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Strictly Country CD Coaster Award title

Strictly Country’s list of unacceptable
albums and singles of 2016.

 

By: The Staff at Strictly Country

 

   In the silence of the night, when the world is asleep, it slowly begins to fall.  By the time the birds awake with their calls to welcome the early morning, the ground is covered with a light coating of fresh new snow. It’s winter up here in the Northwoods and it can be beautiful, if you are one to appreciate its true elegance.

   The snowflakes come in all sizes and shapes.  It is said that no two are a like.  One can not fathom or comprehend the fact that millions of snowflakes that  fall from the heavens are original, specific pieces of art.

   Like the snowflakes that continue to drop on this cold winter day, there are thousands of albums released each year.  According to data from 2008, the Future of Music Summit estimates that 115,000 albums were released and only 110 became hits.  Out of the 115,000 albums, only 6,000 sold more than 1,000 copies; 1,500 sold more than 10,000; and only 110 albums sold more than 250,000 copies.  Now what is more staggering is the fact that these statistics do not include all of the albums released.  In fact, they only calculate the albums issued by the more notable entertainers in all music genres.

   Perhaps the most mind-blowing and inconceivable statistic is that less than 1% of all albums released to the public are heard by music industry personnel, including radio disc-jockeys.  Less than 1% of all music released!  Think about that for a moment…

   Back before the internet, digital downloads and even compact discs; music was distributed through the mail.  More often than can be counted, entertainers would travel from radio station to radio station while hand delivering a 45 LP that contained two of their original songs.  This meant long hours in a car that provided air conditioning in the winter and heat in the summer.  Entertainers would show up at a radio station begging to have their music “spinned” for their listening audience to hear.  Most of the time the answer was “no” and then off they would travel many miles to the next radio station.  Nonetheless there were times when the disc-jockey would say “yes” and invite the entertainer into the studio for a live interview.

   In today’s music industry we have digital downloads, pod casts, the internet, social media and the technological advances that have created a whole new industry as well as destroyed what the music industry once was.  Back in the day, entertainers had to have talent to hit the air waves.  Today, want-to-be entertainers only need the most advance computer program and lots of money.

   Since the inception of Strictly Country Magazine, twenty-four years ago, we have welcomed all the music released under the country music umbrella.  So what is the country music umbrella?  Country music has grown to include a wide variety of styles.  These styles include traditional country, Western, Texan, Country Rock, Country-rap (CRap), modern, contemporary, alternative, Bluegrass, Hillbilly, Rock-A-Billy, Americana, Southern Rock, Christmas, Country Gospel, Roots and Folk.

   Another task that we take pride in is our ability to give an honest and truthful opinion about an entertainer’s work.  This often gets us in trouble with entertainers, managers and publicists because we refuse to form to the industry standards. 

   One entertainer asked our editor “Why are you so harsh in your reviews?”  The editor responded “If I give you an honest opinion you can take that, learn from it and grow with it to become a better entertainer.  But if I tell you what you want to hear— you will not learn from your mistakes.  Therefore, it will not encourage you to fine tune your craft to become the best entertainer you can be.”

   On the flip side, we believe that our readers deserve an honest and truthful opinion about the music.  An opinion that is based on the music and not on the charts, publicity and or money backing the entertainer or album.

   2016 was a banner year for released music as we received hundreds of albums for review.  We pride ourselves in reviewing all material sent. We may not get to an album right away, but we promise that we will review it!  We received so many albums this past year that we did not get through them all.  In fact, the pile of albums waiting for review is so large that if we were to paint them white, it would look like one of the snow banks outside our offices!

   As we celebrate the best of the best in country music with the 22nd Annual Spirit Awards, we also acknowledge the worst of the worst in music.  In 2006, we began releasing our list of the worst songs and albums of the year in an article called CD Coaster Award.  Although we call this an ‘Award,’ it is not a physical award in that sense. 

   That being said, here is our list of worst albums and singles of 2016.  We highly suggest that you avoid purchasing these albums and or singles as it would be a waste of your hard earned money.  This list is base on all of the music released in 2016 and not just the Top 10. 

   Before we start, we must remind you of a few things...first and foremost we use top of the line, studio quality headphones to conduct our reviews.  Second, the staff is quite knowledgeable in many aspects of majority of the musical genres.  Third, our reviews are based on opinion that is established on all of the music that we have heard over the years.  Forth, and this is important, unlike other magazines and websites—our reviews are not influenced by money, charts and or other opinions.

   Here we go…we often begin our list with an album that really does not belong here.  Nonetheless, we feel that if we put it on here, the entertainer may get the hint that they need to try a little bit harder to reach their full potential.  In 2016, Kelly Lang released her latest project called Throwback.  Kelly Lang is one of the most underrated entertainers in country music.  She maintains an extraordinary vocal talent.  But it is her vast knowledge and remarkable gift for songwriting that makes her one of the most untapped talents in country music.  Nonetheless, her latest project contains twelve covers of songs previously released by other entertainers.  She states that these songs are the songs that influenced her to be who she is today.  Lang gains the help from fellow musicians Lee Greenwood, Olivia Newton-John and Paul Shaffer on this project.  But the bottom line is, we have heard Kelly’s full potential on other projects and this one unquestionably lacks it.

   Another album that slides on and off this list comes from the legendary Gene Watson.  In 2016, he released his latest project called Real Country Music.  We were so impressed by the pristine set of vocals that Gene still maintains.  However, we were not so impressed by the songs he chose to include as the album comprises of ten covers made popular by some of the music industry’s more notable entertainers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Nat King Cole to name a few.  With Mr. Watson’s legendary stature, we are sure that songwriters would have jumped at the chance to have one of their songs recorded by him.

   The difference between a good entertainer and a great entertainer is in the entertainer’s mentality and personality.  A good entertainer maintains a variety of talents.  While a great entertainer maintains their talents while sharing them, their knowledge and gifts with others.  The great entertainer in which we speak of is Donna Ulisse.

   In 2016 Donna shared her vast talents and knowledge as she lent her vocals while producing an album for a new entertainer named Daniel Crabtree.  It is Daniel’s debut album, The Gospel Road, that begins our list.   This project features twelve non-traditional Gospel songs that Crabtree penned.  Although each of the songs are well written, they lack the weight to capture the listener’s interest.  Throughout the album, Donna Ulisse and Rick Stanley lend their vocal talents to compliment Daniel’s.  However, there are more times than there should be that they overshadow the lead singer’s, thus creating an unfavorable situation.  If Daniel were to compose himself to believe in his music enough to draw on his inner most emotions, he could become a reliable and satisfying entertainer to listen to. 

   The next album to hit our list comes from Andy May with his project called Room For Roots.  So many times we come across a songwriter who can write the songs but does not have the forte to bring them to life. This is the case with Andy May. If you have already read our article on the Top Songs of 2016, then you may question why we placed this album on this list, as we pulled “Stone Soup” to hit our list of Top Songs, because it was the only song to truly feature Andy’s authentic vocal capabilities.

   Recorded at the infamous Sam Phillips Studios in Memphis, our next album to hit this list was our first introduction to Jacob Stiefel (Stee-Ful).  The Memphis Sessions is a collection of six cuts in which Jacob penned five.  Getting to the point, these songs lack the solidarity that is needed in the lyrics to gain the listener’s attention.  They also lack the vast creativity in order to bring them to life.  Case in point “Broke The Rules,” as he uses profanity within the song.  Now, music is all about expressing one’s feelings—however you can lose a huge audience when you use the “f” word verses all the synonyms that are available for replacement.  It wasn’t because of the “f” bomb that caused us to include this album on this list.  It was his lack of  inspiration that was needed to create attentiveness within his music.

   One album we scored high, but shouldn’t have, came from Curtis Braly called All About The Ride.  We scored it high due to the well written songs on this album. Nonetheless it is Curtis’ lack of vocal talents that brings this album to this list.  Throughout the album, Braly tends to struggle as he attempts to hit every note precisely.  This circumstance may be due to the production conditions.  Periodically producers will undertake a new entertainer to mold them into something that they are not, thus creating a project that sounds terrible.  If the production team were to let the entertainer relax and perform the songs in their own comfortable way, the album would be more profitable.  Be that as it may, there is one song, called “Enough Left Of Me,” that stands out as it focuses the attention of a soldier returning home from war with missing limbs.  As powerful as the lyrics are in this song, Curtis lacks the know-how to bring this ballad to life.

   Throughout 2016, we received scores of albums by many legends or soon-to-be legends.  We were quite excited to receive an album and a book by the group Exile.  To remind you, Exile made it big in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s with their hit signature song “Kiss You All Over.”  Hitting our list is the book 50 Years of Exile: The Story of Exile book 50 Years of ExileA Band In Transition written by Randy Westbrook.  Randy does an acceptable job in including the stories of all thirty-five musicians that were a part of the group Exile, however, it’s the timeline that he has problems with.  All of us on the staff here are avid readers and each of us have our own favorite subject matter that we delve in.  Nonetheless, reading this book was like walking through knee deep, wet mud while trying to navigate the shortest distance.  Randy tends to take the reader on a timeline that is all over the place.  One never really knows where you are when it comes to the history of this band. But the worst side of it all is the mentality in which the book was written as it regularly delivers a negative vibe while creating a less than appreciation for this band. Where as the album, Exile: Live At The Franklin Theatre, features a collection of the band’s more notable songs.  The thirteen cut album was nice to reminisce on the great songs that this band created.  Even so, the live recording is quite dull as it lacks all the excitement of an in person live experience.  We strike this up as a problem with production than that of the performance.  Perhaps it is the lack of attention to detail that plagued this group, and continues to plague them, throughout their careers.

   Another album that hits our list due to production comes from the legendary group The Marshall Tucker Band.  Like so many bands and entertainers of their day, this band took advantage of the popularity of American music in Europe in the 1970’s.  In 1976, while touring the United Kingdom, the band recorded many of their live performances.  For the first time, they released those performances on a new project called Live In The UK 1976.  The ten cut album features some of their more notable hits, however, the recordings are not that pristine.  It could be due to the age of the recordings, however, with today’s technological advances they should have been able to rectify these problems.  Even so, our biggest problem with this project was the fact that each of the songs featured comes from different shows.  If they would have included a complete live performance at a single location, one could have overlooked the shortfall in production.

   One question that haunted us this past year was “Do you like an entertainer because they are nice or because they have talent?”  We asked this question with several people in the industry and we came to a consensus that yes, we often do like an entertainer for their attitude than talents. This was the case with Dave Adkins when he released his latest self-entitled project. Through the years, Dave has had much success with his music.  However, we have not agreed with that success.  Dave tends to overreact in his vocal capabilities as he tries to hit each note in the song and when he can not hit the note he utilizes a fade out effect.  When used properly, as Kenny Rogers does, the fade out effect can enhance the song.  But when Dave tries it, it just makes his vocal qualities sound less than he really is.  Time after time, many talented people lose their vocal capabilities in the studio as the production team forces them to be something they are not.  It is our review on this album that caused a lot of controversy as we did not fall for the hype that the industry has for Mr. Adkins. 

  One of the conditions that we pride ourselves in is that of knowing the difference in real music verses manufactured.  At Strictly Country, we honor and celebrate the capability and inventiveness of talented musicians.

   That being said, so many of the albums that hit this list tend to be constructed, mass-produced and fabricated.  Anyone with a computer and a good recording program called a DAW (digital audio workstation) can record a song.  Should they?  No!  So many are blinded by the money and fame of being an entertainer that they lack the ingenuity, creativity and talent needed to succeed. 

   On top of that, the industry believes that we all rather enjoy the new Country Pop mentality within our music.  What the industry refuses to understand, is that most real country music fans enjoy the traditional sound that was once called country music.

   Therefore, many of the songs and albums on this list contain that fabricated, manufactured, concocted, phony and make-believed country pop sound.  Case in point is the next album to hit our list with Robby Johnson’s Don’t Look Back.  This album features thirteen songs that draw on that fabricated, unattractive pop beat.  When we looked past the manufactured sound, we found that many of the songs were overwhelmed with rhyme within the lyrics.  As with majority of the entertainers, Robby is another who lacks the ingenuity to breathe life into a song.  In the end this album contains a shortage of compassion and sensitivity.

   Another album that falls short due to the manufactured sound comes from Dianna Corcoran with her album In America.  Listening to this one made all of us cringe as she included too many “ohs” in each of her songs.  Many of the songs on this album were well written if you disregard the bogus pop melodies. If Dianna were to resort back to the real country music disposition, she may gain the following that she is seeking.

   Every person can sing, but only a few can perform.  To answer your question, yes there is a big difference between singing and performing.  Take for an example a person singing in the shower—the old mentality that everyone sounds better in the shower is true as water is a great conductor of sound and will often filter much like a pitch corrector does within a recording studio.  A true performer is a person who is able to capture the essence of the storyline by acting or mimicking the emotion and passion to create a response from the listener.  This is exactly what we looking for in a song, an album and an entertainer.

  So when we came upon Donica Knight’s album Can’t By A Southern Girl, we were impressed by her vocal qualities as her style is much like Wynonna Judd’s with it’s classic rock attitude.  However Donica lacks the resourcefulness, skill and dexterity needed to be a performer. Although this album hits our list, make a mental note to watch for Ms. Knight in the future.  If she studies, examines and develops her performance; she will reach a notable status in her musical career. 

   We all have our favorite songs that we love to listen to and sing along with.  Many of these songs have inspired us to do things, take action or even just simply reminisce.  Every entertainer who has graced the music industry has one or two songs like this.  Nonetheless, that does not give the entertainer the permission to record covers of those songs.  We have said it before and we’ll say it again and again—recording a cover song only proves that you are an everyday, common, garage, cover artist and lack the talents needed to create a new song!  Now, paying tribute to the songs and entertainers who inspired you through live performance is one thing.  But, to create an album that features covers is simply a waste of time, energy and money! Let us put it this way, if Strictly Country were a record label, we would never ever allow our entertainers to record cover songs, period!

   That being said, hitting our list next comes from a talented group called Volume Five with their album Voices.  This album features three cover songs, a major credit error and nine songs that lack the heart and soul to stand up and say ‘take a listen to me!’  Covers are covers and if you include a cover song, no matter how good your recording is, it will give your album a negative strike!  There are way to many talented songwriters out there with potential hit songs in their pockets. So, to refer back to more notable songs actually halts the industry from creatively progressing.

   Another element that we pride ourselves in is the fact that we take the appropriate time to review an album.  Just a few years ago, it would take us approximately two to three hours per album.  Today, it takes us nearly eight hours per album due to the research we must conduct to make sure the songs are originals and not covers nor contain stolen melodies.

   It always amazes us when an entertainer with a new sound becomes popular and how all the want-to-be entertainers emulate that popular artist’s style.  The first single to hit our list comes from Alexandra Demetree with her song “Outta My Head.”  Alexandra’s vocal styling is no different than any other female singer of this time.  Therefore, she just blends into the abyss of female artists in today’s country music.  However, this single brings another topic we must point out.  To many times we come across songs where the background vocal talents outweigh those of the lead singer.  This is the case with this single.

   Getting back to the group Exile, perhaps it was the book that gave us more of a negative insight to this group.  Then again, maybe it just comes down to the fact that the group’s real talent is backed by second-rate talents.  Just this past Christmas the group released their first and only Christmas album called Wrapped Up In Your Arms For Christmas.  We found so many errors throughout this entire album, including credit and melody errors.  Again, it is their lack of attention to detail that brings this album to this list.  Then again, this album had a feeling of being Exile’s last ditch effort to make it in this industry.  Perhaps it is time to close the book on this band.

   Oh look, it’s snowing again!  You know you are listening to a poor quality album when your mind wanders to something less important.  Oh look, more snow!

   You can not even begin to imagine all the times we have started listening to an album only to realize that the album was over and we had no idea what we just listened too!  This was the case with our next album called Back To The Mountains recorded by The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys.  We took the time to listen to this album in its entirety over and over trying to discover why it sent our minds a drift.  Our discovery lead us to the fact that the entire album is recorded in a more bass tone, where as the addition of the fiddle is performed in a much higher key thus making many of the songs on this album sound dreadful. It is an art to select the right instruments to bring a song to life, but the addition of this fiddle brought death into the entire album.  As for the talents of this group, they essentially sound like they can only perform in one collective melodic sound.

   Nearly every day that we conduct reviews we come across what Dolly Parton once said in her movie Straight Talk as “the cornflake” effect.  The cornflake effect is that every album and entertainer looks different from the outside, but when you listen to the inside you get the same as everyone else—cornflakes.  This is the case with Boone and his single “Summer Girls.” Like so many before him and so many after him, Boone tries to emulate Kenny Chesney in his vocal potential. As for the song itself, well the lyrics tend to repeat so much so to form an unintelligible song.  In the end, plain ole cornflakes.

   The best part of this job is the fact that we get to hear the music first hand.  One of the hardest parts of this job is the fact that we periodically come across entertainers who’s talents were destroyed through the production process.  This is the case with Jon Pardi’s album California Sunrise.  Jon maintains a unique set of vocals that are part nasally and part ear piercing shrill.  This may sound awful, but when mixed with the right instrumentals it can sound quite unique.  Jon shows his side as a songwriter in this album as he co-wrote seven of the twelve songs.  The songs that he helped pen consist of heartfelt and well thought out lyrics.  Nonetheless, all this is lost as each of the melodies are over produced to the point that they end up sounding like pure noise.  Now, if the instrumentation on this album were simplified, this album would have gained more of our backing.  But as is, well it ends up on this list.

   Rarely are we given an opportunity to follow an entertainer from their humble beginnings to their place amongst the real stars.  Back in 2009, we introduced you to a talented duo named LoCash Cowboys when they released their song “Fresh Off The Farm.”  Although this duo is more of your hard core country rock to pop attribute, they have pure and raw talents.  Since then the boys have dropped the Cowboys attitude and became known as LoCash, the sell outs.  We can always tell when the glory of fame and fortune outweighs the true talents within music and this happened to Preston and Chris when they released their album The Fighters.  The boys of LoCash reduced themselves to become your carbon copy clone of what the industry believes we would enjoy listening to.  Throughout this album, the boys took the popularity of the use of “ohs” to an all time high of overuse.  We hate to say it, but these boys are a sell out and what goes up, eventually falls and they will fall hard.

   Some people can write.  Some people can sing.  Some people can do both.  Then there are those who shouldn’t do neither!  To many times we come across songs that have no weight to them. The weight factor that we are speaking of is the value of the song—does it breathe, does it inspire, does it entertain?  To many times we find ourselves shaking our heads, while wondering what the message of a song is? When we heard Matt Farris’s song “She’s Done” we question the directive of the song as it had no portent significance.  On one side we felt it spoke abut a broken relationship, then on the flip side it sounded as if it was about an abusive relationship.  Either way, the song really appeared like it was missing a verse or two and that makes it land on this list.

   Then there are songs that just should not be recorded.  This is not because of the instrumentals or vocals, but because of the topic of the song.  When we received Stephanie Quayle’s song “Drinking With Dolly,” we were shocked!  Over the years we have heard some beautiful songs paying homage to the great legends in country music, but not a song that literally tries to destroy an entertainer!  Stephanie inadvertently suggests that entertainers like Dolly Parton as well as other notable female artists including Loretta Lynn are heavy drinkers.  First and foremost, it is none of our business what an entertainer does in their personal life.  Second, no person should disrespect such great people like Ms. Dolly, with thoughtlessness as this! No matter what job you hold, you should not dishonor those who paved the way for you!  Stephanie Quayle should be shunned for her discourtesy!

    Some may argue with that last statement, but this is Country Music and we respect our elders!

   Speaking of elders, this past year we were graced with two albums from Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.  One hits this list and the other earns several nominations in the Spirit Awards, go figure.  Hitting our list is their album The Gospel According To Gatlin.  The boys return to their Gospel roots as they release ten new non-traditional Gospel songs and one American pride song.  There was a time when Larry was starting to lose his vocal abilities.  Not wanting to get out of the music industry, he went on to study and train in opera.  Sometimes he is a master with his vocals, but this album showed the downfall of his vocal potential.  The best way to put it is that he reminds us of the Cowardly Lion in the movie Wizard of Oz.  Word to the wise, not all of his songs are unpleasant to listen to.

   In recent years, there has been an overabundant amount of albums that comprise of the fabricated and mass-produced synthesized pop drum beat.  It is this counterfeit musicality that frequently destroys what could be acceptable songs.  Although his vocal capabilities are a clone of today’s male artists, it’s the fact that Canaan Smith applies the computerized beat within his album Bronco as well as his self-entitled debut EP.  Smith is one artist to watch, once he is released from the major record label he is with.

   Canaan Smith is one of an endless number of entertainers who gets sucked into the music industry’s mentality of what they believe the listening audience is looking for.  When in reality, a vast amount of the industry truly does not know what the general listening audience wants to hear.  In fact, the industry really does not care as they are only after the quick proit and not the longevity of the song or the career of the entertainer performing it.  If they were, there would be a much more fitting choice of songs and entertainers.

  Another album that fits this mentality comes from Steve Dorian with his six song EP called Living.  Unlike Smith, Dorian lacks many of the ingredients needed to attract a true country music fan’s attention as this EP is completely manufactured, even down to the carbon copy vocals.  We have heard fruitless albums before, but this one is completely barren and devoid of any time consuming songs.

   If you have been following Strictly Country through 2016, you would have read our extended article called The Art of Songwriting.  We were inspired to write this article after we heard MIPSO’s new album Old Time Reverie.  It was while reviewing this album that prompted the question “How much rhyme is to much?” That question led to more questions about songwriting.  Getting back to MIPSO, this is one album that begs us to delete the lyrics and vocals thus creating an album filled with beautiful instrumentals.  The group exerts themselves in rhyme in such a way that it creates a cadence throughout the project.  Their album may end up on this list, but they can claim that it also inspired an admirable and popular series of articles.

   Imagine if you would spending endless hours putting your heart and soul into creating a song.  Now, after months and even years you finally sell that song you worked so hard on to someone who will record it.  Months go by and eventually that singer releases it, only to have it end up on this list.  Our hearts go out to all the songwriters who wrote some of the most exquisite pieces that were destroyed by people who have no reason to record them.

  For instance the song “Hung Me On The Line” written by Ford Thurston and Brynn Marie and destroyed by Callie Twisselman.  This song captures your attention with a beautiful blend made by an upright bass riff in which the lyrics ride upon.  However, the sound wave provided by the instruments are directed into the ground as Callie lacks the vocal talents to carry it into the unknown.  As a solo artist Callie is a bit much, nonetheless when mixed with other vocalists she can shine.

   Our next album comes from an artist that we introduced you to in 2012 when he released his album Gloryland.  In 2016, we reviewed Kevin Gordon’s newest project called Long Gone Time and determined that it must hit this list.  Kevin is like Stephen King and not in a good way.  A person could take a Stephen King book and pull out three quarters of the book and end up with a much better story than the original written word.  This is the case with Gordon’s latest project.  Each of the songs sounds like Kevin is writing about what he sees with his eyes rather than what he feels with his soul.  In other words, there is absolutely no flow with the lyrics which causes us to… oh look a squirrel! This album is completely devoid of any message.  Plus, it almost sounds like Kevin is performing the songs while intoxicated as the album lacks enunciation, the words are quite muted and incomprehensible.  Overall, this album needs way to much work to even consider playing it again.

   Hitting our list next is Adam Searan’s self-entitled album.  Most reviewers state that Adam “delivers.” What? Rubbish!  The over use of rhyme comes into play when we speak of this album.  Certainly we will agree that Adam has decent vocals, albeit he is a want-to-be pop artist.  However, the songs on this seven cut EP feature a cadence that is quite similar to that found in nursery rhymes.  Granted many songs do contain a portion of rhyme amongst the lyrics. It is when a songwriter spends too much time creating a theme that connects one line to the next that it becomes a measure which pulsates with a similar sound of military boots marching on pavement and becomes excessive.  The theory behind too much rhyme is pure laziness or lack of creativity.  Either way, the song loses its mentality and power as the ear and brain focus more on the cadence rather than the message contained within. 

   Royal Wade Kimes is no stranger to us here at Strictly Country, as we first introduced you to him in 2004 when he made the mistake of covering Bob Dylan’s notable song “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Hitting our list is his latest project Shadows of Time.    For twelve years, he has been trying to impress us without success.  As stated before, we do our best to give constructive criticism in hopes that the entertainer will take it to heart in order to refine their craft.  The fact that Royal Wade Kimes has not legitimately worked on improving his craft verifies that he does not have the drive to make it in this industry, therefore he will always be a local want-to-be.  Kimes’ biggest problem comes with lack of substance mixed with unsteady vocals that make the songs on this album fade into the abyss of unappealing albums.  It’s time that we all cut this cowboy loose, so he can fade off into the sunset.

   There are some entertainers whom we wish we could do anything from keeping them off this list.  But as in all things in life, some make the wrong decisions that bring dire consequences.  Which brings us to our Top 10 Worst Albums and Songs of 2016...

 LoCash The Fighters  Coming in at Number 10 is a song called “Boom Boom” by Lucas Hoge.  We first introduced you to Lucas in 2012 when he released his self-entitled debut album.  Each of us were taken aback by the sheer talent this young man had. Nonetheless, a lot can happen in four years as Lucas has caught the gold fever of fame and fortune amongst the industry.  This song is the perfect example of commercialization and the feeblemindedness of unintelligence within songs.  We admit that there are some simple-minded songs that are quite entertaining as they convey a childlike message, but this song is not one of them.  It is our belief that Lucas is aiming for the rapid rise to fame, while not thinking about the instantaneous fall that comes afterwards.  Becoming the flavor of the month does not guarantee a career of longevity!

   Which brings us back to LoCash.  Coming in at Number 9 is their EP I Love This Life.  As stated before, Preston and Chris have belittled themselves, much like Lucas Hoge to seek the fast rise in becoming the flavor of the month.  Years from now, they will wake up to only realize that they were sell outs and should have stuck to their original styling mixed with pure raw talents.  Today they are nothing more than a product used for that quick profit.

   Coming in at Number 8, is an album that many of you may disagree with us on.  Just this past year Cole Swindell rose fast to become the flavor of the month with his self-entitled album. What turned us off of Cole and this album is the lack of diversity amongst the baseline melody, one that contains the aforementioned forged pop measure.  More so, Cole could not carry a tune, even in a bucket.  His vocal stylings are more of a verbal shout rather than an artful chant.  Nonetheless, the major deterioration comes from the lack of real musicians as this entire album is filled with fabricated instrumentals.  In reality, this album is nothing more than a ponzi scheme.

   Have you ever noticed that the albums and entertainers on this list are the same ones nominated for other various country music awards?  Although we often speak our truths about the music industry which may come out as complaints, we do not embody a hatred for the music industry.  Rather, we speak the truth that doe not involve a monetary gain.

  This brings us to Number 7 on this list, which comes from Kelsea Ballerini and her album The First Time.  We find this album and Kelsea are quite ludicrous!  Why? Because of the song “Square Pegs” and if you listen to the lyrics of the song… “What if we were all the same? Same rules, same game.  And we weren’t allowed to change anything about anything.  That anybody’s ever done before? Wouldn't that be boring? Yeah.”  Perhaps Kelsea should have taken her own advice as this entire album features the same baseline melody that embraces the indistinguishable pop beat that nearly every new entertainer incorporates into their music.

   Have we become a society of second-rate, inferior, characterless entertainment? We now know why they call it mainstream country—because those who fall under it lack the ingenuity to become real country music entertainers!

   In 1984, Lee Greenwood released his self-penned song “God Bless The U.S.A..” Even after thirty-three years, the power contained within that song still resonates in the hearts and souls of who hear it today.

   Coming in at Number 6, is Leslie Cours Mather and her song “We Are America.”  This song attempts to be as powerful and influential as “God Bless The U.S.A.,” however, it falls short.  In fact, it is quite the blunder as it lacks the authority within the lyrics. The title statement is vastly repeated, when the song should have been enhanced with other assurances. Further more, Leslie lacks the vocal capability needed to convey the message, if there was a message, within the lyrics.

   Although vast of the music industry is trying to get away from piracy, we still find a song or two that appears synonymous of a previously recorded song.

   Coming in at Number 5 is Mike Smith’s single “Little Bit of Us.”  When we first started playing this song, we all said “Hey we know that song!” This song is so comparable to The Jackson 5’s 1970 hit song “ABC” that we could not get pass it.  Although the harmony of the tune is slightly deviated, one can truly hear the correlation to that of the Jackson 5 hit song. 

   One of the most difficult and exhausting circumstances we must endure is that of taking the time to listen to an album or song all the way through.  Nonetheless, we do find a song or two that stands out enough for us to speak about.  From time to time these songs are authentic, honest and justifiable.  Then again, they are not…

   Which brings us to Number 4 on our list with Pete Scobell Band’s “Walkin’ A Wire.”  At first run through we were encouraged with the musicality.  Yet, the song was destroyed as the chorus began.  This song is the perfect example of over simplification of intellectual content.  This may be due to the popular culture, nonetheless it cheapens and degrades the intelligence of not only the listener but the songwriters as well.  The over use of repeating words as in this song— “I’m walkin’ a wire, wire… crossin’ a river of fire, fire…”- has become just as popular as the over use of “Ohs” in 2016.  Some may say that it captures the listening audience, while we say it degrades the intelligence.  Either way, it still produces a worthless song.

   Over the past three decades, the music industry has developed the entertainer and the song into more of a product.  If you look at the choice of entertainers that are massed promoted they fall under the “30/30” Rule: they must be under 30 years of age and have a 30 inch waist.  Once a record label finds an entertainer who fits that rule, they mass-produce them to the point of destruction.  As we said before, the label is only after a hastily profit more than developing a long lasting product.  One can concede to this fact when it comes to Christmas music.

   Coming in at Number 3 is Chris Young’s Christmas album It Must Be Christmas.  To gain a profit from an entertainer, the label must spend less.  The best way to spend less on an album is by applying shortcuts within the production of the album.  Christmas music is one of the most recognizable forms of music and most entertainers record Christmas albums due to the vast popularity of the genre.  However, this genre is quite limited in it’s availability.  Therefore, record labels have the appetite for the quick and easy profit as most do during the Holiday season.  Many of the Christmas carols are excessively recorded, one group of people are making a huge profit as they recorded the basic, but elegant, instrumentals of the most popular Christmas Carols.  The record label then uses these instrumental recordings as the basis for a simple and profitable Christmas album.  The problem is, is that they often disagree and collide with those of the vocalist, while creating an inferior album.  This is the case with Chris Young’s Christmas album.  Chris has a beautiful set of country vocals that were mixed with a more sinfonietta arrangement.  The mix created a menagerie of caterwauling that resonates pure babble. But more so, it degrades the classic Christmas Carols we all know and love.

   Just when we think that we have heard it all, then something arrives at our offices that makes us ask “Seriously?”

   Hitting our Number 2 spot of worst albums and singles of 2016 comes from The Cleverlys with their EP Cash Crop.  We were excited to receive this EP as this group is billed as “Bluegrass meets The Office.”  One always needs a little comedy within their musical catalog.  Nonetheless, this EP was nothing more than six cheap covers of songs made famous by entertainers like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flo Rida and Destiny’s Child to name a few.  This is not music in any sense.  It is more of a pure poppycock ploy to gain monetary gain. We would accurately say that this EP is a joke within its self and should be officially prohibited from any sale.

   As dreadful as that EP is, we hate to say it—but there is one that is even more atrocious…

   Ladies and Gentlemen… the winner of the 2016 CD Coaster Award goes to Morgan Riley and her song “Down South.”  We normally celebrate individuality as it can create unique and beautiful music.  However, this one does not.  This song contains a Disco melody that is mixed with Morgan’s slightly country vocals.  Although Disco was huge in the 1970’s and early 1980’s it is quite frowned upon and rejected today.  Even if we liked Disco, which we don’t, Morgan lacks the initiative needed to bring excitement to the songs that she sings.  This is not our first introduction to Morgan and this is not her first appearance on this list.  Perhaps she needs to seek a different course or even a different career.

   As the dawn of a new year begins, we hope that our list of Top Worst Songs and Albums reduces.  We do not approach each album in hopes that it will hit this list, but rather that we find a song or two that we can enjoy and promote with vigor.  Nonetheless, our world is quite small with the advancement of technology.  Shall we put blame on technology or shall the blame be placed on the unwillingness to work hard to achieve something?  Perhaps our society is being influenced more by television and the impeccable lives that its characters live.  Have we as a society lost our drive and willingness to better ourselves?

   Tune in next January as we see who is lifeless as they hit our list of Worst Songs and Albums of 2017.  Who will be crowned the winner of the 2017 CD Coaster Award? Tune in...

 Morgan Riley "Down South"

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