Saving Country Music’s Best Music Videos of 2013

December 18, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  25 Comments

2013-best-music-videosThe modern-day music video is a really strange enterprise. Lots of money is spent by artists, and sometimes labels to produce something special; something that really represents the spirit of a song well. But when you look at what people watch, especially when it comes to independent musicians, many times it’s the fan video captured on a consumer-grade piece of technology that draws the most interest. Meanwhile mainstream music videos, especially from male stars, are the epicenter of country music’s decline.

It was just announced that CMT has picked up a whopping 7 new reality shows for their upcoming season. It looks like the era of quality music videos continues to be in decline. But there are still a few artists, and film/video makers out there committed to the art of music videos, and to doing it right.

10. Kacey Musgraves – “Follow Your Arrow”

Okay I’ll admit it, I wouldn’t like this video half as much if Kacey Musgraves didn’t look so good in blue hot pants.

9. Kenny Chesney Concert PSA

In the aftermath of the massive mess and 73 arrests at the Kenny Chesney / Eric Church concert  June 22nd at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, resulting in shocking photos at the amount of litter left by fans, posted this hilarious parody of the crying Indian PSA. Don’t ask what a “Yinzer” is.

8. Caitlin Rose – “Only A Clown”

Caitlin Rose is one of the few artists that has a nose for the offbeat, engaging video. Last year’s “Piledriver Waltz” video was a standout as well.

“The video for ‘Only a Clown’ is executed with great vision by Michael Carter, resurrecting the VHS format for texture and capturing the thin line between fun and forlornness that accompanies the freedom of the 20-something existence.” (read full review)

7. Sturgill Simpson - “Sturgill Simpson – “You Can Have The Crown / Some Days” (Live at Sun King Brewery)

What scripted videos usually lack is that ability to capture a magical moment in time where it all “clicks” and you get the shivers that only a live experience can afford. This two-song video from the Sun King Brewery has a few of them.

6. Sturgill Simpson – “Railroad of Sin”

“Sturgill threatens to take the high-flying act international by boarding a puddle jumper and puttering over to the Land of the Rising Sun to record the video for his heart-pounding, hot plate, house on fire, country as hell, soon to be hit single ‘Railroad of Sin.’ ‘Godzillabilly’ is what’s he’s patterning the theme, as the Kentucky native and Nashville resident takes a high arching swan dive deep into culture shock.

Johnny Cash may have not been born in Nagasaki, and bullet trains may not be equipped with lonesome whistles, but the Orient is where Hank Jr. picked up his official nickname for Waylon Jennings: ‘Watashin!’ which means, ‘old #1′ and you’d be hard pressed to find a more modern resemblance to Waymore than one Sturgill Simpson. So keep clear of the closing doors, strap in tight, and get ready to speed away on Sturgill Simpson’s ‘Railroad of Sin.’” (read full review)

5. Jason Isbell – “Elephant” Live at SiriusXM Outlaw Country

Capturing the true emotion and inspiration behind a song is what we all want from a video. Yet it so often becomes elusive by the superfluous additions in the production of a full-blown music video. Sometimes all you need is just the man and a guitar.

4. Fred Eaglesmith – “Johnny Cash”

This video stimulated a little controversy when it was released in March. Is Eaglesmith being too harsh, too judgmental? Maybe, but it’s hard to argue that he made one hell of a video.

“When the prevailing image of Johnny Cash in culture is one of him flipping the bird, the argument can be made that it’s the wholesale reduction of a man of such towering accomplishments and time-tested faith. At some point the imagery and cult-of-celebrity of Johnny Cash trumped the man himself, and society lost sight of his greatest contribution: his noble and charitable spirit.” (read full review)

3. Lindi Ortega – “Tin Star”

This video of Lindi’s Song of the Year Nominee “Tin Star” captures the spirit and theme of her emotionally-drenched foray into the realities that many independent-minded musicians face so well.

2. Matt Woods – “Deadman’s Blues”

The point of any video is to get you to pay attention to an artist and their song. One of the problems with many videos is they take an artist’s song and try to interpret too literally, eroding the mystery from the song, robbing it of its ability to mean different things to different people. The video for “Deadman’s Blues” is quite literal, but done so well and with such heart, it bucks this trend. Though I put “I’ll Sing About Mine” a step ahead, it really is #1 and #1A with these two videos. They represent really listening to the songs and then interpreting their messages in the visual format.

(read “Deadman’s Blues” review)

1. Josh Abbott Band – “I’ll Sing About Mine”

“The best part about Josh Abbott’s “I’ll Sing About Mine” video is the faces of the people. I’ll guaran-damn-tee you all of these people are real folks from real places. What’s even better is these scenes they’re in are the same scenes you see in pop country videos–the back of pickup trucks, out on the farm, on a tractor or 4-wheeler, at a football game. But the scenes are 100% real. These people are so ragingly authentic and their faces tell such gripping stories, you want to take every single one of them and put them in your pocket so you can feel the honest, simple goodness in their souls all day long. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a face is worth a million.” (read full review)

25 Comments to “Saving Country Music’s Best Music Videos of 2013”

  • I can see what you are saying about the people in the Josh Abbott video but I will take the Brian Keane version over Josh’s….I tabbed both versions at last year some time and really noticed the difference in the songs…


  • I’m not as enthused with “Follow Your Arrow” as most critics are due to some juvenile songwriting here and there…………but I have to admit the video really made the single more enjoyable because it wisely refrains from sociopolitical posturing and tribalism and instead brings out the pro-individuality/freedom of choice vibe through its remoteness in the vicinity of the Joshua Tree and the swarm of other diverse individuals eventually following her into the desert.

    That says a lot, because more often than not videos don’t effectively aid in improved regards toward its respective track (more often than not, videos actually weaken my opinion of the song or, worse, make an already insufferable track like “That’s My Kind of Night” ear-bleedingly insufferable). Somehow, the video for “Follow Your Arrow” is a rare breed of video that leaves me liking the track more.


    “Only A Clown” is my personal favorite of this selection. I appreciate the raw honesty of both “Deadman’s Blues” and “Tin Star” in particular, and I concur with the way your top choice effectively harnesses the power of non-verbal body language through the strength and intensity of countless blue-collar Americans across rural America…………but there’s something about the vintage execution of “Only A Clown” that sets it apart from the rest in its heartbreakingly accurate read with the coming of age. I respect that, to some, the abrupt pauses of the audio to dialogue from the police officer in particular will prove distracting………..but it works so eloquently to me because the abrupt silencing of the music reflects a buzzkill of sorts…………..or akin to the smearing of makeup on the clown to reveal the fragility beneath the mask.


    Sadly, I’m hard-pressed to think of even a few videos from major-label artists that spoke to me this year.

    I suppose the closest one comes to inspiring a onceover (i.e. not turning the video off at least by the end of the first 90 seconds) was “All Kinds of Kinds” and “I Drive Your Truck”. And at least some of the artistic direction of “Mama’s Broken Heart” was somewhat entertaining (even though it veered too heavily toward camp to my tastes). And I suppose it was refreshing to see Eric Church drop an all-acoustic video for “Like Jesus Does” (even if unoriginal).

    But even decent music videos were surely few and far between this year. I’ll never comprehend all the hype surrounding the monumentally overrated videos for “Highway Don’t Care” and “Wagon Wheel”. And it gravely hurts my heart to see the videos for “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Redneck Crazy” accumulate as many total views as they have! -__- -__- -__-


    • I also think “Follow Your Arrow” is somewhat of an immature song, as I somewhat think most of Kacey’s songs are…somewhat. But even though the video had a lot of hokeyness to it and the whole Joshua Tree thing has been done many times, it sort of endeared the song and Kacey to me in a way I wasn’t expecting. And not just because of the blue hot pants. It seemed to humanize her in a way. She comes across as very Stoic (the CMA Miranda “look” for example), so it was good to see some spunk from her.

      I actually though of including the Eric Church ACM performance here, but I thought that was more of a “performance” than a video.


      • Kacey/Easton Corbin are the only current mainstream artists that are pretty good.

        though i have seen people on here still bitch so… maybe FGL/Aldean/Rascal Flatts are all yall deserve to hear from the mainstream.


        • Someone who wants to “stand with Phil Robertson” is also a Kacey Musgraves fan?

          I think I have seen everything!


  • Never heard about Josh Abbott Band until recently. I like this video and will definitely add these guys to my itunes library. Thanks, Trigger.


  • Totally agree with the Deadman’s Blues choice. Best video I’ve seen in years and the song itself slaps you in the face with so much emotion that it’s hard not to get goosebumps every time I hear it.


  • I’m sure there is an argument to be made that neither of these are “music videos” nor, perhaps “country.” Still, I feel that two of the best things I saw this year were:

    1. The Scarecrow

    You can dismiss it as a Chipotle commercial if you like, but it was one of the best videos-containing-music-with-country-themes of the year.

    2. Shelby Lynne “Leaving” on Live from Daryl’s House

    Technically it was from the very end of last year and also an old song, but Shelby Lynne is an amazing and unique singer that fit in with that band perfectly.


  • Good stuff; love your #1 pick. :)

    Have you seen the clip for Ashley Monroe’s “Weed Instead of Roses”? It’s sort of cheesy, but I love how it was made to look like it was taken off an old videotape from the late ’80s/early ’90s or something (especially since, musically, the song sounds like a bit of a throwback to that period).


  • Surprised not to see Wade Bowens Songs about Trucks on here. Really hit home about the typical male mainstream music video. Especially the jeans scene.


    • I thought the concept of that video was great, but the execution and production was somewhat sub-par. I certainly thought about including it here, and if this list stretched longer it probably would be. But I didn’t think it was the best video that it could be. I actually like the lyric video for the song better.


  • Josh Abbott Band has my #1 pick also. I’m not familiar with any of the videos other than what you’ve posted here Tiggerman but “I’ll Sing About Mine” sure hit the “REAL” to me. #9 Pittsburgh Parody gets my #2 vote, call it a pet peeve, I work with pigs and have to clean up after them everyday (pop cans, candy wrappers and trash that don’t come close to a ‘good’ basketball shot) before I can even start my job, kinda makes me wonder who follows these people at home and picks up their crap! #6 AND #7 both get my vote for #3 in your post (I like his sound)…gonna have to check out somemore of Sturgill Simpson! As far as Fred Eaglesmith and his “Johnny Cash” song…I would put that mealy mouthed unintelligable garbage at #1 in my “WORST VIDEO” collection. tHANKS Triggerman, Great Post!


  • I love Kacey Musgraves but that ‘Follow Your Arrow’ video looked like a teenage made it with a camcorder. I’m still tasting the vomit in my moth from when I heard her talking about her buddy Katy Perry and how they’d been spending time in the studio together. Honestly I’m amazed at how much money an influence the music industry is unloading on Katy Perry’s new album which is just horrible middle of the road pop at best. For a country girl from Texas, Kacey Musgraves sounds more and more like a liberal yuppie Hollywood woman to me ever day (still holding out a lot of hope here for her).

    I totally forgot about those crying Indian pollution commercials. That was awesome childhood flashback.


  • Glad to see Sturgill well represented. Good call.


  • I definitely agree with the Josh Abbott Band. I am not a huge music video person. I’d rather just listen to my music than watch a singer awkwardly trying to act out something that has nothing to due with the song. But I watched this video more than once. It really stuck with me. It seems so real, and that’s because it is. It provides the perfect picture of what that song is about. It doesn’t really matter if they wrote the song or if Brian Keane’s is better. The video was genius and they deserve some respect for it if you ask me. It honestly made me think back to Jason Aldean’s video for Amarillo Sky, which is another video I could alway respect. But I think this might even be better.


  • What does me liking Musgraves have to do with liberal PANSIES getting worked up cause he expressed his opinion?


    • Because Musgraves herself is a pro-gay social liberal. In fact, that point of view is at the heart of “Follow Your Arrow” (and “Merry Go Round” as well).


  • Trigger,

    I love your inclusion of Kacey Musgraves even if “Follow Your Arrow” is a bit juvenile, lyrically. What many are forgetting is that Kacey Musgraves is 25. As I’m sure you know, she’s been a Texas prodigy for quite a few years, now, and many of us Texas Country fans from other states (Hell, I’m in North Dakota. I merely stumbled upon Texas Country because I clicked on Jason Cassidy’s wonderful video for ‘What If.’ Call me fortunate) first heard her in Josh Abbot Band’s “Oh Tonight.” Juvenile or not, she’s 25. To me, Kacey Musgraves is what Taylor Swift would be if Taylor put her wittiness and ability to pen a catchy line to good use, and stopped writing “I’m so mad!” anthems for 16 year old girls.

    I feel compelled to thank you for mentioning Josh Abbott Band, but the primary reason I’m commenting is to commend you for recognizing the wonderful talent that is Jason Isbell and the tour de force of a song that is “Elephant.” I’ve never been moved more by a song, and while I do like a handful of Nashville artists (Jamey Johnson, Eric Church), Jason Isbell simply encompasses what Nashville and even Texas are lacking: guts. Yes, it hurts, but write about it, and put it on a record, goddammit. The whole Southeastern album is completely flawless. I hope you continue to promote this incredibly talented artist. Perhaps mention that he was with Drive-By Truckers for awhile. Anybody who likes alt country will surely take a listen.


  • Ever had a cooked goose for Christmas?


  • I really enjoyed the Josh Abbott’s Band video for I’ll sing about mine. I spent many summers in west Texas as a kid helping my grandfather on the farm and the faces you see in that video look like the people and places I spent my summers with. Real folks real places were tractors ain’t sexy and hard work comes before bonfires and parties. My goodness the kid can draw butts to seats Billy Bobs Texas in Fort Worth is hosting them 2 nights in a row. Last time they did that was with Miranda Lambert. Not a huge fan of JAB overall but they are damn sure striking a chord here in Texas.


  • I really hate the johnny cash song a great deal. I think its a ridiculously narrow minded and far from the truth. Johnny always had that outlaw appeal and it resonates with a lot of people. And saying things like people who like him because of hurt and have posters of him flipping the bird put him in the ground is so ridiculous. I know everyone claims to be a johnny cash fan, pretty much if you were born in this country you know and love many of his songs. But to sneeze at the counter culture that embraced his music outside of country music saying they are tarnishing his name is sad. When John played the viper room and was finished with his set list that was targeted towards that audience he did his greatest hits and the place went wild (or so I’ve heard). To me Johnny’s later work was some of his best unearthed in my opinion is one of the greatest collections of johnny songs and many of them have some dark subject matter and a lot of people love that, that song is terrible and is taking a stab in the wrong direction.


    • Eaglesmith is not saying anyone put Johnny Cash in the ground, he’s saying they like him now that they put him in the ground. I also don’t know that he’s specifically calling out everyone who likes him that don’t consider themselves country fans. I think he’s focused more on interlopers into Johnny Cash fandom who simply like him because they think it’s cool, and their knowledge of Cash is shallow.

      As I said in my review of the song and video, I agree the song comes across as harsh and judgmental, and may be presumptive about some fans. But the simple fact is many people are into Johnny Cash because he’s a “fad” to them, and that is what Eaglesmith is trying to point out here.


      • I just think that the finger especially in the song is pointed in the wrong direction, I didn’t see the original post on this song and I agree the fad appeal of johnny is sad, but there are so many true fans of his work from every genre of music. I guess I took offense being I was born in 92 enjoy heavy metal and have a that poster on my wall. I think the current pop country songs dropping Cash, Jennings, and Jones names as if they are synonymous with drinking and recklessness is far more damaging than kids embracing songs like hurt. I know that wasn’t his intention but it sure looked like it from the video and the song.


  • You gotta check out The Goddamn Gallows new video. Its awsome!


  • It’s interesting how the message of a song can help win listeners over in spite of its production style. That was the case with me and “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” I also think John Abbot has an appealing voice. Strangely, the video almost reminds me of “Country Boy Can Survive” with its shots of ordinary country folks in their natural habitat. Maybe it’s my imagination.


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