Emily West

Best Country Singles of 2009, Part 1: #40-#21

January 5, 2010 // 16 Comments

Here’s hoping you haven’t gotten completely burned out on countdowns yet. 2009 was hardly a favorite musical year for many of us, but amid each year’s glut of throwaway items, there’s always a good’un or two (or forty). The following is the first installment of our Best Singles of 2009 list, which will conclude tomorrow morning. Best Albums will follow next week.

As with the Singles of the Decade feature, this countdown has been compiled through combination of four equally weighed Top 20 lists by Kevin, Leeann, Tara and myself. An inverted point system was applied to the individual rankings (#1 on a list meant 20 points, while #20 on the list meant 1 point). The songs were then ranked together by number of total points, greatest to least. The final result is another rather stylistically diverse set.

As always, we hope you enjoy the countdown, and welcome all the feedback you can muster. Happy New Year!


Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”

The trio puts a country spin on an old school pop sound, but without forsaking raw emotion. The highlight of the song is Hillary Scott’s smoky performance, which draws out all the anguish and regret you’d expect from a desperate, 1 AM lover’s call. – Tara Seetharam

Emily West, “That Kind of Happy”

April 17, 2009 // 16 Comments

Emily West’s latest single “That Kind of Happy” genuinely makes me “that kind of happy” while somehow managing not to be “fake happy” (i.e., “country radio happy”) in the process. Finally, someone got it right. West shows us that a fun song, a fascinating vocal performance chalk full of personality and genuine talent are not mutually exclusive. This is far and away my favorite single of the year so far.

I wasn’t sold on West’s music with her last single “Rocks in Your Shoes,” but I was sold on the artist. Her personality was infectious. This time around, I’m sold on the music as well. Her appreciation for older artists isn’t superficial and that comes across in her production and vocal choices. This single is very modern, yet at the same time feels surprisingly traditional. It’s a good combo and it works very well for West.

Leeann Ward’s Top Singles of 2008

December 27, 2008 // 12 Comments

Here are my favorite singles of 2008. As Dan has done, I lifted the entries that I had already written from our collective list for this article. #20: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read The Letter” The album from which this song comes seems like an unlikely collaboration. It, however, somehow works as one of the best albums of the decade and any song from it would make my top twenty singles list this year. #19: Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Hank Williams III is known for relishing a rebel persona and this attitude is often reflected in his music. More often than not, his songs contain observations wrapped in harsh lyrics that cause me to wince, but his production and voice, which are both more comparable to Hank Sr. than Hank III’s father, still draws me to his music, nonetheless. This song, however, is simply pure Read More

Dan Milliken’s Top 20 Singles of 2008

December 23, 2008 // 6 Comments

Let’s do this, y’all. You’ll recognize some of these write-ups from our collective list, but others weren’t posted there or were cut down for that list. This is my “Director’s Cut” version, you might say – or maybe the “UNRATED!!” version, depending on your taste in films. In any case, here are my favorite 20 things designated as country music singles in 2008 (that I picked up on, anyhoo): #20 Elizabeth Cook, “Sunday Morning” Cook mines an abstract Velvet Underground song and halfway convinces you it was always meant to be a quiet country reflection. The production and vocal are a bit too buoyant to fully convey the song’s weariness, but they do flesh out its gentle message of hope, and that’s not too bad, either. #19 Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Silly and shallow it may be, but III’s turbo-campy lament of hard times + booze was Read More

Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 3: #20-#11

December 17, 2008 // 24 Comments

The consensus builds with the next set of ten singles. While there is still some lesser known singles and artists in the mix, more than half of these entries come from top-selling albums. Of course, radio still didn’t play all of those, either, but record buyers heard them anyway. #20 Emily West, “Rocks in Your Shoes” A burst of country-poptimism that manages to sound both sunny and smart. Eat your heart out, “Red Umbrella.”  – DM #19 Sugarland, “Already Gone” Perhaps leaving takes place in two stages.   The heart and mind go first, then the body catches up with them later on.   “Already Gone” explores this concept thoroughly, with keen attention to detail.   “Pictures, dishes and socks.  It’s our whole life down to one box.”   Months after my first listen, I still find myself playing that final verse over and over again. – KJC #18 Reba McEntire and Kenny Read More

Discussion: Country … on Broadway?

November 22, 2008 // 10 Comments

I fell in love with Broadway musicals at age 6 when my parents took me to see “Camelot”. It was a truly magical experience, and over the years I’ve often wondered if my early love of musicals contributed to my discovery of country music, as both rely on the emotional connection developed through story songs. In recent years, a number of mainstream musical artists have ventured onto “The Great White Way.”  Among them former American Idol contestants and pop stars. For the most part country music stars have stayed away, but Reba McEntire stands out as a noteworthy exception. In 2001, she starred in “Annie Get Your Gun” to great acclaim. Even as a mid-run replacement she was given a special Drama Desk award, among others. She also gave a memorable turn as Nellie Forbush in the Carnegie Hall production of “South Pacific” in 2006. While I do believe the experience may Read More