Just like country albums, there have been no shortage of great country songs released in 2015. But when it comes to the best country songs of the year, we’re not just talking about catchy and/or fun songs. No, when it comes to these song of the year candidates, these are the type of songs that you can feel. These are the songs that come straight from the heart and you feel it in your own. These are the songs where the artist dug deep into their own personal life and let it shine in their music. This the absolute best in songwriting. So without further ado here are the top 13 songs of 2015 so far and the top contenders right now for Country Perspective’s Best Song of 2015.
Whitey Morgan – “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue”
Even though it’s hard to pick a favorite on an album as good as this one, “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” stands out a little more for me than the rest. Everything in this song works so well together that I liken it to a well-oiled machine. You couldn’t make it any better. The punctuating moment of this song is when Whitey croons out, “Well I’m still drunk, still blue, I’m still all fucked up over you/I’m still stoned, I’m still alone.” It really helps paint the picture of a heartbroken man drinking himself silly. It may seem like a simple song, but the emotions and instrumentation really make this song special.
Chris Stapleton – “Whiskey & You”
You should recognize the next song, “Whiskey and You,” as Tim McGraw originally recorded it on his Let It Go album in the early 2000s. Jason Eady also recorded this song on his 2014 album Daylight & Dark. I can say with confidence out of the three, Stapleton’s recording is the best. It’s not just because he wrote the song too. It’s the fact that Stapleton delivers the emotion of this song so much better than those two. He does this by stripping this song down completely and only using an acoustic guitar for instrumentation, allowing his voice to tell the story of the song. It’s raw and grips your attention from start to finish. Stapleton absolutely nails this song.
Jon Pardi – “Borrowed Time”
The last song on the EP is “Borrowed Time,” a song that explores how short life is and how we only have so much time before it’s all over. This might be Pardi’s best song yet, as everything in this song perfectly works together. The lyrics are honest, heartfelt and to the point. It has a very similar vibe to Dierks Bentley’s “Here on Earth.” This is a song I recommend you hear for yourself, as words don’t properly describe it. It’s the kind of song that will make people respect and appreciate Pardi’s talent.
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – “Standards”
“Standards” is the standout of the album and the song everyone will talk about the most from Hold My Beer. It’s rightly being praised too, as it’s a brilliant country music protest song. Now I know country music protest songs have started to become cliché themselves, especially coming from Texas country artists. What makes this one so great though is the fact that it’s not in your face, but rather has a matter of fact, cool attitude. A country label big wig tries to get Bowen and Rogers to record a song about a dirt road, but they refuse at his every attempt because it’s just not for them. As they say, “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards,” a statement that means so much. This is a top contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year award.
Will Hoge – “Guitar or a Gun”
Following this is the rocking “Guitar or a Gun.” Hoge penned this tune with Gary Allan and Dylan Altman, and told Saving Country Music that he had actually written 12 verses to the song. Eventually the trio landed on two verses for the song and left the story of a teenager deciding between buying a guitar or a gun unresolved. The comparisons drawn between the two and the pictures painted about the life that would come from them are excellent; “Guitar or a Gun” is one of the album’s top tracks.
Zac Brown Band – “Bittersweet”
Finally the group delivers a beautiful song that showcases their great talent in “Bittersweet.” It’s one of the best written songs on the album, as it’s about a man losing his wife to a disease and how he’s reflecting on the fact that tomorrow she won’t be there with him. The songwriting evokes great emotion in the listener and might even bring a tear to your eye. The instrumentation is equally good and I love the guitar and fiddles crashing in at the end of the song to really punctuate the song. This is the Zac Brown Band I know and love on this song.
Reba – “Just Like Them Horses”
The next song is “Just Like Them Horses.” This is the song that Reba sang at her fathers funeral. What a beautiful song…lyrically and vocally. I can’t imagine how a live performance of this song would affect other’s emotions because hearing this song gives me goosebumps. It’s well-written and Reba’s voice makes this song so emotive and heart wrenching.
Gretchen Peters – “Everything Falls Away”
Following this song is “Everything Falls Away,” which is a despairing piano ballad about trying to move on after a loved one passes away.
This is probably one of the darkest songs I’ve heard this year and Peters brilliantly captures the mood of a person dealing with anguish and the feeling of helplessness after a loved one has died. The first time I heard it I got goosebumps and I’m still amazed every time I hear it. If you haven’t listened to this song or Blackbirds, you need to do it.
Mo Pitney – “Clean Up On Aisle Five”
I can see why when Pitney performed this song at the Opry last summer and he got a standing ovation. Maybe this song will be to him what “Long Black Train” was to Josh Turner. Pitney could be the next Turner type on radio and we could definitely use another artist like Turner at the moment. Pitney seems dedicated to the traditional sound and he has the chops and talent to pull it off. Keep giving him songs like this and he should be a household name in no time. In a perfect world this song gets a ton of radio play, but we live in a far from perfect world. Regardless, “Clean Up On Aisle Five” is a song that everyone should check out and give a listen. This may be one of the best songs we’ll hear from mainstream country music in 2015.
The Lone Bellow – “Then Came The Morning”
The album starts off with the upbeat and gospel influenced “Then Came the Morning.” The combination of the harmony interludes along with the hints of horn production give this song an infectious harmony that makes you want to listen to it over and over again. It immediately draws the listener into the album.
Justin Townes Earle – “Day and Night”
Earle goes dark and somber with “Day and Night.” It’s a more stripped down song instrumentation wise and once again let’s Earle tell a story with his brilliant voice. This is another song where Earle personally reflects on his hard life and all of the struggles he went through to get to this point, but he’s now happy because he has found the love of his life (his new wife he just married). Again the raw emotion Earle expresses in his voice is quite moving.
Houndmouth – “By God”
“By God” is a rock country song with a rocking beat and a subtle, sinister undertone. It’s about a man who has things going wrong around him and insisting for them to “turn out the lights,” but to leave his “candle burning.” The harmonies are spot-on throughout. Everything in this song simply works to make for one of the best songs on the album.
Ryan Bingham – “Broken Heart Tattoos”
Following up this track is “Broken Heart Tattoos.” I hear a ton of Bob Dylan influence in Ryan Bingham on this album, and this song is particularly evident of that influence. Here, Bingham is singing to his child. Children are born into innocence, without worry and without pain at first. However, this song encourages, “take your sweet time and walk a straight line. And don’t you be shy of your wilder side or be afraid to let loose with broken heart tattoos.”