Unsurprisingly the month of November slowed down in terms of new music. Most of the country music industry has turned their eyes towards the CMA Awards and holiday releases. But we still got a lot of really good music worth noting and there was certainly enough to compile a worthy top ten list of songs. This is probably the most mainstream populated top ten list I’ve done this year, as nine of the ten spots are occupied by a mainstream act. There was one surprise album that dominated this month, as it takes up much my list. And we all know who it is…
- Eric Church – “Record Year” – You know you’re hearing a special song when you get goose bumps upon the first listen. After listening to Mr. Misunderstood for a couple of weeks, his best record to date, I can say this is the best song Church has ever penned and performed too. Combining heartbreak with a rediscovery of music through a stack of vinyl, Church creates a song that I believe will go down as one of his signature songs. This was hands down my favorite song in the month of November.
- Eric Church – “Kill A Word (feat. Rhiannon Giddens & Andrea Davidson)” – That being said there were other really good songs on Mr. Misunderstood and this one is not too far behind “Record Year.” A lot of times when a country artist does an anti-bullying song, it comes off really cheesy and clichéd, lacking in true emotion and feeling. But here Church avoids these pitfalls and produces an anthemic song that is easy to connect with and enjoy. What takes this song to an even higher level is enlisting rising Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens on the song, who’s vocals blow me away every time. Unlike a lot of country music, Church recognizes Americana and this song is solid proof.
- Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind” – The album I was expecting to be the best of November was Tim McGraw’s brand new album Damn Country Music. Even though it didn’t live up to this expectation, it’s still very solid and has a lot of good songs. The best though is the closing song, “Humble and Kind.” Written by Lori McKenna, it’s a soft ballad about life and the advices we should all heed as we encounter the various obstacles throughout it. The song fits McGraw perfectly and shows he hasn’t lost a beat in the vocals department.
- Eric Church – “Knives of New Orleans” – Despite feeling this is just the third best song on Mr. Misunderstood, I’ve seen many consider it the best and I don’t blame them for thinking it. This is the kind of song that immediately draws you in and holds your attention. Many crime-related country songs can be dark, but this one is adventurous and dare I say upbeat. I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t end up a single.
- Tim McGraw – “Don’t Make Me Feel at Home” – Now this is country music. One of the classic song archetypes in the genre is a heartbreak ballad, except this has a different twist. The husband cheating is doing it proudly, with seemingly no regrets, as he no longer feels any love at home from his wife. After he explains feeling empty for so long, you empathize with him, which is strange, yet feels appropriate. McGraw sings of his love of country music throughout his new album and I think this song best exemplifies it.
- Maren Morris – “My Church” – This budding, young pop country artist really grabbed my attention with her new EP. And it starts off with the EP’s best song, “My Church,” a gospel, bluesy filled song where Morris proudly sings about her love of country music and it’s religious-like influence on her. Not only is the instrumentation engaging and fun, but her vocals sound seasoned beyond her years and shows a ton of promise. Hopefully we get a full album from Morris in 2016.
- Tim McGraw – “Here Tonight (feat. Gracie McGraw)” – This song grows on me more each time I listen to it. Joined by his daughter Gracie, Tim McGraw delivers an entertaining song. What really though stands out about this song is the amount of influence from Celtic folk and Old World-style music. I would love to hear more music in this vein from McGraw in future projects, as it’s different and seems to suit him well.
- Eric Church – “Mixed Drinks About Feelings (feat. Susan Tedeschi)” – Church really hit a home run in terms of guest artists on Mr. Misunderstood. This song is no different, as this bluesy love song fits each artist perfectly. This is another potential single.
- Maren Morris – “I Wish I Was” – I fully expect Maren Morris to release “My Church” as her lead single, but this should definitely be the sophomore single. “I Wish I Was” is about a woman in a relationship realizing it just isn’t going to work, even though on paper they seem great together. She knows she’s not her man’s true love, but she wishes she was, making it even more difficult to end it.
- Jeff Crosby & The Refugees – “Emily” – The lone independent act on my list rounds out my top ten list for November. It’s easy to pay attention to all of the great mainstream releases, but don’t overlook the rock solid album from Jeff Crosby & The Refugees. The standout song from it is “Emily,” a part love song, part heartbreak song. The man in the song knows he loves this woman named Emily and she’s perfect for him. But she’s married now and he’s forced to move on wondering what if for the rest of his life. It’s a haunting, yet beautiful song.
- Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”
- Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”
- Jeff Crosby & The Refugees – “Water Shapes and The Canyons”