As 2017 draws to a close, here are my (very difficult!) choices for the top 10 country songs of this year (Dan):
- Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives – ‘Time Don’t Wait’
Marty has become the cult hero of country music in the UK since his stellar performance at Country2Country back in March. Winning over a good 15,000 Zac Brown Band fans was no mean feat, and it set him up for a very successful follow-up tour in October. His new album ‘Way Out West’ was a tough call to leave out of my Top 10 albums list, but ‘Time Don’t Wait’ just had to be included here. One of those instant favourites that you’ll love after one listen, this has been one of the country anthems of the year at YLIAS HQ. A timeless classic.
- Jake Worthington – ‘Hell Of A Highway’
We love Jake Worthington and have made no secret of that. Probably the closest artist we have to George Strait in the modern era (melodically), Jake’s consistency and quality has to be admired. His latest EP ‘Hell Of A Highway’ was another super addition to his repertoire, and the title track has become a firm favourite of mine this year. It oozes quality with a sublime throwback feel, so good that it’d slip into King George’s catalogue seamlessly. We need more Jake Worthingtons in the world.
8. Courtney Marie Andrews – ‘Irene’
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best female vocalists I’ve had the immense pleasure of hearing live. Courtney has had a hugely successful year on the Americana scene in the UK and around Europe, following the release of her stunning album ‘Honest Life’. ‘Irene’ was the pick of the bunch; traditional, warm country music with totally flawless vocals. Jools Holland is a fan – you should be too.
7. The Cadillac Three – ‘American Slang’
These boys have found a home in the UK. Making 2/3 trips a year, selling out venues and expanding their fan base every single time, something special is happening for The Cadillac Three. Radio 2 picked up on ‘American Slang’ earlier this year and it ended up on the ‘B List’; rightly so, and it should have done much more in the states. This is such an anthem full of pride and passion for their southern roots which sounds absolutely awesome live. Go and check out the latest album ‘Legacy’ – it’s a stunner.
- Midland – ‘Nothin’ New Under The Neon’
Midland-bashers, please forgive me! Good music good music, whether they’ve slogged it out for years on the Texas bar circuit or made a few quid directing Bruno Mars videos. Midland have been a much-needed sign of change. Nobody would have dreamed a few years ago that a song like ‘Drinkin’ Problem’ would top the radio charts, but it did. Their debut album ‘On The Rocks’ offered even more – ‘Nothin’ New Under The Neon’ a wonderful example of the album’s sublime production and slick, throwback grooves. Roll on C2C.
- Dalton Domino – ‘Corners’
I see a few eyebrows being raised…check out this track and you’ll understand. Hailed as one of Rolling Stone’s ‘Country Artists You Need To Know’ this year, Texan artist Dalton Domino has received rave reviews for his new album ‘Corners’. He describes himself as “energetic southern rock with a hint of everything from Americana, Red Dirt, and Texas Country to Delta Blues and Soul”. The title track is one of this year’s most powerful tracks, gradually building throughout with immense energy; it hits you with a knockout punch on the first listen. Quality.
- Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – ‘If We Were Vampires’
‘The Nashville Sound’ was a monumental album, easily one of the best this year. Isbell is simply a lyrical genius, writing with such authority and honesty. It’s a very politically-charged album, but perhaps the most personal track is ‘If We Were Vampires’, an incredibly crafted perspective on the value and shortness of life. A couple of acoustic guitars are all that’s required alongside the chilling vocals of Isbell and wife Amanda Shires. Music should make you stop and think, it should make you feel something, and this one does that more than anything else I’ve heard this year.
- Sarah Darling – ‘Starry Eyes’
My favourite track from my album of the year, ‘Dream Country’. A message to Sarah’s younger self, ‘Starry Eyes’ is a message to take on life’s challenges head-first and ride the waves, knowing that it will work out in the end if those “starry eyes stay wild at heart”. The whole album is full of dreamy melodies with gorgeous instrumentation, and ‘Starry Eyes’ is the best example of that. The first chord brings out the goose bumps for me and there’s a beautiful warmth to the track that never wears off.
- Andrew Combs – ‘Rose Colored Blues’
When Andrew Combs gets it right, he gets it VERY right. ‘Rose Colored Blues’ is right on the money. It’s rather reminiscent of the Glen Campbell classic ‘Gentle On My Mind’ with its uplifting, flowing melody and sums up everything I love about country music. If you haven’t had the chance to check out one of Andrew’s live shows yet, I strongly recommend you do so. An incredible talent who deserves so much more recognition.
- Sam Outlaw – ‘Tenderheart’
I just knew this one would top the list as soon as I heard it. Bob Harris has championed ‘Tenderheart’ on his Radio 2 show throughout the year and it’s a track that simply has everything; depth, soul and a beautiful story of a man who won’t let go of a lost love. The chorus carries so much power and emotion with such simplicity; Sam’s self-production is just sublime. Taken from his sophomore album of the same name, which came in at #2 on my ‘Albums of 2017’ list.
Also worth a mention:
Mickey Guyton – ‘Nice Things’
Blake Shelton – ‘I Lived It’
Carly Pearce – ‘If My Name Was Whiskey’
Kip Moore – ‘Plead The Fifth’
The Swon Brothers – ‘Don’t Call Me’
Lukas Nelson and Promise Of The Real – ‘Just Outside Of Austin’
Luke Bryan – ‘Most People Are Good’
Aaron Watson – ‘They Don’t Make Em Like They Used To’
Maren Morris & Vince Gill – ‘Dear Hate’
Zac Brown Band – ‘2 Places At 1 Time’
Natalie Hemby – ‘This Town Still Talks About You’
Big & Rich – ‘Freedom Road’
Dan + Shay – ‘When I Pray For You’