The month of November wasn’t exactly brimming with great new country music. That was expected considering the CMA Awards and several artists releasing greatest hits albums. Also from August to September there were a lot of new albums being released, as you’ve seen the numerous reviews we’ve done over the last few months. That being said there was still enough quality country music to compile a good top ten list for the month of November. I thought for sure Garth Brooks would have the #1 song for the month, but a familiar duo snuck in at the last second and stole the top spot.
1. First Aid Kit – “America” (Cover) – The Swedish duo of Johanna & Anna Söderberg’s cover of Paul Simon’s “America” is simply too damn good not to be the #1 country song of November 2014. First Aid Kit impresses me more every time I hear them sing and there’s a reason why you’ll see their names pop up a lot in Country Perspective’s year-end awards. This is one cover I can’t describe to you properly and something you just need to hear yourself.
2. Garth Brooks – “Tacoma” – Despite not getting the top spot, Garth occupies the most spots in the top ten with four songs and forced me to break my three songs per artist rule. This is easily the best vocal performance by Garth on his new album Man Against Machine. It’s also his favorite song on the album. One more thing: Garth isn’t on the Spotify playlist for this month’s top ten because he of course isn’t on Spotify. If you would like to hear a preview of his songs on his new album or any of the songs in the top ten, click here.
3. Mack McKenzie – “Walk With Me” – Debut albums aren’t supposed to impress me as much as Mack McKenzie’s new album One Last, One More. And yet it did. The standout song to me from the album is the final track, “Walk With Me.” It’s an emotional song about an older man whose wife has passed away and he’s now lost without her. He recalls all of their memories throughout the song and by the end of the song his time on Earth is coming to an end. The haunting female background vocals puts this song over the top for me.
4. Garth Brooks – “Rodeo and Juliet” – Only Garth would bring Western swing to a country album in 2014. Really he is one of the few in mainstream country who can get away with this kind of creative decision. Nobody does Western swing anymore, yet here’s Garth bringing it back with glee. Thank you Garth and I hope to see another Western swing song on his 2015 album.
5. Garth Brooks – “Send ‘Em on Down the Road” – This is a heartfelt song about parents raising their children, watching them grow up and then sending them off into the world. While “Tacoma” was the best vocal performance on Garth’s new album, I thought this was the best song lyrically. If I could have made one decision for Garth’s new album, I would have made this the first single from it.
6. The Doobie Brothers & The Zac Brown Band – “Black Water” (Cover) – This is the second time this year that Zac Brown Band has managed to make one of my monthly top ten lists by covering another artists’ song. “Black Water” is more of a southern rock song, so it fits Zac Brown Band like a glove. The Doobie Brothers’ Southbound album didn’t blow me away, but this was the brightest spot on the entire album.
7. Mack McKenzie – “Oceans” – What makes this song standout to me is how the lyrics paint a perfect picture in the listeners’ heads of what this song is about. It’s ironic McKenzie would be right beside Garth Brooks on this playlist because his incorporation of the ocean sound effects at the beginning and end of the song reminded me of Brooks using thunder sound effects in his famous song “Thunder Rolls.” This song describes the feelings of breakup quite well and demonstrates what a great storyteller McKenzie is with his music.
8. Garth Brooks – “Man Against Machine” – Originally I had “Fish” in this spot, but this past weekend I listened to Garth’s album a few more times and I found myself playing “Man Against Machine” a lot. I realized the more you listen to this song, the more it will grow on you. When I first heard this song I didn’t know what to make of it because it’s so different. It doesn’t exactly have a country sound, but it has a great message and Garth’s current vocals match up well with a song like this. This could have been another great single choice for Garth.
9. Maddie & Tae – “Sierra” – Back in July, Maddie & Tae came out with their polarizing first single “Girl in a Country Song” and captured everyone’s attention. That month in country music, however had so much great music being released that this single just missed out on making my top ten list for July. Other than Garth Brooks’ and Mack McKenzie’s new albums, the month of November had hardly any competition and made it easy for me to put Maddie & Tae in my top ten monthly list for the first time ever. To me this is the best song they have put out yet, although they have only put out four songs total.
10. Mack McKenzie – “Your Ways” – The third song for McKenzie in my November top ten playlist. The thing that immediately caught my eye in this song is the piano play. Not only is the instrumentation good, but the lyrics are solid. This is only the first we’re hearing from McKenzie and he’s already pretty good. I think he’s only going to get better as his career progresses.
That’s it for the November playlist! There will probably not be a top ten list for December as there isn’t a lot of new non-holiday music being released. We will however be announcing nominees for Country Perspective’s year-end awards, highlighting the very best and worst of 2014 in country music. Don’t miss it!