Friday, December 26, 2014

That Nashville Sound’s Top 100 (and something) Songs of 2014

2014 was another fabulous year of country music. Traditional country, bluegrass, modern country and Americana were all represented well and this list proves that out- we’ve cast a wide net over that definition of roots-oriented music.

Here are the rules by which this list was selected. It had to be released off an album that was released in 2014 or is an already-released single off a to-be-released album. If the album came out in 2013 or before, it couldn’t be included- even if it wasn't released as a single until 2014.

Let us hear what you think. Anything we missed? Without further ado, here is That Nashville Sound’s Top 100 (and something) Songs of 2014.

1.       Emily West- “Made for the Radio”

After being rung through the ringer by Capitol Records Nashville earlier this decade, it would make sense that Miss West would feel like giving the big music labels the finger for not allowing her to follow her muse and sing the music she felt compelled to release. So she set to music one of the most profound statement songs of the year, describing the “vacant black hole hearts” of the label heads that are “f***ing the next star.” The magic of the song isn’t that it’s just a call-out of those she felt did her wrong. It’s a statement that she’s found a new career compass and following it down her own yellow brick road (which just happens to be the name of her own label she’s releasing music on.)  If there’s one song on this Iist that I can implore you to go to i-Tunes and purchase right now, it’s this one right here. It’s passionately compelling and personal songwriting at its very best. She received Karmatically-charged justice in finishing second in America’s Got Talent in the second half of the year and earning a new record deal with Sony.
2. Chris Stapleton- “Go ‘N Down”

Unless you’re a fan of the first two Steeldrivers albums or accidently came across a little indie album from an act called the Jompson Brothers, Stapleton’s impact on your consciousness will be only from his radio release of “What Are You Listening To?” this last year that dented the charts.On “Go ‘N Down”, his magical throaty vocals deliver a fantastic western-themed story song that was on Kix Brooks’ soundtrack for Ambush at Dark Canyon, a straight to DVD/Blu-Ray movie released in January of this year. The delivery is fantastic, the lyrics are magic, describing” looking for redemption down the barrel of a gun. Go’n down where no mercy can be found and you pay for what you done with your soul.” Penned by Kix Brooks himself.
3. Don Williams- “I’ll Be Here in the Morning”

Country music’s “Gentle Giant” and one of the newest Country Music Hall of Fame members proves he’s still as powerful of a deliveryman with this cover of a 1968 Townes Van Zandt song. It’s a throwback in a modern way… which I guess is saying that it is as classic as anything he’s released over the years.
4.  Ronnie Dunn- “I Wished I Still Smoked Cigarettes”

If you haven’t heard this one, be rest-assured it is anything but a commercial for Marlboro. Dunn plaintively performs a great Lori McKenna co-penned track that longs for the days in which he could do things before consequences, before he knew better. This was released to radio as a single, further proving that “the FM machine” is overlooking quality contemplative songwriting for stuff that generically appeals to the masses. This is a great one that only adds to Dunn’s long legacy in country music.
5. Hal Ketchum- “I’m the Troubadour”

Illness and the end of a long Curb Records contract extinguished Ketchum’s spark for making music for much too long until he released this great title track off an equally excellent project. "I just kind of lost my powder for a while," said Ketchum in an interview to Billboard. "I just didn't feel like playing or writing. One day I just said, 'This is a gift that God has given me, so I better get back to it. It's an amazing gift to be able to come back this strong. I feel like it's the best record I've ever made." We agree.
6. Jason Eady- “Daylight and Dark”

Born in the Mississippi Delta, Eady has never been able to shake that soulful sound that flows through his veins like the river so famous down there. Even a short stint in Nashville where the powers that be wanted to commercialize his sound couldn’t have an effect. Now the Texas transplant has found his natural home and this deep and dark story born out of lost love just rips your heart out in the very best of ways. The title track of his outstanding album utilizes incredibly mellow production that only takes a backseat to a lyrical beatdown on the heart.
7. Eric Paslay- “Less Than Whole”

Outside of the Peach Pickers, the songwriter most in demand just might be this tall lanky redhead, Eric Paslay. This track was the standout on a strong debut album and deals with the challenges of self-esteem and the pressure of living with a feeling “of being less than whole.” It’s a great message song and Paslay showcases his great vocals on the track.
8. Eric Church- “Cold One”

On a roller-coaster album with its fair share of hits and misses, Church delivers a rousing one for the ages on “Cold One.” It’s a simple message: An analogy of his girlfriend stealing his cold beer and walking away with his heart. But it’s the production on this one that steals the show. The guitar work at the chorus is a main focus and the whole thing descends into jam chaos at the end. And yet somehow it works perfect.
10. Radney Foster- “Not In My House”

Foster used a profound conversation about a fellow student using a slur in his daughter’s 5th grade class as fodder on this powerful song that would eventually include references to racist and homophobic slurs as well. “I’m going to sing for th souls who get kicked around/ Words aren’t a weapon just to put you down.” For a southern man who witnessed what hate could produce first-hand, it’s a delivery and message that is all the more believable when Foster has earned some of that grey hair that has adorned his head for so long.
11. Drew Kennedy and Lori McKenna- “Rose of Jericho”

This song was released on both McKenna and Kennedy’s projects this year and both are equally excellent. Says McKenna about the genesis of the track, “This song started early one morning – the 2nd day of a two-day writing run with the incredible Drew Kennedy.  The first verse seemed to throw itself at me and then I hit a wall and didn’t understand what it wanted.  Drew came in – and mentioned that he wanted to write a song called “Rose Of Jericho”.  And somehow those two separate thoughts found one another and seemed to get along pretty well.”
12. Will Hoge- “Middle of America”

Hoge cowrote the song with Jessi Alexander and Tommy Lee James, and he was planning on shopping the song to other country artists before his producer Marshall Altman convinced him otherwise. “I wasn’t expecting to write a song for me,” Hoge told Rolling Stone Country. “We were just trying to write a great song, and as it went on, I started getting more and more attached to it. There’s always that moment of, ‘Do I want to keep this song for myself because I think it’s really great, or do I want to send it to Blake Shelton and make a whole bunch of money off of it? Maybe he’ll want it.’ It’s a strange place to be, but I’m pragmatic enough to know that sometimes that’s the right play.”
Better Than the Rest (#’s 13 through 53)

Cody Johnson- “Never Go Home Again”
The Whistles & the Bells- “Transistor Resistor”
Ray Benson & Willie Nelson- “It Ain’t You”
Jason Eady- “Whiskey & You”
Deana Carter- “I Know Better”
Dierks Bentley- “Damn These Dreams”
Matt Andersen- “So Easy”
David Nail- “The Secret”
David Nail (featuring Little Big Town)- “When They’re Gone (Lyle County)”
Reagan Boggs & Dave Coleman- “You Deserve Better”
Sara Evans (featuring Vince Gill)- “Better Off”
Jimmy Rankin- “Build This House”
Johnny Cash- “Out Among the Stars”
Becky Schlegel- “Opry Lullaby”
Rodney Crowell- “Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love”
Sunny Sweeney- “Bad Girl Phase”
Clare Bowen- “Come Find Me”
Dolly Parton- “Try”
Bryan White- “What I Already Know”
Jessica Andrews- “The Clown”
Lee Ann Womack- “Send It on Down”
The Pfeiffer Twins- “Don’t Blow the Whistle”
Carolina Story- “The Stranger”
Maddie & Tae- “Girl in a Country Song”
Sunny Sweeney- “Front Row Seats”
Marc Broussard- “A Life Worth Living”
Marty Stuart- “Life Has Its Ups and Downs”
Joel Crouse- “Don’t Tell Me”
Drew Kennedy- “Sleeping Alone”
Little Big Town- “Live Forever”
Dustin Lynch- “Your Daddy’s Boots”
Cahalen Morrison and Country Hammer- “The Flower of Muscle Shoals”
Blake Shelton- “Neon Light”
Blake Shelton- “Good Country Song”
Bob Seger- “Gates of Eden”
Angaleena Presley- “Grocery Store”
John Mellencamp- “Company of Cowards”
Brothers Osborne- “Stay a Little Longer”
James Carothers- “Where Did We Come From?”
Garth Brooks- “Tacoma”
Garth Brooks- “Send Em’ On Down the Road”
Best of the Rest (#’s 54 through 130):
Jason Eady- “Lonesome Down and Out”
Los Lonely Boys- “Blame it on Love”
Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition- “Tallahatchie”
Curtis Grimes- “Better Off”
Rhonda Vincent- “Bright Lights and Country Music”
Rhonda Vincent- “When the Grass Grows Over Me”
Cody Johnson- “Cowboy Like Me”
Cody Johnson- “Holes”
Eli Young Band- “What Does”
Randy Houser- “High in the Saddle (Can’t Kill a Memory)”
Rosanne Cash- “World of Strange Design”
David Crosby- “The Clearing”
Dierks Bentley- “Riser”
Reagan Boggs- “Appalachia”
Reagan Boggs- “Seldom Do”
Matt Andersen- “What Will You Leave”
Don Williams- “The Answer”
Don Williams- “Stronger Back”
Ronnie Milsap and Mandy Barnett- “You Make Me Feel Brand New”
Tattletale Saints- “Molly”
Tebey- “Music Man”
Tebey- “Wake Me Up”
Dirty Guvnahs- “Ever Start To Wonder”
Dirty Guvnahs- “Canyons”
Jimmy Rankin (featuring Alison Krauss)- “Flames”
Johnny Cash (featuring Minnie Pearl)- “If I Told You Who It Was”
NickelCreek- “Hayloft”
Ronnie Dunn- “You Should See You Now”
Charles Esten and Lennon and Maisy- “Believing”
Clare Bowen- “Black Roses”
Kelsey Waldon- “High In Heels”
Hunter Hayes- “Invisible”
Kira Isabella- “Quarterback”
Dolly Parton- “Lay Your Hands On Me”
Miranda Lambert- “Babies Makin’ Babies”
Miranda Lambert- “Priscilla”
Miranda Lambert- “Another Sunday in the South”
Lee Ann Womack- “Sleeping with the Devil”
Radney Foster- “California”
Brad Paisley- “River Bank”
Corb Lund- “Counterfeit Blues”
Kenny Chesney- “American Kids”
Mary Sarah- “I’m Sorry”
Kelly Mickwee- “Hotel Jackson”
Matt Harlan- “Old Allen Road”
Sunny Sweeney and Will Hoge- “My Bed”
Jesse Brewster- “Innocent Sinners”
Jesse Winchester- “Ghosts”
Rose’s Pawn Shop- “Don’t Let Me Down”
Joel Crouse- “I Never Said I Was In Love”
Casey Berry- “Blood of the Lamb”
Glen Templeton- “Let Her Go”
Brad Paisley- “High Life”
Brad Paisley- “Country Nation”
Lee Brice- “Panama City”
Little Big Town- “Painkiller”
Dustin Lynch- “Middle of Nowhere”
Tim McGraw- “Sick of Me”
Kenny Chesney- “If This Bus Could Talk”
Trisha Yearwood and Kelly Clarkson- “Prizefighter”
Josh Abbott Band- “Blush”
Lori McKenna- “Numbered Doors”
Lori McKenna- “God Never Made One of Us to be Alone”
Lori McKenna- “Three Kids, No Husband”
Lady Antebellum- “Damn You Seventeen”
Lady Antebellum- “747”
John Mellencamp- “The Brass Ring”
John Mellencamp- “Lawless Times”
Brothers Osborne- “Rum”
Brothers Osborne- “Arms of Fire”
Bob Seger- “All of the Roads”
Jason Aldean- “Tryin’ To Love Me”
Stoney LaRue- “Aviator”
The Swon Brothers- “This Side of Heaven”
Garth Brooks- “Mom”
Garth Brooks- “All American Kid”
Ray Scott- “Ain’t Always Thirsty”


  1. Another interesting list. Thanks. Some songs I would add:
    Jennifer Nettles - "Me Without You" and "That Girl" from her "That Girl" album released in Jan of 2014.
    Eric Paslay - "She Don't Love You"
    Gary Burr - "It Gets Late Early" and "Still a Desperado"
    Wendy Colonna - "Dirty Things", never heard of her til I found her on Engine 145. I'm missing that blog already.
    Kristian Bush - Trailer Hitch

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  2. ! couldn't agree more on the Emily West post. She is an awesome lady with an awesome sound! I was fortunate to see her live in Franklin Theatre in Franklin Tennessee. She did not disappoint. Such a range such emotion when delivering her craft, a totally wonderful person! By all means order Not Made For The Radio. Also add Chandelier and Santa Baby her two new releases.

  3. Perfect choice .....started listening to each artist , beginning with fabulous Emily West. Wow, will never get tired of this voice!!

  4. Pretty good list, but Dolly Parton's song "Try" should have been at the very top of this list. Incredibly deep.