For the final ten days of June, I’ll be counting down the ten best albums that fell within my radar during the first half of 2016. Each day, I’ll reveal the next album on the list along with an informal review. This will lead to July 1st, a major release day for albums, when I’ll post an updated version of my Most Anticipated Albums of 2016 list. Enjoy!

#9: The Very Last Day by Parker Millsap
Released March 25 by Okrahoma Records

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Most of my choices for top ten albums of the midyear have one song stands out as one of my favorite songs of the year. Americana singer Parker Millsap‘s second solo record The Very Last Day might contain THE best song I’ve heard all year, “Heaven Sent.” Coming at listeners following the album’s opening triad of scorching folk numbers, Millsap’s voice like a lion let out of a cage, “Heaven Sent” softens his approach for a beautiful yet absolutely haunting ballad. With a wisely crafted lyric, Millsap slowly reveals his cards, telling a story far more affecting than what at first seems like a typical “preacher’s kid” song. I haven’t done the research to say whether the song is autobiographical or not, but that doesn’t matter; the storytelling here is perfect, believable and heartfelt through every word. All those attributes remain true, if to lesser degrees, throughout the rest of this stellar record. Closing tracks “A Little Fire” and “Tribulation Hymn” display a more traditional approach, where the originality and freshness of the album’s first half take a backseat. While certainly less impressive, these songs show how well Millsap can manipulate the lyrical tropes and standard melodies of country and americana for his own purposes. From the strong foundation built here, I could imagine Millsap’s next record following in some revved up experiments with rock a la Eric Church or taking the stripped-down traditionalist sound like Kacey Musgraves did with her sophomore effort. That said, more of the same would be fine, too. Whatever he does, Parker Millsap’s boisterous, lively voice and undeniable lyrical prowess nearly guarantee this his music will be worth checking out for the rest of his career.

Check out the song “Heaven Sent” on Youtube as well as the album review on Chorus.fm by music critic Craig Manning, who introduced me to this album.

Read the review for album #10.

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