2016 was an eventful year in country music, from unexpected Number One albums to the high-profile return of one of the genre's most important acts.
In April, Sturgill Simpson released his third album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Despite falling outside the mainstream, it landed at Number One on the Billboard Country Albums chart and earned Simpson a pair of nominations – including Album of the Year – at February's Grammy Awards.
Elsewhere, Florida Georgia Line spent an astonishing 18 weeks at Number One this year with the single "H.O.L.Y." The soaring piano ballad reached the top of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in May, and stayed there until mid-September, racking up double platinum sales along the way.
The year also saw the return of the Dixie Chicks, who embarked on their globe-trotting DCX MMXVI Tour and stirred up controversy with their collaboration with Beyoncé at November's 50th CMA Awards, and the unexpected passing of country icon Merle Haggard. His death on April 6th was met by an outpouring of respect and tributes.
And "Forever Country," the mash-up of three classic country songs featuring 30 artists, nodded to the genre's legacy, becoming a theme song for the CMA Awards and highlighting artists from Ronnie Milsap to Blake Shelton.