What a month of country music! April was full of fantastic music from start to finish. A couple of album of the year contenders emerged, there were some pleasant surprises and one big disappointment. It was an eventful month for sure and now it’s time to look back at the very best that was released in the month of April. Putting together the top ten list for this month was a little difficult being that there were so many contenders. Looking ahead to the month of May I don’t see quite as much competition, but I know for a fact there will be one album of the year contender. We’ll get to that later. For now let’s look at what I considered the top ten country songs of April 2015.
- Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “Standards” – There were plenty of great songs this month, but when I heard “Standards” I knew it would be #1 for this month. It may even be #1 for the whole year, as I consider it a top contender for song of the year. It’s probably the most polite country protest song I’ve heard, but that makes it even more endearing. The hook of the song, “I’ve got standards,” is perfect and easy to remember. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen absolutely nailed this song. This was the highlight of the fantastic album Hold My Beer, Vol. 1.
- Will Hoge – “Guitar or a Gun” – Any other month this is easily the #1 song, but it had the misfortune of going against one of the other strongest songs of the year. Regardless this song is pretty damn cool. Originally it had 12 verses, but was obviously significantly trimmed down. That credit goes to Hoge, who wrote the song with Gary Allan and Dylan Altman. They helped convince him to trim the song down and in the process created a neat story leaving the listener to decide what happens. Hoge’s great new album Small Town Dreams had a lot of good songs, but this was the best in my mind.
- Zac Brown Band – “Bittersweet” – As I’ve said I was pretty disappointed with their new album Jekyll + Hyde, but I give them credit for a few good songs on it. The best in my mind was “Bittersweet,” which told the tragic tale of a man losing his wife. It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful song, easily the best song they wrote on the album. It’s a shame they didn’t write more songs like this one on Jekyll + Hyde.
- Reba – “Just Like Them Horses” – For some reason I didn’t expect much at all from Reba’s new album. Perhaps it was the cynic in me or it was because I hated the lead single from it. Regardless she proved me wrong, as it was a surprisingly great album. Like “Bittersweet,” “Just Like Them Horses” is another heart-wrenching song about losing a loved one. Reba’s vocals are fantastic on this song and the production is perfect. This is definitely one of the best songs I’ve heard from a mainstream artist this year.
- Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “El Dorado” – Bowen and Rogers’ second song on the list rounds out the top five. “El Dorado” is a song that grows on me the more I listen to it. At first the song doesn’t really grab you. But as you listen to it more you realize what a great story is being told in this song. On the surface it seems like a song about an old western town, but it’s really a song about life. The instrumentation is top-notch and the harmony in the chorus is icing on the cake.
- Dwight Yoakam – “Man of Constant Sorrow” – Dwight Yoakam quietly released one of the best albums in country music this year when he released Second Hand Heart last month. It’s a rocking album that will grab your attention from start to finish. The most rocking song though is “Man of Constant Sorrow.” It’s a song that will easily get you to tap your feet along to the beat. Yoakam’s vocals are as great as ever too. This is really a song you need to hear for yourself, as it can’t properly be described.
- Will Hoge – “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” – Another appearance by Hoge in the top ten with the heartfelt “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To.” Hoge sings about how much his dad meant to him and how they don’t make people like his dad like they used to. You can tell this is a personal song for Hoge, adding more emotion to it. A really fine song off a fine album.
- Reba – “Love Land” – Reba lands on the list again with another emotion song in “Love Land.” For parents this song will cut to the bone even harder. It’s sung from the point of view of a mother watching her daughter grow up and marry, concerned every step of the way. But of course she realizes her daughter knows best and that she’ll always be there for her. The latter part of the song is even more emotional as it’s about her daughter having her grandson, but the doctors say he isn’t going to make it at first before trying again and saving the baby’s life. It tells a great story and Reba is Reba.
- Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “‘Til It Does” – Is it really a surprise that these two have a third song on my top ten list? That whole album was just so great from start to finish and I recommend giving it a listen if you haven’t yet. It’s refreshingly traditional and honest. This song is no different, as it brilliantly explains the pain of going through heartbreak. Bowen takes the lead on this song, but don’t discount Rogers either. The harmonies are great and Rogers closes the song out perfectly.
- Dwight Yoakam – “Off Your Mind” – Rounding out my top ten is Yoakam’s “Off Your Mind.” Like the previous song, it deals with heartbreak. Except this song has an underlying bitterness and anger that really helps you connect with the song. The man in the song has moved on, but he acknowledges the contempt he has towards his ex. He’s now alone, right off her mind where she left him. Great storytelling by the iconic Yoakam.
- Kristian Bush – “Giving It Up” & “Sweet Love” – In a stacked month of releases, Bush kind of got left out. Still his debut solo album was quite decent and worth a listen.
- George Strait – “Let It Go” – This light song didn’t stand a chance against so many heavy hitting songs. But at least it’ll be one of the few good songs on the radio this summer.
- Will Hoge – “Desperate Times” & “The Last Thing I Need”
- Dwight Yoakam – “Vs of Birds” & “Liar”
- Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “Good Luck With That”
- Zac Brown Band – “Dress Blues” – You’re probably surprised I didn’t put this in the top ten. It’s a great song, but it’s a cover and I didn’t want to put a cover over so many good original songs.