Today, I take a look at what I feel have been some of the best songs released so far this year. As I mentioned, this was incredibly difficult, so to simplify the task slightly, I have limited it to one song eligible per artist (or album, really, since one artist incidentally shows up on their own album and as a guest vocalist on another song listed).
So, without further ceremony, here we go…
Everything about this track was trademark Ryan Bingham. From his unmistakable gravelly voice, the perfect production, this song was great and was one of my favorites off of Bingham’ recent album, “Fear and Saturday Night.”
9. Judson Cole Band – “Call Me Back Home”
Judson Cole Band reminds me of Randy Rogers Band and pre-“Life at Best” Eli Young Band. There are great vocals here and great production and “Eastern Skies” was a superb album with this being one of the top tracks off of the collection.
8. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – “Unfair Weather Friend”
These two living legends put out a great duet celebrating their longtime friendship. This was pure traditional country music at its absolute finest. Once again, choosing just one song off of this album was a tough task to take on. There were any number of great choices, but this one was such a pure pleasure to listen to.
7. Tim McGraw – “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
Mainstream country has not been devoid of any high points in 2015. While this album was released in late 2014, the single was released in 2015 and has been a true bright spot in the mainstream in an otherwise awful landscape of songs. McGraw proves with this song that there’s no need for him to chase trends – he can make great contemporary country without selling out.
6. Striking Matches – “Like Lovers”
Striking Matches’ debut album was filled with great songs, and I want to thank Josh and Derek over at Country Perspective once again for their review which pointed me in the direction of this duo. Among the songs on this album that stood out, one of my favorites is “Like Lovers,” a song about two lovers sharing one last night before walking away from each other. The duet vocal performance from Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmermann is brilliant.
5. Dwight Yoakam – “Second Hand Heart”
The title track off of Dwight’s 2015 album was a great honky-tonk number that helped deliver on Dwight’s promise for a “return to roots” album. As Dwight sings about two people tentatively testing the waters of love again, the music work is top notch, and Dwight’s singing is in top form. He hasn’t lost a step.
4. Chris Stapleton – “When the Stars Come Out”
Every song I’m listing here, I seem to be mentioning how the album had any number of tracks worth mentioning. That continues to be true for the Top 4 on this list. Long-time songwriter Chris Stapleton delivered big time with his long awaited debut album, Traveller, and “When the Stars Come Out” was just one of those tracks off of the album which I always found myself putting on repeat.
3. Courtney Patton – “So This Is Life”
Again, the title track of the album ended up as one of my favorites off of Patton’s June 2015 album. The vocal performance here showed true passion and pain as Patton sang about the life of a disillusioned housewife. It was a masterful piece of songwriting and the performance was flawless.
2. Jamie Lin Wilson (ft. Wade Bowen) – “Just Some Things”
I’ve been raving about this song (and album) since its release. The song about two cheating lovers’ guilt in the immediate aftermath of their time together was an absolutely stunning performance from these two Texas Country performers.
1. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “In the Next Life”
Most may point to “Standards” as the best song off of Rogers and Bowen’s album. However, once again, there is no wrong choice here. Yet, the lead-off track is one I always find myself returning to. It celebrates and tells the story of their 15-year friendship and musical partnership. And it’s a whole lot of fun, too. Just listen to the pure happiness in their voices, and it’s undeniable that this song is great.
And a few honorable mentions:
Dean Brody – “Old Friend”
Tyler Farr – “Suffer in Peace” (yes, I just gave credit to Tyler Farr)
Reba – “Just Like Them Horses”
Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
The Malpass Brothers – “Learn to Love Me Too”
There’s no doubt more great music to come in 2015. Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson both have albums set for release in July. Lindi Ortega has an album slated for release. Gary Allan will likely have an album out late this year, which despite its poor first single, I’m expecting good things from. There’s also a chance for a new Hayes Carll album, though no official word has been released.
Here’s to a great first six months, and more to look forward to from now until December.