A great song is a complete package. Poetic, thoughtful lyrics that evoke emotion and reaction from the listener, a fitting production that amplifies the emotions, and a vocal delivery that drives the feelings straight to the heart of the listener. Happy, sad, positive, negative, it doesn’t matter. Songs are great because the reactions they draw from the listener and not because they sold so many copies or charted for a certain number of weeks. The nominees for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year all touched Josh or myself in some fashion. These are the songs that we connected with over the course of the year; the songs that most impacted us.
Ultimately, Josh and I will determine the song of the year from this list of finalists. However, we will take reader opinion and feedback into consideration when it comes time to determine the winner. So I encourage you to comment below and share your thoughts. If we left your favorite song off this list, that doesn’t necessarily mean we hated the song. There’s a ton of music released every year, and we had to cap the final list at some point.
For your listening convenience, I’ve complied all the songs into one Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
Song of the Year Nominees (in alphabetical order)
- “The Bird Hunters” by Turnpike Troubadours – “The song tells an intriguing love story that I’m sure many could connect with. And not only are the lyrics good, but also the fiddles are loud and proud too.” The way in which the story is told is not an easy achievement; “The Bird Hunters” is a well structured story with an excellent country production.
- “Burning House” by Cam – The lone acoustic melody on the introduction combined with the opening line of “I had a dream about a burning house” sets the mood perfectly for the sadness to come. The phrase “less is more” couldn’t be more relevant to “Burning House.” The simplicity of the three instruments allows the listener room to breathe and focus on the story.
- “Clean Up on Aisle Five” by Mo Pitney – The steel guitar and fiddle return, as their featured prominently throughout the song. While the traditional approach is great, it’s really Pitney’s voice that leads the song. The instrumentation is great, but it’s kept quieter allowing his voice to shine…The lyrics really do an excellent job of conveying the feelings of the situation. It’s a real gut punch to anyone who’s experienced this, as it’s easy to connect with.
- “David” by Cody Jinks – The man talks about all of the memories and how they grew up into different people, but still as things change, the more they stay the same. Up until the halfway point of this song, the listener will think this is just a nostalgia tune. But instead it takes a tragic turn; something the listener will feel when it happens. Jinks’ storytelling chops in this song are fantastic.
- “Diners” by The Lone Bellow – The lead vocals on this song are spectacular and really set the emotion. The setting of this song takes place in a diner late at night where a man laments letting love, using comparisons to jukeboxes. And of course the harmonies are stellar again.
- “El Dorado” by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – ““El Dorado” is a cowboy ballad that puts you in a Western state of mind. From the instrumentation arrangement to the vocals of Bowen and Rogers to the lyrics, the song does a great job of creating a Western feeling in the listener.” From the instrumentation to the lyrics and vocals, “El Dorado” is the whole package.
- “Guitar or a Gun” by Will Hoge – “Guitar or a Gun” tells “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.”
- “Jubilee” by Gretchen Peters – Told from the point of view of a person on their death-bed, this song focuses on final thoughts and gearing up to go to heaven. This is a beautiful, gospel like song, with a piano driving the song and excellent vocals from Peters.
- “Just Like Them Horses” by Reba McEntire – 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.
- “Just Some Things” by Jamie Lin Wilson (feat. Wade Bowen) – A heartbreaking song about two lovers both in an affair. The duo sing the respective parts of the cheaters, who both regret and feel distressed after betraying the ones they love. As hard as they wish things could be different, they know what they did was wrong and can’t be undone.
- “One More Hell” by Hailey Whitters – A song written in the wake of her brother’s death, the song details how she wishes to raise one more hell with him before going to heaven. The lyrics are painfully honest with the first verse essentially ripped out of her personal diary. I applaud the brutal honesty in the lyrics because that’s what makes the story connect.
- “Record Year” by Eric Church – “Record Year” is about a man who has just broken up with his girlfriend and turns to his vinyl collection to heal his heart. While he plays these records he slowly heals and not only gets over his heartbreak, but also rediscovers himself and some great music along the way. More than anything it’s a song about finding your way in life when things are at your darkest. When Church releases this as a single (it has to be a single), I predict it will be the biggest hit of his career and will go down as one of his signature songs. This is a special song that hits a home run in every department.
- “Roses By The Dozen” by Jamie Lin Wilson – As Josh praised in his top ten post: “Roses By The Dozen” is a chilling murder ballad that gave me goosebumps on the first listen. It’s not completely obvious the wife in the song murdered her husband until midway through the song, but when that obvious moment emerges it blows the listeners’ minds.
- “So This is Life” by Courtney Patton – Youthful dreams of fairytale marriages are abandoned as a young mother and father work to make ends meet. As time goes on and more children are in the picture, he works long days and she’s left to tend to the home and all the chaos of raising children. It’s not the life either of them planned, and when separately dealing with this life has taken its toll, divorce is the only answer they find. It’s a heartbreaking song, but so vividly told and sung by Courtney Patton.
- “Something More Than Free” by Jason Isbell – The album’s title track to me is the crown jewel of the record. From Isbell’s soaring vocals to the poetic lyrics to the instrument arrangement, this song has everything I want in a country song. Isbell sings of being thankful for the work and how he strives to get something more than free. It’s a beautiful song.
- “Standards” by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen – It’s rightly being praised too, as it’s a brilliant country music protest song…..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.
- “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” by Whitey Morgan – 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.
- “When I Stop Dreaming” by Don Henley (feat. Dolly Parton) – “Both bring out the absolute best in each other. Dolly’s vocals are goose-bump inducing and this isn’t hyperbole. This is one you just need to sit down and hear for yourself because I can’t do it justice.” A duet that sends goosebumps down your spine.
- “Whiskey & You” by Chris Stapleton – 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.
Selecting just one song as the top song of a year is never an easy task. Each artist is different, and many different artists have delivered quality songs worthy of being crowned as the song of the year here at Country Perspective. There were three songs that Josh and I ultimately had this narrowed down to for song of the year. Sturgill Simpson’s “Turtles All The Way Down” defined the best country album of the year with its use of classic country sounds with some modern electronic effects to create a truly unique, and equally great, country song. Karen Jonas’ “Oklahoma Lottery” stood out with her haunting delivery of a family stricken by the hardships of a drought. A topic that’s hardly brushed upon in country music, Karen sells the story and captures the appropriate mood with an incredible blues influenced country production. However, those two songs didn’t quite measure up to the third option. Josh and I both agreed that Country Perspective’s 2014 Song of the Year winner is Tami Neilson’s “Cry Over You.”
Tami Neilson has been compared to Patsy Cline, and rightfully so. She has a strong, captivating voice that grabs your attention from the first note. Her new album, Dynamite!, was another favorite album this year, and this song is the standout of that album. On “Cry Over You,” Neilson covers a great area of vocal notes: dropping to the lower spectrum during the verses and soaring to the higher end on the chorus. More importantly, she comfortably and impressively hits every note she touches. Tami doesn’t stretch herself in an attempt to add extra, unnecessary emphasis. From the first listen, I was sold on this vocal performance.
What makes “Cry Over You” stand out the most from its counterparts is the timeless musical production behind Tami. There’s no attempt to modernize the sound here. “Cry Over You” is a simple, historical recreation of the sound that made country music great. The song could have been released 60 years ago and still not sound out of place. Patsy could have sang this song, so could Tammy Wynette, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, the list goes on; simply put: “Cry Over You” is timeless, it’s universal, and it’s brilliant. Tami Neilson deserves every accolade she’s been awarded; she continues to release music at the best quality, and “Cry Over You” is the best example of top-notch quality music.
Congratulations to Tami Neilson for recording and releasing “Cry Over You”: Country Perspective’s 2014 Song of the Year!
As 2014 comes to a close, Country Perspective will be handing out a number of awards to the artists, songs, and albums we covered over the year. We’ll be crowning the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Despite the piles of garbage thrown out to radio this year, there were many great, downright spectacular country songs released for music fans. More times than not, one had to dig deep into the realms of independent country, or even search international lands for great country song. And surprisingly, a few mainstream artists popped out few tunes this year worthy to be nominated by Country Perspective for Song of Year.
Awards will be handed out in mid-late December. Josh and I will deliberate and reach the final decisions together, but we will also take reader input into consideration. So if you have a strong opinion about a song listed here, or about a song we may have forgotten, feel free to comment below and let us know. Who knows, you may sway the vote! Best Song of the Year may be one of the toughest categories to choose. There are several songs we have listed that could all reasonably be crowned this award. Due to the extensive nature of our list, I’ll give a short-short blurb about each song to keep this post reasonable.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, your 2014 Country Song of the Year Nominees:
- “Cry Over You” by Tami Neilson – A timeless, 1950s style country song with a spine-tingling vocal delivery from Tami. Great production behind the vocals, and lyrics about heartbreak. This song is everything that makes country music great. Full review of Dynamite! here.
- “Liberty Bell” by Matt Woods – Great acoustic instrumentation that builds to a roaring middle. Woods’ voice carries this song about getting through life’s hardships with hope and perseverance. Full review of With Love From Brushy Mountain here.
- “Find Me” by Sunny Sweeney – On an album with 3 or 4 worthy nominees, “Find Me” stands out for one main reason: Sunny’s emotional delivery of a song about a soul longing for the one. The instrumentation is perfect and builds appropriately behind brilliant lyrics. Full review of Provoked here.
- “What We Ain’t Got” by Jake Owen – This just might be Jake Owen’s best song ever recorded. His voice sells this heartbreaking piano ballad. Owen straight knocks this one out of the park. This song is about as real as life gets. Full song review here.
- “Turtles All the Way Down” by Sturgill Simpson – A song that brilliantly combines the pure, classic sounds of country with modern influences. A song that challenges faith, drugs, and love. This song is Metamodern in the truest sense, and best encapsulates what Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is all about. Full review here.
- “Oklahoma Lottery” by Karen Jonas – A dark, heartbreaking song about struggling through a hard spell of life: Droughts on the farm, faith challenged, and heading West for a better life. Karen Jonas’s voice fluctuates perfectly with the story, and the simple instrumentation is perfect behind the lyrics. Full review of Oklahoma Lottery here.
- “Dearly Departed Friend” by Old Crow Medicine Show – A song discussing the hardships of war: lamenting the loss of a soldier, and touching on topics of PTSD. The folk instrumentation fits with the topic, and shows OCMS’s strength. Full review of Remedy here.
- “Cedar Lane” by First Aid Kit – Beautiful melodies, subdued instrumentation, and deep, thoughtful lyrics about a long-lost of love. This Swedish duo delivers on this impressive song. Full review of Stay Gold here.
- “Baby, The Rain Must Fall” by BlackHawk – Love ends bitterly in this heartbreak song. A simple, acoustic instrumentation with wonderful vocal deliveries and harmonies. Full review of Brothers of the Southland here.
- “I Thank God” by Rich O’Toole – Born out of a surprise pregnancy in an affair, Rich reflects on how he might not have been here if his Mom had gotten an abortion. The lyrics show depth and understanding on the situation. It’s just a beautiful song. Full review of Jaded here.
- “Liars & Fools” by Jason Eady – Eady sings about trying it out, and giving it your all here. Simple, pure country instrumentation and a heartfelt vocal delivery. Full review of Daylight & Dark here.
- “When I Come Around” by Lee Ann Womack – A great song from the long-awaited release from Lee Ann Womack. Beautiful vocals from Lee Ann about searching for a man she once knew. “When I Come Around” has wonderful country instrumentation to top it off. Full review of The Way I’m Livin here.
- “She Don’t Love You” by Eric Paslay – A heartbroken girl is in a new relationship. Paslay comments to the new man about her brokenness, only for us to learn that Paslay may be one who broke this woman. Simple, honest lyrics that tell a heartbreaking story, and Eric Paslay sings the song with a voice that perfectly compliments the material. A great modern representation of country music. Full review of Eric Paslay here.
- “Walk Alone” by Moot Davis – An uptempo song about getting over a relationship. A fun, upbeat country melody, and Davis’ voice is nothing short of fantastic. We have no official review for the song or album, but both have been featured on Country Perspective’s midyear “Best Of” lists.
- “River Rising” by Lucette – A more subdued track, and one of the best from the brilliant Black is the Color. Lucette’s lyrics are full of mystery and require careful listen to grasp the story. I think this is a song about dying due to this line, “so let the river carry me home.” Lucette’s vocals are beautiful here. Full review of Black is the Color here.
- “Coping Mechanism” by Shovels & Rope – This song is about finding a better way to cope with a broken heart. Cary Ann’s vocal delivery is powerful here, with Michael harmonizing perfectly behind her. The instrumentation is upbeat, intense, and fits like a glove behind the vocals. As Josh wrote, “this song has the total package.” Full review of Swimmin’ Time here.
- “West Texas Rain” by Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen might just have the best modern country sound. This song about recognizing one’s imperfections is well written with a roaring vocal delivery from Bowen to cap it off. Full review of Wade Bowen here.
- “There’s No Country Here” by Melody Williamson – In the year of anti bro-country, YouTube sensation Melody Williamson has the best of them all. Written as heartbreaking disappointment over the direction of modern country, Melody’s voice captures the emotions with every note. A song of the year dark horse if there ever was one.
- “This Side of Heaven” by The Swon Brothers – I think we were all shocked that this duo from The Voice has a song like this. A great offering off an otherwise rocky, back and forth album. Life can be tough, but we have heaven to look forward to. A wonderful, heartbreaking song of faith. And let’s not forget Carrie Underwood’s harmonies that only help this song soar. Full review of The Swon Brothers here.
- “Here On Earth” by Dierks Bentley – Cowritten by Bentley, and we have to imagine this song is an expression of his confusion and hurt in response to his father’s passing. This song captures the thoughts most have after a loss like that, and still keeps hope alive within life’s darkest moments.
That’s far from the end of possibilities, but we had to cap our selections at some point. Please share your thoughts and help us decide what to crown as the best country song of 2014. This is one of the hardest categories to choose as many of them have a legitimate argument to be chosen, so your comments and votes will definitely help. If you haven’t already, check out the rest of our nominations for our awards: best male and female singers, best duo or group, best and worst albums, and worst song of 2014.