Monday, December 5, 2016

That Nashville Sound's Top 100 (and something) Songs of 2016

2016 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 2016, is an independent release not on any other project, or is an already-released single off a to-be-released album. If the album came out in 2015 or before, it couldn’t be included- even if it wasn't released as a single until 2016.

Let us hear what you think. Anything we missed? Without further ado, here is That Nashville Sound’s Top 100 (and something) Songs of 2016.

Best of the Best

1. Jack Ingram - "The Sailor and The Sea"- Listen here - Jack released a fantastic collection of songs off his Midnight Motel album this year, but our favorite track from the Texan was this little-heard dedication to his good friend and late legendary songwriter Guy Clark- about a story that he told Ingram about riding out a hurricane in a boat.  "He told me a story about riding out Hurricane Carla, 1963, in the bay at Rockport on a boat he had helped restore & was scheduled to sail to Florida the next week. Hurricane Carla took out Galveston. It was a big one. He anchored the boat out in the bay with 100 lb test rope. He tied 10 lines of rope to the anchor, each one 10' ft longer than the previous. As one would break there would be 10 more feet of line & the boat remained steady. Storm passed. Made a few minor repairs & sailed the boat to Florida." Symbolically, there might not be a better premise for a song and Jack delivers a profoundly insightful dedication to Guy. "I loved Guy. I didn't need him to but he let me know in ways he knew I'd know that he was glad I was in his world. That felt really fuckin' good. He knew I needed that from him and he gave it to me. Guy Clark took moments of absolute CLARITY and turned them into songs that were clearer than the original moment." Call me sentimental, but this ode to one of our generations finest songwriters who was lost this year is my favorite track of the year.

2. Jenny Gill – “Your Shadow” – Listen here - When your father is Vince Gill, perhaps the most-awarded singer in country music history, there’s a double-edged sword when you’re carving out your own career as Jenny Gill is doing. Name recognition is a positive, but constant comparisons and unfair accusations of “carpetbagging” are bound to arise. On this powerful and autobiographical piece, Jenny provides and emotional and raw look at this head-on. She covers the power of the musical compass that her father has laid out for her and the risks of being burned by the spotlight and not living up to the high standards the Gill name has in Nashville and beyond. It’s phenomenally well-written, providing a glimpse into what it must be like making your own name in a field in which your (last) name has already been made. As someone who followed his own father both in name and in career, “His Shadow” tells a story that hits close to home and tells part of mine as well. Incredibly, Jenny carves out a substantial piece of art under her own name out of a tribute to where she comes from.

3. Joey + Rory – “In The Time That You Gave Me” – Listen here - Joey’s tragic death early this year has been well-documented by nearly every news group across the nation and one of the feel-good stories of the year was the duo’s album of hymns not only going number one in its first week of sales, but being their first album to go Gold after just a few weeks of its release. But this track isn’t off of that project. Released off of Rory’s emotional documentary film released this fall about the birth of their daughter Indiana and the last two years of his wife’s fight, To Joey, With Love, this soundtrack didn’t get the attention or love it deserved. If you’ve seen the film or followed the story, there’s a undeniable poignancy to this song that’s equal parts foreshadowing and comforting as you hear Joey outline the days beyond her earthly ones. This is why music is so powerful, at times comforting and forever reminding even after the voice has been silenced.

4. Evan Webb and the Rural Route Ramblers - "Dry Up or Down" - Listen here - This talented band released a song and video that smartly describes the losses that small towns incur across the US when they're forgotten about after both physical and economic impacts hit the community. It's a poignant portrayal of dying cities and the despondency of the people that live there. The video that accompanies this haunting song was shot following the floods McLure, Illinois (pop. 400) and it brilliantly gives visuals to the gritty and honest lyrics.

5. Raelynn - "Love Triangle" - Listen here - Anyone critical of artists like Raelynn who end up making their mark through the reality television circus should take heed. Sometimes, dues are paid not by miles on the road or smoky bar rooms played but by life lived. This is one truly special example. RaeLynn wears her heart on her sleeve on this gut-wrenching ballad, co-written with Nicolle Galyon and Jimmy Robbins. The track underscores the impact her parents's divorce had on her at such a young age. "Sittin’ on the front step, little white suitcase, hearing that diesel 'fore it hit the front gate," she recalls on the first verse. "His headlights burnin’ down a Friday night. Southern Belle statue standing in the screen door watching her whole world head for an old ford with a man that can’t look her in the eye." RaeLynn then lays out all her emotions on the chorus. "Then I him. Big hug, jump in. And I cry for her out the window. Some mommas and daddies are loving in a straight line take forever to heart and take a long sweet ride. But some mommas and daddies let their heart strings tear and tangle, and some of us get stuck in a love triangle."

6. Darrell Scott - "It's Another Day" - Listen here - Darrell Scott, one of this generation's best songwriters, convened in his living room back in 2001/’02 with bassist Danny Thompson, drummer Kenny Malone, and famed pedal and lap steel man Dan Dugmore. Together they recorded 14 tracks, (9 originals, 5 covers) live to tape. But those tapes sat collecting dust for fifteen years until Scott recently revisited them this year. Here, Scott channels his inner-James Taylor and delivers a song for the ages about mortality and what matters- and how its only our children, memories and musical legacies that carry on after we're gone. Just as he's done time and time again, Scott eloquently delivers a message of depth with a poets touch.

7. William Michael Morgan - "I Know Who He Is" - Listen here - Serious lists have serious songs on them and this ode to a dying father battling dementia is equal parts sentimental and emotive. It's a dedication in the best sense of the world- never sugar-coating a heartbreaking situation while devoting a full chest full of love for a parent.

8. Brandy Clark - "Big Day In A Small Town" - Listen here - No songwriter or singer has the ability of capturing the nuances of small town rumors, gossip, confession and the necessary truths of daily living than Brandy Clark. And no song does this better than the title track from Clark's genuinely fantastic sophomore album. It's community self-examination that's more likely to come at a psychiatrists office than a songwriter's room and its genius. It celebrates the hilarity of the challenges that the down-and-outers face with a humor, compassion and an ear for small details that's so difficult to do in just three short minutes. No one is writing a narrative for rural America like Clark right now and this funky track is damn near perfect.

9. David Nail (with Lori McKenna) - "Home" - Listen here - Out of all the male major label artists out right now, no one is putting out the quality and consistently terrific albums time and time again like Nail. The fact that he pulls in the elegant songwriter Lori McKenna on this self-analytic ballad about the power of your hometown. It's not about gravel roads, pick-ups and drinking beer. It's about sentimentalism and a landing spot for failures and successes alike. "It's where you're from/it's your oldest friend/ you think it'll forget you when you go but you know it'll take you back in," croons Nail. It's a beautifully produced track with a touching narrative and McKenna's harmony only adds to the timelessness.

10. Jamie Floyd - "The People You Knew" - Listen here - You may not know this fantastic songwriter, but you do know her work. Jamie is the pen behind Ashley Monroe's "The Blade." Floyd released a terrific EP earlier this year entitled Sunshine & Rainbows and this terrific song ranks as its very best. She took her very real heartache and turned it into a compassionate message of understanding. “It’s important to realize that you are not the only one who hurts this much," she told The lyric is painfully open: 'I don't even know where you are now/And you don't know what I'm thinking/Or what I've been through without you/We don't even know what we're missing/We let go but we didn't mean to/Oh when the people you know/Become the people you knew.'

11. Sarah Darling - "Montmarte" - Listen here - Unless you were a supporter of her crowd sourced upcoming album Dream Country, it's likely you haven't been blessed to listen to this song that whisks you away to the cobblestone streets of Paris. It highlights Darling's ethereal voice and is a powerhouse of a auditory celebration that fills the imaginary visuals in the corners of your mind.
12. Dean Brody – “Time” – Listen here - Brody’s debut album still ranks as a highlight in my record collection and while subsequent projects have hits and misses when it comes to substance, there’s always one or two gems that have lots of heart. “Time” is that track off his most recent fall release, Beautiful Freakshow. Brody eloquently outlines the questions of how time is best spent and remaining in the moment as well as making choices that will create long-lasting memories of importance. It’s very well-written and delivered with a simplicity in production that matches the message. The song, itself, is time well-spent.

13. Muddy Magnolias - "Take Me Home" - Listen here - Soul personified. That's the best thing that can be said about this beautiful track from this female duo. NPR says, "(Jessy) North and (Kallie) Wilson lean their vocal styles toward each other in a blend that isn't seamless, but rather mutually respectful: Trading runs and sharing high notes, they stand for a musical — and, by implication, personal — interconnection that keeps each player's home truths on equal footing with the other's." Here they call for the comfort of home with its muddy waters and whispers of memories with a beautiful acoustic guitar bed and towering vocals that showcase the ladies fantastic pipes.

The Top 50 - Narrowly Missing the Dirty (Bakers) Dozen (alphabetical):

Aaron Lewis - "Mama" - Listen here
AJ Hobbs - "The Bottle Let Me Down" - Listen here
Ashton Shepherd - "I Just Need A Minute" - Listen here
Becky Warren - "Stay Calm, Get Low" - Listen here
Brent Cobb - "Down Home" - Listen here
Brent Cobb - "Solving Problems" - Listen here
Brent Cobb - "Down in the Gulley" - Listen here
Brothers Osborne - "Stay a Little Longer" - Listen here
Charles Kelley - "Leaving Nashville" - Listen here
Cody Jinks - "Church at Gaylor Creek" - Listen here
Cody Johnson - "Half a Song" - Listen here
Craig Morgan (with Mac Powell) - "Hearts I Leave Behind" - Listen here
David Nail - "Old Man's Symphony" - Listen here
Dierks Bentley - Can't Be Replaced" - Listen here
Dolly Parton - "Forever Love" - Listen here
Drake White - "Makin' Me Look Good Again" - Listen here
Henningsens - "Texas Is a Woman" - Listen here
Holly Williams - "Settle Down" - Listen here
Jack Ingram - "Blaine's Ferris Wheel" - Listen here
Jamey Johnson - "Mama's Table" - Listen here
Jen Lane - "1st Day of Spring (in Saskatchewan)" - Listen here
Jenny Gill - "Whiskey Words" - Listen here
Joey+Rory - "I Surrender All" - Listen here
Jon Pardi - "She Ain't In It" - Listen here
Keith Urban - "Blue Ain't Your Color" - Listen here
Lockhart - "On My Way To You" - Listen here
Lori McKenna - "Halfway Home" - Listen here
Maren Morris - "My Church" - Listen here
Mark Chesnutt - "So You Can't Hurt Me Anymore" - Listen here
Megan Conner - "Love Me Slow" - Listen here
Miranda Lambert - "Tin Man" -  Listen here
Mo Pitney - "It's Just a Dog" - Listen here
Phil Vassar - "Ballad of Pretty Mae" - Listen here
Randy Houser - "One Way" - Listen here
Randy Rogers Band (with Alison Krauss & Dan Tyminski)- "Look Out Yonder" - Listen here
Ryan Beaver - "Dark" - Listen here
Tim McGraw - "Humble and Kind" - Listen here
Trent Tomlinson - "For The Life of Me" - Listen here
Vince Gill - "Like My Daddy Did" - Listen here
William Michael Morgan - "I Met a Girl" - Listen here
Wynonna & The Big Noise (with Jason Isbell) - "Things That I Lean On" - Listen here
Zac Brown - "Grandma's Garden" - Listen here

The Top 100 (and something) - The Best of the Rest (alphabetical):

Aaron Lewis (featuring Willie Nelson)- "Sinner"
Ashton Shepherd - "It's You"
Aubrie Sellers - "Liar Liar"
Aubrie Sellers - "Losing Ground"
Aubrie Sellers - "Loveless Rolling Stone"
Aubrie Sellers - "Magazines"
Becky Warren - "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time"

Billy Ray Cyrus (featuring Joe Perry) - "Tulsa Time"
Brady Clark - "Broke"
Brandy Clark - "Since You've Gone To Heaven"
Brandy Clark - "Three Kids, No Husband"

Brent Cobb - "Black Crow"
Brothers Osborne (featuring Lee Ann Womack) - "Loving Me Back"
Charles Kelley - "Who Gets Me"
Charles Kelley (featuring Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay) - "The Driver"
Charlie Daniels Band - "Nighthawk"
Charlie Daniels Band - "Old Chisolm Trail"
Church Sisters - "7 Years"
Cody Jinks - "Give All You Can"
Cody Johnson - "The Only One I Know"
Darrell Scott - "Big River"
Darrell Scott - "Down To The River"
David Nail - "Babies"
David Nail - "Fighter"
David Nail - "In The Ghetto"
David Nail (featuring Brothers Osborne) - "Good at Tonight"
Dierks Bentley (featuring Elle King) - "Different for Girls"
Dierks Bentley (featuring Maren Morris) - "I'll Be The Moon"
Dolly Parton - "Can't Be That Wrong"

Frankie Ballard - "Little Bit of Both"
Frankie Ballard - "Wasting Time"
Garth Brooks - "He Really Loves You"

Green River Ordinance - "You, Me and the Sea"
Heather Rankin (featuring The Rankin Family) - "We Walk As One"
Henningsens - "Hank"

Henningsens - "World's On Fire"
Jack Ingram - "All Over Again"
Jack Ingram - "Champions of the World"
Jen Lane - "Fools"
Jon Pardi - "All Time High"
Jon Pardi - "California Sunrise"

Keith Urban (featuring Carrie Underwood) - "The Fighter"
Kenny Chesney - "Noise"
Kree Harrison - "How To Dance"
Kree Harrison - "The Time I've Wasted"
Kree Harrison - "This Old Thing"
LOCASH - "The Fighter"
Lori McKenna - "Giving Up On Your Hometown"
Maggie Rose - "Broken"

Mark Chesnutt - "Neither Did I"
Mathew Mayfield - "History"
Megan Conner - "Aftermath"
Miranda Lambert - "Highway Vagabonds"

Miranda Lambert - "Keeper of the Flame"
Mo Pitney - "Behind This Guitar"
Mo Pitney - "I Met Merle Haggard Today"
Randy Rogers Band - "The Things I Need To Quit"
Ryan Beaver - "Vegas"
Sarah Darling - "Tell That Devil"

Trent Tomlinson - "That's What's Working Right Now"
Vince Gill - "One More Mistake I Made"
William Michael Morgan - "Backseat Driver"
William Michael Morgan - "Lonesomeville"

1 comment:

  1. Check out video for Heather Rankin's We Walk As One on ytube