Saving Country Music’s 2023 Single of the Year Nominees

A Saving Country Music Song of the Year is something that changes a life, changes the world, or changes the perspective of the audience in some sort of transformational way. Often picking the Song of the Year frustrates folks who just want to hear songs that are enjoyable and also happen to be well-written. That’s what a Saving Country Music Single of the Year is for, meaning a song where the appeal and performance is paramount, and not necessarily the underlying message.

Below you will find ten songs selected that in the esteemed opinion of Saving Country Music, fit that Single of the Year profile.

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 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 2023 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.

READ: Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year Nominees

Mamma Coal – “Dance Hall Crush”

Mamma Coal is one of those artists that national publications and playlists too often overlook, while her well-crafted music carries with it a national and international appeal for anyone with a love of country music in their hearts.

Delving beneath the surface to explore deeper truths found in one of country music’s timeless rituals, this is the title track to Mamma Coal’s latest album that works like a great exploration into the eternal truths that expose themselves in the dance halls and honky tonks across the United States. When the layered vocals and banjo kick in, “Dance Hall Crush” sends the heart swooning like a spin on the dance floor.

Colter Wall – “Corralling The Blues”

Of all the improbable achievements and benchmarks set by independent country in the last few years, none has been as astounding as the ascension of Colter Wall and his specific version of authentic Western songs. There was no economy for this music for him to enter into, no sizable audience to inherit, no immediate forebearers to piggyback on. He built it all out of whole cloth from the strength of his enrapturing voice.

As much as Colter Wall has become known recently for his stellar covers of Western songs, this original is further proof that Colter is our generation’s preeminent cowboy & Western singer and songwriter. Appreciate that even with an old sounding Western tune like this, Colter has racked up over 9 million spins on the track on Spotify alone. Western music has been utterly revitalized thanks to Colter Wall and songs like “Corralling The Blues.”

Chris Stapleton – “White Horse”

It’s pretty rare that an artist at the level of Chris Stapleton would land a nomination like this. But “White Horse” feels like a rare track from Stapleton. High energy and evocative, the song reminds you a bit of Jompson Brothers-era Stapleton, and eschews the sometimes sleepy nature of his music.

Stapleton dedicated his latest album Higher to his wife Morgane, and the song speaks to the power of reinvigorated love. It’s arguably his best song since his take on “Tennessee Whiskey.” But this one is a Stapleton original.

“White Horse” was co-written with Dan Wilson from Semisonic, who also co-wrote “When the Stars Come Out” with Stapleton from 2015’s Traveller.

William Prince – “Easier and Harder”

It is times like these when cooler heads and calming wisdom is what the world needs. In fractured and fevered moments, ratcheting down the rhetoric, centering the most important things in life, and working towards being the solution as opposed to the problem is the approach that you hope prevails. This is what First Nation artist William Prince from Manitoba, Canada is a master at.

From his new album Stand in the Joy, Prince delivers a song reminiscent of the most soothing and disarming songs from the “Gentle Giant” Don Williams. The chorus of “Easier and Harder” is guaranteed to get ensconced in your mind, but it’s the assured message about the give and take of relationships that brings it home.

Brennen Leigh – “Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet”

When it comes to Brennen Leigh’s album Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet, it would be like a Greatest Hits compilation of #1’s from a Golden Era country star if it was released 50 years ago. One song after another dazzles you with it’s classic country authenticity that speaks to the heart so much better than the country genre’s more modern modes. If you needed an encyclopedic illustration of what someone means when they say “country music,” this album would be a good place to start.

This is perhaps best illustrated in the title track that embodies all the best elements of a classic honky tonk song, yet still feels as relevant today as it would 50 years ago.

The War & Treaty – “Yesterday’s Burn”

When the singing husband/wife duo debuted this song on The Grand Ole Opry, it went viral and became the most-viewed video released by the Grand Ole Opry on Facebook ever. Now the studio version is one of the crown jewels from their new album Lover’s Game produced by Dave Cobb.

Though The War and Treaty are known more for country-infused soul, this waltz is much more soul-infused country, and proves why they belong in the country music realm. Many traditional country artists wish they could write and sing a song this good.

Turnpike Troubadours – “Brought Me”

It’s the wide array of influences that the Turnpike Troubadours bring to bear in their music that makes their songs feel both wholly unique and keenly familiar, often conferring a warm feeling even upon the very first listen. “Brought Me” is definitely guilty of this charge. It’s country rock at its root like all Red Dirt music is. But the subtle notions of Cajun music, and more robust inflections of Celtic music arouse a host of musical erogenous zones.

The release of this song really speaks to the maturity, perseverance, and character of the Turnpike Troubadours. Frankly, many fans were owed apologies due to some of what happened before the band’s hiatus in 2019. Little did they know they would get it in the form of a song dedicated to them.

Margo Cilker – “Lowland Trail”

Margo Cilker sings country music like others breathe. Her roots are in Carolina, her heart is out West, and her songs are inspired by both coasts and everything in between. Geography is often Margo’s muse, and she weaves it into splendid songs and stories that are plenty entertaining on their own while imparting wicked little insights into the struggles of life.

Margo Cilker songs are always taking you somewhere, with the rich language evoking the places, landscapes, and characters in your mind in stark relief. “Lowland Trail” is about much more than finding your way through rugged terrain. But the landscape it evokes in the mind’s eye primes the imagination to accept the song’s true meaning.

Sierra Ferrell – “The Fox Hunt”

Like some sort of woodland creature captured in a folk story that’s more myth and legend than physical manifestation, Sierra Ferrell dazzles the mind and imagination, arrests you in a spell of charisma, and steals your attention until nothing else enters your thoughts except the marvelous noise she makes so you can attain full immersion under her spell. Push forward Sierra Ferrell’s new song “The Fox Hunt” as corroborating evidence of this captivating phenomenon.

The allure of the song is not necessarily its compositional expertise or poetic disposition, but its adventurous spirit. It’s a dance song that calls upon the carnal drive of hunger, the fever and frenetic nature of the hunt, and the thrill of the kill until you’re enveloped in a primal, almost rapacious frenzy of earthly pleasures.

Jake Worthington – “State You Left Me In”

If you want to hear true traditional country in its most pure form in 2023, listen to Jake Worthington. We’re talking Mark Chesnutt, Daryle Singletary country, where you can’t fit an index card between the true definition of “country music,” and what Worthington turns in here. It’s so country, it’s almost as shocking as it is welcome. Steel guitar, half-time beats, and songs of heartache are all you hear, with no wiggle room in that assessment for 13 songs.

Employing the classic country lyrical mechanism of the double entendre, “State You Left Me In” co-written with Roger Springer and Timothy Baker has become the biggest single off of Worthington’s self-titled album, and a signature song for the Big Loud-signed artist.

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Other singles also considered:

Ellis Bullard – “Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution”
Nick Shoulders – “Blue Endless Highway”
Mickey Lamantia – “Get On Board With Me”

© 2023 Saving Country Music