By John Lindsay –
Here we are at the start of a new year and it’s customarily the time when you’re bombarded with the Best of 2015 countdowns. Biggest Hits, Top Sellers, Biggest Tours… you name it. Now is when the yearly countdowns look back on the last 12 months. I thought, “why shouldn’t I jump right on this bandwagon?” So here we go, not necessarily the biggest hits, some not even singles, some artists not even on a major label. Just some songs I think you should make sure you have heard from 2015.
Canaan Smith – “Bronco” click for video
Clearly you’ll see in the first few songs, that I’m a big fan of very personal songs and stories delivered by the artists who wrote and lived them. This one is a clear favorite. A song written in remembrance of his late brother, Nathaniel, who was killed in a car accident. His brother drove a Ford Bronco, and the song makes you feel the pain of his loss but also makes you feel the excitement and freedom of a young man and his first car. It is both a sad and uplifting song that you need to experience
“It was freedom calling / Pulling you down that back road / It was our time flyin’ / Hell of a ride in that Bronco.”
Chris Stapleton – “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore” click for video
The multiple award winning album “Traveller” was recorded in the months following the death of his father. This track, though actually written in 2005 while his father was alive, is a moving story of loss. The original idea stemmed from a visit to his parents. His father was a very religious man who always said grace at meals. The title line reflects a specific memory of one time that he didn’t, which stuck with Chris who came up with the line and wrote the song shortly after returning to Nashville. It was shelved and not really thought of as a commercial song. It was only after his fathers passing he decided it was time to record it. Chris admits it is a very difficult song to sing, and it strikes deep every time I hear it. If this song doesn’t move you, visit your cardiologist immediately.
“He used to fold his hands and bow his head down to the floor, But daddy doesn’t pray anymore”
Ryan Broshear – “A Love Song” click for video
Independent singer/songwriter Ryan Broshear’s endearing love song gets my nod for “Buckle Polisher” of the past year. This ballad is a good old fashion sounding love song written for his wife, Amie, about how the right person can enter your life and right your ship. I met Ryan and Amie some time before the release of the “Paint It Red” EP and clearly they are an amazing team and just delightful people whose love is clearly evident. Ryan is surely an artist to watch in 2016. If you’re looking for a song to play for your girl… try this one!
“Girl you waited way too long, every verse you sang along, from day one I felt this strong, I finally wrote you a love song…”
Waterloo Revival – “Bad For You” click for video
Sure this is may be pure pop country, but when it’s done this well you just have to dig it. A guilty pleasure? Maybe, but it’s just that good. I honestly don’t know how it wasn’t a bigger hit. It’s crazy upbeat, catchy, melodic, and a song you’ll love to sing along to. Reminiscent perhaps of a more innocent time, it will hit you and then boom it’s over leaving you looking for the replay button. This was their lead single, so look for more of Waterloo Revival in 2016.
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” click for video
A great reunion took place in 2015 for those of us old school outlaws, when Willie and Merle got together to record “Django and Jimmie.” This rollicking old “Boom Chicka Boom” song finds the two old friends reminiscing about their old friend. The clever songwriting and easy going classic Cash sound brings me right back to my days in the 80’s on the radio during the hey day of the Outlaws and the Highwaymen. Just a fun walk down memory lane that also strikes me as a semi subtle jab at today’s country and the need for a “Johnny Cash” type pioneer.
“Rappin’ a bit, and talkin’ trash, missin’ ol’ Johnny Cash”
Zac Brown Band featuring Chris Cornel – “Heavy Is The Head” click for video
Okay before you say it, I agree…clearly more a rock song than a country song, but… Zac Brown is known for his open desire to push every envelope, which works magic sometimes and this is one of them. This is a great marriage of alternative rock great Chris Cornell and the southern rock roots of the ZBB. Certainly not for everyone, it’s heavy arrangement and loud guitars will turn off some country traditionalist but is just a great collaboration for those who lean in the rock and roll direction.
Jerrod Neimann – “Blue Bandana” click for video
Here’s another head scratcher to me, released as a single but fell way short of my expectations. This just sounded like a big hit but I guess the “Programmers” didn’t necessarily agree. It’s OK, it happens with me a lot more these days. It’s the story of a guy’s search for a wandering gypsy girl on the road following her favorite band. I think it’s the only country song that’s been able to list every major festival in America, lol. Catchy, creative and fun a hallmark of Jerrod’s music. Sure wish this one caught on.
“She’s a Bonnorroo Baby, Coachella Crazy, folkin’ out in Newport… just look for the girl in the blue bandana”
Eric Church – “Three Year Old” click for iTunes
Here’s a little gem from Eric’s surprise late 2015 release “Mr. Misunderstood.” This is simply a story of a father learning from watching his 3 year old. Poignant and far reaching life lessons as learned from the eyes of a child. Because we can all learn valuable lessons from watching our children.
“When you’re wrong, you should just say so I learned that from a three year old…”
These are just some random (quite random actually) finds over the last 12 months. Honorable mention (read check these out!!) to LANco – “American Love Story,” Michael Ray – “Wish I Was Here,” David Nail – “Kiss You Tonight,” Cam – “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty,” George Strait – “Cheaper Than A Shrink”, Willie & Merle – “Live This Long,” and Jeff Dane – “Real.”
Sure, there are many more but I’ve got a deadline. Fortunately for me I’m very musically diverse, so when I hit the shuffle button you just never know what’s gonna come out. Country music seems headed back in the direction of “country”. But whichever way it goes, it will hopefully give more artists the freedom to follow their own musical direction. I for one can’t wait to see how it evolves over the next year. So sit back, turn it up, and keep listening to “Everything Country.”