Saturday, December 31, 2022

That Nashville Sound's Top Country & Americana Songs of 2022

2022 has been another fabulous year of country music. Traditional country, bluegrass, modern country and Americana are all represented well in this modern day and age and this list proves that out- we’ve cast a wide net over that definition of roots-oriented music.  

Later this week, we'll unveil our top albums of 2022, but today, we tackle our favorite songs. Few are radio singles. But you probably knew that already if you read this site.

Here are the rules by which this list was selected. It had to be released off an album that was released in 2022, 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 2021 or before, it couldn’t be included- even if it wasn't released as a single until 2022. 

Looking back, there's some amazing songs that moved us more than all the others:

2021 - Jason Eady - "French Summer Sun"
2020 - Mickey Guyton - "What Are You Gonna Tell Her?" 
2019 - Erin Enderlin - "Broken"
2018 – Ashley McBryde – “Girl Goin’ Nowhere”
2017 – Sunny Sweeney – “Bottle By My Bed”
2016 - Jack Ingram - "The Sailor and the Sea"
2015-  Chris Stapleton - "Tennessee Whiskey"
2014 - Emily West - "Made for the Radio"
2013 - Kacey Musgraves - "Follow Your Arrow"
2012 - Waylon Jennings - "I Do Believe"
2011 - Ronnie Dunn - "Cost of Livin'"
2010 - Joe Diffie - "Route 5 Box 109"
2009 - Dean Brody - "Cattleman's Gun"
2008 - Jamey Johnson - "In Color"
2007 - Miranda Lambert - "Gunpowder and Lead"
2006 – Johnny Cash – “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”

And without further ado, we count down the songs that moved us the most in 2022. 

1. Lyle Lovett - "12th of June"
It’s really hard to find a sound of your own and have your own space and Lyle does just that on this song and album. It's country, but has influences of jazz and singer-songwriter in it- but it's this standout track about the day he became the father of twins and how it changed his life. It's profound listening if you're a parent. 

2. Hardy and Lainey Wilson - "Wait in the Truck"
The song depicts a man who, upon finding a battered woman on the side of the road, confronts her abuser in his trailer, shooting him when he reaches for his shotgun, killing the abuser. The song ends with the man in prison, 60 months into a sentence. It's gritty. Dark. And the fact that it lit up the radio airwaves despite both of those facts is a testament to how well done the storytelling is. 

3. Julie Williams - "Southern Curls"
There's a magic moment sometimes when you're in the audience listening to a show and a song makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and gives you goosebumps along your arm. I had that feeling hearing this for the first time earlier this year when Williams was performing in the Golf & Guitars Music Festival in Sacramento. Drawn from a perspective that only she could tell as a person of color making her way through a predominantly white country music industry, it's equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. It's authentic and honest delivery amongst the very best of any songs released on the past year. 
4. Jelly Roll - "Son of a Sinner"
The song is about Jelly Roll's personal life as a traveling musician, as well as his personal struggles with "right and wrong" and addiction. Ironically, Jelly Roll told Billboard that he was intoxicated while recording the vocal track to the song. The result is a surprisingly brilliant song filled with depth, powerful vocals and honesty. 

5. Johnny and Heidi - "Good Hands"
Johnny Bulford is perhaps best-known for co-writing such songs as "A Woman Like You" for Lee Brice and "Lonely Eyes" for Chris Young. It's his bride Heidi however that steals the spotlight on this incredibly written and delivered tribute song about the men in her life. It's poetic and her soft vocals give it an intimacy that only enhances the feelings that a daughter would share about a father.  It's brilliant. 

6. Kaylin Roberson - "Die First"
At first, it's the voice. That's what stands out at first listen. Depth for days and a big ole range with that incredible southern natural drawl. But then those lyrics hit you like a ton of bricks. For anyone who's lost a grandparent or a parent... heck anyone who's ever even fallen in love... it's easy to place yourself in the middle of this harsh reality that it's easier being the first one to pass on than live without the love of your life. It's a master class in songwriting for this upcoming shining star of an artist. 

7. Tommy Prine - "Ships in the Harbor"
As the son of the legendary artist and songwriter John Prine, only Tommy could have penned this song. The weight of John Prine’s legacy both weighs it down and lifts it up. It's a tribute to a father and that is what makes it so unique. 

Perhaps music's most prolific songwriter in 2022 delivered a single song so powerful it deserved to be on this list. Here, it features Bryan opening himself up vulnerably, willing himself to believe there's a chance of survival for an all-but-doomed relationship. 

Unapologetically country right out of the Keith Whitney playbook, this terrific song is everything that jukebox country should be in the modern day. It has heart and soul, uses traditional country messaging in a really strong way and highlights her brilliant delivery and vocals. 

10. Austin Jenckes - "River Jordan"
Austin calls himself "a gnarly, but vulnerable, country-blues singer with the introspective songwriting chops." What he doesn't mention is that he has a vocal delivery that hits like a hurricane and when he pairs it with a song like this that feels like it should be delivered from the pulpit of a Southern Baptist Church... well.. all I can say is, "Amen." 

11. Hannah Blaylock - Burned the Forest"
Hannah might be best known for her work in the trio Eden's Edge, but some of her more recent work has engraved her as one of the most pure vocalists to come out of Nashville in some time. This latest track written with Autumn McEntire highlights just that and a delicious dark narrative along the way. 

12. Jason Michael Carroll - "Tell Me Your Name"
As JMC himself has put it, “because my wife's mother is going through a battle and watching it tear her apart and affect the family as it has, inspired me to write this song with my buddy Johnny Orr.” For anyone who is helplessly sitting by with a loved one who is battling Alzheimer’s or dementia, you’ll quickly understand the impact that music can have on people. If country music is three chords and the truth, sometimes the truth is hard. 

13. Courtney Patton“Casualty”
The Texas songwriter has delivered some of the most brilliantly written songs out of the Lone Star State (and beyond) over the last decade and this soulful and emotional track adds to that long list of killers. With heart-on-sleeve, this song dives deep before bursting with an emotional crescendo that draws you in and blows your socks off all at once. It's storytelling by poetry 101. 

14. Panhandlers - "Where Cotton Is King"

15. Sunny Sweeney - "Married Alone"

16. Jana Kramer - "The Story"

17. Willie Nelson - "Dusty Bottles"

19. Wade Bowen with Vince Gill“A Guitar, a Singer, and a Song”

20. Miranda Lambert - "Carousel"

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