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Day 4 features tracks from Carrie Underwood, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Jo Dee Messina (with Tim McGraw), and Clint Black.
Written by Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins
My favorite artist to come along this century, and by a healthy margin. “Blown Away” is the perfect marriage of an interesting narrative and a vocalist with a peerless power. Underwood doesn’t get lost in a big pop production, like so many lesser singers do. She fills in the blanks of a deliberately vague storyline with her choices as a singer, raising the stakes by making clear the severity of the abuse that is only hinted at in the lyrics.
Other Favorites: “‘See You Again,” “Little Toy Guns,” “Play On”
“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”
Written by Fred Rose
What I love most about “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” is also what I love most about “She is Gone,” another favorite Nelson track of mine: his distinctive guitar work. For me, the sound of his acoustic guitar has so much presence that it functions as a duet partner for him. He may not have written this song, but between his vocals and his musicianship, he takes full ownership over it.
Other Favorites: “I Never Cared For You,” “She is Gone,” “Always on My Mind”
Written by Paul Simon
A bluegrass Simon & Garfunkel cover that is made powerful through its deliberate simplicity. Emmylou Harris strips the song down to its fundamentals, making the original sound too busy in comparison. In doing so, she brings the stark loneliness of the song to the surface, stripping it of its layers of defense mechanisms. It becomes a desperate plea of homesickness in her hands.
Other Favorites: “Easy From Now On,” “I Don’t Have to Crawl,” “Beneath Still Waters”
“Bring On the Rain” (with Tim McGraw)
Jo Dee Messina
Written by Helen Darling and Billy Montana
Jo Dee Messina’s best songs have always showcased optimism and resilience. Usually it’s been an uptempo showcase, but “Bring On the Rain” demonstrates her ability to express the same themes in a ballad setting. Tim McGraw’s harmonies reinforce her performance without getting in the way of it.
Other Favorites: “Where Were You,” “Downtime,” “My Give a Damn’s Busted”
“Burn One Down”
Written by Clint Black, Frankie Miller, and Hayden Nicholas
Clint Black is a great singer in the Merle Haggard vein, with a lyrical cleverness that is reminiscent of Roger Miller. Sometimes those two talents clash, with Black’s play on words getting in the way of the emotion he’s trying to convey. But when those talents complement each other, the results are extraordinary. “Burn One Down” is an example of his two gifts working in harmony, a song that is simultaneously vulnerable and bitter. He reveals his heartache with his vocal, but scores more than a few points of revenge with his cutting lyrics.
Other Favorites: “Killin’ Time,” “Nobody’s Home,” “We Tell Ourselves”