Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year

Determining song of the year comes down to a few key attributes within the song. The song should tell a story with confidence and consistency in its approach. The lyrics need to be evocative and connect with the audience. The musical production should match the writing in its confidence and nuance. The artist singing the should deliver the material in a way to reach the desired effect of the lyrics. There were a few songs Josh and I narrowed this category down to. Songwriting was our main focus and we felt there were strong candidates in that regard. Ultimately, there was one song that stood out to us not only with the above criteria in mind, but also due to one final attribute: impact. To us, there was one obvious choice for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year…

Bowen & Rogers Hold My Beer

“Standards” by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen caught the attention of the country music world. When Hold My Beer was announced, I think the general assumption was that the album was going to be a snapshot of Rogers & Bowen’s collaborative acoustic tour. But when the duo debut the first single from the project, everyone was surprised not only by an original song, but a well-written country protest song. A song steeped with fiddles and steel guitars, fun word play and double meanings in song’s hook, and two singers delivering the song with a fun, light-hearted attitude. “Standards” took the country world by storm in April and has maintained its impact through the year.

Protest songs about the establishment of Music Row are commonplace in independent country music circles. Many of the songs come from a place of anger or resentment against Nashville. What makes “Standards” stand out among the crowd is that it comes from a place of acceptance and confidence in one’s music. “But it ain’t me, so I shook my head and that’s all there is to that” sings Bowen to end the first verse. “Don’t get me wrong I want to hear my songs on country radio, but it’s gotta feel right standing here singing them at the show” the duo sings in song’s bridge. Both Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen spent some time on a major label, but now they’re both back making their music independently. They sing the song from a place of experience and assert their place in country’s world while only slightly dismissing the Nashville establishment.

Rogers and Bowen’s confidence in their music is due to the fact that they know their songs have a longer shelf life than a Nashville hit song. They have fans who swarm their shows happy to hear any song the bands will play. As they say in the song “I don’t have hits, I have standards.” Standards meaning a timeless collection of country songs, and standards meaning that they won’t sell out to sing a dirt road song simply to have a top ten song on Billboard. Seven words full of rich meaning that not only connect with their audience, many of whom dislike Nashville and love the subtle jab, but the song also connects with their peers in the independent country music world.

As mainstream country continued to push away from the country sound, “Standards” feels more relevant each day. “Standards” has all the makings to be a country music standard. As great and well written as the other Song of the Year finalists are, “Standards” made an impact that wasn’t matched. This song and its lyrics perfectly describes the independent country music circle and those fighting the good fight for quality and country in our music. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen dropped the defining song of 2015. “Standards” is a song that’s built to last and could very well maintain relevancy for years to come.

11 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year

  1. Tom December 17, 2015 / 1:27 pm

    I don’t like this choice at all. It’s a good song from a good album, but protest songs are so overdone that I just can’t get into them anymore. And nothing about this particular song stood out from the countless other protest songs. I want the “Song of the Year” to tell a deep personal story and move me, not just be another recycled idea.

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    • Tom December 17, 2015 / 2:01 pm

      I think the message of “Something More Than Free” makes it the best choice. Bird Hunter’s would be another choice if the criteria was based more towards the instrumentation and sound. Standards is a good song with a good message, but it’s just been done elsewhere (and maybe even better) in my opinion.

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      • Josh Schott December 17, 2015 / 5:36 pm

        I’ll tell you why “Something More Than Free” was not chosen: picking the best song off of that album is really hard because some days I feel “24 Frames” is better. So this is a situation where you really have to nominate all of the songs (which is silly) or none of them, even though we went with one because it felt wrong to exclude Isbell. “Bird Hunters” is a great song, but it’s not song of the year material to my ears.

        I think it’s silly and misguided to call “Standards” just another protest song because then you’re ignoring the context of the entire situation. In 2015 as a country or Americana artist you either had a standard or a hit and nothing really in-between. A countless number of well-respected artists like Zac Brown Band, Gary Allan and Eric Paslay all sold out in attempt to get hits. While other artists such as Jason Isbell, Stapleton and Bowen & Rogers were content to just make standards. What makes this song even more interesting to me is the fact that both Bowen and Rogers were on mainstream labels. They’re speaking from experiences and I guarantee they had these conversations with label executives. They know their names will never be in the lights, but that’s just okay with them. To me “Standards” is not just a protest song, but rather an anthem for the independent artist. Artists out there busting their asses and never getting any fame or fortune, but rather doing it for the love of music. When we look back on this decade of country music, “Standards” will be one of the songs people point to as a timely commentary on the genre. It may not be moving nor even the best protest song, but it sent a loud and clear message. It drew a clear line in the sand between who is what in country music.

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        • Zack December 17, 2015 / 5:42 pm

          I already respected the choice to begin with, but you bring up some excellent points here Josh.

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        • Tom December 22, 2015 / 8:24 pm

          Not to beat a dead horse, but you just said in your review that “El Dorado” may be the best song on the “Hold My Beer” album. Shouldn’t that disqualify “Standards” then?

          And how is “Standards” different from “Fence Post” by Aaron Watson? If anything the lyrics and hook are duller. They don’t have the imagery that a song “Murder On Music Row” has. In 10 years, I see this as another protest song among dozens of artists who aren’t in the mainstream.

          Anyway, I was gonna let it be but I felt compelled to comment this after reading the “Duo of the Year” article. And sorry in advance for being all nitty gritty about the details.

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    • Kuzco December 17, 2015 / 5:00 pm

      Totally agree. Standards is a good song with timely lyrics, but it’s not moving in the slightest. I would take “El Dorado” ahead of “Standards” by a mile for Song of the Year. My pick would be “David” by Cody Jinks. It hits me in the gut every time.

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      • Nadia Lockheart December 17, 2015 / 11:58 pm

        I agree that “El Dorado” leaves the greater impression on me between the two and I choose that over “Standards”.

        At any rate, I get where Derek and Josh are coming from in their selection. It does definitely speak to the zeitgeist that is disenfranchised country listeners’ malaise in a time where their culture is constantly lampooned and its rug swept up from under their feet, as well as the music supposedly in their genre’s name lacking an identity or connection. There’s no question that “Standards” speaks most directly to that along with “But You Love Country Music” and last year’s “There’s No Country Here”.

        I definitely am a sucker for intimate, personal storyteller songs. But populism matters in roots music too. I feel “Standards” has a real authentic conviction in its overall presentation that also effectively taps into that populist disenchantment so damn well. So I get the logic behind going with this song, even if “El Dorado” impresses me more.

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  2. Lisandro Berry-Gaviria December 17, 2015 / 2:43 pm

    Can’t argue with this. Great pick.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Raymond December 17, 2015 / 9:48 pm

    Standards didn’t do a lot to me but I get the appeal. Nice choice.

    For me my favorite song is Maddie & Tae After The Storm Blows Through as that song has helped me thru some tough times and I’m going to leave it at that.

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  4. Nadia Lockheart December 17, 2015 / 11:43 pm

    I prefer “El Dorado” to this, but at any rate both are among 2015’s best songs from one of 2015’s best albums.

    Charlie Parr’s “Over The Red Cedar”, Daniel Romano’s “The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)” and Gretchen Peters’ “The House On Auburn Street” would rate as its three closest competitors in my mind. Love & Theft’s “Whiskey On My Breath” would be close behind, though, as a mainstream representative. I’d say my Top Ten would then be rounded off by James McMurtry’s “Carlisle’s Haul”, Cody Jinks’ “David”, J.B. Beverly’s “Phone Calls From My Uncle”, and then a toss-up for the final two spots between Eric Church’s “Kill A Word”, Maddie & Tae’s “After The Storm Blows Through”, Jason Isbell’s “Speed Trap Town” and Whitey Morgan and the 78’s cover of “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” (any of these are absolutely worthy and I’m sure there are others I can’t recall off the top of my head this very moment, depends on my mood I guess).

    At this time, here’s how my Best Ten Country/Americana Songs of 2015 would shape up:

    *

    1: Charlie Parr: “Over The Red Cedar”
    2: Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers: “El Dorado” (but “Standards” is so very very close to that in quality)
    3: Daniel Romano: “The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)”
    4: Gretchen Peters: “The House On Auburn Street”
    5: Love & Theft: “Whiskey On My Breath”
    6: James McMurtry: “Carlisle’s Haul”
    7: Cody Jinks: “David”
    8: J.B. Beverly: “Phone Calls From My Uncle”
    9: Eric Church: “Kill A Word” (I’m giving Church the edge among the four because my list needed another mainstream representative and I felt a little more of an emotional connection to his song than “After The Storm Blows Through”)
    10: Jason Isbell: “Speed Trap Town”

    *****The Very Most Honorable Mentions*****

    Maddie & Tae: “After The Storm Blows Through”
    Whitey Morgan & The 78s: “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue”
    Turnpike Troubadours: “The Bird Hunters”
    Will Hoge: “They Don’t Make ‘em Like They Used to”
    Cam: “Burning House”

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