Monday, December 19, 2011

That Nashville Sound's Top 100 Songs Of 2011

2011 was a fabulous year of country music. Traditional country, bluegrass, modern country and Americana were all represented well and this list proves that out.

Here are the rules by which this list was selected. It had to be released off an album that was released in 2011 or is an already-released single off a to-be-released album. If the album came out in 2010 or before, it couldn’t be included- even if it wasn't released as a single until 2011.

Let us hear what you think. Anything we missed? Without further ado, here is That Nashville Sound’s Top 100 Songs of 2011.

1    Ronnie Dunn - Cost of Livin'
A masterpiece that is as timely as it is well written and sung. Stripped down acoustically and emotionally, this song about struggling through this economic malaise just could be the anthem of our times. It's head and shoulders above everything else.

2    Chris Young - Neon
Neon” is a one word stud in song- a terrifically written track that is perfect for his voice and targeted genre. Young's vocals are rich, distinctive and powerful and impart just enough emotion to rope in the listener and not let go.

3    Pistol Annies - Takin' Pills
While a number of songs off the Pistol Annies' debut album could have been here in the top ten, this one embodies the album the best. It is told from fascinatingly flawed characters. They’ve taken subjects that are typically associated with backwoods mentality and told stories with wit and grit that are smart as hell.

4    Stoney LaRue - Velvet
"Velvet” closes the curtain on his album with a lush, warm, and sensual slow number that is not overly sexual, but one of those songs that is just perfect to hold your girl to. Sarah Buxton chiming in on background vocals just adds to the heat.

5    Joey+Rory - "Headache"
I'm pretty sure that Joey, the female piece to this wife/husband duo, could sing the phone book and it would sound gorgeous. However, when she gets sassy and utilizes Rory's deft touch at humor in song, something magical happens. That this wasn't a giant hit on radio is the crime of 2011.

6    Vince Gill - The Old Lucky Diamond Motel
From my review over at Engine 145: “Old Lucky Diamond Hotel,” a delicious slice of Americana, was inspired by the razing of several classic Route 66 landmarks. It’s wrapped up in great, gritty 70s country themes like losing your virginity to a sweet Spanish stripper, filtered Pall Malls, pool shooting, and raising hell as a teenager. Gill gives the hotel more admiring description in four minutes than do most newspaper stories. At the end of the song, it’s hard not to lament that they’re demolishing a fictional location with such character.

7    Matraca Berg - Your Husband's Cheating On Us
My pal CM Wilcox over at Country California called this the "Best Slithering, Sassy Story Song in Which a Cheater Is Brought to Justice by Unlikely Accomplices."

8    Jason Eady - AM Country Heaven
For anyone who believes that the takeover of pop-oriented country music across the FM radio leaves something missing, this could be your new anthem. Eady performs a terrifically written tale of how AM country radio is still keeping the genre honest.

9    Emmylou Harris - The Story of Emmett Till
Using the true story of a gruesome killing of a southern black boy as the base, the song is at once sorrowful, historical and powerful. It caused me to spend another hour looking into the back-story of the song- not because it didn’t provide enough details, but it wove a story so incredibly well, I had to know more.

10    Miranda Lambert - Dear Diamond
My music critic friend Sam Gazdziak of Engine 145 says, "The self-penned “Dear Diamond” should be required listening for any singer out there who believes that vocal gymnastics trump emotional delivery."

11    Emily West - I Hate You, I Love You Again
Haunting lyrics. Impeccable vocals. Throwback stylings. Damn near perfection in song. 

12    Justin Haigh - All My Best Friends (Are Behind Bars)
13    Dirt Drifters - Name On My Shirt
14    Connie Smith - Ain't You Even Gonna Cry
15    Holly Williams - Blue Is My Heart
16    Jimmy Rankin - The Hurtin' Part
17    Randy Houser - In God's Time
18    Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels
19    Donna Ulisse - Hand Me Down Home
20    Eddie Bush - We Shared Time
21    Sawyer Brown - Travlin' Band
22    Chris Young - Flashlight
23    Michael Martin Murphey - Trusty Lariat
24    David Serby - I Just Stole Back What Was Mine
25    George Strait - Drinkin' Man
26    Pistol Annies - Lemon Drop
27    Jonathan Byrd - Father's Day
28    David Nail - Songs For Sale
29    Dierks Bentley - Home
30    Donna Ulisse - Shady Glen
31    Big Kenny & Jaron and the Long Road To Love - Beautiful Lies
32    Sarah Darling (with Vince Gill) - Bad Habit
33    Brett Eldridge - Raymond
34    Foster and Lloyd - Picasso's Mandolin
35    Mark Wills - Crazy Being Home
36    Miranda Lambert - All Kinds of Kinds
37    Toby Keith - Clancy's Tavern
38    Alison Krauss & Union Station - Dimming of the Day
39    George Strait - Poison
40    Bradley Gaskin- Mr. Bartender
41    Blake Shelton - Red River Blue
42    Sonia Leigh - 1978 December
43    Vince Gill - Bread and Water
44    David Nail - Sound of a Million Dreams
45    Steve Earle - The City
46    Erin Enderlin - You Don't Know Jack
47    Martina McBride - Marry Me
48    Sara Evans - What That Drink Cost Me
49    Dirt Drifters - Married Men and Hotel Rooms
50    Brad Paisley - One Of Those Lives
51    Jimmy Rankin - Maybe Nothing
52    Joe Nichols - She's Just Like That
53    Nell Robinson - Don’t Light My Fire
54    Chris Young - Tomorrow
55    Alison Krauss & Union Station - Dustbowl Children
56    Tommy Shaw - Sawmill
57    Coy Bowles - This Ole Town
58    Glen Campbell - A Better Place
59    Sierra Hull - Tell Me Tomorrow
60    Steve Earle - Heaven or Hell
61    Ronnie Dunn - How Far To Waco
62    Steve and Ryan Wariner - Sting Ray
63    Shooter Jennings - Outlaw You
64    Edens Edge - Amen
65    Eli Young Band - My Old Man's Son
66    Randy Travis (with Don Henley) - More Life
67    Trent Tomlinson - A Man Without A Woman
68    Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane
69    The Trishas- Drive
70    George Strait - A Showman's Life
71    David Adam Byrnes - When I Get There
72    David Nail - Half Mile Hill
73    David Serby - Sugar Creek
74    The Henningsens - Thirst
75    Dirt Drifters - Something Better
76    Dolly Parton - Better Day
77    Sunny Sweeney and Jessi Colter - Good Hearted Woman
78    Terri Clark - Northern Girl
79    The Civil Wars - Barton Hallow
80    The Harters - If I Run
81    Gord Bamford - Hank Williams Lonesome
82    Gwendolyn - Sing This Song
83    Lauren Alaina - The Locket
84    Tommy Shaw - Give Em' Hell Harry
85    Wood Brothers - Shoofly Pie
86    Matraca Berg - The Dreaming Fields
87    Matt Kennon - I Can't Get Back
88    Miss Willie Brown - Freeland
89    Scotty McCreery - Dirty Dishes
90    Brad Paisley - New Favorite Memory
91    Alabama - Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?
92    Sara Evans - A Little Bit Stronger
93    Stoney LaRue - Dresses
94    Blake Shelton - I'm Sorry
95    Thompson Square - Glass
96    Sierra Hull - All Because of You
97    Trace Adkins - Just Fishin'
98    Brad Paisley - A Man Don't Have To Die
99    Tiffany - Just That Girl
100    Michael Martin Murphey - The James Gang Song Trilogy


  1. Nice to see the Emmylou Harris song getting a mention, it's indeed a wonderful piece of storytelling. On the other hand, I've never 'got' that Matraca Berg song in your Top 10. I love the album it's from, but 'Your Husband's Cheating On Us' is one of my least favourites from it.

    And I hadn't realised Emily West had had new material - must check her out!

  2. Interesting list. No argument about #1. Really like that Thompson Square song "Glass".

  3. Pretty special that you added Eddie Bush's We Shared Time. Such a beautiful song written through tragedy. Very nice to see it in your list. I couldn't agree more.

  4. Thanks Ken! I am honored to be included in such great company. "Enjoy the sparks but dont light my fire", xo Nell

  5. Great list #1 is a great song and I agree with your choice ,Awesome list of songs

  6. Good list! Love Nell Robinson, Steve Earle, and many on the list, though I would argue that you were too kind to Pistol Annies. My favorite song from the year, though, was "The Once and Future Carpenter," by The Avett Brothers. The fact that it was not included can only mean that it was not released as a single, despite the CMT video airplay. Please tell me this was the reason the song was not on the list....

  7. Great!!!! Ronnie you did it!!!! So proud of you. Keep on sweetheart......

  8. Got the #1 dead right!

  9. Cost of Livin' and Ronnie Dunn so deserve the #1 spot! Country radio didn't do it justice and it didn't receive the air time that it deserved. This is an exceptional song about the sad state of our economy and its effect on people's lives. A brilliant song sung by an equally brilliant vocalist. Thank you for recognizing its significance when others did not.

  10. Nothing throws in such stark relief the narrowness of my musical experience like "Best Of" list season. With the exception of what I discover from blogs, I am a consumer of radio singles I hear on infrequent car errands, and when my landlord can't quite find his oldies or talk stations on the radio dial and has the volume turned up too loud.

    This means that even apart from obvious differences in musical tastes my perception of the year in music is quite different from album consumers.

    With that said, my *current* two favorite country songs I've heard this year are:

    Edens Edge's - Amen
    The undeniably country instrumentation, endearingly quirky lead vocal, and stellar harmonies overwhelmed my distaste for its religious framing.

    Emily West - I Hate You, I Love You Again
    I want to buy this song. I want to pay money to put it on my iPhone and take it with me everywhere I go. I'm glad I'm not the only one who found it absolutely stunning.

  11. I'm glad to see that Cost of Livin is being recognized for the masterpiece that it is, in spite of radio's lack of support. Excellent choice for #1!

  12. see my boy took nuber 2 good job chris young

  13. Emily West has an amazing voice and her style is sooo unique. I wish there were more of her songs available online. I can't wait for her new album!

  14. This is a serious undertaking and only a special few could pull it off so well. Great list. "Cost of Livin'" and "Lemon Drop" are my top two.

  15. Wow, no Jake Owen anywhere on the list?! He had one of the best albums released in 2011!

  16. Dirty Dishes is such a great song. Luv to see it listed here!

  17. Scotty M's "Dirty Dishes" is an awesome song; should be further up on the list; but glad it's acknowledged. Also think "Old King James" should have been listed, Thanks for the list.

  18. Very nice list. Agree with the #1. That's a no brainer. Without a doubt a masterpiece.
    May I suggest "Three Nails and a Cross" by George Strait and "Clear as Day" By Scotty McCreery.
    Happy to see so many Pistol Annie songs and a couple by George as well. Some of the tracks I'm not familiar with but thank you for giving me some new material to check out

  19. Thank you for honoring real country music. And also thank you for having Chris Young on here not 1 but 3 times. Neon is a great album, and the fact that 2 of the 3 songs on your list were co-written by Chris really says something about his talent. As a long time fan, I'm glad to see him getting the recognition he so deserves.

  20. I am so glad to see Scotty Mccreery's dirty dishes should be higher on the list ,also Love You This Big should of been on there.

  21. Love 1978 December by Sonia Leigh! Great story telling by a great singer/songwriter!

  22. Dirty Dishes does belong on this list. My twelve-year-old granddaughter sings this to me---her seventy-eight year old grandma. It touches all generations.

  23. Excited to see Miss Willie Brown make the list with Freeland at #88. Great talent, beautiful song!!!!

  24. Sonia Leigh #42...Worth listening to, if you haven't heard her yet.

  25. Donna Ulise played in the house band for Fifth National Banque on Little Creek Drive in Norfolk way back when I met my wife - we used to dance to her beautiful voice in 1982.

  26. I like most of them, but I don't "You Can't Have Everything" by Little Big Town should be on here. Beatiful lyrics, amazing harmonies, and fantasic lead vocals.

  27. Thanks for recognizing some of the great independent releases that are out there!

  28. I'm sure it wasn't deliberate, but the opening sentence for #1 sounds eerily familiar.

  29. I have been examinating out a few of your stories and it's pretty clever stuff. I will surely bookmark your blog.
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