Gone Country: The 10 best albums of 2016

Man, 2016 was a crazy year. But it did bring us some good country music, and it may have taken me until the day before New Year’s Eve to make my list, but here it is. Some albums have stayed from the list I made in the middle of the year; others have been moved off the list. But it was hard to narrow down to just 10 albums, so if you want to let me know what I missed, feel free to comment. Enjoy, and may we remember 2016 as “The Year Where Sturgill Covered Nirvana.

10. “The Weight of These Wings,” Miranda Lambert 

Miranda Lambert performs onstage during the 2016 iHeartCountry Festival held at The Frank Erwin Center on April 30, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Miranda Lambert performs onstage during the 2016 iHeartCountry Festival held at The Frank Erwin Center on April 30, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Miranda Lambert’s double-album stays true to her personality while expanding her sonic palate. It would’ve been easy for Lambert to lean further into her “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” persona. But this songbook finds Lambert tapping into the weight of every emotion, not just grief and loss.

9. “Big Day in a Small Town,” Brandy Clark

In this April 19, 2015, file photo, country singer Brandy Clark arrives at the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Arlington, Texas. Clark has also penned hits for Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP, File)
In this April 19, 2015, file photo, country singer Brandy Clark arrives at the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Arlington, Texas. Clark has also penned hits for Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP, File)

Her second album is even better than her first. While “12 Stories” was an album full of ballads about normal, everyday people, “Big Day” imagines all those people in one town, and showcases more of Clark’s songwriting chops. The production is bigger and the scope is larger on “Big Day,” but Clark’s ability to tap into the milieu of southern life is second to none.

8. “The Bird and the Rifle,” Lori McKenna

From Flickr user Thom C. Used with Creative Commons license.
From Flickr user Thom C. Used with Creative Commons license.

The “Humble and Kind” and “Girl Crush” songwriter is back with an album full of metaphors and personifications. And every song is a masterpiece.

7. “Midnight Motel,” Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram at Waterloo Records on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
Jack Ingram at Waterloo Records on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

Ingram told me while promoting this album that “Midnight Motel” was the embodiment of his new mantra: “Don’t write a song that you won’t play for your heroes.” He follows through on his promise here. “Midnight Motel,” his first album since splitting with big Machine seven years ago, is messy, unfiltered and wholly his.

6. “Lovers and Leavers,” Hayes Carll

Hayes Carll taping "Austin City Limits" on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at ACL Live. Courtesy KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits; photo by Scott Newton
Hayes Carll taping “Austin City Limits” on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at ACL Live. Courtesy KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits; photo by Scott Newton

The Hayes Carll singing on “Lovers and Leavers” is not the same Hayes Carll that penned “She Left Me For Jesus” or “KMAG YOYO.” This is a more grown-up, recently divorced Hayes Carll. And the songs show.

Some fans didn’t like the departure from his rough and rowdy ways, bur the songwriting on “Lovers and Leavers” is at least on par with, maybe better than, “Trouble in Mind” or “KMAG YOYO.” The album reveals a man wrestling with love in all its shapes and forms- parental, platonic, romantic and brotherly. Lots of country artists have sung about fatherhood and divorce. Cuts like “The Magic Kid” and “My Friends” get to the heart of what it’s like to grow into fatherhood in a way that only Carll could say.

5. “I’m Not the Devil,” Cody Jinks

From Flickr user Brandon Florkey. Used with Creative Commons license.
From Flickr user Brandon Florkey. Used with Creative Commons license.

Jinks used to be the lead guitarist in a Fort Worth thrash metal band.”I’m Not the Devil,” which has enough apocalyptic metaphors to win over Jinks’ older fans but is also firmly rooted in country instrumentation, fuses the attitude of metal with the sound of outlaw country. And it’s perfect.

4. “Rockingham,” BJ Barham

American Aquarium performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 2, 2015.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
American Aquarium performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 2, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The American Aquarium frontman embarks on a solo journey here, written immediately after the November 2015 Paris attacks. The album deals with the notion of home and how that home has impacted Barham for better or worse. It’s a heartbreaking ode to small-town life.

3. “American Band,” Drive-By Truckers

Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers plays Hole in the Wall. Photo by Andy Tennille
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers plays Hole in the Wall. Photo by Andy Tennille

The Drive-By Truckers have aways been political. But they’ve never been as political as they are on “American Band,” which is going to be remembered as a forerunner to much of the protest music that’s going to come out of the Trump administration.

2. “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” Sturgill Simpson

American Country Music Artist Sturgill Simpson performs on Night One at ACL-Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas on May 5, 2016 - Photo Credit: Scott Moore/For American-Statesman
American Country Music Artist Sturgill Simpson performs on Night One at ACL-Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas on May 5, 2016 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/For American-Statesman

“Sailor’s Guide” is Simpson’s first album without Dave Cobb at the controls, and that’s because this one is intensely personal. Just a scant nine songs and 43 minutes long, “Sailor’s Guide” packs a punch of fatherly advice, peppered with sea sounds, grunge-rock, horns from the Dap-Kings and a slow, dream-like Nirvana cover. This concept album is going to be remembered as one of the biggest highlights of Simpson’s career, but Simpson could care less about his legacy, which makes it better. Call it country, call it rock, call it whatever you want, but just know it’s one of the most honest country albums of the year.

1.“Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,” Margo Price

Margo Price taping "Austin City Limits" on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Courtesy of KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits. Photo by Scott Newton
Margo Price taping “Austin City Limits” on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Courtesy of KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits. Photo by Scott Newton

This was No. 2 on my mid-year list, and I went back and forth between this and “Sailor’s Guide” for a while. After repeated listens, this one grew on me more and more, and it’s a shame this album wasn’t rewarded at all from the Grammys or the CMAs.

Price made waves on “Saturday Night Live” this year when she performed during the Russel Crowe episode a month after her debut album arrived on the Billboard country charts at No. 10, selling 4,000 copies in its first week. That’s a modest debut, but for an independent female solo artist who had no previous chart history, it was a first-of-its-kind moment.

“Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,” while not the answer to all of country music’s current woes, is a stellar debut. “Hurtin’ On the Bottle” is as good a drinking song as you’ll find anywhere, and “Weekender” showcases Price’s wry sense of humor among the melancholy moments of life. May it be remembered as a classic album from 2016.

Honorary Mentions (in no particular order):

“Hero,” Maren Morris; “Like An Arrow,” Blackberry Smoke; “Gotta Be Me,” Cody Johnson; “Full Circle,” Loretta Lynn; “Shine On Rainy Day,” Brent Cobb; “Southern Family,” prod. by Dave Cobb; “Nothing Shines Like Neon,” Randy Rogers Band; “Then Sings My Soul,” Wade Bowen; “California Sunshine,” Jon Pardi; “Country Songs,” Karen Jonas

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at jharris@statesman.com.

Best of Free Week 2017: Go find your new favorite Austin band

Free week is upon us! Once again Austin bars kick off the year by dropping cover charges, throwing open their doors and inviting all of Austin to come discover a new favorite bands. Sure, Free Week, by definition, is cheapskate paradise for the thrifty (and broke) among us, but don’t be jerk. Tip your bartenders generously, stop by merch tables and be sure to give your new favorite bands loads of social media love. Here are some of our top picks for Free Week shows.

Sunday, January 1

Dames and the Giant Peach at Swan Dive. Psych-folk outfit Calliope Musicals, riding high off a big year that included the very good release “Time Owes You Nothing,” headlines, but the bill is loaded with excellent female-fronted acts, including one of Austin’s soon-to-be next big things, Annabelle Chairlegs. Zettajoule and Magia Negra also perform. 9 p.m. doors. 615 Red River St. 

Also:

  • Mscls, Hot Britches, Dank Sinatra at Barracuda
  • Huggy & the Feel Goodz, Allysa Grace, Sometimes a Legend at Empire
  • Mode Dodeca, Tusk Her, Alice Evans & the 11s, Sophies at Sidewinder
  • Grivo, Augra Nowhere, Oozer, A Glass Darkly at Beerland
  • Big Britches at Blackheart

Monday, January 2

Megafauna at Swan Dive. Gnarly guitar queen-pin Dani Neff and her prog-rock compadres headline a bill that also includes Young Tongue and Modern Medicine. 9 p.m. 615 Red River St.  

  • Two Lips, Poly Action, Sidechick at Barracuda
  • Obscured By Echoes, Strange Mother, Blood Pumps at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Daphne, Small Houses, Marijuana Sweet Tooth at Sidewinder
  • ATX All About the Vibe with Ayuma, Ufulu Child, Freequency, Cure for Paranoia at Empire
  • Law By the Gun, Cory Reinisch at Blackheart

Tuesday, January 3

A Giant Dog at Barracuda. After years honing their rowdy glam punk sound in Austin’s seedy hideaways, the band went national in 2016 with an explosive major label debut on Merge Records. Still believe in those who believe in rock ‘n’ roll? Show up, show out and wish music photographer extraordinaire, Pooneh Ghana, a happy birthday while you’re there. Annabelle Chairlegs, Batty Jr., Sounds Del Mar and Party Wizard also perform. 

  • Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Ramesh, Talkies, Rose Selavy, Solid State Dream Suit at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Go Fever, Planet Manhood, Magic Rockers of Texas, Tyler Jordan & Negative Space at Empire
  • Popper Burns, Critical Dad, Eleanors, Anna Roenigk, Those Damn Eyes at Swan Dive
  • Burning Years, Thieves, Glyde, Moronic Behavior at Sidewinder
  • Jonathan Terrell at Blackheart

Wednesday, January 4

Sweet Spirit at Cheer Up Charlie's. 2.12.15. Erika RIch/For American-Statesman
Sweet Spirit at Cheer Up Charlie’s. 2.12.15. Erika RIch/For American-Statesman

Sweet Spirit at Barracuda. Prediction: 2017 will be the year the rest of the world catches on that Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen’s are piloting the finest pop-rock powerhouse on the planet. Their catchy songs and explosive live show will make them very, very big. Another prediction: This show will hit capacity. Show up early. Moving Panoramas and Crocodile Tears also perform. 8 p.m. doors. 611 E. 7th St.

AMX 2017 kick off with Melat, Bird Peterson.  Austin Mic Exchange kicks off the year with a party featuring Ethiopian-American R&B singer Melat, who’s spent the past few years rising through the alt-R&B underground in Texas and beyond. Her latest release is a gorgeous collection of silky love songs, laced with lush atmospherics, discordant electronics and a persistent melancholy ache. Party rocker Bird Peterson is also on the bill. 9 p.m. 2908 Fruth St. 

Pushermania Real Texas Rap Edition at the North Door. Texas hip-hop’s top curator presents a showcase of underground talent. Standout acts include San Antonio spitters Worldwide and Austin’s Sertified Y Stat 1 and Chakeeta B. Lench Martinez, whose song “What Happened to Austin (My Beautiful City)” is the best gentrification anthem of the decade, also performs. 8 p.m. 501 Brushy St.

  • Whiskey Shivers, Sour Bridges, Harvest Thieves, Mayeux & Broussard at Mohawk outdoor
  • Flesh Lights, Xetas, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Lola Tried at Beerland
  • Gold Steps, Lions & Tigers, Dozer at Swan Dive
  • True Empty, Pale Dian, Shmu, Botany at Sidewinder
  • Summer Salt, Tamarron, Juan De Fuca, Ama, Palo Duro at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Elsa Cross, Beth Lee & the Breakups at Blackheart

Thursday, January 5

My Jerusalem at Swan Dive. The brooding rockers will surely play a suite of songs from their “dark and haunting” 2016 release “A Little Death” at this show. Fort Never, Think No Think and Letting Up Despite Great Faults also perform.  7 p.m. 615 Red River St.  

  • Calliope Musicals, Slomo Drags, Eastern Sea, Otis the Destroyer at Mohawk outdoor
  • Swimming With Bears, Canvas People, Major Grizz at Mohawk indoor
  • Satalites, Sharkweek, Wonderbitch, Dvrth Vena, Cecilia & the Broken Hearts at Empire
  • Skyacre, Flyin’ Lion, Trying Science, Opposite Day at Beerland
  • Major Major Major, Runners High, Coattails, Boss Battle at Sidewinder
  • Bourgeois Mystics, Kiddoo & the Dude, Trouble in the Streets, Booty Control at Stubb’s indoor
  • Pollen Rx, Skin Drips, Oozer, Vampyre at Barracuda
  • Suckling, James Arthur’s Manhunt, John Wesley Coleman, Rhett & Dean at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Mrs. Glass at Blackheart

Friday, January 6

Magna Carda, Keeper, Mobley at the Mohawk. Holy triple bill, Free Week! With the jazzy wanderings of live band hip-hop outfit, Magna Carda, the dreamy trip hop of Keeper and the electrifying live show of soul pop artist Mobley, this is a can’t-miss chance to see three of the hottest rising Austin acts in one fell swoop.  7 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com

Free Week Friday: Money Chicha at Stubb’s. Using fuzzed out cumbia grooves as a springboard for abstract accordion and guitar acrobatics, this acid trip of a Grupo Fantasma offshoot mixed Latin American sounds with psychedelia on “Echo en Mexico,” one of our favorite releases of the year. La Vida Buena and Son de Rey also perform, making this a local Latin power bill curated by Austin Vida. 9:30 p.m. doors, 810 Red River St. stubbsaustin.com

Also:

  • Digital Wild, Calliope Musicals, Darkbird, A. Sinclair at Empire
  • Pale Dian, Roses, more at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Sweat Lodge, Tia Carrera, more at Swan Dive
  • The Halfways, Amplified Heat at Spiderhouse
  • El Campo, Wiretree at Lambert’s
  • The Well, Glassing at Sidewinder
  • Nick Allison and the Unknown Relatives at Beerland
  • Steady Legend, Music4Life at Flamingo Cantina
  • Claiming Neptune at Elysium
  • The Bloom at the Blackheart

Saturday, January 7

Leopold and His Fiction at Spider House. Austin appearances from road warrior rockers, Leopold and His Fiction are few and far between these days, so let’s add securing this free performance to the lengthy list of reasons we have to thank show curator, Ovrld. The excellent local music blog is one of the ATX scene’s greatest champions. Calliope Musicals, Major Major Major and many more also play the two-stage bash. 8 p.m. doors. 2908 Fruth St. spiderhouse.com.

Free Week Saturday at the Mohawk: On the outside stage the club features popular rock outfit Quiet Company and funk powerhouse Mama K and that Shades. Inside, rising indie rocker Walker Lukens is joined by psych-soul outfit Los Coast and the swirly pop fantasies of Moving Panoramas. Either one is a solid bet. 7 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com

Also:

  • Zettajoule at Swan Dive
  • Knifight, Migrant Kids at Stubb’s
  • Chippr Jones, Scenery at the Sidewinder
  • Leche, New China at Beerland
  • Six Pack Stranglers, Matamoska at Flamingo
  • Shark Rider, Go Fever at Lambert’s
  • Town Hall Devils; Deer Fellow at Sidewinder
  • Daniel Phipps and the Kinfolk, Name Sayers at Blackheart
  • ATX Hip-hop Appreciation Party with SSB & SSHM, Smackola at Elysium

Sunday, January 8

My Education at Cheer Up Charlie’s. The expansive instrumental explorations of post-rock outfit My Education, anchors this excellent Loyalty Firm-curated bill which also includes teen punk outfit Residual Kid, gnarly guitar rockers Megafauna and protest punks Blxpltn. 7:30 p.m. doors. 900 Red River St. cheerupcharlies.com

Boyfrndz; the Ghost Wolves; Digital Wild at Swan Dive. The bill promises a secret headliner, but we were already on board with garage rock from Boyfrndz and the Ghost Wolves and groovy trip hop from Digital Wild.  

Also:

  • Sour Bridges, El Campo at Stubb’s
  • Groove Think, Transit Method at Sidewinder
  • Crypt Trip, Smoky Mirror at Spiderhouse
  • Lustron, Aziza at Beerland

Monday, January 9

  • Leather Girls, Sherman’s March at Empire
  • the Sahara Swingtet at the Sahara Lounge
  • Chris Cubas at Barracuda

Tuesday, January 10

  • Ben Millburn, Chakra Khan at Stubb’s
  • Holodeck Records show with Pleasure Escape, Dylan Cameron at Barracuda

Wednesday, January 11

Midgetmen at Barracuda. Get over the hump with a barrage of guitars, drums and good times from these slop punk lifers. Plastique Chancellor, Growl and dream

  • Amplified Heat, Machete Western at Sahara Lounge
  • Midgetmen, Plastique Chancellor at Barracuda
  • Nxt LVL at the Chop Shop

Thursday, January 12

Flesh Lights, Otis the Destroyer at Barracuda. Start the weekend early with a boozy blitz of bar room rock. The night includes turns from Pollen Rx, Midriff and Stilleto Feels. 8 p.m. doors. 611 E 7th St.  

  • Red River Family Showcase with Haunter, Nosferian at Barracuda
  • Little Father, Honeyrude at Beerland
  • Hours Quiet, Residual Kid, Megafauna at Empire
  • Fashionweek, Robert Valera at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Friday, January 13

Riverboat Gamblers, Eastside Suicides, Peelander Z at Barracuda. Keeping with Free Week tradition, it’s not over til Mike Wiebe stage dives. The bawdy rock ‘n’ roll blowout rages on.

Saturday, January 14

Ruby Jane and the Reckless at Empire. Ever-evolving indie rocker Ruby Jane leads a bill that also includes the silky R&B singer Alessia Lani, whose catalog of steamy bedroom R&B is finally getting the hard look it deserves.

  • Windows 95, Jezzebeam, more at Beerland
  • Megafauna, OMGWTFBBQ at Barracuda

Country Music Roundup: In Arlington, Dec. 27 is now Maren Morris Day

This Week’s News

Maren Morris‘ banner year isn’t over yet. On top of her CMA award for best New Artist and all the accolades she’s received for her breakthrough album “Hero,” she returned home to Arlington, Texas to receive another award.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-4-33-14-pm
Maren Morris receives a city proclamation from Arlington mayor Jeff Williams on Dec. 27 proclaiming that day to be Maren Morris Day in the city. (From Maren Morris’ Twitter.)

According to Taste of Country, the singer received a proclamation declaring Dec. 27 to be Maren Morris Day in Arlington. Morris was presented with the honor, as well as the flag that flew over the state capitol building in Austin when she was named the CMA New Artist of the Year, in her mother’s salon in downtown Arlington.

“I had the honor of receiving a city proclamation by the mayor of Arlington that states today, Dec 27th, is Maren Morris day! So cool!” Morris tweeted.

On Tuesday, Morris announced all proceeds from meet and greets held after stops on her Hero” tour to the fine arts program at her alma mater, Arlington Bowie High School.

This Week’s Best New Song

Speaking of Maren Morris, the quickest way to define Ryan Hurd’s pop-country singer-songwriter sound is that he’s kind of like the male version of Maren Morris. (They’re also dating in real life). Hurd has written for the likes of Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Jake Owen in the past and is now embarking on a solo expedition. His latest single from his debut EP features a different vocal cadence than most country songs, and is a modern take on the “doomed lovers” genre of sad country songs. It’s also really catchy.

This Week’s Worst New Song

Full disclosure: the stripped-down version of this song is actually really good, and if he’s smart, Young will find a way to get that version to the radio instead of this watered-down, drum-clapped take.

But the acoustic version of this song isn’t enough to save what’s clearly a niche-carving effort from Young. His earlier single, “Sleep Without You,” is all about how he can’t deal with one night away from his girlfriend while she goes out on the town with her friends. “In Case You Didn’t Know” (which will probably end up being 2017’s “Die a Happy Man”) is sweet and has all the right sentiments. It’s a great love song. But it sounds like it’s trying to emulate Thomas Rhett while also establishing that Young is country music’s new resident nice guy.

This Week’s Best Country Show in Austin

Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic
Willie Nelson plays with the band Harmonic Tribe at his Fourth of July Picnic on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 in Fort Worth. Photo by Jeffery Washington, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Willie Nelson & Family at ACL Live, Dec. 29-31. Such a popular draw that it has now become a three-night affair, this year-end engagement instantly became an Austin institution when The House That Willie Built opened in 2011. It’s a pricey ticket, but then so are many New Year’s Eve events, and this one is legitimately iconic. Willie always brings along top-quality support acts, too; this year, Ryan Bingham opens all three nights, with his son’s band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real also on the Dec. 31 bill. Sometimes there are unbilled ringers, too, like when ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons played the whole show with Willie’s Family band a couple of years ago. (Although if we had to place odds on Gibbons turning up somewhere this time, we’d guess he might be one of the “special guests” promised at C-Boy’s on Dec. 30-31 where Mike Flanigin & Jimmie Vaughan are having a more intimate celebration.) $99-$157. 8 p.m. Dec. 29-30, 9 p.m. Dec. 31. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com. — Peter Blackstock

This is the Country Music Roundup, a weekly blog where we’ll give you the latest news in country music releases and local country shows. For a more in-depth analysis of the genre and where it’s headed, check back with our weekly Gone Country blog every week.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or by email: jharris@statesman.com.

40 years gone: Blues legend Freddie King was a giant at Armadillo WHQ

This mural of Freddie King was painted by Jim Franklin and once hung in the Armadillo World Headquarters.
This mural of Freddie King was painted by Jim Franklin and once hung in the Armadillo World Headquarters.

If you’re young enough to imagine the Armadillo World Headquarters — rather than remember it — there are probably just a few names you have associated with it. Willie Nelson, for sure. Maybe Commander Cody. Perhaps whoever is on the poster you bought at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar last year.

But one fellow who is terribly under-recognized today is late blues guitar legend Freddie King. In the 1970s he was known to call the Armadillo World Headquarters “the House That Freddie Built” — and he wasn’t the only one.

King, who died 40 years ago today in Dallas, was a frequent performer at Austin’s 1970s landmark, showing off skills learned from legends such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf in nightclubs on the South Side of Chicago and passing the magic along to Texas disciples such as Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan.

In a 1996 story on the 20th anniversary of King’s death, Statesman music Michael Corcoran described King’s pioneering and powerful blues style:

Although T-Bone Walker practically invented this rawhide style of electric blues, it was King who revved it up for the rock crowd by hoeing the turf between Walker and B.B. King. Moving from Texas to Chicago with his family at age 16 (then back to Texas in his 30s), Freddie King merged the most vibrant characteristics of both regional styles and became the biggest guitar hero of the mid-’60s British blues revivalists, who included Eric Clapton, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac.

A true Texas music legend, King was honored by Gov. Ann Richards, who declared Sept. 3, 1993 as “Freddie King Day.” A decade later, Rolling Stone ranked King 15th in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists. Nearly another decade later, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Read Michael Corcoran’s full-length article about King here.

Our top picks for a musical New Year’s Eve in Austin

 

Leslie Sisson of Moving Panoramas will play Kate Bush at the Hotel Vegas, New Year's Eve 1989 party. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Leslie Sisson of Moving Panoramas will play Kate Bush at the Hotel Vegas, New Year’s Eve 1989 party. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

NYE 1989 at Hotel Vegas & VolsteadTo bid 2016 adieu, Hotel Vegas returns to a (rhetorically) kinder, gentler moment in American history, New Year’s Eve 1989. Keeping with tradition, club owner Jason McNeely has tapped members of regular Vegas bands, stalwarts of Austin’s indie rock and pop scenes, to play the roles of musical icons and innovators of the day. The party features Ringo Deathstarr playing shoegaze innovators, My Bloody Valentine, Pale Dian as Cocteau Twins and Moving Panoramas’ Leslie Sisson as Kate Bush.  7 p.m. doors, 1502 E. Sixth St. $25; texashotelvegas.com

RELATED: Eastside bash rings in 2017 with nostalgia, melodic guitar fuzz 

Austin’s New Year 2017 at Auditorium Shores. With more than 20 bands performing from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on four stages, followed by a fireworks finale, the City of Austin’s free celebration in the center of town has everything except a midnight ball-drop. The main Lake Stage features headliners Shinyribs and Ray Wylie Hubbard plus the Peterson Brothers, Tameca Jones and Migrant Kids. On the Oak Stage, catch Capyac, Harvest Thieves, Roxy Roca, Jackie Venson and Wache. The two smaller Community Stages feature sets from Kalu & the Electric Joint, SaulPaul, Wendy Colonna, River City Pops, Paula Maya, Agni Dance, Indrajit Banerjee, Groundwork Music, Band Aid School of Music, Wand’ring Minstrels and the Glenn Rexach Group. 950 W. Riverside Drive. austintexas.gov/department/austins-new-year. — P.B.

Willie Nelson & Family at ACL Live, Dec. 29-31. Such a popular draw that it has now become a three-night affair, this year-end engagement instantly became an Austin institution when The House That Willie Built opened in 2011. It’s a pricey ticket, but then so are many New Year’s Eve events, and this one is legitimately iconic. Willie always brings along top-quality support acts, too; this year, Ryan Bingham opens all three nights, with his son’s band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real also on the Dec. 31 bill. Sometimes there are unbilled ringers, too, like when ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons played the whole show with Willie’s Family band a couple of years ago. (Although if we had to place odds on Gibbons turning up somewhere this time, we’d guess he might be one of the “special guests” promised at C-Boy’s on Dec. 30-31 where Mike Flanigin & Jimmie Vaughan are having a more intimate celebration.) $99-$157. 8 p.m. Dec. 29-30, 9 p.m. Dec. 31. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com. — P.B.

Refresh 2017 at Empire. Husband/wife hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm preach the gospel of rhythm healing all year long at the monthly Body Rock dance party. Through the years many ecstatic revellers have seen the light. Sometimes a little “Booty Sweat” really is the best medicine. Chief Body Rockers RAS and DJ Chorizo Funk join forces with MotherSip, the massive hip-hop/jazz/rock orchestra formed by Sip Sip and Mother Falcon, electro-funk specialists Capyac, silky soul singer Alessia Lani and many more for a three stage blowout, designed to help you burn off any lingering bad vibes and start 2017 on a fresh page. $15. 7 p.m. doors. 606 E. Seventh St. empireatx.com. — D.S.S.

RELATED: New Year’s bash kicks off a big year for dance funk outfit Capyac

The Crystal Ball featuring Grupo Fantasma at Mohawk outdoor. As they confirmed with a stellar appearance on “Austin City Limits” earlier this year, world class Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma is one of our city’s greatest treasures. They’ll spin this year off right, with hip-twisting polyrhythms, blasts of brass and seductive Spanish melodies. Bonus: Many bands are likely to honor Prince at year-end shows, but if you’re still hurting over the loss of Purple One, there is no better way to evoke his spirit than by shaking it down with his one-time backing band, who will surely play at least one heartfelt cover. Los Texmaniacs also perform. $20-$50. Doors at 8 p.m. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com. — D.S.S.

What’s Going On: A Cross Cultural Journey Through the Best Decades of Music at Spider House Ballroom & Cafe. Like Hotel Vegas’ 1989-themed event, this one seeks to put time in a bottle (of champagne, presumably). The scope is broader, though, with more than a dozen acts spread across three stages: the ’60s Chapel, the ’70s Ballroom and the ’80s Cafe Patio. Performers include Cilantro Boombox, Kalu & the Electric Joint, Nakia & the Blues Grifters, Ruby & the Reckless, Fingerpistol, the Hickoids, and Charlie Faye & the Fayettes. $20-$25. 8 p.m. 2908 Fruth St. spiderhouseatx.com. — P.B.

OTHER NEW YEAR’S EVE PICKS

’90s Prom Night with Ghostland Observatory at Emo’s

Golden Dawn Arkestra’s Cosmic Disco at Barracuda

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, New Breed Brass Band at Antone’s

Bob Schneider at Paramount Theatre

Bluebonnets, Denny Freeman, Miss Lavelle White at Townsend

Tomar & the FCs, Jai Malano, Los Coast at Continental Club

Lee Fields & the Expressions at Lamberts

Mike & the Moonpies, Leo Rondeau at ABGB

Papa Mali & Carolyn Wonderland at One-2-One Bar

HeartByrne (Talking Heads tribute band) at 3Ten

Nightowls, Derrick Davis at Stubb’s indoor

Guy Forsyth at Saxon Pub

Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers at Driskill Bar

Clyde & Clem’s Whiskey Business, Jonathan Terrell at White Horse

Alvin Crow & the Pleasant Valley Boys at Broken Spoke

New Year’s Eve bash kicks off big year for dance funk outfit Capyac

Contributed by Merick Ales.
Contributed by Merick Ales.

There is not a quiet moment on the dance floor when Austin-based duo Capyac takes the stage. 

Delwin Campbell and Eric Pena, who would rather go by their stage names Potion and P. Sugz, have dominated the disco funk scene in Austin of late, though they say their musical style cannot be classified.

“Truth is that words are naturally flimsy, and genre labels are too controlling,” P. Sugz said. 

Potion said their music has influences that range from techno and dark-ambient depths to large doses of soul and R&B. They collaborate with many different artists to create diverse sounds and progressive styles of futuristic music.

Collin Finnigan and Marshall Lowry – also known as Oolaf and Papa Mongoose — and RuDi Devino, are all regular players with the band, part of the range of musical talent that help transform live shows from subtle head-bobs to a high energy dance parties.

“There is no official roster,” Potion said. “Everyone feels comfortable to contribute what they’re good at, and the culmination is what makes ‘Capyac.’”

“There’s just a whole lot going on,” Oolaf said. “We hate labels.”

The band released their first full-length album, “Headlunge,” in May. They said the record is a representation of who they were as artists. The album includes strong R&B influences and is presented as a bridge between electronic music, funk and hip-hop genres. 

Lead single “Speedracer” already has reached almost 75,000 views on Youtube in a music video produced by Helmut Studios.

“It is very much a dance album,” P. Sugz said.

After going on a summer 2016 tour through the West and East coasts in the U.S, Germany and Paris, the band said they were happy to be back in Austin, where they have their best shows, and playing at their favorite venues, including Empire Control Room. 

“I think the experience is great. You’re with your friends, whether or not you make money,” P. Sugz said. “But you probably won’t make any money,” he added.  

Their next EP, which is still a work-in-progress to be released in February, will feature four or five songs influenced by European house clubs. Potion said it will different from what their fans are used to hearing from the group.

“It’s not disco, it’s not funk, it’s going to be a techno album,” Potion said. “We’re going after something different.” 

The lead single, “Bubblegum,” features artist KD Kinetic, who helps add strong female vocals to the song. P. Sugz said this is a territory that they hope to dive deeper into with future tracks. 

Capyac has big plans for the new year. In summer 2017, they expect to release their second full-length album, “Gold Rush.” P. Sugz said this album will trace back to the roots of electronic pop and include new disco influences that they are known for. 

Capyac told the Statesman that the new album will feature a song in Korean. The band said they have partnered with a Korean pop artist name yet to be released. 

Seoul is Capyac’s third largest market, after the U.S. and France. 

“We are going to put out a song in Korean and tour Korea,” Potion said. “We are changing markets completely.”

This year will also bring the second edition of Capyac’s fashion line called CPYC. The fashion line was first presented in April, and featured styles from Sloan Lenz, Witchxxdoctor and Helmut Studios. 

“We always try to bring the visual element into our shows,” P. Sugz said. “And fashion is a good extension of our personality.” 

Capyac may soon be moving from Austin, as they look to grow in larger music markets. Potion has recently moved to L.A., and the band may not be too far behind him. 

“The music scene in Austin doesn’t really have an eye on the rest of the world,” Potion said. “Los Angles is all about the rest of the world.”

But the band said one certain thing is that 2016 year has shown that the art produced this year has been conscious of the need to be influential.

“We’re trying to keep up with that, and I feel we are making some of our strongest music,” Oolaf said.  

Capyac will headline Empire Control Room’s Refresh 2017 New Year’s Eve party, which will feature Riders Against the Storm, Body Rock ATX, The Bishops and other local artists. 

This week’s music picks: Billy and Willie, downstairs and upstairs at ACL Live

Wednesday-Thursday: The Jungle Show II with Billy Gibbons & Mike Flanigin at 3Ten. The first iteration of this all-star event, with ZZ Top guitarist Gibbons and B3 organ ace Flanigin joined by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Chris Layton, blues-rock firebrand Sue Foley and special guest guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, sold out at Antone’s in October. The initially announced follow-up at 3Ten on Thursday also sold out quickly, but another show has been added on Wednesday. $45. 6:30 p.m. doors. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com. — P.B.

Thursday: Willie Nelson, Ryan Bingham at ACL Live. The first of a three-night stand kicks off this year-end engagement that instantly became an Austin institution when The House That Willie Built opened in 2011. It’s a pricey ticket, but then so are many New Year’s Eve events, and this one is legitimately iconic. Willie always brings along top-quality support acts, too; this year, Ryan Bingham opens all three nights. $99-$157. 8 p.m. Dec. 29-30, 9 p.m. Dec. 31. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com. — P.B.

READ MORE: The Year in Willie, our annual look back

Thursday: Mother Falcon’s Thank Y’all show at Mohawk outdoor. Austin’s expansive chamber pop orchestra, founded nearly a decade ago by high school students, is parting ways with their manager and booking agency and has ended their relationship with Universal Music Classics, the label that released their third full-length album a year ago. While a few of the musicians are scattering across the country, 10 members will keep the Mother Falcon Music Lab education program going, continue the composer collective they founded and do other more project-based work (which may still involve performances and recording). This show celebrates the present lineup’s many adventures together. Marmalakes and Hikes will also perform. $20. 7 p.m. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com. — D.S.S.

READ MORE: Mother Falcon’s final flight, for now

ALSO PLAYING

Willis Alan Ramsey plays Wednesday at the Townsend. Contributed/Alan Dean
Willis Alan Ramsey plays Wednesday at the Townsend. Contributed/Alan Dean

Monday

Tuesday-Thursday

  • Anthony Farrell at Driskill Bar

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Austin360 On The Record: The best and biggest of 2016

Shearwater's "Jet Plane and Oxbow" and Mindz of a Different Kind's "Foursight."
Shearwater’s “Jet Plane and Oxbow” and Mindz of a Different Kind’s “Foursight.”

From January through December, our weekly Austin360 On The Record roundup has kept you up-to-date with hundreds of local releases as they were issued. Now we take a long look back. Here’s a rundown in three categories: 1) Our favorite Austin albums of 2016; 2) Other prominent local releases during the year; and 3) A handful of notable EPs and mixtapes.

RELATED: Our top national records of the year

TOP 10 LOCAL ALBUMS

Peter Blackstock

David Halley, “A Month of Somedays.” The long-awaited return of one of Austin’s best songwriters of the 1980s and early ’90s lived up to the reputation he earned during that heyday. Producer Will Sexton led an ace backing cast that included Halley’s former bandmates J.D. Foster and Rich Brotherton.

Shearwater, “Jet Plane and Oxbow.” Jonathan Meiburg’s adventurous indie-rock ensemble has long been one of Austin’s most intriguing bands, but they sounded freshly re-energized with these inventive and accessible tunes that addressed sociopolitical concerns on very personal terms.

Eric Johnson, “EJ.” Long renowned for his electric guitar mastery, Johnson turned toward a more intimate means of expression on a mix of vocal and instrumental tunes that placed his acoustic guitar and piano playing in the spotlight.

Jeremy Nail, “My Mountain.” Partly a document of Nail’s hard battle with cancer, the folk-rock songs on this Alejandro Escovedo-produced album didn’t shrink from hard truths, and they emerged from darkness with an inspiring spirit of hope and resolve.

The Deer, “Tempest & Rapture.” Marrying melodic-pop instincts to inventive arrangements and rhythms, the eclectic outfit with San Marcos roots delivered 17 tracks that go down easy even when the music is complicated.

Katie Shore, “Fall Away.” The virtuosic fiddler and singer, a rising star in recent years with western swing kingpins Asleep at the Wheel, stepped out confidently on a solo debut that wove together sultry gypsy jazz, sweet folk-rock, stark torch balladry and more.

Harvest Thieves, “Rival.” A contemporary heir to the hard-twang sounds pioneered two decades ago by the likes of the Old 97’s and the Jayhawks, this band fronted by singer-songwriter Cory Reinisch captured both the tunefulness of their material and the energy of their live shows in a full-length debut.

Croy & the Boys, “Hey Come Back.” Working with renowned local producer Adrian Quesada, Corey “Croy” Baum mixed country traditionalism with an indie sensibility and tinges of Tejano influence on a debut album that established his band as one of Austin’s most intriguing up-and-comers.

Hayes Carll, “Lovers and Leavers.” Setting aside his more rowdy roadhouse persona, Carll honed in on the troubadour-storytelling style that largely drew him to play music in the first place, revealing a more tender side that resulted in some of the best songs of his career.

Mood Illusion, “Strangers in the Night and Other Favorites.” Pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar pushed the instrument’s boundaries far into jazz and experimental territory on this fascinating instrumental disc that combined original compositions with creative variations on the canons of Sinatra, Stephen Foster and Abba.

Honorable mention: Michael Fracasso, “Here Come the Savages”; Bonnie Whitmore, “(Expletive) With Sad Girls”; Basketball Shorts, “Hot and Ready”; East Cameron Folkcore, “Better Off”; Rick Broussard’s Two Hoots & a Holler, “Time Has Shown Me”; Tele Novella, “House of Souls”; Johnny Nicholas, “Fresh Air”; Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone, “Transatlanticana”; Cotton Mather, “Death of the Cool”; John Evans, “Polyester”; Greyhounds, “Change of Pace”; Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow, “From the Forest Came the Fire”; Bill Carter, “Innocent Victims & Evil Companions”; Don Leady & His Rockin’ Revue, “Poppy Toppy Gone;” Folk Uke, “Star(expletive),” Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, self-titled.

Deborah Sengupta Stith

Third Root, “Libertad.” In 2016, ATX hip-hop artists stood up, refused to remain in the shadows and took their rightful places as the necessary voice of the bleeding streets. This Central Texas crew put out an epic work of rap scholarship that taps into our city’s “Soul Force” with a host of cameos. “The revolution won’t go viral,” O.G. Bavu Blakes drawls as the album builds to a climax. He’s right. These guys are playing the grassroots long game, building their uplift philosophy into a national movement.

Money Chicha, “Echo en Mexico.” Using fuzzed-out cumbia grooves as a springboard for abstract accordion and guitar acrobatics, this acid trip of a Grupo Fantasma offshoot mixes Latin American sounds with psychedelia for a release that sounds like it could have been recorded in Lee Perry’s Black Ark, yet remains quintessentially Austin.

A Giant Dog, “Pile.” The major label debut from these Austin garage scene stalwarts is a glam punk explosion of bawdy, bar-room bruisers. The band rips through 15 songs in just under 40 minutes, playing with a furious intensity that is both ecstatic and apocalyptic. Even at the party at the end of the world we still “believe in those who believe in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mindz of a Different Kind, “Foursight.” Native Austinites, raised in our city’s downtrodden corners and nurtured by the ATX hip-hop scene since they were teens, this four-piece crew chants down gentrification, police brutality, poverty and injustice to make a rousing call for unity on their powerful full-length debut.

Melat, “MeVen.” Over the past couple years, the Ethiopian-American R&B singer been rising through the alt-R&B underground in Texas and beyond. Her latest is a gorgeous collection of silky love songs, laced with lush atmospherics, discordant electronics and a persistent melancholy ache. — D.S.S.

Tomar & the FCs, “Heart Attack.” Tomar Williams cut his musical teeth playing and singing with his family band as a child. In the late ’90s, alongside brother Salih, he formed Carnival Beats, a hip-hop production powerhouse that helped define the Texas rap sound. The debut full-length from his scorching soul project alternates mean licks and head-whipping, hip-twitching grooves with earnest slow burners you feel deep in your soul.

Tele Novella, “House of Souls.” Appropriately enough, this psych pop platter dropped in late September. Like the fleeting brightness of summer love, its lilting melodies are colored by inescapable sadness. Gorgeously crafted instrumental textures highlight wistful lyricism on this fully realized release.

Mama K & the Shades “Honey Made.” Reeling from the sudden loss of co-founder David McKnight, who died in a swimming accident in 2015, the 10-piece powerhouse made it their mission to complete his work. The result is a stunning debut that alternates between swaggering funk grooves with breakneck beats and soulful baby-makers that ache with heart.

Dominican Jay, “Reality Rap.” With grimy beats, soulful Southern hooks and gritty street rhymes, this solo joint delivers everything fans of the ATX hip-hop supercrew League of Extraordinary Gz have been missing, including a feature from their late brother Esbe the Sixth Street Bully.

Golden Dawn Arkestra “Stargazer.” God (Goddess?) bless these avant jazz innovators with their grandiose vision and sprawling grooves for evolving the concept of Austin weird into a magnificent interstellar pageant we can all get with.

Honorable mention: Explosions in the Sky, “Wilderness”; Brownout “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2”; Magna Carda “Cirqlation”; Capyac, “Headlunge”; Hard Proof, “Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03”; Holilday Mountain, “Shia”; Echocentrics, “Echo Hotel”; Tameca Jones, “Naked”; Tank Washington, “Pain”; Tee Double, “Black Mics Matter;” Megafauna, “Welcome Home”; Basketball Shorts, “Hot and Ready”; Jonny Jukebox, “Adonis XIV.”

OTHER PROMINENT LOCAL RELEASES

Willie Nelson, “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin” and “For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price.” Austin’s No. 1 Citizen celebrated his recent Gershwin Prize with a tribute to brothers George & Ira, and also paid respects to his late, longtime friend Price.

RELATED: The Year in Willie, our annual look back

Survive, “RR7349.” The electronica duo’s theme music for the Netflix smash “Stranger Things” made them Austin’s surprise national breakout act of 2016.

Jamestown Revival, “The Education of a Wandering Man.” Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance continued to raise their Americana profile with their second record on major label Republic.

The Wind + the Wave, “Happiness Is Not a Place.” Pop duo Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker also released their second major-label album in 2016, but they moved from RCA to Island for this one.

Jack Ingram, “Midnight Motel.” The Texas troubadour’s first record in seven years featured rambling intros and background chatter that pulled listeners inside an intimate recording experience.

Reckless Kelly, “Sunset Motel.” The Idaho-bred Americana band that moved to Austin 20 years ago revisited their roots by returning to Arlyn Studios, where they recorded their 1998 debut. The album’s packaging earned a Grammy nomination.

Blue October, “Home.” The Austin/San Marcos-via-Houston outfit delivered radio-ready songs leaning toward the commercial-pop end of the alternative-rock spectrum, drawing more from classic ’80s new-wave than from the contemporary indie realm.

Robert Earl Keen, “Live Dinner Reunion.” A sequel to Keen’s fan-favorite 1996 live album found the raconteur and his band returning to John T. Floore’s Country Store near San Antonio.

Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle, “Colvin & Earle.” Only half of this is local, as Colvin has called Austin home since the mid-’90s, but Earle is a native Texan, and the two found common ground on tracks both old and new.

Randy Rogers Band, “Nothing Shines Like Neon.” The San Marcos country institution drove home its ballads and boot-scooters with plenty of twanging guitars and sweet fiddle runs.

RELATED: Randy Rogers buys Cheatham Street Warehouse from Finlay family

Carrie Rodriguez + the Sacred Hearts, “Lola.” Long renowned in Americana circles, singer-songwriter and fiddler Rodriguez branched out with her first bilingual album.

White Denim, “Stiff.” Leader James Petralli regrouped after two members moved to Leon Bridges’ band, recording more tight R&B-influenced rock with noted producer Ethan Johns.

Matthew Logan Vasquez, “Solicitor Returns.” Nearly a true solo album, this 10-song rock and pop set from the Delta Spirit frontman features him playing almost all of the instruments.

Brownout, “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2.” One volume of Latin-funk takes on Black Sabbath metal just wasn’t enough, so Brownout followed up its acclaimed 2014 album with a sequel.

Dale Watson, “Under the Influence” and “Live at the Big T Roadhouse.” Austin’s omnipresent honky-tonker cranked out a tribute to many of his country heroes and a live album recorded at his bar in San Antonio.

The Sword, “Low Country.” Last year’s Adrian Quesada-produced “High Country” was a bold creative step for these metal heavyweights, and “Low Country” pushed even further, with acoustic versions of the previous record’s main tracks.

Israel Nash & Bright Light Social Hour, “Neighbors” EP. Just three songs, but an auspicious pairing of two prominent local acts who have pushed psychedelia in fascinating rock and folk directions, respectively.

Explosions in the Sky, “The Wilderness.” The atmospheric soundscape masters issued their first album in five years after doing soundtracks for three films.

Black Pistol Fire, “Don’t Wake the Riot.” The Toronto-born, Austin-based duo’s barrage of furious guitar licks and tortured vocals over hard-driving drums resulted in some of the best garage rock to come from a city that prides itself on rocking garages.

Terri Hendrix, “Love You Strong.” A fairly traditional country-folk album, this launched Hendrix’s adventurous “Project 5” series that included a bluesy EP and a still-to-come book.

Jesse Dayton, “The Revealer.” After touring as a guitarist with punk legends X and in X leader John Doe’s band, Dayton returned to his own music for his first record in five years, one that bristles with barroom rock ’n’ roll energy.

My Jerusalem, “A Little Death.” Leader Jeff Klein and his bandmates’ third album was a largely dark and haunting rock affair, with high-profile cameos from Elle King and Erika Wennerstrom.

The L, “I Will Find You No Matter What: The Songs of Luc and Bob Schneider.” The locally omnipresent Schneider wrote and recorded these 14 songs with his son, who’s now 11 years old, over the span of many years.

Residual Kid, “Salsa” EP. The first Warner Bros. release from the Austin teen band featured hard-edged yet melodic songs attuned to the ’90s heyday of post-Nirvana alternative rock.

Meat Loaf, “Braver Than We Are.” The only surprise greater than the resurgence of the melodramatic Mr. Loaf was the news that he now apparently lives in Austin.

Gone Country: 10 songs to add to your country holiday playlist

Christmas is three days away, and if you haven’t heard, there are  quite a few holiday country music albums out there for you to play during your family gatherings this year.

via GIPHY

But if you’re looking for something other than the day’s latest smattering of Christmas songs, here’s a playlist with a little more variety. There’s something here for everyone, whether you’re a pop-country fan, a Johnny Cash devotee or an Alabama acolyte.

Happy Holidays.

10. “Merry Christmas from the Family,” Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen’s portrait of a Texas get-together perfectly captures what it’s like to go home to relatives you may only see once a year. This is the soundtrack for that moment in every Christmas weekend where everyone’s had a little bit too much spiked eggnog and even though you may be fed up with some of your family’s antics, you love them anyway.

9. “Oklahoma Christmas,” Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis

If you find yourself crossing state lines every year to visit those in-laws that are more religious than you are, Kelly and Bruce have a funny story for you.

8. “Grateful for Christmas,” Hayes Carll

Carll’s tale of a family’s trip home to Waco, or Houston, or whatever Texas town they’re celebrating this year, was included on “KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories).” The song is more of a spoken word piece about what a typical family gathering is like in the Carll household:  burnt food, great company, card games and thankfulness all around. It’s a heartwarming original.

7. “A Willie Nice Christmas,” Kacey Musgraves

One of the more lighthearted moments on Musgraves’ oft-melancholy “Very Kacey Christmas,” this duet with Willie Nelson takes a kitsch premise and turns it into a catchy singalong.

6. “Just Me and These Ponies (For Christmas This Year)”, Corb Lund

Corb Lund’s sad take on the holidays is a story about a lonely rancher who probably won’t be getting any holiday visitors, but goes to the trouble of putting up decorations and wrapping presents just in case.

5. “The Christmas Song,” Jamey Johnson

A part of the only original album of music Johnson has released since “The Guitar Song,” this new version of an old standard sounds like a slow Texas waltz with some harmonica thrown in. The entire rest of his “The Christmas Song” album is one of the few great modern Christmas collections, as well, though it’s hard to find online. Your best bet is iTunes.

4. “Christmas Memories,” Alabama

This album was (and still is) a mainstay in my family’s house every Christmas. My earliest memories of it involve 5-year-old Jake putting the CD into our giant 60-disc changer along with all of the other Christmas music we had so we could listen to them while we decorated the tree. Our entertainment center at the time was a behemoth of 70s wood-paneling, and the speakers were as tall as me. I felt like I was hearing some relic of days gone by when I heard it for the first time, and when I later understood what “nostalgia” was, I pinpointed the exact emotion I felt when hearing this song for the first time.

Christmas is a time for joy and happiness, yes, but the season is also sad for so many people, and no country song fully realizes this sentiment more than Alabama’s “Christmas Memories.” Nostalgia is rooted in sadness, and Christmas is when many people get the most wistful about years gone by.

3. “O Holy Night,” Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood sounds nothing short of divine in her passionate cover of this hymn. I can’t think of anyone alive in country music right now better suited for this song.

2. “The Christmas Guest,” Johnny Cash

Before “Footprints in the Sand” and other folksy religious aphorisms became destined for Pinterest boards and Facebook memes with Minions on them, the source material actually inspired some pretty great pieces of art. This Johnny Cash cover of a Grandpa Jones adaptation of a folk story is a spoken-word riff on Jesus’ “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me” speech in the Bible. It’s a nice reminder to consider those less fortunate all year-round.

1. “Pretty Paper,” Willie Nelson

The essential country Christmas ballad.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at jharris@statesman.com.

Randy Rogers buys Cheatham Street Warehouse from Finlay Family

Cheatham Street Warehouse has been a fixture of the San Marcos music scene for decades. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2009
Cheatham Street Warehouse has been a fixture of the San Marcos music scene for decades. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2009

Big news down San Marcos way: Renowned local musician Randy Rogers has bought the seminal music venue Cheatham Street Warehouse from the family of the late Kent Finlay, who died last year. Here’s the official word from the Finlay family:

Cheatham Street Warehouse has a new owner: Randy Rogers. The country music star recently purchased the legendary club from iconic venue owner Kent Finlay’s children Jenni, Sterling and HalleyAnna. Kent Finlay, who died on Texas Independence Day 2015, founded Cheatham Street Warehouse – the iconic Texas launching pad responsible for skyrocketing George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rogers, Todd Snider and hundreds more singers and songwriters – more than forty years ago. Additionally, Finlay’s children all grew their musical wings at the venue.

“Knowing that Cheatham Street’s legacy will stay in tact under the love and care of Randy Rogers fills all of our hearts,” eldest daughter Jenni Finlay says. “Randy came up performing at Dad’s beloved Songwriters Night and it’s only fitting that he takes the helm. We’re so excited about the next chapter for Cheatham Street.” “I plan on honoring Kent in every way with my plans and vision for Cheatham,” Rogers said to the family. “This means so much to me personally.”

Finlay’s beloved Cheatham Street Warehouse has always existed for creation. Songs begin on Cheatham’s stage. They grow. Breathe. Live. Earn more miles. Finally, they mature into shape. Finlay’s songwriters night, an open mike for original songs he hosted for nearly every Wednesday night at the venue for more than four decades, nurtured singular songwriters and storytellers with stunning frequency during his lifetime. For instance, the celebrated “Class of ’87” included Americana all-stars Todd Snider, James McMurtry, Terri Hendrix, Bruce Robison and Hal Ketchum learning their craft.

“Kent and his great little honkytonk with indoor toilets gave me and a whole host of others a place to learn our craft and to learn how to be, sing and play music onstage,” Strait says. “[I thank] Kent for believing in the up-and-coming Ace in the Hole Band with a totally unknown singer who had big dreams and for helping make those dreams a reality. I’ll never forget those days.”

Literally bucketsful more – including celebrated guitarists Eric Johnston and Monte Montgomery, deep-browed songwriters Owen Temple and Walt Wilkins, fiery live acts Joe King Carrasco and Charlie and Will Sexton – have emerged from his humble honky tonk stage. Additionally, legendary singer-songwriters such as Marcia Ball, Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Ernest Tubb, Townes Van Zandt and dozens upon dozens more regularly stepped on the Cheatham stage throughout the 1970s Cosmic Cowboy heyday.

“Randy Rogers’ career began on the Cheatham Street Warehouse stage,” says Gregg Andrews, Cheatham Street Music Foundations board of directors president. “His devotion and loyalty to Kent as a songwriting mentor has never waivered and he’s fully committed to perserving Kent’s outstanding legacy. Through the years, Kent and his family transformed the creaky old warehouse along the railroad tracks into a songwriters’ oasis of world renown and integrity that has left an incredible mark on Texas music.”

RELATED: Review of “Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay”