Saving Country Music’s Best Songs of 2014 So Far
Compared to albums, making picks of songs is such a tough, arbitrary business. This year seems especially tough, not because the field isn’t strong, but because many of the best moments are coming from unlikely sources, including a cadre of cover songs that despite the spirit of the “Best Songs” approach being about original compositions, seem almost criminal to omit.
PLEASE NOTE: “Best Songs” are not those catchy tunes you can’t take off of repeat, they’re songs that can change your life; legitimate Song of the Year candidates. No order to the list below was intended or should be implied, aside from the first nine highlighted songs being considered strong candidates for Saving Country Music’s “Song of the Year” consideration in six months, though any of the songs listed come highly recommended, and could rise through time to become a contender. Time, as always, is the greatest judge of music. And please feel free to leave your opinions and suggestions about what the best songs of 2014 so far are down below.
Hellbound Glory – “Streets of Aberdeen” – from LV
Hellbound Glory’s Leroy Virgil continues to be America’s most undervalued songwriter, and someday the rest of the world is going to wake up to that fact. While Virgil is known most for his strong wit, weaving moments in songs that touch your heart and funny bone at the same time, this exploration of more in-depth storytelling by Leroy was a big success. And only appropriate that the song and video was cut in Aberdeen, in a building with ties to the story. (read more)
Don Williams – “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” – from Reflections
Townes Van Zandt and Don Williams team up to deliver one of the most disarming performances so far of 2014, taking a timeless composition, and bringing it to life again through an immortal voice. The warmth this performance coveys is astounding, and as can be seen in the video, it was recorded live. Great song from a great album. (read review)
Sturgill Simpson – “The Promise” – from Metamodern Sounds
It has been my working theory that Sturgill Simpson is not being challenged enough in music, and this can lead to moments of aloofness, almost boredom from the burgeoning artist. Taking a song from 80’s English new wave one hit wonder When in Rome and turning it into a traditional country song of this caliber was certainly a challenge, and one Sturgill accomplished with flying colors. It deserves to be considered right beside 2014’s original offerings. (see video premier on NPR)
Melody Williamson – “There’s No Country Here”
Though country protest songs can feel like a dime a dozen these days, 15-year-old Melody Williamson did it right, and the striking message coming from such a young artist became a viral phenomenon in the first part of 2014.
“As I always say, it won’t be websites, organizations, or awards that will Save Country Music, it will be songs. And Melody Williamson proves why this is true once again with ‘There’s No Country Here’.” (read review & see studio version)
Matt Woods – “Liberty Bell” – from From Brushy Mountain
The question going into Matt Woods’ new album With Love From Brushy Mountain was if he could he match the magic he evoked in his song “Deadman’s Blues” that went on to win him Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year in 2013. The answer turned out to be “yes,” and the best evidence might be this soul-wrenching song that matches “Deadman’s Blues” punch for punch.
The Secret Sisters – “Lonely Island” – from Put Your Needle Down
You’d be hard pressed to find another song that showcases the beauty of harmonizing sisters so exquisitely. If “Lonely Island” was recorded 50 years ago, it would be a standard of the country music song book today. It is simply a masterpiece.
Willie Nelson – “The Wall” – from Band of Brothers
No favoritism or bias being shown here to a legendary artist. Willie Nelson has truly written his best song in years.
“Isn’t it interesting how we look upon Willie Nelson as such a saint of not just music or country music, but of the nation and world, and here he is releasing a song that instead of reveling in his accomplishments and resting on his laurels, catches the 81-year-old country legend looking back upon his past mistakes, self-deprecating and pensive, yet understanding how those mistakes made him the man he is today.” (read review)
Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All The Way Down” – from Metamodern Sounds
A polarizing song from its seeming questioning of faith and drug laws, “Turtles All The Way Down” speaks to the very core of what the Sturgill Simpson experience is all about: a forward-thinking, challenging approach to enhancing the senses by marking a crossroads between traditional country and a progressive approach.
Kirsty Lee Akers – “Take Me Back”
A timeless sentiment that Kirsty Lee revitalizes in an excellent performance that highlights her unique and inviting voice. This is one of those songs that you get lost in, and makes you take stock. Your sense of perspective is changed after listening.
Other Great Songs:
” Charlie Parr – “I Dreamed I Saw Paul Bunyan Last Night” – from Hollandale
” Jason Eady – “Whiskey & You” – from Daylight & Dark
” Bob Wayne & Elizabeth Cook – “20 Miles to Juarez” – from Back to the Camper
” Red Eye Gravy -“Hard Livin'” – from Dust Bowl Hangover
” Dierks Bentley – “I Hold On” – from Riser
” First Aid Kit – “Cedar Lane” – from Stay Gold
” Miranda Lambert – “Hard Staying Sober” – from Platinum
” Karen Jonas – “Thinking Of You Again” – from Oklahoma Lottery
” Zoe Muth – “Mama Needs A Margarita” – from World of Strangers
” John Fullbright – “Write A Song” – from Songs
” Eric Church – “Dark Side” – from The Outsiders
” Parker Milsap – “Truck Stop Gospel” – from Parker Milsap
” Willie Watson – “Mexican Cowboy” – from Folk Singer Vol. 1
June 18, 2014 @ 9:21 am
Damn, Don Williams still sounds amazing. I loved his song “I Just Come Here For The Music” a few years ago with Allison Krauss. It got no radio airplay, but was easily one of the best songs I got that year.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:33 am
I still gotta hear some of these. My list would definitely include Lydia Loveless – Everything’s Gone and Robert Ellis – Chemical Plant.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:33 pm
Agreed Hank! Those are still my favorite two albums of the year so far. Though I am loving First Aid Kit and Sturgill Simpson too.
Somewhere Else is probably my favorite off the Loveless disc, though they are all top notch.
June 19, 2014 @ 6:00 am
I’m really diggin’ Sturgill’s record too but I cannot pinpoint a favorite song. I haven’t heard First Aid Kit’s new album yet, but I’m looking forward to it!
Somewhere Else is definitely a highlight on the incredible Loveless album. Her album reminds me very much of Isbell’s Southeastern in that I seem to have a different favorite song on there every couple of weeks. I suggest checking out the bonus tracks too (if you haven’t yet)”“Come Over, Falling Out Of Love With You and RSD release, Mile High.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:51 am
Fine list, Trigger, here’s my list for country thus far this year:
Jason Eady, ‘Temptation’ or ‘Daylight & Dark’ – ‘Whiskey & You’ is actually a Tim McGraw cover, but damn, it’s a close third here. Granted, the entire album is fucking amazing, but I stand by these songs as being genuinely gripping.
Lydia Loveless, ‘Everything’s Gone’ – goddamn heartbreaking song, one of the best Lydia ever wrote and a perfect encapsulation of how time passes one by.
Dierks Bentley, ‘Here On Earth’ – man, this song hits me hard, as Bentley sings about dealing with death and questions his faith in a mature way most music doesn’t dare touch.
Sundy Best, ‘Mean Old Woman’ – okay, I’m a sucker for a killer murder ballad, but there is so much demented darkness in this song that just grips in ways I never expected, especially considering whether you could interpret the song as metaphorical regarding the country music industry.
Karen Jonas, ‘Lucky’ – there’s so much gritty and yet sad vulnerability filling this track to compliment the rich detail that it’s incredible. Jonas deserves all the credit she’s getting, because this girl is a rising star.
Sturgill Simpson, ‘It Ain’t All Flowers’ – talk about pushing the boundaries of country to the breaking point, this song is weird, dark, and all kinds of gripping.
Lucy Hale, ‘Red Dress’ (ft. Joe Nichols) or ‘My Little Black Wedding Dress’ – Lucy Hale’s debut record is getting criminally ignored by everyone, and that’s just wrong, considering how much heartfelt power and texture is in her music. So much more maturity and insight for her age than you’d ever expect from a teen starlet coming off of ‘Pretty Little Liars’, she deserves more attention than she’s getting.
Eric Paslay, ‘She Don’t Love You’ – a frontrunner for my favourite song of the year, period, this track is incredibly powerful and genuinely heartbreaking. In a just world, this would have made Paslay a bonafide star, and it’s easily the best track of the album, hands down. Beautifully written, excellently performed, it’s damn excellent.
‘Where The Light Takes You’ by Doug Paisley
‘Painted Blue’ by Sundy Best
‘Oklahoma Lottery’ by Karen Jonas
‘Thou Shalt Not’ by Ronnie Dunn
‘Automatic’ by Miranda Lambert
June 18, 2014 @ 10:31 am
I saw your review on Lucy Hale’s album, Mark. And I was shocked by how much you loved it. It intrigued me to go check it out. I was expecting an album full of shallow, pop country songs. Based off what I’ve heard so far it’s better than I expected. I plan on listening to the whole thing and giving it a review. I’m all for another great female country artist if Hale is going to take her music seriously.
June 18, 2014 @ 12:11 pm
Well, keep in mind that it definitely fits more of the mold of pop country than most – but it’s got much more of a neotraditional vibe and a diversity of instrumentation in its sound (to say nothing of a complete lack of autotune or bad synths), and what really struck me was the melodic composition, which was head-and-shoulders above most of its peers in terms of solid hooks.
Honestly, the biggest strike against Lucy Hale is that most of that album wasn’t written by her directly – but I can’t really take away from the fact there is genuinely great songwriting on this album regardless, and that Lucy Hale does show some chops on the songs she does write. And if this is the country starlet we’re getting to replace Taylor Swift in country now that Miss Swift has migrated to pop… yeah, I say we keep her.
June 18, 2014 @ 12:58 pm
I agree 100% with you Mark. Paslay’s ” She Don’t Love You” is purely incredible. Very gripping song. Definitely one of my favorites. Love Sturgill’s ” Living the Dream ” as well.
June 18, 2014 @ 2:46 pm
I have no problem with pop country personally, as long as it’s written well and has some country elements. Hale seems to fit this. Yeah I think that is a strike against her. But I give her a pass since she’s new to country and it’s her first album. I think she’ll write more of her songs on the next album. And yes I’ll take Miss Hale over Swift every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I also enjoyed her acting in How I Met Your Mother. 🙂
June 18, 2014 @ 9:58 am
Good call on Matt Woods’ “Liberty Bell.” That album has a lot of strong songwriting, but that song is probably my favorite cut.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:59 am
Too bad we can’t include November 2013 as the start date. Then I’d add one of the best story-songs on the last 8 months:
I Got A Car, from George Strait.
Still hear it almost daily on the HD-2 channel of the local Country FM station.
June 18, 2014 @ 10:33 am
That song has had a slight re-emergence on the charts, maybe because of the success of the final show.
June 18, 2014 @ 10:50 am
#23 on iTunes. For reference, Automatic is #22.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:07 am
It’s heartwarming to see a quality song of his pick up a second wind and make it to the Top Twenty.
I’m concerned that this is too old of a single to make it to the Top Ten, however. Not to mention that radio is still stubbornly averse to ballads and particularly sentimental songs that tell a story in the most part (and even while the top commercial artists of the genre have the muscle to push slower songs to the top, their efforts usually lack substance, as is most glaring on “Drink A Beer”).
Still, this is one of Strait’s better singles as of late. Obviously not on par with “Drinkin’ Man”, but I’d say it’s otherwise his best since “Living For The Night”. It’s especially refreshing coming off of the tragically mediocre “Give It All We’ve Got Tonight” which did absolutely nothing for me and left even more of a sour taste in my mouth with the nearly-unprecedented artificial promotional effort to take it to #1 on the Mediabase chart.
June 19, 2014 @ 6:35 am
As for his next single, I’d love to see “When the Credits Roll” get some airplay (best song on the album, imo) but I doubt it’s seen as single material. I’m assuming one of the more upbeat tracks will get the nod.
June 18, 2014 @ 10:23 am
Bryan Sutton – Swannanoa Tunnel
June 18, 2014 @ 10:27 am
I don’t want to give my entire list away since it’s coming tomorrow. My list is a little different because my criteria isn’t the same as yours and I haven’t listened to everything released this year (although I try my best). But we do have some similarities. It’s difficult to pick out songs on Sturgill’s album and Matt Wood’s album because I enjoy both albums from beginning to end.
I will say Rich O’Toole’s new album is one to check out. Lot of great songs on it, with the standout being “I Thank God.” Lee Ann Womack’s “The Way I’m Livin'” and Sunny Sweeney’s “Bad Girl Phase” are two great songs also. Two female artists that deserve to be back on the radio.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:16 pm
Very excited for Sunny’s new album. Lucky enough to see her performance at the CMA Fest. She played mostly her new stuff and it was fantastic!
June 18, 2014 @ 10:39 am
Very hard to argue with any of the entries here. I’ve heard plenty of these, and am streaming those I’m not yet familiarized with as we speak.
Thanks for excavating “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”. That one had slipped past me until you showcased it here. You weren’t kidding: that is that kind of a one-time performance one can only dream to immerse in! =D
And I agree it’s not going off on a limb to recognize “There’s No Country Here”. Because among all of the entries here, I would dare argue Melody’s offering has the broadest, most immediate appeal. In assembling lists like this, a balancing act is necessary between songs that have more immediate presence and impact that speaks to a zeitgeist or overarching sentiment, or else has the potential to keep being revisited years and even generations down the line despite being overlooked at this moment in time. And Melody’s song exemplifies the former.
Here are some other cuts I believe are worthy of mention:
Eric Paslay: “She Don”™t Love You” (damn right Mark hit the nail on the head here. By far among the best mainstream country has to offer thus far this year)
Sturgill Simpson: “It Ain”™t All Flowers” (I second this as well)
Dierks Bentley: “Here On Earth” (I agree “Damn These Dreams” and “I Hold On” are also solid, but this somehow edges both for my personal favorite from “Riser”. The lyrics are strikingly simplistic, yet so devastatingly poignant and still not a tall order for possible radio recognition despite radio’s current aversion to sad songs and ballads)
Dolly Parton: “Banks of the Ohio” (Oooooohhh, how this read of this traditional murder ballad gives me the chills. What a ghoulish and fully committed read.)
Lee Ann Womack: “The Way I’m Livin'” (Alright, I’m willing to admit a personal bias might be influencing this one as I’ve been waiting for new music from her for a long time. Still, this only reinforces why I fell in love with “Call Me Crazy” and much of her most recent material to begin with. She wins me over in how discerning her vocals often are where she avoids that “hot and cold” type of trapping and are backed by songs that speak directly to authentic personal experience. I’m equally relieved this is the follow-up to the unfortunate speed bump that was “There Is A God”.)
June 18, 2014 @ 10:48 am
Trig, like many before me I want to thank you for helping me to find so much good music without suffering through a lot of crap. I am definitely getting into Sturgill and if a song questions the deeper things in this world I am usually intrigued. That’s not to say I’m above being shallow, but by god I try!
June 18, 2014 @ 12:02 pm
Thanks for reading Brad!
June 18, 2014 @ 11:13 am
Nice! If I put the radio on and that was the playlist i can’t imagine rasing any objections!
June 18, 2014 @ 11:28 am
The Melody one and the two Sturgill picks are probably my favorites on that list. 🙂
As for my own picks, I don’t know how “life-changing” they were, but they made me think and/or appreciate the artists in a new light:
Rosanne Cash, “When the Master Calls the Roll”
Rodney Crowell, “The Flyboy & the Kid”
Hurray for the Riff Raff, “The Body Electric”
Carlene Carter, “Lonesome Valley 2003”
Laura Cantrell, “All the Girls are Complicated”
June 18, 2014 @ 3:54 pm
I second “The Body Electric”. As much as I love old time murder ballads, I really like what this song had to say about them and the way that the stories in those songs and how they are viewed by fans can make people feel. I’ve known quite a number of young females who have felt exactly that way about murder ballads. And while I don’t necessarily condemn them as a whole, I think it’s good that there are songs that kind of show the other side, such as this and Rachel Brookes “Me and Rose Connelly”.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:40 am
I wholeheartedly agree with most of these, but I have to ask:
Is the Sturgill song really that great of a song? To me, it’s just weird as hell. I appreciate the exploratory subject matter and I love the sound and the production, but I don’t really take anything from it or want to listen to it in different formats.
Granted, not every song needs to be deep and meaningful — sometimes they serve as comic relief, or fun life soundtrack, or something else.
I like Sturgill a lot, but I don’t think he necessarily has great songs — just a strong country throwback sound. I could go on about how a lot of people want the sound of country to return and forgo songs, but I’ll stop here.
June 18, 2014 @ 12:07 pm
First off, it depends on what song you’re talking about. “Turtles” or “The Promise”.
I would agree that I don’t see Sturgill Simpson as a songs guy. My two favorite songs from him are the pre-“High Top Mountain” “Life Ain’t Fair & The World Is Mean” and “Sarah” from Sunday Valley (and please don’t ask me where you can get that album. It has dropped off the face of the Earth). However I also stand behind the two Sturgill picks because they have had impact. Just like the Melody Williamson song, I think you have to gauge these things if they find a way to speak to large amounts of people but still hold great substance.
As I’ve been saying about Sturgill Simpson all along, I feel like he is still holding back. I think we have yet to hear Sturgill’s best songs, or see his best performances. I just hope he doesn’t quit or get bored before we get to.
June 18, 2014 @ 1:18 pm
When I saw Sturgill at Hill Country BBQ DC in November, I talked to him a little and brought up the Sunday Valley album. He said he had several hundred CD copies in his apartment. I saw on Facebook that he has a club tour coming starting in the fall. Maybe he’ll bring those CDs with him on that tour.
June 18, 2014 @ 1:45 pm
I remember him mentioning that same stack to me two years ago. Someone had to purposely pull it off of all the digital channels. It was on iTunes, Amazon, etc. etc. for a good long while. If someone tries to get my copy, I very well might stab them in the eyeball.
June 18, 2014 @ 2:28 pm
Right. I swear it was available on Amazon in MP3 format as recently as a few months ago. After your initial comment, I checked for it there and sure enough, it’s not available there anymore.
June 18, 2014 @ 3:24 pm
Hero is a great song off his last album.
June 18, 2014 @ 5:30 pm
To the Wind and on to Heaven was good, but Sunday Valley did a much more raw release a few years before that, to this day, smokes. Was highly influential on me years ago, and I still go back to it.
June 22, 2014 @ 1:00 pm
Yeah, as much as I absolutely loved High Top Mountain and Metamodern, my favorite Sturgill songs are actually Sunday Valley songs. Jesus Boogie was the first song I heard by Sunday Valley and is still my favorite several years later. I want Sturgill to make whatever kind of music he wants to make, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hear some more Sunday Valley-esque music from him sometime in the future.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:41 am
With the hair cut and shave, Sturgill looks somewhat like young Ringo Starr.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:44 am
Am I the only one that things Sturgill Simpson “the promise” is his worst song? Its not terrible or anything, but if I had to choose the song I listen to least out of both of his LPs, that would be the one. This is coming from someone who is remotely obsessed with the guy but I just find the song boring.
June 18, 2014 @ 8:03 pm
I agree. All due respect to Triggers list, but Turtles and The Promise are the two songs I could live without on Metamodern. IMO they pale in comparison to the rest of the album, but that’s just me and im probably in the minority there.
LV is great for an EP, all songs were great. Little let down that he changed the lyrics to Just A shell. His original lyrics were way better, but the message of the song stayed the same.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:30 pm
We are on the same page. Although I do think “Turtles” is a good song, songs like “Voices” , “Living the Dream”, “Just Let Go” , or “Pan Bowl” should be getting music video treatment over “The Promise” or “Turtles”.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:59 pm
The point of videos or “singles” for an artist like Stugill, and where they’re trying to get him is to not appease the core already in his corner, but broaden his reach with what they believe are the most widely-appealing songs. I know we don’t like to think in these terms, but they are an investment. They cost money. So there needs to be a return.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:57 am
My two favorites are Jason Eady’s Daylight & Dark, and Sturgill Simpson’s song Panbowl.
June 18, 2014 @ 12:07 pm
I’m a longtime mainstream country fan who recently got back into it this year after a long absence. (I’ve pinpointed the start of that absence to about the 4th or 5th time I heard “Country Girls Shake it For Me” on the radio. Something just… snapped. Anyway.) My tastes run toward Alan Jackson, George Strait, Brooks and Dunn, etc. The good stuff that used to be popular. 🙂
I have yet to delve into the artists I never heard of before I found this site, so I scrounged up the best songs from “popular” artists. I have a huge backlog of music I still need to listen to, but this is what I’m currently enjoying, in no order.
Automatic, Hard Staying Sober, All That’s Left, Holding on to You and Another Sunday in the South – Miranda Lambert (I might be a bit biased on “Sunday,” but I love how it references the music I grew up with and cherish. And it helps get rid of the taste of “1994.” Get my music out of your smirky mouth, Jason Aldean!)
I Hold On – Dierks Bentley. Riser is the next album I’ll be listening to, so I’m sure I’ll add more Dierks songs to this list.
Bad Girl Phase – Sunny Sweeney. If this song doesn’t get airplay, there’s absolutely no justice left.
Who I Am With You – Chris Young. His voice is like velvet dipped in honey butter. OMG. He does the kind of music that takes me back.
Like a Cowboy – Randy Houser. His voice is pretty damn amazing too.
Go Back to Your Trailer -Kacey Musgraves
All Alright – Zac Brown Band (this is a rock song really, but it’s too good not to include)
Dust – Eli Young Band
Livin’ on Love – Lee Ann Womack and Kacey Musgraves. Not sure if this counts, but I’d buy it if I could!
~ I really appreciate this site for giving me new music to check out, with the state of popular music in such sad decline. Gonna give your list a listen now. 🙂
June 18, 2014 @ 2:27 pm
After a couple listens – Kirsty Lee Akers is my favorite here, what a beautiful pure voice and country song. I wish it was on itunes. Don Williams is a VERY close second. He sounds so much better at 75 than most of today’s young stars, it’s almost heartbreaking. Love Melody Williamson, I’d be crazy proud if she was my daughter. Matt Woods voice is a little rough for me to play on heavy rotation, but I really admire the passion in his music.
June 18, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
I’m glad somebody else pointed out Sunny Sweeney. She’s so under the radar. I hope more people give her music a listen. She was a victim of big Music Row labels and now she’s independent again. Zac Brown Band’s “All Alright” is one of the best in mainstream this year. I don’t care if traditionalists don’t care for him, to me he’s pretty damn good. And he gave Sturgill Simpson some spots to open for him on his tour.
June 18, 2014 @ 3:54 pm
Good to see Sunny Sweeney mentioned but I don’t see “Bad Girl Phase” as a potential song of the year, she has had much much better.
“Like a Cowboy” definitely deserves mention as a great song from a mainstream artist, one of Randy Houser’s best. A song that hits home for the traveling-working man and you just cannot beat Randy Houser’s voice. Loved that song when I first heard it and am happy it is his current single (although it was released in 2013 so that might disqualify it from this list).
June 18, 2014 @ 4:32 pm
Bad Girl Phase isn’t up with my top favorites of hers (Ten Years Pass, If I Could, Mama’s Opry, her cover of 16th Avenue), but it’s still one of my favorites of the year so far. I can’t wait to hear the album. It’s catchy and sounds radio friendly to me, so I hope it gets a chance and gives her music a wider audience. I think Miranda fans who want to hear female artists other than Miranda sometimes would really enjoy this song (and Sunny’s music as a whole).
June 18, 2014 @ 5:02 pm
My issue with Bad Girl Phase is that it seems to lack some depth, and I think the standards are still higher for women (depth wise) when it comes to getting airplay. With that said, if it does get airplay, it will be one of the better songs on the radio. I think being married to Blake helps Miranda, the male-dominant demographic will take her over other females because she is married to one of their “bros”. Otherwise I think she would fall into the same radio struggle as other females, regardless of music quality. Personally, I would prefer Sunny and Kacey over Miranda.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:30 pm
Bad Girl Phase has been getting a decent amount of spins on ‘The Highway’ on Sirius
June 18, 2014 @ 1:10 pm
Surprised no one mentioned Dierks “Bourbon in Kentucky” that is the best song on that album, IMHO. “Hold On” is a great song too, but I thought Bourbon would get the nod by SCM.
Fuck, anything Sturgill put out on MetaMordern is top shelf.
Eady….”Down and Out”?? Damn good song.
June 18, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
I’ll stand corrected… Dierks “Bourbon in Kentucky” is a great song, but “Hold On” gave me goose bumps the first time I heard it, and that is the measuring stick here. Good call Trigger.
June 18, 2014 @ 3:21 pm
Am I the only one that is not totally on the Sturgill Simpson bandwagon? I totally understand him being mentioned on this site, he deserves to be mentioned here, but it seems like everybody is just totally gushing over him like he alone will save country music. I have tried to listen to his new album on a few occasions and it just hasn’t hit me. I am not trying to bring down everybody who does love him, we can all still want to better the genre as a whole without being fans of every single one of the “good guys”. I imagine ill get some slack for this, just curious if anybody else has the balls to agree with me?
June 18, 2014 @ 4:01 pm
Finally, someone had “the balls” to say it! Personally I have been pretending to like Sturgill Simpson’s music for over a year now in order to impress a bunch of random, anonymous commenters on the internet. But now that you’ve unveiled the truth, I can stand up and speak my mind: Sturgill totally suxx!!
*cranks up the radio*
“This is how we roooooooOoooOoooollllll…hangin’ round sangin’ out everything on the radioOOOoooooooOOOoooooo…”
June 18, 2014 @ 4:10 pm
Happy you agree! How’d you know I was listening to that song?
I am not saying he sucks, I did make it through the whole album, just did not think it was amazing. and no, it doesnt take balls to agree on the internet, that was poor wording on my part. Still, I am genuinely interested if any avid followers of this site agree that he is not their cup of tea? Even if it is true traditional country music, people still need to form their own opinions.
June 18, 2014 @ 5:12 pm
I hear ya, steel. I was just being a smartass!
I find it interesting that there has been such a positive consensus about Sturgill, whereas other artists like say, Jamey Johnson seem to be more divisive. For one thing, I would have guessed that more people would have been freaked out by all the stuff about reptile aliens and turtles and whatnot.
June 18, 2014 @ 5:39 pm
I get people liking him, I’d rather a hardcore sturgill fan take over my radio than a hardcore GA/FL line fan. You hit the nail on the head, the fact that it seems so decisive that he is great raises my eyebrows. I’m not just talking about Trigger offering his endorsement either, its the fact that sturgill’s name seems to come up in almost every comment thread. Maybe all the excitement just got my hopes up too high and I expected something nobody could offer. Or maybe I am just one of the few people that were turned off by the psychedelic thing. But hey, even I am not a huge fan, it is still a good thing for music that he is gaining popularity.
June 18, 2014 @ 4:40 pm
I will say this: I have been open about numerous criticisms of Sturgill Simpson’s music. I think what he’s doing is far from perfect by anyone’s standards. At the same time, he very well might be better than anyone else at the moment. As I said about, time is the best judge of music. Last year I picked The Mavericks over Sturgill for Album of the Year. There is a long ways to go before I personally declare who is “best” in 2014, and Sturgill faces some stiff competition.
June 19, 2014 @ 7:10 am
I love what he puts into the music.
What comes out is another story.
June 18, 2014 @ 4:56 pm
I just heard him for the first time today. Love his vocals, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around this killer traditional country voice singing about alien turtles or something haha. I need to listen to him more to really offer an opinion. I don’t know if it’s 100% my cup of tea, but his voice melted the ice in my glass. 🙂
June 18, 2014 @ 9:44 pm
Jury is still out in this corner on Sturgill also . I’m not quite getting all the fuss but I’m keeping my ears open .
June 18, 2014 @ 3:40 pm
Just about any song from the most critically acclaimed country artists/albums
June 18, 2014 @ 4:37 pm
All of those are great artists that released great songs and great albums. But all of their albums came out in 2013. The spirit here is to focus on songs that were either released in 2014, or came to prominence in 2014 as singles.
June 18, 2014 @ 4:06 pm
Really enjoyed this.
June 18, 2014 @ 6:14 pm
Looking forward to checking some of these out. Great to see Leroy Virgil’s “Streets Of Aberdeen” here. I know many of his fans are not happy with the direction of this new album but I think it it GREAT and highlight’s his songwriting skills and pure talent. Leroy did a special record release event of this new music at our record store Boomtown Records in Aberdeen Wa a week before the Itunes release.It was my first time seeing him LIVE. The guy is an extraordinary songwriter and performer and definitely deserving of being on your list even if this is more of a folksy sounding track. Check out this song folks, what a great tune! You can check out his LIVE performance of the song at our Boomtown Records Facebook page, as great as it was the professionally shot video here is a little better than ours.
June 18, 2014 @ 8:07 pm
Surprised to hear about the disappointment. I for one was extremely relieved to discover this album was stripped down and lyrically oriented. I believe that format is Leroy’s bread and butter. Could do without the hard rock thing a lot of his live shows have been about lately.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:03 pm
Nick, I just noticed a lot of negative comments from his old school fans in regards to the “LV” release. They all liked the song but seemed concerned that he was going in a different direction. I agree with your comment, he did not do any hard rock type stuff at our show though as it was an acoustic set.
June 18, 2014 @ 10:12 pm
Unfortunately there are some fans with this sentiment that Hellbound Glory “went all Kid Rock” after their tour with him, and expect that logic to somehow fly as dissent against LV when if you actually listen to it, it is a stripped-down, sparse, and subdued record. The dissent is just a scenster sentiment that proves they’re not listening. If you don’t like Hellbound’s live show or LV, that’s understandable. That’s taste. But you have to experience it first before your opinion can have merit.
June 19, 2014 @ 6:55 am
I think Leroy Virgil is just a versatile musician. He recorded a few amazing country records, play hard rock/southern rock sounding music live that sounds killer (still holding out for a rock record from him) and I like the folk-ish vibe from his latest EP SOA… Regardless of music styling he is one of the greatest song writers of our generations.
June 18, 2014 @ 6:15 pm
Well I’ve gotta say I was close to tears listening to Melody Willamson’s song . I really wanna believe that that talented little songwriter felt that and wrote it from her 15 year old heart . Excuse me , I’ve gotten get some tissue and listen again .
June 18, 2014 @ 6:28 pm
I just have to take this moment to say that it joys me to see the number of comments/discussion this feature has received is closely rivalling those the “Worst of 2014 So Far” compilation has received.
Generally, contributors (of which I acknowledge I do this too) respond more readily to negative content and rants, instead of positive features focusing on all that’s great out there. So to see the number of comments this feature has received being not far off at all from what the “Worst” list has garnered is a heartening sight to behold! =)
June 18, 2014 @ 7:53 pm
Turtles All the Way Down, hands down!
“when did class go out of style?” well put Melody…
June 18, 2014 @ 8:13 pm
My favorites so far this year….. Sturgill Simpson- ” Living the Dream ” , also love watching him do it acoustic on YouTube maybe somewhere in Europe, shows pretty good picking chops too, and ” It Ain’t All Flowers “. Hellbound Glory ” Streets of Aberdeen.” From Dierks new album ” I Hold On ” and the title track ” Riser.” Absolutely love Eric Paslay’s ” She Don’t Love You ” it definitely cuts deep. Also like Mike Ryan’s new tune ” Dancing All Around It ” and RRB’s ” She’s Gonna Run ” from their live at Floores album.
June 18, 2014 @ 9:19 pm
Glad to see “Street’s of Aberdeen” gettin’ love… “Everything’s Gone” by Lydia Lifeless is excellent as well. But, I really believe that “Wanchese and Manteo” by Joseph Huber deserves mention. Love how he tells their story and ties it into our modern day problems.
June 19, 2014 @ 7:32 pm
wanchese and manteo is by far my favorite song this year, happens to be off the best album of the year too.
June 18, 2014 @ 11:19 pm
I had the singles in rotation from Williems and Simpson. Also the Secret Sisters and John Fulbright.
June 19, 2014 @ 1:17 am
I bought the new Matt Woods album based solely on the 2013 Song of the Year. I have to say, it is the best country album I’ve heard in such a long time. There were several songs where I was genuinely moved, and plenty of times where I laughed (I love that line “I’m drinking to forget, how drunk I got last night!”).
Unfortunately, Matt Woods won’t get mainstream play despite being extremely talented and having a remarkably memorable voice. I’m putting my vote for Dierks’ “Riser,” album and his “I Hold On .” The entire album touched home for me having lost my father to a tragic death four years ago. Although our relationship wasn’t good, there are many things he taught me or things that he did that left a lasting impression in ways he may not have intended. That’s what I love about “I Hold On.” It should be promoted to encourage other mainstream artists to cut the bullshit and produce a quality sound.
June 19, 2014 @ 8:57 am
I’d say my favorite song so far this year is Primer Coat, which is a Mike Cooley song from the DBT album English Oceans. As a long time fan, I’m very happy with that album and think it’s their first post-Isbell great album. Best since The Dirty South, I think.
Truck Stop Gospel by Parker Millsap is a song that just makes me happy. Very strong album, too.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite from either the Sturgill Simpson or Karen Jonas albums.
I like Streets of Aberdeen a lot. The traditional folk sounding melody is similar to Steve Earle’s Dixieland. I’m sure Steve borrowed it from somewhere.
June 19, 2014 @ 11:44 am
Rachel Brooke – the mystery of death
June 19, 2014 @ 11:51 am
Great list, great songs. Some ommissions that I am enjoying are:
Jamie Richards “I’ll Have Another”
Zane Williams “Little Too Late”
Nickel Creek “21st of May”
Bruce Robison/Kelly Willis “Carousel”
Matt Hillyer ” I Still Have A Little Falling Left To Go”
Dolly Parton “If I Had Wings”
Old Crow Medicine Show “Dearly Departed Friend”
Jeremy Steding “Stay”
If you haven’t heard ’em yet check ’em out.
June 19, 2014 @ 1:33 pm
Really great list with some songs I hadn’t listened to yet, thank again for more great suggestions. I would only add “Golden Age” and “Home” by Jamestown Revival, “The Hour Before” by Fox Valley Harvest and Old Amarillo by Old Crow Medicine Show.
June 19, 2014 @ 2:19 pm
Love that The Secret Sisters and Don Williams made the list.
My favourites so far would have to be:
Nikki Lane – “Love’s on Fire”
Sundy Best – “Until I Met You”
Willie Watson – Keep It Clean
Sturgill Simpson – “Life of Sin”, “Ain’t All Flowers” & “Just Let Go”
First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining” & “Heaven Knows”
Jason Eady – “Ok Whiskey”
and even though it hasn’t been officially released yet, the live performances of it are enough, Justin Townes Earl’s “White Gardenias”.
June 20, 2014 @ 1:37 am
Seriously great list. I found a few songs I hadn’t heard, which is why I love sites like yours.
I love the First Aid Kit song you listed, “Cedar Lane”. And I was very pleasantly surprised by Don Williams’ cover of TVZ’s “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”.
My favorites so far (that you haven’t listed) have been:
– Secret Sisters “Dirty Lie” (co-written by Bob Dylan)
– Charlie Parr “Barn Swallows At Twilight”
– Mourning Dove “Jolene” (an amazing cover of Dolly’s original)
– Hurray For The Riff Raff “The Body Electric”
June 20, 2014 @ 12:38 pm
Only one glaring omission in my book – “High Road” by John Fullbright. Have you heard it, Trig?
Also, “God, I’m Missing You” by Rodney Crowell, and “Etta’s Tune” by Rosanne Cash are worthy of being included, as well.
June 23, 2014 @ 12:06 pm
I thoroughly enjoy Sturgill’s two albums, but am wondering if I’m the only one who drifts into singing the chorus of “Little Green Apples” when I’m listening to “Turtles All the Way Down”?