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35 Most Anticipated Country Albums of 2016

From Loretta Lynn and Vince Gill to Brothers Osborne and Aubrie Sellers

Loretta Lynn, Sturgill Simpson

New albums from Loretta Lynn and Sturgill Simpson are among the notable releases set for 2016.

Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage, Burak Cingi/Redferns/Getty

From long-awaited new projects from legends Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams Jr. to Blake Shelton's "divorce record" and Sturgill Simpson's mysterious follow-up to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music,  2016 promises to be full of country albums that both honor the genre's roots and push its boundaries. Here are the 35 records we're most eager to hear this year.

Dori Freeman

Kristin Horton

Dori Freeman

Album: self-titled
Release Date:
February 5th
A strong contender for Americana debut of the year, singer-songwriter Dori Freeman seemingly came out of nowhere — Galax, Virginia, to be exact — to land on numerous critics' "Next Big Thing" lists. And with good reason: her self-titled debut, produced by Teddy Thompson (son of English folkie Richard), is a stunning showcase for the versatile newcomer. As a vocalist, she sings with the clarity of Kacey Musgraves but hops between styles with the ease of Lera Lynn, belting classic twang one minute and crooning smoky, Peggy Lee-styled blues the next. As the songwriter behind all 10 tracks, she spins self-aware stories of heartbreak and struggle straight out of her own experience. Freeman isn't trying to mythologize Appalachia, she's too busy living it. J.F.

Tom Waits

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - OCTOBER 27: Tom Waits performs on Day 2 of the 27th Annual Bridge School Benefit concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre on October 27, 2013 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage)

Steve Jennings/WireImage

‘God Don’t Never Change’

Album: God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
Release Date: February 26th
Gospel blues singer-guitarist Blind Willie Johnson's feverish meditations on the wages of sin and the wrath of God are still leaving musical ripples nearly 90 years after they were first recorded. Fittingly, venerable blues label Alligator Records has assembled the tribute album God Don't Never Change, which features Lucinda Williams howling her way through the title track and "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine." Tom Waits shows up for a couple selections, including a clanging, apocalyptic "John the Revelator." Blind Willie was also one hell of a sanctified slide guitarist, recreated here by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi on the swampy "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning." J.F.