Exclaim!'s Top 27 Albums of 2016 So Far

7. Sturgill Simpson
A Sailor's Guide to Earth

Perhaps the most eccentric breakthrough act in the recent history of country music, Sturgill Simpson fairly demands a close ear and an open mind from traditionalists and new country fans alike. But if you're up for it, on A Sailor's Guide to Earth, his bravura third album, your careful attention will be rewarded again and again.

A concept record loosely based on an itinerant sailor's letters home to his wife and son from overseas, Simpson massages classic country music tropes into new shapes. Though many will emphasize the startling STAX-meets-Elvis cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" that ends the first side as proof of Simpson's range and talent, don't neglect the ingeniously playful travelogue of "Sea Stories," the plaintive "Oh Sarah" or the soulful mega-groove of "Welcome to Earth" and "Keep It Between the Lines." This is, simply, some of the best music of the year.
Stuart Henderson