Back when he released High Top Mountain in 2013, the retro sensibilities of Sturgill Simpson seemed to be rooted solely in outlaw country: he swaggered like the second coming of Waylon Jennings, a man on a mission to restore muscle and drama to country music. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, his 2014 sophomore set, was a curve ball revealing just how unorthodox his rulebook was. After nearly two decades of alternative country doubling down on po-faced authenticity where simpler was better, Simpson embraced indulgence, pushing new wave, psychedelia, and digital-age saturation, all in an attempt to add the cosmic back into American music.
2017 Grammy Nominees is a varied mix of the best releases of 2016, culled from the main nomination categories. From the Beyonce/Jack White collaboration "Don't Hurt Yourself" – her first nomination in the Best Rock Performance category – to darkhorse Sturgill Simpson's "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)," the selections on this 21-track compilation include a full range of genres. Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris represent the new generation of country singer/songwriters, while R&B newcomer Anderson.Paak and earnest Danish outfit Lukas Graham cover the pop-oriented end of the class of 2016. Ubiquitous hits from Twenty One Pilots, Sia, Drake, Adele, Justin Bieber, and the Chainsmokers are also included. The collection debuted in the Top 20 on the Billboard 200.
In the decade since releasing his 2006 debut, Brent Cobb also emerged as a Music Row songwriter, landing songs with high-profile artists like Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and Kenny Chesney, among others. His move into the Nashville establishment may have brought his career some well-deserved success, but as an artist, his heart remained rooted in the Deep South of his hometown, Ellaville, Georgia. Produced by Brent's cousin Dave Cobb (Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson) at his Low Country Sound studio, Shine on Rainy Day is personal and soulful, with little of contemporary country's gloss and a stripped-down, earthy poeticism that some have likened to Kris Kristofferson's early albums.