Each year you see a “Best of” list when it comes to what we journalists think are the top singles and albums of 2016. This list is a little bit different. Over the course of the past twelve months, there have been several great releases in each category, but also even more great album tracks. For better or worse, according to my ears, here are twenty songs that should have been singles during the year…and if we’re lucky still might be in 2017.
“Daughter,” Brandy Clark – I’ve got to say, this was at the top of my list the moment I first listened to Big Day In A Small Town. Clark took no prisoners on this finely crafted tale of what could very well be the ultimate revenge!
“Whiskey To Wine,” Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood – While Brooks’ newest music hasn’t gotten the critical raves of a Clark or a Maren Morris, this was perhaps traditional Country’s finest moment of 2016. Two great singers and a great song in the tradition of Conway and Loretta or George & Tammy.
“Kid Sister,” The Time Jumpers – The all-star Nashville supergroup bids a musical farewell to Dawn Sears. There hasn’t been many times I have listened to this one that I haven’t gotten emotional. Take a listen. You will too.
“Sugar,” Maren Morris – Simply put, the critics are in love with her for a reason. She’s just that good….and got the swagger to match!
“Like My Daddy Did,” Vince Gill – Just because radio might not pay as much attention to his new music doesn’t mean that Gill’s musical well has run dry. In fact, this track is proof he’s as effective as ever!
“Big Day In A Small Town,” Brandy Clark – She’s a genius – and that’s putting it mildly. I love how this song makes the everyday occurrences in a tight-knit community seem so routine. Nor since Tom T. Hall has anyone done it better!
“Still Feels Like Mexico,” Ronnie Dunn (with Reba McEntire) – Few artists make collaborations seem as powerful as these two. I could have picked out just about any song from his Tattooed Heart album, but this one definitely hit the mark!
“Ask Me How I Know,” Garth Brooks – Yes, sometimes you wonder if Brooks concentrates on the event of an album as much as (or more) than the actual music, but this track from Gunslinger serves as a reminder why he’s sold over 120 million records!
“I Can’t Do This,” Vince Gill – Yes, I know this is the third Gill-related cut on this list. But listen to the pain and anguish on this emotional cut. He could teach this in school – but nobody else could do it better!
“Mama,” Aaron Lewis – Cut through all the bravado of his outspoken nature, and you will find an artist who is at his best when he is letting his scars show. A truly great moment.
“You Wouldn’t Know Me,” Miranda Lambert – A cut from the disc that was perhaps the most talked about in 2016, Lambert keeps it simple and plain on this laid-back track that evokes the best of Emmylou.
“Rich,” Maren Morris – If this one isn’t a spring single, I’ll eat my hat. (OK, I have no hat!) Still, this is just fun – and sometimes, you need just fun!
“Starting Over,” Jennifer Nettles – It amazes me that her solo work has not fared better. She hits a raw nerve on this cut that might be some of the best vocalizing of her career – and that’s no exaggeration!
“The Fighter,” Keith Urban with Carrie Underwood – First of all, the production on this cut is out of this world, and Carrie’s vocal adds a marvelous touch of dreaminess to it. If this gets released as a single, go ahead and make up the CMA Award for Musical Event with their name on it.
“Just Call Me Hank,” Hank Williams Jr. – I have to admit that I was surprised when I heard this cut. I thought it would be one of his bad-ass braggadocio numbers he is so famous for. Instead, there’s a depth to this ballad that will make any longtime fan of Bocephus tear up – like me.
“Bucket,” Kenny Chesney – In anyone else’s words, this would be a fun throwaway and nothing more. But, sometimes we all need to say…..Bucket….Well, you get the idea!
“While He’s Still Around,” Florida Georgia Line – Easily the most potent lyric of their career. If you have yet to hear this one, you need to. Their best moment – so far.
“Jesus and Elvis,” Kenny Chesney – To have attained the level that he has takes more than just great promotion and the ability to work a crowd. You also have to know your way around great lyric, and he adds another chapter to that page here.
“Magazines,” Aubrie Sellers – A song about what the public sees and what is actually truth – from someone who grew up with a first-hand knowledge of the fact..