Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year Nominees

You can find many good songs. You can find a good bit of great songs. But finding truly excellent songs that grasp your mind, heart and soul is something that is no easy task. It takes a true artist pouring blood, sweat and tears into their music. It takes guts and honesty to create something truly lasting and spectacular. Of course it’s not just fantastic, soul-reaching songwriting. It’s the perfect instrumentation to complement it and an artist’s voice to truly connect with the music at hand. This is the criteria it takes to win Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year award.

In addition other factors taken into consideration are impact and the way it relates to the current year’s events and happenings. I will ultimately determine which song will win, but I also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be considered for determining what wins and you could possibly sway what should be the winner. So be sure to sound off in the comments! Without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year (in no particular order):

Lori McKenna – “Old Men Young Women”

Many probably expected another Lori McKenna song to land here, but this was by far the best song on her album The Bird & The Rifle in my mind. McKenna ruthlessly picks apart the dynamics of an older man and younger woman dating, speaking from the point of view someone who’s dated the older man before and the hell she went through in the process.

Margo Price – “Hands of Time”

Margo Price opens her debut album with an absolute bang, “Hands of Time,” and it’s stuck with me ever since. As she grows older with each year she learns the cruel lesson of father time while fighting the everyday obstacles of life and trying to fulfill the lofty goal of restoring the former family farm to its rightful owner.

Turnpike Troubadours – “Come As You Are”

They didn’t even release a new album this year and yet the Turnpike Troubadours land a Song of the Year nomination for a second straight year. This one comes courtesy of The New Waltz series and co-written by Felker, the song is about a man admitting his reckless and drunken lifestyle is hurting him and everyone around him. In typical TT fashion, it’s quite biting.

Parker Millsap – “Heaven Sent”

Perhaps one of the most overlooked songs of the year from an overlooked artist. Parker Millsap delivered a fine album in The Very Last Day, but “Heaven Sent” is the shining jewel of the record. The song is from the point of view a gay man who has come out to his father and desperately seeks for him to love him like he did when he thought he was straight. It’s a very cutting and emotional song on a subject that’s not common in country music.

Sturgill Simpson – “Call to Arms”

Sturgill landed here two years ago with “Turtles All The Way Down” and it was the only award he didn’t win of the three he was nominated for. Once again he has three nominations and lands here with perhaps the most visceral song he’s ever recorded, “Call to Arms.” Fueled by anger and conviction, Simpson rips the systems of society from the war on drugs to actual war to the everyday bullshit in media. It was certainly an ear-catching exclamation point to A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

Brandy Clark – “I Cried”

Brandy Clark released a pretty good album in Big Day in a Small Town. There were many good songs on that album, but it was her appearance on Southern Family that caught my eye the most. Heartbreak is what Clark excels at and “I Cry” fits her like a glove. The song is about watching a grandparent lose their significant other and the heart-wrenching pain one goes through as you not only watch someone go through it, but experience your own emotions. Clark nails it.

BJ Barham – “Unfortunate Kind”

Sticking with heart-wrenching, BJ Barham released the darkest and most depressing album I heard all year. But its brilliant at the same time. I thought reader Brett summed it up well a few days ago in the comments: “strong writing, but makes you wanna drink yourself to a comma.” Well this song is the center-piece of this fantastic tragedy, as Barham sings about a husband and wife falling in love, only for one day the wife to die tragically young and leaving the husband in pieces.

Karen Jonas – “The Garden”

I didn’t think Karen Jonas could top her fantastic debut Oklahoma Lottery, but she somehow did with Country Songs. The album is chockfull of great music, but the absolute standout to my ears was “The Garden.” The most dynamic song of her young career so far, it’s about a mysterious falling out of forbidden love amongst young lovers and the woman looking back on it years later. If the songwriting isn’t enough to impress you, the song goes even further with absolute killer instrumentation in the bridge you have to hear for yourself.

Lydia Loveless – “Real”

Lydia Loveless is anything but conventional and her newest album Real really proves this. With out any care in the world for genre lines, Loveless delivers honestly great music and deep lyrics. But it’s the album’s title track and final song that really delivers. It explores the mindset of a young woman and the helpless they can feel when it comes to love. It’s one of the most real love songs you’ll hear all year.

Kelsey Waldon – “All By Myself”

Kelsey Waldon really broke out this year with the release of her sophomore album I’ve Got A Way and was one of the best I heard all year. It’s pure country music throughout with even better lyrics to accompany it. It can be hard to pick the best song on an album like this one, but I found the one that really shined the most was “All By Myself.” It’s empowering anthem that’s lesson to the listener is you should follow the beat of your own drum, particularly women. You should only be yourself and nobody else’s.

Zac Brown – “Grandma’s Garden”

Who’d thunk Zac Brown of all people would land a nominee for Song of the Year? This comes a year after Zac Brown Band nearly walked away with Worst Song of the Year for the dreadful “Beautiful Drug.” I guess this speaks to the magic of Dave Cobb, as he brings out the absolute best in Brown here with the perfect song choice for him. It’s a tear-jerker of a song about a man who grew up helping his grandma with the garden and the life lessons she bestowed upon him. Eventually she passes away and the man realizes at her funeral what an impact she made on him. On an album full of great music, it’s speak to how great this song is.

Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules – “Leave Me to Bleed”

I would have to say that 2016 has probably been a pretty good year for Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules. They were not only chosen to open up for Sturgill Simpson on a European swing of his tour, but released a really good album too. Let Me off at the Bottom is probably one of the most under-talked albums of the year and it shouldn’t because this group is as good as almost any other in the genre. The group really excels at making fun and engaging music, but here they show they’re just as good at making darker music. This song is about a man finding his bride committed suicide right before they were to wed and being left to live with survivor’s guilt. It’s even darker than it sounds.

Breelan Angel – “Rhinestone World”

This song was one of the early song of the year contenders and I can confidently say it’s held up well. Breelan Angel is an up and comer in the Texas scene that immediately caught my attention upon hearing this song. We’ve had a lot of protest songs in country music the past few years, even ones concerning women in the genre. But “Rhinestone World” addresses the latter in the best way, calling out sexist perverts in the industry and the emphasis placed on looks over music when it comes to women. The song shouts out pioneering women like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn who experienced the same. I think those legends would be awfully proud of a song like this one.

Miranda Lambert – “To Learn Her”

Miranda Lambert absolutely delivers in spades on her new double album The Weight of These Wings. As I said in my review, it’s the crown jewel of her career so far and that’s in big part to the raw and honest songwriting throughout it. There were many standouts you could pick on this album, but to me the one I’ll probably never forget and the best on the album is “To Learn Her.” First off it sounds like a classic country song with the thick pedal steel guitar. Then you get to the song itself, which is about how you can never truly learn someone just by asking how they are. There’s so much honesty in the lyrics and Lambert sings them with conviction.

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16 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s 2016 Song of the Year Nominees

  1. Wow, that Miranda Lambert song is fantastic. “To Learn Her” is my favorite song from The Weight of These Wings. It sounds like a classic country song and Miranda gets her point across in a convincing, honest way. Miranda Lambert’s “To Learn Her” gets my vote for Country Perspective’s Song of the Year.

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  2. Great job, Josh, with these selections. It’s impressive, and I have no idea who deserves the win. In fact, all of the categories have been incredibly impressive, and my only criticism so far is that Cody Jinks had one of the best albums of the year, as others mentioned, or even the best, period.

    As for this category, I’d probably go with Margo Price’s “Hands of Time” or Miranda Lambert’s “To Learn Her.”

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  3. Miranda Lambert hands down. My Granddaddy would’ve loved this song as much as me! True Country at its finest. Actually I could’ve chosen several songs from this album.

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  4. My favorite from this list is definitely Turnpike Troubadours. Just an all around amazing song.

    One surprising missing song from the nominees is Jack Ingram’s “Blaine’s Ferris Wheel.”

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  5. My vote (Country Perspective): Kelsey Waldon – “All By Myself”

    My Country Song Of The Year Nominees:
    Kaylens Rain – “Catching Red Lights”
    Amber Lawrence – “Happy Ever After”
    Doug Bruce – “Lie To Me”
    Post Monroe – “Dixie Dust”
    Troy Cassar-Daley – “Things I Carry Around”
    Troy Cassar-Daley – “Brighter Day”
    Loretta Lynn feat. Willie Nelson – “Lay Me Down”
    Jesse Raub Jr. – “She’ll Put The Hurt On You”
    Kelsey Waldon – “Life Moves Slow”
    Lainey Wilson – “Two Sides Of Bad”
    Deep Creek Road – “If You Only Knew Me When” (released 2015 – was a radio single & chart hit in 2016)
    Southern Post – “Love & Memories”
    Jamie Richards – “She’s As Cold As That Beer She’s Drinkin'”
    Jamie Richards – “Last Call”
    Jamie Richards – “I’m Not Drinkin'”
    Meghan Patrick – “I Won’t Drink”
    Brandy Clark – “Love Can Go To Hell”
    Margo Price – “Tennessee Song”

    My Country Top Tracks Of The Week:
    #1 – Jill Johnson – “When It Pours It Rains”
    #2 – Jerrett Zoch & The OSR Band – “Leaving On Her Mind”
    #3 – Roo Arcus – “Cowboys & Sunsets”
    #4 – Jesse Raub Jr. – “She’ll Put The Hurt On You”
    #5 – Jamie Richards – “She’s As Cold As That Beer She’s Drinkin'”
    #6 – Ryan Laird – “Love’s Long Gone”
    #7 – Chase Stapleton – “When The Dust Clears”
    #8 – Craig Hand – “Tennessee”
    #9 – Bri Bagwell – “Half As Good”
    #10 – Aleyce Simmonds – “It Finds Us Anyway”
    On The Rise: Curtis Grimes – “Ten Year Town”
    On The Rise: Jill Johnson – “Given Up”
    On The Rise: Drew Taylor Band – “Pickup Soul”

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  6. I enjoyed seeing five of those artists in person this year. I will state in general that the Southern Family album really brought out the best in some artists I’m not usually drawn to. As for Sturgill, the only song that grabs me on his current album is “Sea Stories.” As for Miranda, I agree with the reviewer that “To Learn Her” is the standout. A few more songs that I like a lot for 2016:
    Cody Jinks – “Chase That Song”
    Luke Bell – “Where Ya Been”
    Seth James – “I Don’t Need a Reason”
    Matthew Lane – “Scarecrow in the Garden”
    Zane Williams – “Hello World”
    William Michael Morgan – “Missing”
    Carter Sampson (w John Moreland) – “Highway Rider”
    Jimmy Stewart – “It’s a Wonderful Life”
    Barnyard Stompers – “If I Die On This Highway”

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  7. Karen Jonas’ “The Garden” is just plain amazing. There’s not just the stunning imagery in the lyrics; there’s the quietly intense vocal delivery by Karen and the beautiful guitar work by Tim Bray. The listener is drawn deep into the narrator’s memory, not just what happened but how it felt and how it still feels.

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  8. Of the choices here, I’d vote for “Hands of Time.” Margo Price’s album continues to amaze me, and I was a little surprised that it didn’t make the cut for Album of the Year, though there are plenty of great albums to consider aside from Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.

    One song I’d probably add to consideration is Chris King’s “Take It Down.” Though, again, there’s not much to argue about with this list of songs.

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  9. I need to listen to a few of the ones I’m not as familiar with again, but I still think my answer will be “Come As You Are” over some other very worthy nominees. BJ Barham or Kasey Waldon are probably my runner ups.

    A few noteworthy omissions I want to call attention to

    “I’m Just A Song” by Addison Johnson. Great new traditional artist you turned me onto earlier this year. Very unique lyrics and great country instrumentation.

    “I’m Not The Devil” by Cody Jinks. Probably not one of my absolute favorites, but the best song off a fantastic album I want to recognize.

    “Missing” by William Michael Morgan and/or “She Ain’t In It” by Jon Pardi for some more mainstream recognition. I so hope “She Ain’t In It” becomes a single eventually and that “Missing” hits #1. Both great true country songs in every way.

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    • I totally second the suggestion for “Missing” and “She Ain’t In It”. I would also like to recognize “Lonesomeville” by William Michael Morgan. “Lonesomeville” is a true country song that is hopefully released as a single at some point.

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      • I completely agree. “Lonesomeville” is my favorite song off the album. I just went with “Missing” since it’s already a single. A world with “Lonesomeville” and “She Ain’t In It” on the radio at the same time would be great.

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        • Oh, I know, right? Hopefully, that dream becomes a reality. With both of those songs on the radio, 2017 could be 1997 all over again. Lol :). Seriously, though, WMM and Jon Pardi’s albums they released this year were both great.

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  10. Of the ones of these I’ve heard, I have to go with Hands of Time. What a story, what a set of lyrics. And the delivery of said lyrics. The line that stands out to me more than any other I’ve heard this year is “I thought I’d found a friend, but I only found a thief.” Plus, the nationwide demise of the small family farm makes this one ring home for me personally, as I grew up on one. It’s the only life I’ve ever known, and to even think of it being taken away from my family just hits me with all of the feels. Stellar song.

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  11. Of this list, i gotta go with Margos Hands of Time. I truly believe that 2016 was her year, no question. Not many songs can tell an artists story of lifes ups and down, along with a catchy tune to boot.

    Other favorites of mine not listed here:

    Cody Jinks- No Guarantees

    Kelsey Waldon- Dont Hurt the Ones (thats loved you the most)

    Sturgill Simpson- Sea Stories

    Caleb Caudle- Piedmont Sky
    *Terribly underrated album in Carolina Ghost in my opinion.

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  12. I won’t argue with the Margo Price and Kelsey Waldon picks; they are examples of female artists who blend both traditionalist and progressive elements of country, something that’s vitally needed.

    I would like to put in for consideration as well: “You Don’t Knock”, from the vaunted Trio (to wit, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt); it’s on the third CD of THE COMPLETE TRIO COLLECTION, which contains previously unreleased or alternative tracks from their two landmark recordings. Of course, it is a bittersweet recommendation, since because of Parkinson’s, Linda is no longer able to project that voice of hers.

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  13. Margo Price’s “Hands of Time” or Miranda Lambert’s “To Learn Her.”
    Others On my Personal List
    “Tennessee song” by Margo Price
    “Is it Still Cheating” by Mark Chesnutt
    “Carolina Ghost” by Caleb Caudle
    “Tin Man” by Miranda Lambert
    Dear Old son” by Miranda Lambert
    “Go ON Lovin'” by Dori Freeman
    “Home” by David Nail and Lori McKenna
    “Lonessomeville” by William Michael Morgan
    “Put the Fire Out” by Courtney Marie Andrews
    “Rookie Dreaming” by Courtney Marie Andrews

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