2016 has certainly been quite the year for our country ladies. A change was definitely called for after the “tomato gate” of 2015. *Cue the dramatic eye roll* But the ladies have continuously brought it throughout the year. Martina McBride kicked off 2016 by releasing ‘Reckless.’ Her first original album since 2011, topped the UK country charts landing at number at 3. ‘Reckless’ has taken this country queen on a sold-out tour around the US, which will continue throughout 2017- here’s to hoping that she’ll make a cheeky trip across the pond this year.
Most of the year has been pretty much dominated by Maren Morris. The rising megastar released her debut LP ‘Hero’ in June. The album jumped straight to number 1 on US Country Album charts and number 5 on the US Billboard top 200 album charts. Maren Morris has a swagger that captivated country music audiences and brought some female power that country radio was lacking so much. The lead single ‘My Church’ hit the top ten in the US Billboard Country Airplay charts, and number 3 in Canada. Her second single, ‘80’s Mercedes’ was released in June, and quickly became the country summer anthem. Of course, all this built up to Maren’s big moment at the CMA’s. Her performance of ‘My Church’ with the McCray Sisters was the performance of the night. I was fortunate enough to experience this live, personally, and it gave me goose bumps. Morris capped the night by taking home the ‘Horizon Award’ an honour previously taken home by LeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood. 2017 will surely hold even greater things for Morris.
Cam continued to thrive in the success of her ‘Untamed’ album, earning Grammy, AMA, and CMA nominations. Cam will be returning to the UK for the Country to Country festival in March. Kelsea Ballerini kicked off her first headlining tour, and earned her third consecutive number one single with ‘Peter Pan.’ Ballerini is the first female to do this with a debut album since Carrie Underwood in 2006. Ballerini sent the fourth and final single off the ‘The First Time’ album, ‘Yeah Boy’ to country radio in October, and with the promise of new music, 2017 will see Ballerini grow into a world renowned artist. Jennifer Nettles released her second full-length solo LP ‘Playing with Fire’ in May, and it soared to number 4 in the UK country album charts. Nettle’s also capped 2016 off nicely by releasing a holiday album. Jennifer will be returning to the UK, for the first time as a solo artist, to take the main stage at the Country to Country festival in London, Dublin, and Glasgow. Brandy Clark released ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ her second studio LP, which took her on an acoustic tour around the UK. This album is perhaps the most underrated album of the year. But, perhaps the most anticipated release of 2016 was Miranda Lambert’s double LP ‘The Weight of These Wings.’ 2015 saw Lambert’s personal life thrown into disarray, so fans were eager to see what she would do next. ‘Wings’ is a beautifully written album, and the lead single ‘Vice’ reached number 2 on the US hot country song charts, and the second single ‘We Should be Friends’ is steadily climbing up the charts. Miranda Lambert will be returning to the UK next August for a series of shows in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
You cannot talk about 2016 without mentioning this tour. Carrie Underwood took her sold out ‘Stories in the Round’ tour around the US, and Canada. Playing to over one million fans in the US alone. The tour landed Underwood her first headlining show in Madison Square Garden. The current queen of country commanded a mammoth 360 stage with such grace every show. 2016 saw Underwood making some strides at becoming a household name in the UK, by headlining Country to Country and with an appearance on the Jonathan Ross show.
The men have had a pretty good year too. Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, and Blake Shelton all released stellar albums. Chris Stapleton became the hit, and most talked about performer of Country to Country this year, and took home CMA Male Vocalist. Brothers Osborne are running for gold, and took home vocal duo of the year at the CMA’s, and continue to pick up pace. Tim McGraw’s ‘Humble and Kind’ became perhaps the most talked about song in 2016, and McGraw took home both an AMA and CMA this year. Thomas Rhett, and Kip Moore both toured the UK this year following the success of their 2015 albums.
2016 has been quite the year for country music, and its popularity in the UK continues to grow. You only have to look at the growth of C2C to see that country music’s UK fan base is either growing, or coming out of hiding. Ward Thomas have had a phenomenal year, and their country album reached number one all genres in the UK. We are now seeing more and more country artists making TV and radio appearances here. It so wonderful when you see people falling in love with a genre of music that you believe in. So cheers to 2017, and cheers to another wonderful year ahead for country music.