I’m not sure if how light the selection is for potential Song of the Year candidates at the halfway marker says how anemic 2013 has been so far for top flight songs, or how fortunate we were in 2012 to have such a strong field. I could only find five true candidates, and two of those candidates qualified for being 2013 songs on technicalities. But despite the lack of quantity, quality is certainly represented in these five songs, and 2013 promises to come on strong in the latter half with some excellent songwriters releasing new albums.
When we say “best songs,” we’re not just looking for those catchy tunes you can’t take off of repeat, we’re looking for songs that changes your life. Any thoughts on additions, omissions, and your own individual lists are encouraged below in the comments section.
Holly Williams – “Drinkin'” – from The Highway
This is one of those songs every other songwriter beats themselves up for not writing. Beautifully complex in its simplicity, both enigmatically deep and pleasantly colloquial, Holly Williams proves the Williams’ bloodline is still virile with an unconventional tune with universal impact on the weary soul yearning for respite. Where has Holly Williams been? She may have taken the roundabout way to finding herself, but she’s here now, and our ears couldn’t be happier.
Sturgill Simpson – “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean”
from High Top Mountain
Due to a technicality in Saving Country Music’s vast and complex bylaws, even though this song was considered for Song of the Year in 2012, since it isn’t being officially released on an album until this year, it qualifies to be considered again.
“The magic of “Life Ain’t Fair” is the way it trivializes all the issues it raises by simply pointing out the obvious: that life’s unfairness is inherent, and complaining about it or using it as an excuse to not pursue your dreams is foolish. It’s cynical and inspirational all at the same time, and that feat of acrobatics can’t be performed without some acute dexterity and prowess with the pen.” (read full review)
Josh Abbott Band – “I’ll Sing About Mine”
Written by Adam Hood and Brian Keane, “I’ll Sing About Mine” appears on 2012’s Small Town Family Dream, but was released as a single with a new video in early 2013.
“The great thing about “I’ll Sing About Mine” is the non-judgmental, even-keeled manner with which it delivers its message. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of heart to say what this song says without flying off the handle or flipping birds. It makes its point with as few pointed words as possible… It understands that really, few words need to be said, because deep down every human knows what’s real and what isn’t. They just have to be reminded, and then the momentum of the truth will do the rest.” (read full review)
Caitlin Rose – “I Was Cruel” – from The Stand-In
Picking a best song off of The Stand-In is like asking a rainbow its favorite color. The intelligent and enjoyable “Only A Clown” could just as well be slotted here, but being more of a rock selection, we’re instead going to tip the hat to the pedal-steel drenched “I Was Cruel.” To have a great song, it must deliver a moment. And “I Was Cruel” delivers the mother of all moments at the very end. How are Caitlin Rose tunes not spread all over the radio?
The Dinosaur Truckers – “Leave Everything Behind”
The Dinosaur Truckers have been Germany’s best kept country music secret for too long, and their 2013 self-titled release is the perfect excuse for American ears to get acquainted with this band that can do country and bluegrass better than many outfits stateside. “Leave Everything Behind” doesn’t lurch out at you as some immediately-recognizable standout composition, but after a few listens, you find the song has the ability to burrow deep into the memories you purposely stow away and try to not dwell on, mining the true emotion there and reminding you that sometimes you’d rather feel pain than feel nothing.