I’ve just come to the conclusion that 2015 will continue to be a great year for country music behind the curtain of Nashville’s rollout of non-country pop and R&B wave. The first half of the year has been incredible with great album released after great album, and June continued the trend. You can also expect the trend to continue into July and the fall as the upcoming releases appear to be just as good as what’s been released thus far. The return of a few legends who continue to release consistently great country music, a new country cowboy, and two great albums from two great female singers and songwriters. June had it all!
- “So This Is Life” – Courtney Patton – Brutal honesty of a woman who dreamed of fairy tale life, only to end up a young stay-at-home mother dealing with daily struggles of chaos at home and a husband who works long days. “So This Is Life” explores how life’s hard times takes its toll on her; the song deals with rolling with the punches of life, especially if it isn’t a life you ever dreamed of living. Unfortunately, the reality is sadder and tougher than the dream. This gut-punching honesty of life is country music at its core, and Courtney Patton’s vocals set the mood perfectly.
- “Unfair Weather Friend” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Not to be all dark and morbid here, but Django and Jimmie felt like a swan song album for Willie and Merle as a duo. That’s not to say they’re going to stop making music, but the nostalgia and odes to friendship and life in many of the album’s songs give off a feeling of celebrating a long life. No song is more evident of this than “Unfair Weather Friend.” Beautifully written and delivered by the two legends.
- “Twelve Days” – Courtney Patton – Patton wrote this song about her husband, Jason Eady, being out on the road while she’s at home. While never explicitly mentioned, the song feels quite like an autobiography, and details how she survives at home alone. She misses her husband and wishes he could be there to share her experiences, and she worries about him. It’s a poignant feeling of great love while missing that person.
- “Ghost Town” – Sam Outlaw – The smooth Countrypolitan sounds of Sam Outlaw may feel a little too polished at times, but in “Ghost Town,” it works wonderfully. Josh said it best in his review of Angeleno: “What makes it so great is how the instrumentation, lyrics and Outlaw’s vocals just go together perfectly. It’s a song about a guy on the road trying to get back home and passing through ghost towns. The past of both the towns and the guy are reflected on throughout the song, giving the song a haunting feeling.“
- “Fine”/”Are You Sure” – Kacey Musgraves feat. Willie Nelson – “Fine” is a breath of fresh air from Kacey Musgraves. Hearing her sing of a broken heart and missing someone is a nice change, and “Fine” is a well written song with a great vocal performance to match. Add in the hidden track of Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure” that Kacey was able to sing with the man himself. This double shot of country music was a great conclusion to Pageant Material.
- “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – When you take one of the best folk songwriters of all time and let two country music legends record the song, you’re bound for something special. The smooth country production is great, and the vocals from Willie and Merle are wonderful on this Bob Dylan song of a rambling man leaving his woman and urging her to not follow after him.
- “Burden of the Cross” – Dale Watson – Another song that feels autobiographical. Watson sings of a roadside cross that was left after an accident took the life of the one he loves. When the highway is expanded, the cross is taken away, leaving Watson to replace it once the road work is done. Dale Watson lost his fiancé in a car accident, so it’s easy to deduce how a song like this comes from a more emotional place from the singer songwriter. “Burden of the Cross” is the type of song country music was built on, and it’s the best song off Call Me Insane.
- “Pageant Material” – Kacey Musgraves – Kacey details how she isn’t a “girly girl” so to speak. She isn’t the kind of girl who’s going to act in a way if she isn’t feeling it. It’s as much of Kacey celebrating her individuality as it is calling out the pageant world and the girls who are objectified and expected to act a certain way, regardless of circumstances. I especially love this lyric: “it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace, but I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage.“
- “Country Love Song” – Sam Outlaw – The road has taken its toll on Sam Outlaw, and while he wishes to see his love again, the love letters aren’t working. He wishes to send his love a country love song and make her see how much he loves and misses her. The production builds nicely through the song and layers the sorrow behind Sam Outlaw’s emotional vocals.
- “Live This Long” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Another song from Django and Jimmie that celebrates the life of Willie and Merle. Together they sing of the wild times they had and the trouble they got into. The duo caps it off with the reflective line “We’d have taken much better care of ourselves if we’d known we we’re gonna live this long.” The honesty imbedded in the lyrics are wonderful.
- “Call Me Insane” & “Jonesin’ For Jones” by Dale Watson
- “Good Ole Boys Club” & “Late For the Party” by Kacey Musgraves
- “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
- “I’m Not Jealous” by Sam Outlaw
- “Heaven Is Close” by A Thousand Horses
Listen to my top ten in the Spotify playlist below. And as always, I’d love to hear your top ten from June!