Thomas Rhett concert

Thomas Rhett performs in concert at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City in 2015. 

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

I enjoy almost every kind of music from hip-hop to folk, but country will always be my favorite. It reminds me of growing up with my wonderful family and friends in my wonderful small hometown. I work with a lot of country haters (cc: Bret Hayworth, Ty Rushing and Ian Richardson) so around the water cooler, my opinions on the recent releases in the industry have been caged in like a sad beautiful bird.

5. "Everybody" - Chris Janson

Famously known for his infectious hit "Buy Me a Boat," Janson give us more of feel-good songs in this. I saw him perform live and his raw energy was so charming I've been a staunch supporter ever since. I personally enjoy his love songs about his wife and kids because you can tell he means it. "Bein' a Dad" will give you the feels. The biggest hit on the album is "Fix a Drink," the lyrics are simple and catchy. Every time I hear it I want to happily bop around (and fix a drink.)  

4. "From A Room: Volume 1" - Chris Stapleton

Stapleton's bluesy chops give me goosebumps. When he holds a note an angel is born. I had the singles on this album on repeat for weeks. Honestly, I'm surprised the window's in my apartment didn't shatter for how loud I would blare it. His music makes you want to light a bunch of candles and sit in a dark room. I don't know why. It just does. My favorite is "Either Way." The song is about two people who don't love each other anymore and just go through the motions together in life. Depressing I know, but this perspective is refreshing as a reminder life ain't always rainbows and lollipops.

3. "Life Changes" - Thomas Rhett 

OK. His lyrics are soooooooooo cheesy but I understand that's what sells records to millennials. His words may lack depth, but his use of electronic beats, 1950s rhythms, and R&B feels -- combined with country -- makes up for it in this album. I believe he is one of the leading artists forging country music into the mainstream which I appreciate. If you want to learn about his awesome life trajectory listen to "Life Changes," 10 out of 10 recommend. 

  

1b. "Happy Endings" - Old Dominion

"No Such Thing as a Broken Heart" may be one of my favorite songs of all time. And I fully believe there is "No Such Thing as a Bad Old Dominion Song." Each and every hook on this album will stick in your head. Their clever songwriting and breezy tones make this one of the best albums of the year. Apple Music has it at 11 most popular country album right now which I think is a fake news. Here's a taste of their lovable writing in "Shoe Shopping."

"If you're downtown on the browse about / Looking for the perfect fit, how's about / Some high-heel, high-top, pump 'em up, flip-flop / Heads-up, lucky penny loafer on a sidewalk / Patent leather, blue suede, tailor-made, whatever you like / If you're shoe shopping, try me on for size." 

1a. "This One's for You" - Luke Combs

He is a combination of Chris Stapleton and Eric Church with a splash of pop. His voice is fresh and has a lot of life to it. It's crazy to think the 27-year-old only started singing a few years ago. He has plenty of blue-collar drinking songs and ones that you want to crank up in your car (when you shouldn't be drinking.) Ask my girlfriend, every time "When It Rains It Pours" comes on in my Ford Freestyle, she plugs her ears in anticipation. Each tune has a different taste, which makes it a very filling album. Weird observation, but I think I nailed it. It's 12 songs and 43 minutes I highly recommend. 

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