Maddie & Tae
Written by Taylor Dye, Maddie Marlow and Aaron Scherz
Maddie & Tae made a big, bold, attention grabbing statement with their breakthrough hit “Girl in a Country Song”, which rocked and twanged all the way to number one while laying bare the problems with country music’s treatment of women under the bro-country regime. Wisely, the two women show an entirely different creative side with their second single, showing that they are not one-trick ponies.
“Like a Wrecking Ball”
Written by Casey Beathard and Eric Church
This is a bold single choice. “Like a Wrecking Ball” sounds like nothing on the radio today. Irregular rhythms, a vocal sung out of the corner of his mouth, and a lyric that makes every other love song out there sound like child’s play.
“Raise ‘Em Up”
Keith Urban with Eric Church
Written by Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele
A collaboration between Keith Urban and Eric Church was bound to have personality and charm, but what the two gentlemen pull off the best is a sense of breezy confidence. None of the bombast that usually occurs when superstars collide is evident here, as it was on “We Were Us.”
Though she’s recorded steadily since the late 80s, Texas singer-songwriter Kimmie Rhodes hasn’t enjoyed either the commercial or critical cachet of many of the other alt-country and Americana acts. Both Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood have recorded her songs, but she hasn’t been a steady go-to songwriter like, say, Gretchen Peters or Kim Richey. That’s largely the result of how unassuming Rhodes’ work routinely is: Her songs are never less than well-constructed and are always observed in plainspoken but effective lines, while her singing hinges on her gentle, wispy voice.
Written by Eric Church and Luke Laird
Nostalgia works a lot better when the one indulging in it has put some time and distance between them and the memories.
“Take it On Back”
Written by Dylan Altman, Chase Bryant, and Tommy Lee James
How many times can the title be repeated in a song? I thought Little Texas had answered that question definitely with “My Love”, but Chase Bryant is giving them a run for their money.
“Say You Do”
Written by Shane McAnally, Matt Ramsey, and Trevor Rosen
Dierks Bentley’s at the top of his game right now. “Say You Do” demonstrates why.
It’s subtle, it’s smart, and it’s self-aware. It’s the type of record that only works with some real life experience to back it up.
“Like a Cowboy”
Written by Randy Houser and Brice Long
It’s hard not to be impressed by Randy Houser’s resilience. His ability to build an audience with a reasonably country sound, all while switching from the majors to an independent label, is pretty amazing.
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn
Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton
Tim McGraw should be applauded for finally meeting the potential that many of us had hoped for after he left the oppressive Curb Records. His most recent album, particularly his last couple singles, have dialed back the loudness, embraced a more traditional and organic sound, reconnected him with the warm vocals with which he had all but lost, and the last two singles have even presented more thoughtful lyrics than he’d been singing in the last few years.
“Just Gettin’ Started”
Written by Rhett Akins, Chris DeStefano, and Ashley Gorley
Competently performed. Creatively stagnant. Completely unnecessary.