Year-End Rodeo 2015: The Master Lists

As 2015 winds down, we’ll be unveiling the Country Universe crew’s Top 30 Singles and Top 20 Albums, along with our writers’ individual ballots. Because everyone loves lists. And lists of lists.

But, despite all of the “You forgot to include [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST HERE]!” hand-wringing that comes along with these types of retrospectives, it’s important to remember that lists like these don’t emerge fully-formed from a vacuum. The first step is compiling a master list of all of the albums and singles in contention. While the sheer volume of music released in any given year makes it inevitable that there will be the occasional oversight, we’ve done our best to identify as many eligible contenders as possible.

So, for a glimpse behind the curtain, the master lists we considered are below!

Meat and Candy


We set a cutoff date of 12/01 for eligibility for consideration. So, while several of us are fairly bullish on Cam’s Untamed, that album will be considered for our 2016 countdowns. EPs, reissues, and bootlegs were not considered for the list, either, to keep things manageable.

First Last Title
10 String Symphony Weight of the World
A Thousand Horses Southernality
Alabama Southern Drawl
Alabama Shakes Sound & Color
American Aquarium Wolves
Roo Arcus Cowboys & Sunsets
Asleep at the Wheel Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills…
Kelsea Ballerini The First Time
Banditos Banditos
Big Tobacco & The Pickers The King is Gone
Ryan Bingham Fear & Saturday Night
Clint Black On Purpose
Blackberry Smoke Holding All the Roses
Jason Boland Squelch
The Bottle Rockets South Broadway Athletic Club
Rachel Brooke & Lonesome Wyatt Bad Omen
The Bros. Landreth Let It Lie
Jim Ed Brown In Style Again
Luke Bryan Kill the Lights
Laura Bell Bundy Another Piece of Me
Bruce Burton On the Avenue
Kristian Bush Love & Gravity
Calexico Edge of the Sun
Brandi Carlile The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Kasey Chambers Bittersweet
Eric Church Mr. Misunderstood
Gary Clark, Jr. The Story of Sonny Boy Jim
Shawn Colvin Uncovered
Andrew Combs All These Dreams
Easton Corbin About to Get Real
The Cox Family Gone Like the Cotton
Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris The Traveling Kind
Michael Dean Damron When the Darkness Comes
Dave Rawlings Machine Nashville Obsolete
The Deer Run Drifters Restless Youth
Iris DeMent The Trackless Woods
Kristin Diable Create Your Own Mythology
Drive-By Truckers It’s Great to Be Alive!
Justin Townes Earle Absent Fathers
Steve Earle & The Dukes Terraplane
Anderson East Delilah
Brett Eldredge Illinois
Electric Rag Band My Side
Elliott BROOD Work and Love
Joe Ely Panhandle Rambler
Tyler Farr Suffer in Peace
Flatt Lonesome Runaway Train
Folk Family Revival Water Walker
Kinky Friedman The Loneliest Man I Ever Met
Rhiannon Giddens Tomorrow Is My Turn
Grandpa’s Cough Medicine 180 Proof
Pat Green Home
Patty Griffin Servant of Love
Don Henley Cass County
Will Hoge Small Town Dreams
Home Free Country Evolution
The Honeycutters Me Oh My
Houndmouth Little Neon Limelight
Ray Wylie Hubbard The Ruffian’s Misfortune
Humming House Revelries
Stephen Hunley The Other Side of Never
Chris Isaak First Comes the Night
Jason Isbell Something More Than Free
Alan Jackson Angels & Alcohol
Jason James Jason James
Chris Janson Buy Me a Boat
Jewel Picking Up the Pieces
Cody Jinks Adobe Sessions
Josh Abbott Band Front Row Seat
Robert Earl Keen Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions
Toby Keith 35 MPH Town
Jana Kramer 3 1
Dayna Kurtz Rise and Fall
Pokey LaFarge Something in the Water
Jim Lauderdale Soul Searching, Volume 1
Bettye LaVette Worthy
Jerry Lawson Just a Mortal Man
Brennen Leigh Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizzell
The Lone Bellow Then Came the Morning
Lucero All A Man Should Do
Corb Lund Things That Can’t Be Undone
Shelby Lynne I Can’t Imagine
Maddie & Tae Start Here
Mandolin Orange Such Jubilee
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell So Familiar
The Mavericks Mono
Reba McEntire Love Somebody
Tim McGraw Damn Country Music
James McMurtry Complicated Game
JD McPherson Let the Good Times Roll
Mike & The Moonpies Mockingbird
Rhett Miller The Traveler
Father John Misty I Love You, Honeybear
Ashley Monroe The Blade
Kip Moore Wild Ones
Allison Moorer Down to Believing
John Moreland High on Tulsa Heat
Whitey Morgan & The 78s Sonic Ranch
Mountain Faith That Which Matters
Kacey Musgraves Pageant Material
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard Django & Jimmie
Shantell Ogden Ghosts in the Field
Old Dominion Meat & Candy
Lindi Ortega Faded Gloryville
KT Oslin Simply
Charlie Parr Stumpjumper
Gretchen Peters Blackbirds
Punch Brothers Phosphorescent Blues
The Raging Idiots The Raging Idiots Present…
Rascal Flatts Rewind
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Michael Ray Michael Ray
Thomas Rhett Tangled Up
Kimmie Rhodes Cowgirl Boudoir
Josh Ritter Sermon on the Rocks
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen Hold My Beer, Volume 1
Daniel Romano If I’m the Only One Askin’
Darius Rucker Southern Style
Buffy Sainte-Marie Power in the Blood
Darrell Scott Ten: The Songs of Ben Bullington
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers Sidelong
Shovels & Rope Busted Jukebox, Volume 1
Daryle Singletary There’s Still a Little Country Left
Smithfield Smithfield
Ralph Stanley Man of Constant Sorrow
Chris Stapleton Traveler
The SteelDrivers The Muscle Shoals Recordings
Steep Canyon Rangers Radio
Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell
Steve’N’Seagulls Farm Machine
George Strait Cold Beer Conversation
Striking Matches Nothing But the Silence
Willy Tea Taylor Knuckleball Prime
Them Duqaines Star Spangled Rodeo
Ward Thomas From Where We Stand
Richard Thompson Still
Turnpike Troubadours Turnpike Troubadours
Carrie Underwood Storyteller
Wall-Eyed Kentucky Gentleman
Watkins Family Watkins Family Hour
Aaron Watson The Underdog
Dale Watson Call Me Insane
Jim White Take It Like a Man
The White Buffalo Love & The Death of Damnation
Barrence Whitfield Under the Savage Sky
Widowspeak All Yours
Joy Williams Venus
Jamie Lin Wilson Holidays & Wedding Rings
Dwight Yoakam Second Hand Heart
Chris Young I’m Comin’ Over
Zac Brown Band Jekyll & Hyde




Note that we defined official “singles” as having had an add-on date at country radio, having an official music video (or, God help me, an “official” “lyric video”), having been added by at least 5 stations at AAA radio, or having otherwise been tagged as a single by an artists promotional team. We’re fairly generous with what we considered for this list, even taking a second look at some singles that were released late in 2014 but that didn’t have their greatest commercial impact until 2015, but we tried to weed out things that were obvious album tracks or potential 2016 singles. As with the albums, we set a cut-off of 12/01– meaning singles like Carrie Underwood’s “Heartbeat” and Drake White’s “Livin’ the Dream” will have to wait until next year.

First Last Title
A Thousand Horses (This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial
A Thousand Horses Smoke
Ryan Adams Bad Blood
Ryan Adams Stay With Me
Trace Adkins Jesus and Jones
Alabama Wasn’t Through Lovin’ You Yet
Alabama Shakes Don’t Wanna Fight
Alabama Shakes Gimme All Your Love
Lauren Alaina Next Boyfriend
Jason Aldean Gonna Know We Were Here
Jason Aldean Tonight Looks Good On You
Gary Allan Hangover Tonight
Gary Allan Mess Me Up
John Anderson I Work A Lot Better
Lynn Anderson Drift Away Gospel
Lucy Angel Crazy Too
Abi Ann Truck Candy
Asleep At The Wheel I Hear Ya Talkin’
Rodney Atkins Eat, Sleep, Love You, Repeat
Drew Baldridge Dance With Ya
Frankie Ballard It All Started with a Beer
Frankie Ballard Young & Crazy
Kelsea Ballerini Dibs
Kelsea Ballerini Love Me Like You Mean It
Gord Bamford When Your Lips Are So Close
The Band Perry Live Forver
Banditos Waitin’
Dierks Bentley Riser
Big & Rich Run Away With You
Big Tobacco & The Pickers Put Your Hands Up
Clint Black Time for That
Blackberry Smoke Living In the Song
Blackjack Billy Night Light
Blackjack Billy Why God Made Summertime
Wade Bowen When I Woke Up Today
Craig Wayne Boyd My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face
Danielle Bradbery Friend Zone
Lee Brice Drinking Class
Lee Brice That Don’t Sound Like You
Brothers Osborne Stay a Little Longer
Luke Bryan Kick the Dust Up
Luke Bryan Strip It Down
Luke Bryan (f Karen Fairchild) Home Alone Tonight
Chase Bryant Little Bit of You
Laura Bell Bundy I Am What I Am
Kristian Bush Light Me Up
Kristian Bush Trailer Hitch
The Cadillac Three White Lightning
Cam Burning House
Cam My Mistake
Ashley Campbell Remembering
Craig Campbell Tomorrow Tonight
Brandi Carlile The Eye
Brandi Carlile Things I Regret
Brandi Carlile Wherever Is Your Heart
Kasey Chambers Wheelbarrow
Kenny Chesney Save It For a Rainy Day
Kenny Chesney (f. Grace Potter) Wild Child
Eric Church Like a Wrecking Ball
Eric Church Mr. Misunderstood
Eric Church Roller Coaster Ride
Ashley Clark Greyhound
Terri Clark I Cheated On You
Andrew Combs Foolin’
Easton Corbin Baby Be My Love Song
Easton Corbin Yup
Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris The Traveling Kind
Billy Currington Don’t It
Billy Currington Football Town with a Drinking Problem
Dan + Shay Nothin’ Like You
Iris DeMent Listening to Singing
Josh Dorr Rocket
Josh Dorr Save Your Breath
Clare Dunn Move On
Ronnie Dunn Ain’t No Trucks in Texas
Justin Townes Earle Call Ya Momma
Steve Earle & The Dukes You’re the Best Lover I Ever Had
Brooke Eden Daddy’s Money
Brett Eldredge Drunk On Your Love
Brett Eldredge Lose My Mind
Eli Young Band Turn It On
Eli Young Band Your Place or Mine
Eli Young Band (f. Andy Grammer) Honey, I’m Godawful
Lindsay Ell By the Way
Elliott BROOD Jigsaw Heart
Chip Esten Like New
David Fanning Doin’ Country Right
David Fanning What’s Next
Tyler Farr A Guy Walks Into a Bar
Tyler Farr Better in Boots
Tyler Farr Withdrawals
Florida Georgia Line Anything Goes
Florida Georgia Line Confession
Florida Georgia Line Sippin’ On Fire
Folk Family Revival American Standard
Ashley Gearing Train Track
Haley Georgia Ridiculous
Rhiannon Giddens Black Is the Color
Brantley Gilbert One Hell of an Amen
Brantley Gilbert Stone Cold Sober
Vince Gill (f. Little Big Town) Take Me Down
Gloriana Trouble
Pat Green While I Was Away
Patty Griffin There Isn’t One Way
Mickey Guyton Better Than You Left Me
Halfway to Hazard Heaven On Down the Highway
J. Michael Harter Playin’ With Fire
Hunter Hayes 2 1
Don Henley (f. Martina McBride) That Old Flame
Don Henley (f. Trisha Yearwood) Words Can Break Your Heart
Brooke Hogan Girlfriend
Will Hoge Middle of America
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors Shine Like Lightning
Randy Houser We Went
Ray Wylie Hubbard Hey Mama, My Time Ain’t Long
Humming House Great Divide
Sam Hunt Break Up in a Small Town
Sam Hunt House Party
Sam Hunt Take Your Time
Jason Isbell 24 Frames
Jason Isbell Children of Children
Jason Isbell Something More Than Free
Jason Isbell The Life You Chose
Alan Jackson Jim and Jack and Hank
Casey James Fall Apart
Elana James Who Loves You More
Jason James I’ve Been Drinkin’ More
Chris Janson Buy Me a Boat
Chris Janson Power of Positive Drinkin’
Jewel My Father’s Daughter
Robert Earl Keen Hot Corn, Cold Corn
Toby Keith 35 MPH Town
Toby Keith Beautiful Stranger
Toby Keith Rum Is the Reason
Charles Kelley (f. Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay) The Driver
Ryan Kinder Tonight
Jana Kramer I Got the Boy
Lady Antebellum Long Stretch of Love
Miranda Lambert Bathroom Sink
Miranda Lambert Little Red Wagon
Miranda Lambert Roots & Wings
Miranda Lambert (f. Little Big Town) Smokin’ and Drinkin’
Ray LaMontagne She’s The One
Chris Lane Fix
Olivia Lane You Part 2
Bettye LaVette Complicated
Jackie Lee Headphones
Little Big Town Girl Crush
Little Big Town Pain Killer
LoCash I Love This Life
The Lone Bellow Take My Love
Love and Theft Whiskey On My Breath
Corb Lund Run This Town
Rachele Lynae Quicksand
Rachele Lynae Whole Lotta Nothin’
Dustin Lynch Hell of a Night
Dustin Lynch Mind Reader
Shelby Lynne I Can’t Imagine
Maddie & Tae Fly
Maddie & Tae Shut Up & Fish
The Mavericks All Night Long
Scotty McCreery Southern Belle
Reba McEntire Going Out Like That
Reba McEntire Until They Don’t Love You
Tim McGraw Top of the World
Tim McGraw (f. Clare Dunn) Diamond Rings & Old Barstools
Rhett Miller Most in the Summertime
Father John Misty Chateau #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
Logan Mize Can’t Get Away from a Good Time
Ashley Monroe Bombshell
Ashley Monroe On to Something Good
Ashley Monroe The Blade
Montgomery Gentry Folks Like Us
Justin Moore You Look Like I Need a Drink
Kip Moore I’m to Blame
Kip Moore Running for You
Allison Moorer Like It Used To Be
Allison Moorer Tear Me Apart
John Moreland Hang Me In the Tulsa County Stars
Craig Morgan When I’m Gone
William Michael Morgan I Met a Girl
Maren Morris My Church
Kacey Musgraves Biscuits
Kacey Musgraves Dime Store Cowgirl
David Nail Kiss You Tonight
David Nail Night’s On Fire
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats S.O.B.
Tami Neilson Lonely
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard It’s All Going to Pot
Jennifer Nettles Sugar
Jennifer Nettles Unlove You
Joe Nichols Freaks Like Me
Erica Nicole (f. Jamie O’Neal) Like I Do
Jerrod Niemann Blue Bandana
Shantell Ogden Who Comes First
Old Dominion Break Up With Him
Old Dominion Snap Back
Lindi Ortega Ashes
James Otto Somewhere Tonight
Jake Owen Real Life
Brad Paisley Country Nation
Brad Paisley Crushin’ It
Jon Pardi Head Over Boots
Parmalee Already Callin’ You Mine
Eric Paslay High Class
Eric Paslay She Don’t Love You
Gretchen Peters Blackbirds
Gretchen Peters When All You Got Is a Hammer
Kellie Pickler Feeling Tonight
Mo Pitney Boy and Girl Thing
Mo Pitney Country
Cassadee Pope I Am Invincible
Punch Brothers I Blew It Off
Rainey Qualley Me and Johnny Cash
RaeLynn For a Boy
Jordan Rager Feels Like One of Them
Rascal Flatts I Like the Sound of That
Rascal Flatts Riot
Michael Ray Kiss You In the Morning
Michael Ray Real Men Love Jesus
Thomas Rhett Crash and Burn
Thomas Rhett Die a Happy Man
Kimmie Rhodes (f. Johnny Goudie) Cowgirl Boudoir
Chase Rice Gonna Wanna Tonight
Josh Ritter Getting Ready to Get Down
Kid Rock First Kiss
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen Standards
Darius Rucker Southern Style
SaraBeth Runnin’ Out of Lipstick
Sawyer Brown We Got the Night
Dylan Scott Crazy Over Me
Ray Scott Ain’t Always Thirsty
Blake Shelton Gonna
Blake Shelton Sangria
Canaan Smith Hole in a Bottle
Canaan Smith Love You Like That
Corey Smith Feet Wet
Dallas Smith Kids With Cars
Granger Smith Backroad Song
Southern Halo Little White Dress
Chris Stapleton Nobody To Blame
Chris Stapleton Traveller
Sufjan Stevens Drawn to the Blood
George Strait Cold Beer Conversation
George Strait Let It Go
Striking Matches Hanging On a Lie
Striking Matches Miss Me More
Sunny Sweeney (f. Brennen Leigh) But You Like Country Music
Sunny Sweeney (f. Will Hoge) My Bed
Cole Swindell Let Me See Ya Girl
Josh Thompson Same Ol’ Plain Ol’ Me
Thompson Square Trans Am
Justin Timberlake Drink You Away
Aaron Tippin God’s Not Through With Me Yet
Turnpike Troubadours Down Here
Steven Tyler Love Is Your Name
Carrie Underwood Little Toy Guns
Carrie Underwood Smoke Break
Keith Urban Break On Me
Keith Urban John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16
Keith Urban (f. Eric Church) Raise ‘Em Up
Clay Walker Right Now
Wall-Eyed Calmer Waters
Waterloo Revival Bad for You
Waterloo Revival Hit the Road
Sean Watkins (f. Fiona Apple) Banks of the Ohio
Amanda Watkins (f. Jamey Johnson) If I Was Over You
Aaron Watson Getaway Truck
Aaron Watson That Look
Dale Watson Jonesin’ for Jones
Austin Webb All Country On You
Drake White It Feels Good
Drake White Livin’ the Dream
Chuck Wicks I Don’t Do Lonely Well
Lucinda Williams Protection
Hank Williams Jr. (f. Eric Church) Are You Ready
Lee Ann Womack Chances Are
Lee Ann Womack Send It On Down
Trisha Yearwood I Remember You
Dwight Yoakam Liar
Dwight Yoakam Second Hand Heart
Chris Young I’m Comin’ Over
Zac Brown Band Beautiful Drug
Zac Brown Band Homegrown
Zac Brown Band Loving You Easy

As ever, it’s an inexact science, but it’s the first step to compiling and unveiling countdown lists that we’re all pretty excited about. So stay tuned!

(And, just in case there’s any ambiguity, the chosen images are just to avoid tipping our hands as to what is actually included in our year-end best-of lists. These things are not. At all. Y’all know that.)


  1. Do I take it correctly from these lists that Canadian artists are not considered? Beside Cass County, the album my wife and I have played the most frequently this year has been “Now Playing” by the Western Swing Authority. I read somewhere that the first single was “Sweet Harriet” but maybe it was only released on Canadian radio. Country Perspective reviewed the album back in February. It was released on 2/3/15.

  2. I think it’s a bit ridiculous that you all can manage to produce multiple comprehensive year-end lists, but can’t review the latest release from one of the top women in the genre. It’s been nearly two months; you may as well not at this point. Incredibly disappointed in this blog.

  3. Massikur, I assume you’re referencing Carrie Underwood again. Several of us are Underwood supporters, most notably Kevin, and we’ve thoroughly covered her in the past (including during the lead-up to her album release; see below). We do our best to stay on top of new major releases, but it isn’t always possible to do so in a timely manner. We’re an independent blog. We write out of passion and interest, and we all have day jobs.

    Kevin’s review of Storyteller is forthcoming, and his perspective will be valid regardless of the time lapse.

  4. Massikur,
    Tara addressed your comment perfectly. I’ll just add that I think most Carrie fans would prefer that we review the album when we can than not at all. As Tara said, we all have day jobs and other obligations. We are not professional music journalists. So, we do what we can and, frankly, what we want to do, which means that we do not base our coverage on who is most popular.

    To go along with Tara’s other links:

  5. I think if there’s any artist we’ve covered thoroughly, it’s Carrie Underwood. And an album review is forthcoming. I wanted it to post at the same time as the “Heartbeat” review, but I simply did not have enough time to write it, so next weekend is the optimistic target.

    I happen to like the album a lot and it will get a positive review, so hopefully you’ll come back around to read it.

  6. Stepping Away from the Carrie Underwood train of thought for a minute…I’m kind of surprised to see how many good singles were actually released in 2015…you just would never know it by listening to the radio. I look forward to seeing what you guys chose.

    And I can’t be the only who noticed “Honey I’m God-Awful”.

  7. I’ve seen Massikur act ridiculous on other boards. No need to cater to him. The rest of us appreciate that you all have other things going on.

  8. PSU Guy,
    Yes! There were a lot of great singles this year! I maintain that country music doesn’t need saving, just country radio does. Luckily, with modern technology, we don’t need radio anymore.

    Thank you for understanding.

  9. Jason Isbell’s “Something More Than Free”, Jason Boland & The Stragglers’ “Squelch”, Kacey Musgraves’ “Pageant Material”, Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade” and Jamie Lin Wilson’s “Holidays & Wedding Rings” are my favorite albums of the year.

  10. I’ve been one of the ones asking about the review. and I completely understand the wait. I just started to think there was going to be no review at all. That scared me lol

  11. 24 Frames and Traveller are pretty clearly the class of the field as singles go, although I could see an argument for Dime Store Cowgirl.

    For albums, it’s Traveller, Something More than Free (which doesn’t touch Southeastern), Pageant Material or Turnpike Troubadours (love Absent Fathers, Start Here and Mr. Misunderstood, but they’re not quite on the same level).

  12. It didn’t become a single but my favorite song this year was Ashley Monroe’s Blade. Man that was a powerful track. That, and Chris Stapleton’s When the Stars Come Out were my most listened to tracks on my Itunes this year.

  13. I like that Lindi Ortega gets a nod for Faded Gloryville. For me, it was one of the best albums released in 2015, country or otherwise. It was really quite the refreshing change of pace from all the bro-country brainwashing, given Lindi’s retro approach.

  14. Now that your top 40 singles for 2015 have been revealed, I can reveal the single songs you missed. Just kidding.
    I would have included:
    Striking Matches – Hanging on a Lie
    Eric Paslay – She Don’t Love You
    Don Henley – Words Can Break Your Heart
    I admit to being a bit baffled that Striking Matches has received zero coverage at CU. But I guess there are a lot of other deserving country artists who have not been considered.
    I wonder why my favorite Mo Pitney song, Clean Up on Aisle Five, was not chosen for release as a single.

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