrass singers.
9. Sons of the Palomino – ‘Outta This Town’ (from Sons Of The Palomino)
Successful songwriter Jeffrey Steele’s latest project was an overlooked gem itself, and this particular cut about feeling trapped in a dying small town is rather lovely. The album version features harmonies from Emmylou Harris.
8. Reba McEntire – ‘Jesus Loves Me’ (from Sing It Now)
Reba’s new religious album was an unexpected pleasure this year. I generally preferred the quiet emotion of the more traditional hymns on the first part of the two-disk set to the more contemporary second half, and this track was the very finest recording for my measure.
7. Martina McBride – ‘Here Comes That Rainbow Again’ (from Various Artists, The Life & Songs Of Kris Kristofferson Live)
A live cover of one of Kris Kristofferson’s most moving songs (based on an incident in The Grapes Of Wrath), sung by one of the best female vocalists in mainstream country. Martina’s voice hasn’t always been matched by her material, so this is a joy.
6. Aaron Watson – ‘Texas Lullaby’ (from Vaquero)
A lovely story song about a World War II soldier from Texas and his love story.
5. Darin & Brooke Aldridge – ‘Fit For A King’ (from Faster & Farther)
This dramatic high lonesome story song about a street preacher was also a highlight on Gene Watson’s new gospel album, which did make my top 10. But before that it shone on the bluegrass husband and wife’s latest effort. Brooke’s strong mountain vocal has a raw intensity, supported by the harmony of Charli Robertson from Flatt Lonesome. The rest of the album was pretty good, too.
4. Lonesome River Band – ‘Blackbirds And Crows’ (from Mayhayley’s House)
A brilliantly sung bluegrass murder ballad.
3. Kendell Marvel, ‘Hurtin’ Gets Hard’ (from Lowdown & Lonesome)
A classic style traditional country heartbreaker with powerful vocals.
2. Trace Akins – ‘Watered Down’ (from Something’s Going On)
This one was actually a single – https://mykindofcountry.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/single-review-trace-adkins-watered-down/
Written by Matt Jenkins, Trevor Rosen and Shane McAnally, this mature ballad about growing older was by far the best song on Trace’s otherwise disappointing new album. Trace is another great singer with a hit and miss approach to his material, and he really needs to do more songs like this as he transitions to the minor labels.
1. Jake Worthington – ‘A Lot Of Room To Talk’ (from Hell Of A Highway)
A gorgeous traditional country sad song from an excellent singer. If this had been released 25 years ago it would have been a monster hit. I would like to hear a lot more from this young artist.