Saturday Discussion Thread: Favorite Songwriters

Earlier today, a new feature was introduced at Country Universe.  Songwriter Series will take an in-depth look at the tunesmiths that craft so much of the music that we love to listen to.  While some of our best songwriters are also established and successful recording artists, most of them stay behind the scenes, and their work becomes famous when married with a singing voice other than their own.

Leeann wrote an excellent piece about Darrell Scott today, who has penned big hits for Sara Evans, Dixie Chicks and Travis Tritt, among others.   There are so many other great writers out there.   Who do you think is the best writer right now in country music?  Are there any writers that you'd like to see featured here?



  1. Without a doubt Matraca Berg. Karyn Rochelle, Tia Sillers, Gretchen Peters and Leslie Satcher deserve a mention.
    And I’d also say that LeAnn Rimes has grown into quite the writer

  2. It’s kind of funny because it seems like I am always ‘plugging’ him but Marcus Hummon is truly gifted. He actually co-wrote/writes with Darrell Scott. Marcus has a gift of phrase and melody that rivals few. aside from his big hits like “Bless The Broken Road” which he and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded before anyone else in the early 1990s, “One Of These Days” or the Dixie Chick stuff, Marcus has had songs recorded by so many artists.

    I love his own records and think there are still some hidden gems on them.

  3. Diane Warren is too Celine Dion if you know what I mean. Sugary syrup. But she has written some good songs, like “How Do I Live”.

  4. I’d be interested in learning more about the Warren Brothers. I’ve liked most of what I’ve heard that Tim Mcgraw has sung of theirs, but I don’t know what else they may have done.

  5. yeah, I understand your point Rainbow :) I still say Sara is great (although she does only co-write), and Taylor Swift writes some great songs (IE: “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops”)

  6. Well, I’d say that Swift’s songs are not only syrup-y, but immature as well. But that’s only me. I have no strong feelings for Sara as a writer either way.
    Shania’s songs for example are fun, but they sound like she’s just come out of songwriting: 101.

  7. Kristyn Osborn of SHeDAISY. She writes amazing songs, in my opinion. Especially since she wrote or co-wrote every song SHeDAISY has sung, with one exception.

  8. Rainbow, Kimmie Rhodes had a new album this year…
    I have to put in a mention for Gretchen Peters here! She’s written a lot of songs I love, both for herself and for other artists.

  9. Eric Church. His debut album was amazing and he is such a gifted songwriter (“Lightning”, “Two Pink Lines”), and from I have heard of his sophamore cd, he is only getting better. I also think Garth wrote some pretty good songs back in the day (“If Tomorrow Never Comes”, “The Red Strokes”) But my all-time favorite songwriter is Todd Snider, not exactly totally country but he can make you laugh with one song and in the next make you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach.

    P.S. I love Jamey Johnson’s new album but he also co-wrote “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” (no idea how to spell that). “That Lonesome Song” is almost enough for me to forgive that. Almost.

  10. I’m pretty much a 70’s and 80’s type of songwriter follower. My top five would probably be:

    Hugh Prestwood (“The Moon is Still Over Her Shoulder,” “A Ghost in This House,” “The Song Remembers When,” “The Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart”)

    Bob McDill (“Good ol’ Boys Like Me,” “Song of the South,” “Gone Country,” “Amanda”)

    Dean Dillon (a whole bunch of George Strait songs, “Tennessee Whiskey” – also co-wrote “Set ’em Up Joe” which is one of my favorites)

    Shel Silverstein (“One’s on the Way,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Daddy What If” and a bunch of awesome books)

    Billy Joe Shaver (well, “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal” and “Honky Tonk Heroes” for starters).

    Number six would have to be Dennis Linde.

    Also Mike Reid, Wendy Waldman, Kevin Welch, Don Schlitz, Dave Loggins and Paul Overstreet.

    And Cheryl Wheeler.

    Alright, I’m stopping now.

    Cindy Walker and Fred Rose.

  11. There are a number of good songwriters today, although I think describing any of them as “amazing” is ridiculous. Because of all the songwriting by committee, I don’t think any songwriter today is reaching the songwriting heights reached by Harlan Howard, Hank Cochrane, Bob McDill, Cindy Walker and Dallas Frazier. For that matter the songs of Johnny Cash , Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson far outshine the current crop.

    Of the curent crop I’d consider Dean Dillon, Matraca Berg and Don Schlitz at the top of the heap.

  12. I agree with Rainbow, Leslie Satcher is amazing. Listen to the lyrics of Patty Loveless’ SORROWFUL ANGELS for example:

    “she wore him like a lock and chain
    only in dreams she spoke his name
    by day it slept upon her tongue
    the taste of unrequited love

    all Heaven watched from way on high
    true love given and denied
    and when her heart was broke and bleeding
    sorrowful angels wept into their wings”

    Patty herself is an excellent writer, when she does write.

    Her amazing SOUNDS OF LONLINESS was penned when she was only 14. Then there’s I DID

    And when she teams up with her husband, she is outstanding. They wrote BIG CHANCE (a modern Bluegrass masterpiece in my opinion) and the bluesy YOU DONT GET NO MORE..

    Patty’s husband Emory Gordy Jr. wrote CHEAP WHISKEY, and co-wrote THE RAINBOW DOWN THE ROAD with Radney Foster.

    Radney deserves mention as well..he wrote Sara’s A REAL FINE PLACE TO START and co-wrote BROOKLYN AND AUSTIN with Sara.

    ZACH I agree that Sara is excellent as well. It’s true that she mostly works with co-writers, and they have yielded gems such as THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH and BORN TO FLY as well as NO PLACE THAT FAR…But she is also terrific as a solo writer or when paired with her brother Matt. Check out her EARLY YEARS album on E&S (available through CD BABY) ..she wrote all of the songs on that one by herself, with the exception of two or three with her brother Matt. This is a brilliant but obscure collection of songs, from when she was only 21..It was just recently published by her first manager’s new record label.

    Brad Paisley writes most of his stuff and is very clever lyrically and musically.

    I believe Alan Jackson writes a lot of his own songs as well.

    TAD, Billy Joe Shaver is a great choice…Did you know he wrote Patty Loveless’ WHEN THE FALLEN ANGELS FLY?

    I like a lot of Hillary Lindsey’s stuff as well.

    And Matraca Berg is terrific.

    Oh, and Paul W Dennis, don’t forget about Hank Williams as a gold-standard maker. What would Country music be without him!?

    Great topic!

    -Steve from Boston

  13. Lori McKenna is a brilliant singer-songwriter. She wrote Sara Evas’ BIBLE SONG, and at least three songs by Faith Hill. She opened for Trisha Yearwood this year, and Trisha indicated she is planning to use some of Lori’s material as well, if my memory serves me correctly.

    -Steve from Boston

  14. One of the things that we hope to do with this series is focus on writers who have proven that they can stand on their own as writers. While there is certainly a lot of songwriting that is done by committee these days, I think we still have a lot of good songwriters who fit our criteria as well.

    For this series, we probably won’t be focusing so much on commercially successful artists who also write. We want to give those songwriters who typically stand in the shadows a chance to shine here.

    Great suggestions so far! A lot of them are already on my personal list of people that I want to spotlight. I don’t know who’ll be next in the series, depending on who writes the next one, but my next subject will be Leslie Satcher.

  15. Matraca Berg
    Tommy Lee James
    Tom Douglas
    Leslie Satcher
    Gretchen Peters
    personally i think Amy Mayo and Hilary Lindsey are both over rated. they’re good don’t get me wrong, but theres nothing really brilliant about them like the others. They seem to me to be blan and predictable.

  16. there’s another songwriter, who i think is right up there with, willie neslon, merle haggard, alan jackson, dolly parton and loretta lynn. it’s no other than dwight yoakam.

    like the aforementioned ones, he’s one of those absolutely superior artists that cannot only write but also sing in a league of their own. country music’s untouchables.

  17. I’m a steve from boston too and I have to agree with Steve F. Lori McKenna is brilliant. There hasn’t been a truly amazing singer/songwriter like her since the days of Dolly. Her honesty and imagery is just incredible. She write in this way that is simple, but abstract at the same time… try to find a song by her called “Make Every Word Hurt” its ones of the best songs, if not the best, i’ve heard in 10 years or more.
    so heres my favorite song writers…
    Lori McKenna
    Matraca Berg
    Gretchen Peters
    Tommy Lee James
    Leslie Satcher
    Tom Douglas

    I don’t really care for the writing of Amy Mayo and Hilary Lindsey. I mean i think they are definitely talented, I probably know more of their songs than any other songwriter, but their just not on the same level as the people above. Their songs, to me, seem bland and predictable and thats just in the lyrics, but i’ve never really been crazy about their melodies either.

  18. Re: Hank Sr – I was not going that far back in history. You could add Fred Rose, Jimmie Rodgers, Rex Griffin and A.P. Carter to the list of brilliant songwriters but only Fred Rose (a/k/a Floyd Jenkins) would belong in this series as being predominantly songwriters rather than performers who wrote their own songs.

  19. I may be in the minority here but I thought Honky Tonk Badonkadonk was a fun little song. for what it was, it was well written. Not everything needs to be ‘poetry’ to be a good song.

  20. Thom Schuyler’s a great one. “16th Avenue” is one of my personal favorites. Can’t believe I forgot him.

  21. Since most of my favorites have already been listed, I just want to add Rodney Crowell’s name to the mix here …

  22. Sarah Buxton. I’m a big fan plus I really like Stupid Boy.

    One of the best of all time? Jim Croce.

    Roger Miller
    Kris Kristofferson
    Yodelin’ Slim Clark
    Tom T Hall
    Hoyt Axton
    Skeeter Davis

    Man, this could go on for awhile! :-o

  23. I gotta say Kristyn Osborn of SHeDAISY stands out the most for me. She writes really clever songs with clever lines using unconventional vocabulary words like “clandestine.”

  24. Matraca Berg
    Gretchen Peters
    Tommy Lee James
    Jude Johnstone
    Leslie Satcher
    Kim Richey
    Tia Sillers
    Greg Trooper
    John Scott Sherrill
    Maia Sharp
    Georgia Middleman
    Gary Nicholson

  25. Mike Stinson. Excluding the working legends (Shaver, Willie, Steve Earle, Dwight), Mike Stinson is the best country songwriter doing it today. I’ll stand on any Nashville songwriter’s coffee table with my boots on and say that.

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