1. One Flew South- Life- Although released on the 2008 album Last Of The Good Guys, “Life” was the second single released to radio by this trio. Opening with a pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitars quickly ring before the listener is served a tale of being helplessly in love with someone thought only to be a friend. The real standout here is the intricate and precisely delivered vocal harmonies that soar throughout the chorus.
2. Guy Clark- The Guitar- This great tune tells of six-string divine intervention. It’s a talking story-song about discovering a pawn shop guitar predestined to be his. It is truly storytelling at it’s very best- not to mention outstanding guitar picking work.
3. Jason Eady- Promises In Pieces- One of our favorite tracks of the year is the outstanding, classic story-song "Promises In Pieces." Filled with fiddle and steel guitar, the song tells the confessional and somberly haunting tale of someone who shoots a teller during a bank robbery and whose friend, the only friend that continues to give him second chances, takes the fall for the crime and is hanged.
4. Dean Brody- Cattleman’s Gun- Easily the best track on the Dean Brody’s debut album is "Cattleman's Gun." It’s a new old-school Western epic tale of good guys, bad guys, morals and shoot-outs that’s engaging and marks one of our favorite tracks of the year.
5. Bryan White- Dustbowl Dreams- The title track off of Bryan White’s album could be the most eloquent autobiographical song of 2009. As the “son of a son of an auctioneer,” White talks about things like pressing on and perseverance, losing his way, being bruised and cut and carrying on the dustbowl dreams of his family. In three minutes, White has beautifully told his ten year story. It’s truly a treasure of a song. The song even ends on a personal note- an old clip of his grandfather being introduced as an auctioneer and then auctioning off some piece of farm life.
6. Lynyrd Skynyrd- Floyd- With a nod to Charlie Daniels Band’s “Legend Of Wooley Swamp,” another favorite is a great story-song, “Floyd.” The track tells the tale of a G-Man eluding backwoods bayou moonshiner who outsmarts the law with the help of his backwoods bayou neighbors.
7. Jack Ingram & Patty Griffin- Seeing Stars- It’s a gorgeous acoustic song with Ingram playing the hopeless romantic astronomer. With touching and meaningful lyrics like “wishing on stars only when you see em’ is like asking God for help only when you need him,” it’s a winner. The absolute highlight of the album, however, is Patty Griffin singing harmony behind Ingram on the track. She’s heavenly.
8. Oak Ridge Boys- Mama’s Table- There was something familiar about the song, and it was only after I checked the liner notes that I realized it was co-written by Jamey Johnson. With the lyrics that reflect how a table handed down through the generations being the center of a family, it’s lyrics that make a perfect match to who and what the Oak Ridge Boys are and it represents the simplicity and rawness that Johnson’s tracks on That Lonesome Song are so critically acclaimed for. There is a rumor that Johnson laid down tracks alongside the Oak Ridge Boys on this tune- hopefully someone will have the genius to release it to the public.
9. Reba McEntire- Maggie Creek Road- Over her history, some of her greatest hits and songs she’s been most recognized for have allowed her redheaded sass and a bit of lyrical controversy stand through. Tunes like “Fancy” and “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” come to mind. On Keep On Loving You, she’s kept that tradition alive with her best track, “Maggie Creek Road”- a great story song about a mom taking things into her own hands when her daughter is caught being taken advantage of by her boyfriend.
10. Ronnie Milsap & Trace Adkins- My First Ride- We all missed out on the Bleve Records debut single by Trace Adkins and Ronnie Milsap called ”My First Ride” following a cease and desist order from Capitol Records Nashville.