Saving Country Music’s 2013 Song of the Year Is…

December 30, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  48 Comments


What any authentic music artist wishes to accomplish when they sit down to write a song is to convey the true emotion, story, and inspiration behind that song without any loss of detail or dilution of feeling. But of course this is easier said than done. Interpreting complex human emotions into words is a difficult enough task in itself. Then taking those words and setting them to music that does justice to those emotions makes the work that much harder. And however good an artist might be at formulating a song on paper or in their mind, the artist, and a group of other musicians, must then deliver performances that truly meet the lofty expectations of that story, those emotions, and the song’s inspiration.

Most every song starts off as a masterpiece in the artist’s mind, but most every song fails to reach that edifice because of the inherent human frailty present in all of us. And really, that frailty is what “Deadman’s Blues” by Matt Woods is about just as much as anything. He was just perfect at conveying that imperfection in song.

saving-country-music-song-of-the-year-2013There’s so much that could be pinpointed in “Deadman’s Blues” that makes it special: the mournful steel guitar, the way the song slowly builds in a steady enrapturing motion that pulls you towards it, the stop near the end of the song when everything else drops out except for the voice of Matt Woods. But for me, the emotion captured in Matt’s voice is really what sets this song apart, and creates a peerless work worthy of the highest praise, and the widest ear.

Country music won’t be saved by websites, blogs, articles, organizations, or stupid awards with spurious legitimacy bestowed by Internet nerds. These things may help, but country music will be saved by songs, and songs only; songs that speak deeply, and universally to the human condition, that are bold and possess inescapable appeal and outreach, channeled through artists who are courageous enough to deliver them, and willing to sacrifice so that those songs can live. And Matt Woods, and his song “Deadman’s Blues,” are worthy of carrying that high distinction of being a song helping to save country music.

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“Deadman’s Blues” is available on a 3-song 7″ vinyl from Matt Woods, and is also available digitally.

2013 Saving Country Music Song of the Year Nominees

From Saving Country Music’s original review of “Deadman’s Blues”:

“We ask a lot of our independent country and roots artists. We want them to release new music early and often, even though it stings them in the pocketbook to record. We want them to play our stupid town, even though it is way out of their way and the turnout will be light. We want them to perform in small, intimate venues, even though it’s not financially feasible for trying to take care of themselves, or God forbid, raise a family. We don’t want them to be too successful, lest their music loses its pain and soul. We don’t want them to age. We want them to see all the places, and do all the things we can’t, and maintain a party-filled lifestyle so we can then live vicariously though them as our own legs grow roots and our lives prosper from stability.

“We want them to sleep on floors and eat like shit and sweat on stage and drive 700 miles to entertain us for three hours before passing out in their own filth for very little money. Our favorite artists roll into town and we reach deep in our pockets and hand them over all manner of items to fuel this madness and bring misfortune to them because they trend toward addictive, self-destructive personality to a greater degree. Then we sit back and watch them fall apart right in front of our faces, because for some reason, we find a certain beauty in their struggle and undoing. We shed the desire to slowly kill ourselves in our youth, so we ask our favorite musicians to do it for us in our stead. And the musicians, driven by their dreams, are more than happy to oblige.

“And for what? If they sober up and try to find the straight and narrow, or solicit the suits for help with their music, we label them a sell out. If they don’t, it’s not very likely their music will ever afford them a sustainable living. And about the only way they will find suitable recognition for their artistic contributions is if they die young.”

48 Comments to “Saving Country Music’s 2013 Song of the Year Is…”

  • Damn right! This is my #1 of the year as well. Lookin’ forward to seein’ what Matt releases in the future!

  • It’s a good song…

    I’ll be listening to stuff off “Southeastern” and “High Top Mountain” 10 years from now. I’d actually forgotten about this tune until Trig’s end-of-year stuff though.

    • I think one of the things setting this song back in people’s minds is that it was not released on one of the blockbuster albums we have seen in 2013. If it was released on a full LP, a lot me people would be paying attention to it, and the LP by proxy. This is why I always recommend to artists to released full-length projects instead of singles, splits, or EP’s, because I think it gives better strength to their songs.

      At the same time, it is super cool that I can hold this song in my hand on a piece of vinyl with the cover art that is for this song and this song only. If I were Matt, I would put this song on his next full-length project.

      • That is definitely happening. Just finished mastering the new album and it is set to release in March.

        • That is the best news I’ve heard in a long time.

      • I’m sure you’re right. I look forward to the album.

      • Yeah, I am definitely an “album type of guy”. An individual song or short EP can be great or amazing, but it can still be difficult for me to play it as often as I would an entire album. If I do play it more often than that, I often times will burn out on it, which I try really hard not to do.

        That said, I do totally understand the appeal that it being an individual single with a cover and all that made just for it can have. That makes it special, it’s not just another song. It’s a very tangible thing that way.

  • doesnt sound very country to me. sounds like another pop song. I guess its a million times better than fla/ga line though.

    • Are you kidding me? I mean, I respect your opinion Colby, I really do. But I have no idea how someone can listen to this and consider it a pop song. Absolutely blows my ever-loving mind to see that opinion, though I have seen it from a couple of people, so I don’t want to just dismiss it out-of-pocket. And it doesn’t take but about 5-10 seconds into the song to tell it’s not pop with how the intro is drenched in steel guitar.

      I think people who say this is a pop song have no idea what pop music is. Unfortunately, I have to listen to it all the time so I do, and I see nothing, NOTHING akin between this and pop music from any era, or any genre, sonically, lyrically, or in the approach whatsoever.

      I’m not saying this specifically about you Colby, but I think some people define their musical tastes off of names that they know, instead of music they hear. I’ve seen this multiple times on this website in 2013, where anything that comes from an artist that isn’t well-defined in a scene or that a fan is familiar with, it immediately becomes pop, or otherwise discredited or ignored.

      I also think that some folks are so used to hearing “underground” music that is either dark, or poorly produced, and so when they hear something that is produced well, or that is catchy or appealing, it becomes “pop.” Making quality-sounding recordings of music that appeals to a wide audience doesn’t make things pop, it makes them good. I also think that Matt Woods is as underground as it gets, though he may not be well-known in the “scene.”

      Again, I respect your opinion, and I always try to see and understand other people’s opinions. But this one I just don’t get quite honestly.

      • Agree with the production point of view trigger. B/c most if not damn near all country music now is underground and not very good production its odd to hear something new that good with a decent production value so we may automatically lump it into the pop category. I found myself doing this and had to give this song a second chance. Still not mu top 2013 song but I do enjoy it very much.

        • A great song can override any issues with production, and there’s some artists and bands that can pull off poor production because it works with their sound, and it’s on purpose.

          That said, 2013 to me from the underground was a big step down in the production of albums almost across the board, with only a few exceptions. I received albums from artists I’ve been listening to for years, and the production value of their albums is getting worse somehow, while the costs of making a good album go down, the technology becomes more accessible, and the overall production of music is going up. I see this as a big, systemic problem that underground artists need to face and attempt to resolve. I can’t tell you how many albums I received that just were physically painful to listen to because of the flubs and poor quality. And I think part of the problem is that they justify this quality to themselves by declaring it’s cool or DIY. Unless you’re Jello Biafra, Beck, or one of these bands that can pull off a dirty sound, you’re just simply doing your music a disservice by not putting the heart and attention to detail into it that it deserves. How can you expect anyone to take your music seriously when you won’t? There’s too much music out there right now to hold your music back with bad recordings.

          • I see your point and I could only imagine Im sure you have to endure some serious garbage seeing this site getting bigger and bigger. But where would you throw in lets say Hank3 Im pretty sure me and you agree hes a very good artist but his production value is lets not say poor but an attempt at a time machine at times. And I think he pulls it off well. Are you talking about when someone does it just to seem DIY and it comes out crappy or dishonest.

          • An attempt at a time machine is fine, if not good. Using vintage equipment, filters, and other such audio enhancements to attempt to embellish a recording are one thing. But being lazy and just having poor sounding audio is another. With Hank3, I would say it is both. At times it is on purpose, but at times he wants to be so DIY, it holds his music back. And unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of people following his lead.

            The Devil Makes Three put out an album this year, and it was supposed to be their big breakout released by New West Records and produced by Buddy Miller. The music and songs are great, but the recording is terrible, worse than any of their more DIY releases in the past. How did that happen? How could they not get that right? It’s really a systemic problem that needs to be resolved if these artists are going to get to the next level.

    • What about it sounds pop? It doesn’t sound pop at all. Don’t you hear all that acoustic and steel and the story lyrics? It’s more country than most of what’s in country now and I can’t stand artists excluding or eliminating country music (steel, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, dobro, etc.) from their songs and replacing it with synthesized pop.

      • Its not a two step, or a waltz, or a train beat, no insteads its some rock groove and some rapping vocals. Its not country.

        • Hmm, I can see it not having the waltz time, but you really find the vocals to be rapped??

        • Yes, “Deadman’s Blues” is now a country rap. Colt Ford, eat your heart out.

  • Great choice. This is one of my absolute favorite songs from this past year and I’ve listened to it almost daily since I discovered it.

  • Thank you man. I am truly honored!

  • Powerful stuff!

  • It’s a nice song that has me excited about a full length release in the future. However, ‘Deadman’s Blues’ is a bit over-dramatic in content (especially the video) and vocal style for my taste. Right or wrong, every time I listen to it, I am reminded of those corporate rock bands that released a power ballad to radio in the early 2000’s — I won’t mention any bands by name to avoid death threats. Wood’s voice just isn’t country enough for my taste on this particular song. I can’t help to think what this song would sound like if Hank Jr. (in his prime) or a Leroy Virgil would have cut it.
    With that said, I do like the song, just not crowning it this years country savior.

    • Though I don’t agree with it, I can understand how someone’s take on this song is that it’s a little too dramatic. And if you love this song, the video makes it better. But if you think it’s too dramatic, the video probably makes it worse. I agree that I don’t hear a lot of country in Matt’s voice, but I don’t in any way see this as a detriment to the song. It’s his voice, and he’s from Knoxville, TN. Leroy Virgil is from Reno via Washington State. I’d rather Matt sing within himself than embellish it with a bunch for drawl or fake inflections like some artists do. Not saying that’s what Leroy does, I love hearing Leroy sing, but I think Matt sung the song within himself, and that’s all you can ask.

      But the great thing about a great song is that it is bigger than any one performer. Who says Leroy Virgil or someone else couldn’t cut it in the future, and give it that hard country drawl?

      • Saw Matt in West Virginia……came down to see Chris Knight!! I am from Canada!….and he blew me away with this song!! I have been reading some of these comments..and I think the the thing that people are forgetting is music affects you….weither its pop or Country!! I happen to like the music from Florida line….and I love Chris Knight….and I am now a huge Matt Adams fan!!!! Forget the point I was gonna make….a few whiskeys in!! But I just wanted to say that this is one of!…. if not my favourite song!!!

        • Matt Woods lol

  • What a badass song and video. Can’t wait to hear it live at Pondstock 2014.

  • I got “January in Louisiana” by Fifth on the Floor for my #1 song of the year…..that and “Gunslinger” lol!

  • To me he sounds more like a rocker that likes to sing country, not saying he’s not good or anything, just an opinion.

    • you’re right — that’s not country music

      • Why do you think it’s not country? Don’t you hear all that acoustic and steel and the story lyrics? Label it country/rock if you must but it is country. It’s more country than most of what’s in country now and I can’t stand artists excluding or eliminating country music (steel, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, dobro, etc.) from their songs and replacing it with synthesized pop.

      • Okay, let me put it like this:

        I don’t give a shit if this is a country song or not. Just because something is country doesn’t mean it’s good, and just because something isn’t country doesn’t mean it’s bad. This is a good song, and that’s why I picked it.

        You want to say you don’t like the song, you think that it sounds like a rock guy doing country, or that the guys voice isn’t country, then fair enough. Those are opinions, and I can listen to this song and understand them. But if you say it’s not country, what you’re really saying is that it’s not YOUR country. Country music is a big tent, and this song resides well within its borders. Is it straight down the middle? Maybe not, but one of the things a song must possess to get this kind of distinction is originality, and you don’t capture originality my shooting straight down the middle.

        I get songs and albums submitted to the site all the time that are accompanied by message like: IF YOU WANT TO SAVE COUNTRY, THIS IS IS AS COUNTRY AS IT GETS!!! And the song is some half-time droning snoozer from a guy with an ultra inflected drawl bitching about how Nashville sucks and won’t let him in because he’s too country. That’s all fine and dandy, but how about you do something original, some thing that speaks to the human condition? That is what Matt Woods did here.

  • Great choice. Thanks for exposing me to this song and artist. I live just a couple hours from Knoxville, and have now put Matt Woods on my “artists-to-see” list for 2014. It’s one example of how sites like this do a world of good for helping artists gain exposure.

    Btw, there’s nothing wrong with rockers who like to sing country. When it comes to songwriting — good songwriting — the country influence is everywhere. There’s no such thing as “pure country.” The best music comes from a melting pot with all kinds of influences intersecting. At least that’s my take on it.

  • Good choice. The song I think the song l would have picked is ‘Tin Star’ by Lindi Ortega because it seemed to encapsulate everything great and bad about country music in 2013. The lack of a female presence being the big one and just the feeling of struggling to make it in Nashville.

    But the video for ‘Deadman’s Blues’ is truly exceptional and proves you don’t need a big budget to make a powerful and effective video. Great stuff.

  • This song grabbed my attention the first time I heard it. Its raw emotion really speaks out. Great choice.

  • Nice choice!

  • Interesting choice (and a good song).

    I thought you would give it to Jason Isbell for “Elephant”, so Sturgill Simpson could have Album of the Year.

    PS – I wish these comments were editable, I’d like to change my own choices for top 10.

    C’est la vie

  • It’s easy to understand why you’ve chosen ‘Deadman’s Blues’ for your song of the year. It possesses an incredible amount of raw emotion, and Woods’ ability to convey this in his powerful vocals is quite extraordinary. For me, although I give him a great amount of credit for releasing a song with such passion, I feel that it’s just a bit too unrefined and over-dramatic.

    My pick for song of the year would have to be John Moreland’s ‘3:59am’. His emotion is much more refined and sculpted but just as powerful and effective as Woods’.

  • Nice one. I wonder if someone like Luke Bryan would every shot a video where his crashed out with his head against a toilet? :) The contrast of Matt’s video and Luke Bryan dancing on a disco light lit up tailgate stripper stage is funny when I think about it.

  • I saw him perform last year at NBC’s Jimmy Lloyd Songwriter Showcase (never aired) and he was amazing! I’m so glad to see this, and I can’t wait to see him at Muddy Roots 2014.
    (this video made me cry cry cry)

  • Good choice and he’s similar to Jamey Johnson and Chris Stapleton.

  • Hard choice but a good choice. The song took me to where he was. I could almost feel the emotions. Congrats Matt!

  • Wow.
    Was mesmerized.
    Felt the pain.
    Best wishes on your tour.

    Best thing is: This song doesn’t need a video. I am a purest, wish videos in country music had never happened.

  • Great choice! I’m with some of the others thinking that it could have easily gone to a song off of Southeastern, but this song fits the title as well. This type of songwriting is a rarity in the musical world we listen to today. For a writer to be this honest with his listeners blows my mind. The song, paired with the video really make it stand out as well. If country music is for the everyday man, dealing with the hardships of life every day, then this is a country song. No doubt in my mind.

  • Excellent choice. You can feel his pain!

  • I went through your lists of favorites and Im left wanting more up tempo country music, not enough foot stomp. Not to say the artists you chose were below expectations, they’re all good, but a lot of them to me at lean lean more to folk music or Americana.

  • […] has become. Anyway, the guys at Saving Country Music seem to have it right since they gave the 2013 SONG OF THE YEAR to Matt Wood’s “Deadman’s Blues” which we couldn’t agree with […]

  • Glad to see Matt get some recognition. We’ve been having him through Canton at the Buzzbin Shop for years now. The guy is captivating and one of the best. Thanks for recognizing him.

  • I didn’t think it got better than “Elephant,” but by God if this guy’s passion didn’t blow the lid off this song. Wow.

  • I found Matt thanks to Pandora and went to hear him because I loved his sound. He made me a fan with his fantastic writing. I’ve not heard a song that was as personal to me since Isbell’s “Outfit.”

    “Deadman’s Blues” is raw, heartbreaking, and beautiful, and I’ve never heard a more earnest delivery of a song by anyone.

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