We’re getting closer to the top. Here’s the next ten:
Amy Dalley, “Let’s Try Goodbye”
The latest attempt from Dalley pulls yet another excellent song from her long-shelved debut album, and it rivals “I Would Cry” as her best single to date. She has a gift for melody and a unique point of view in her lyrics. If Curb would just put out the album, they may find she’s already earned an audience.
Porter Wagoner, “Committed to Parkview”
It’s a solemn and poetic song from the point of view of a patient in a mental hospital. It doesn’t reach the glorious, delirious heights of his seventies camp classic “The Rubber Room”, but it’s a fine swan song for one of the last great hillbilly superstars.
Keith Urban, “Everybody”
Written before he went into rehab himself, it’s hard not to think that Urban was his own audience for this powerful motivational number, reminding us all that everybody needs to reach out for another person sometimes.
Dwight Yoakam, “Close Up the Honky Tonks”
Most of Yoakam’s tribute album is slavishly true to the original Buck Owens records, but he colors outside the lines here, making this classic an epic ballad that fits quite well into Yoakam’s never-ending “love gone wrong” canon.
Kenny Chesney, “Don’t Blink”
The message that the 102 year-old man delivers to all the young folks out there is that life goes by faster than you think, but the pain he radiates when recounting the angels taking his wife away implies that the real suffering comes when it doesn’t go by fast enough once the love of your life is gone.
Rodney Carrington, “Show Them to Me”
That’s right. There were a lot of attempts at humor sent to country radio this year, but this is the only one that made me laugh then, and still makes me laugh today. Sauciness aside, the production and performance is a dead-on send-up of the Hallmark country ballads that have polluted the airwaves in recent years, right down to the gospel choir and the pander to patriotic sentiment at the end.
Trace Adkins, “I Wanna Feel Something”
Good to know that Adkins can still dig deep, despite his recent reputation as a ditty man. His best single since “I’m Tryin’” finds him growing frustrated with his own indifference to the heartache in his life and the world around him, as just living day to day has worn him down.
Heartland, “Built to Last”
I rolled my eyes at “I Loved Her First”, but this tender old-age ballad got me. Set at his grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary party, the toast celebrates those loves that are “built to last.” The sentiment is beautiful, but it’s the attention to the small details – “black leather wingtips and big bouffant hair, your typical senior affair” – that make the record come to life.
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, “I Need You”
When they did their first full-fledged duet “Let’s Make Love”, McGraw & Hill were quite a bit younger. They’ve both grown so much as artists and singers that there is a cool confidence to this record, even as they turn up the heat.
Pam Tillis, “Band in the Window”
A joyous celebration of the bar bands on Broadway in downtown Nashville. Pam Tillis is the perfect singer to tell their story, a kindred spirit with a pure love of music for its own sake. When Todd Snider sang a few years back that “there ain’t nothin’ wrong with Nashville”, this is what he meant. For all that Music Row unwittingly does to kill the heart of real country music, there’s a band in the window downtown bringing it back to life. This is their anthem.