Saving Country Music’s 2022 Single of the Year Nominees

Alright, so we’ve already run down the most sad, sappy, and poetic songs of 2022 in the Song of the Year nominees. Now it’s time to crank it up a notch and to showcase the songs that are just so damn enjoyable to listen to, we can’t stop. They can be well-written and sentimental as well, but these are the songs that burrow deep in your ears and won’t come out. They’re the 2022 Saving Country Music Single of the Year nominees.

This particular crop of songs is especially interesting in 2022 because we’re entering a new era in independent country music where some of the top artists are actually starting to receive significant radio play. That means we have to consider this at least somewhat in the calculations.

PLEASE NOTE: Just because a song isn’t listed here doesn’t mean it’s being snubbed or forgotten. Picking the best songs of a given year is always even more personal and subjective than with the best albums. We’re not looking to pit songs and songwriters against each other, we’re looking to combine our collective perspectives and opinions into a pool of musical knowledge for the benefit of everyone.

So by all means, if you have a song or a list of songs you think are the best of 2022 and want to share them, please do so in the comments section below. Feedback will factor into the final tabulations for the winner, but this is not an up and down vote. It’s your job to try to convince the rest of us who you think should win, and why.

For a Spotify playlist of all of the Single of the Year and Song of the Year nominees so you can listen before voting, check the bottom of this post, or CLICK HERE.

Saving Country Music’s 2022 Album of the Year Nominees

Kimmi Bitter – “My Grass Is Blue”

Whether “My Grass Is Blue” will ultimately be the Saving Country Music Single of the Year is yet to be determined. But what’s for certain is that Kimmi Bitter has been one of Saving Country Music’s greatest discoveries in 2022, and it’s been through this song. Immediately riveting classic country fans and stimulating chill bumps from the eerie similarities to Patsy Cline, “My Grass Is Blue” is solid country gold, and is a great showcase for Kimmi’s throwback voice and style. This song could very well have been cut in 1962. It’s strikingly perfect.

Kimmi Bitter is a California native who tours around the country in a camper van doing what she can to revitalize the vintage sounds of American music. Though her catalog only consists of singles so far, the song she released after “My Grass Is Blue” called “I Dream of You” proves this is no fluke. Kimmi Bitter is the real deal, and will hopefully be spinning her vintage magic for us for years to come.

49 Winchester – “Russell County Line”

Bounding out from Russell County, Virginia—which sits in the crux between Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and North Carolina—49 Winchester is truly the local band done good. From the unincorporated community of Castlewood (pop. 2000), the nucleus of the band grew up in the same small neighborhood, and have been chasing the crazy dream of becoming rock stars ever since. Lo and behold, they’ve now called their own bluff and done it, playing big festivals, drawing large crowds, and getting name dropped as one of the hottest bands on the rise in independent country and roots music at the moment.

49 Winchester’s 2022 album Fortune Favors The Bold is all about the band’s attempt to balance pursuing their dreams of making it big in music while remaining grounded to their roots, and faithful to their loved ones. “Russell County Line” is the crown jewel of the set, starting off intimate and sweet, and building to an anthemic crescendo off the soulful voice of frontman Isaac Gibson.

Zach Bryan – “Something in the Orange”

Think whatever you want about Zach Bryan or even this song specifically, but “Something in the Orange” will go down as a significant single in country music history. Though some want to mark Zach Bryan’s success simply as a symptom of a 34-song album in American Heartbreak accruing an outsized amount of metadata, “Something in the Orange” tells a different story. It’s the #5 streaming song in all of country music in 2022, and after hitting #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and #12 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, mainstream country radio had no other choice but to embrace the song or prove itself irrelevant to today’s country listeners.

Bryan’s label has since began promoting the single to commercial country radio, but not before it started finding success under its own volition. This never happens on country radio, but it did with Zach Bryan, like it’s starting to do with other artists outside of the Music Row system. If country radio finally starts coming around to the rising swell of independent artists, it will be “Something in the Orange” that deserves recognition as one of the first through the door.

The song also happens to be a great example of the type of authentic sentimentality that is behind Zach Bryan’s unpretentious swell of popularity.

Matt Daniel – “Weatherman”

Some great country songwriters try to fake it as country singers, including some who’ve gotten pretty far. But when you have a great singer that can also write songs, this is what results in great country music like you get with Matt Daniel. Like the Turnpike Troubadours, it’s a traditional country sound with fiddle and steel, but with just a dash of rock and roll energy and swagger to give it a bit more immediacy and infectiousness.

The swaying “Weatherman” with its soaring chorus is a killer heartbreak song about falling into becoming a fair weather lover where convenience supersedes commitment. Many of us have found ourselves in that situation, and like all great country songs, this song encapsulates those feeling more than words can. “Weatherman” didn’t blow up on the charts or become a social media Tik-Tok sensation, but it probably should have.

Charley Crockett – “I’m Just a Clown”

No, this is not the most country song on Charley Crockett’s new album The Man From Waco. “I’m Just A Clown” shows off the vintage rhythm and blues side of Crockett’s otherwise country sound. It’s also been showing off just how far and wide Charley Crockett’s music is resonating, making it one of the most important singles in 2022 from the independent country ranks.

“I’m Just a Clown spent a remarkable 12 weeks at the top of the Americana radio chart in 2022, which makes it the longest-charting #1 song this year. It also recently just bound from #11 to #8 on AAA radio, making Crockett a Top 10 artist in Adult Alternative as well. Infectious and reverberative, the song is a perfect example of how Crockett delves into complex emotions with simple language, and it’s also putting him on the map with many new listeners.

The Broken Spokes “Where I Went Wrong”

Where I Went Wrong from Houston’s The Broken Spokes is one of those albums that when you first hear it, you’re constantly flipping through the liner notes for the songwriters because you can’t believe some of these songs weren’t country standards written 50 or 60 years ago. That certainly goes for the title track, and one of the reasons the band named the album after it.

There is nothing especially special or unique with The Broken Spokes. They’re most certainly not being innovative, or even really that original within the country space. The magic here is how they have embraced the true roots of country music, and interpreted them in the modern context with such love and passion that the music feels more palpable and alive than with other traditional country bands, while illustrating the beauty of country music to the audience in a way that feels vital. 

Molly Tuttle – “She’ll Change”

Not only is “She’ll Change” one of the greatest showcases of Molly Tuttle’s maestro flatpicking guitar skills from her new album Crooked Tree, it was the perfect vehicle for her to explode onto the bluegrass scene with her band Golden Highway. We all knew Tuttle would dominate whenever she was ready to stop messing around in the singer/songwriter realm and make a serious leap into bluegrass. But “She’ll Change” surpassed expectations right out of the chute.

Along with being a great bluegrass jam, like multiple songs from Crooked Tree, Tuttle has an important message to tell through “She’ll Change.” Molly is more interested in defying expectations and setting her own agenda as opposed to conforming to the expectations of others. She may be bluegrass for now, but the only guarantee we have is that she will always be Molly Tuttle.

Tony Logue – “Calloway County”

Make your way off the main roads, and down the two tracks of rural Western Kentucky where the promises of modern society are left unfulfilled, and the souls haven’t been lifted up by the march of progress, they’ve been abandoned by it, and become refugees of it. It’s a place where earning your daily bread is a dog fight, yet you can’t fathom fleeing due to the familial ties binding you to the land. It’s a place where no matter how far away you run from it, you can never escape it. This is the world of Tony Logue and his album Jericho.

“Calloway County” is a stunningly perfect encapsulation of how difficult it can be to get away from the person you are to become the person you want to be, especially in your home county where the ghosts of your family’s past haunt you as much as the bad habits and tendencies you inherited from them. But for those who persevere and put the legacies of their past behind them, a foundation of character is constructed that is hard to undermine.

“Calloway County” could also be considered just as much of a Song of the Year candidate with the quality and impact of the writing.

Sierra Ferrell – “Years”

When John Anderson first dropped this song on us as the title track to his 2020 comeback album, we knew it would immediately ensconce itself as one of his top tracks in a legendary career right beside all his old hits. “Years” went on to be nominated for the Saving Country Music 2020 Song of the Year. A cover song must be especially compelling to be considered for end-of-year distinction, and that’s what Sierra Ferrell has turned in here.

Leave it to the singular talent of Sierra to take a song already mastered by its author, and both do it justice, and make it something completely different, yet reverent to the original. Sierra Ferrell’s rendition not only speaks to the quality of this song, but the spellbinding nature of Sierra to pull this off. Her version of “Years” appeared on Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute to John Anderson released in August.

Zach Bryan – “Oklahoma Smokeshow”

Though “Something in the Orange” has been the blockbuster hit from Zach Bryan in 2022, “Oklahoma Smokeshow” has been right there behind it, and very well might be the superior composition. Appearing on his Summertime Blues EP, it has hit #24 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and #10 on the Rock Songs chart. It’s also appeared on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Oklahoma Smokeshow” in many ways is a perfect Zach Bryan song specimen. Full of young person angst, punctuated by his potent one-liners, and finished off with a keen sense of melody, it’s songs like these that have inexplicably put Zach at the very top of popular country music, with no signs of coming down. Some may look at the dizzying amount of songs that the Oklahoma native has released just here in 2022 and not know where to start. “Oklahoma Smokeshow” may be as good a starting point as any.

Honorable Mention

  • Ellis Bullard – “Roller Coaster”
  • Willi Carlisle – “Vanlife”
  • Wesley Hanna – “Back to the Honky Tonks”
  • Brit Taylor – “Kentucky Blue”
  • Elle King – “Jersey Giant”
  • Jon Pardi – “Reverse Cowgirl”

Single/Song of the Year Playlist

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