On the road we call life, we live, love and laugh. Our road leads us to friends, family and an occasionally an enemy. In the end, when we look back on our road, it is paved not in gold but in memories.
A lot of those memories are made with music. If you think about it, music is the essence of our lives. It leads us and teaches us. It makes us love and laugh. It allows us to remember times gone by. It even makes us remember those who are long gone.
In my daily grind of listening and reviewing albums, I am always in search of a beautiful song. I have listened to some of the most beautiful music, while enduring some of the most horrible. I have endured emotions far greater than one can expect, when listening to music.
As one year closes and another begins, I am proud to put together a list of some of the most beautiful songs. Many of these songs will never ride the air waves of country radio. But, I respectfully request that you search for these songs.
From A to Z, well actually A to Y, here is Strictly Country's list of Top Songs of 2011. Each of these songs were nominated for the Spirit Award's Song of The Year.
We begin with "A Seed" by Billy Dean. This song truly captures a touch of Mother Nature within it's lyrics.
Jason Michael Carroll re-released many of his songs on a new album through Cracker Barrel. One of the songs on that incredible album was his powerful song "Alyssa Lies."
Charley Pride sang about the pride of America in his new song "America The Great."
Billy Dean returns to our list with his song "Angels." In this song, Dean sings about how everyday people can be our Angels.
New artist Deryl Dodd hit our list with "Anybody Out There." This is a song about people who suffer from depression or heartache.
Josh Turner hits our list with his song called "As Fast As I Could." This is a wonderful love song that could be used in a wedding.
I was truly entertained when I reviewed an album by Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers. One of the most entertaining songs on this list would have to be their song "Atheists Don't Have No Songs." I highly recommend this song, even if it's just for a laugh.
Mac McAnnally returned with a wonderful new album. From that album I pulled several songs. The first is "Back Where I Come From." This songs brings back many memories of my childhood.
Dolly Parton continues to entertain us through the years. This past year she presented us with several great songs. The first is "Better Day," a beautiful ballad that encourages us that better days are coming.
In 2011, I was introduced to a new group called Due West. This is one band that I highly recommend. Their first song to hit this list is "Bible & The Belt," a fun song that speaks about being reprimanded by the Bible as well as the belt.
New artist Mason Douglas gave us a taste of the story of Little Red Riding hood in "Big Bad Wolf."
Ronnie Dunn explored a solo career this past year. From his debut solo album I pulled "Bleed Red," a ballad that reminds us that when your break us all down, we are all the same.
Becky Hobbs was another who returned to the scene. In 2011, she released a wonderful album that will soon be made into a Broadway play. The first song I took from that album was "Brave Little Soldier." This is a beautiful ballad about a Native American soldier who passes on.
Vince Gill hit my list with his beautiful ballad "Bread And Water." This song tells the story of a homeless man.
Mac McAnally returns with his song "Cafe On The Corner." Sometimes you have to listen to a song to understand what is right under your nose.
Sometimes a Christmas song comes along that makes you ask for more. This was the case with Point of Grace's "Candy Cane Lane."
Deryl Dodd returns to this list with "Can't Say No To Larry Joe." This is a fun song that truly reminds you of someone from your childhood.
I may not drink, but I do love a good drinkin' song. With that said I added Toby Keith's live version of "Chug-A-Lug."
Ronnie Dunn returns to this list with his "Cost of Livin'." This is one of many songs that were released in 2011 that spoke of the times and the bad economy.
Ronnie Milsap returns to the list with his hard core country rock song "Country Again." This is one unique song about time travel.
In 2011, I was introduced to a new entertainer named Aaron Lewis. Aaron released a song called "Country Boy." In this song he gains the help from George Jones, Charlie Daniels, and Chris Young. This is country as country gets!
Ricky Skaggs reminded us of a time gone by. A time when country music was real and everyone could relate to it. He did this when he released a Bluegrass version of many of his old country hits. Hitting this list is "Country Boy." I truly enjoyed this album!
Dolly Parton sings about being country in "Country Is As Country Does."
Due West returns with their song "Country Music Made A Man Out of Me." I love this song! I highly recommend this one, especially if you truly enjoyed the real country. The writer of this song was a genius!
Mark Wills was one of many who paid tribute to our nations real heroes our soldiers in "Crazy Being Home."
Montgomery Gentry returned to the scene with a new album. On this album I pulled "Damn Right I Am." This is one powerful song.
Willie Nelson hits our list with his song "Dark As A Dungeon." In this song, Willie pays tribute to coal minors.
Another new entertainer that I was introduced to this past year was Chase Rice. Chase hits this list with his song for soldiers in "Die Tryin'."
I had the pleasure to interview the son of Lorrie Morgan and the late Keith Whitley this past year when he released his debut EP. Jesse Keith Whitley hits our list with "Don't Close Your Eyes."
Alison Krauss and Union Station released a new album this past year. From that album I pulled a wonderful song that spoke about the great depression in "Dust Bowl Children."
John Carter hits our list with his unique song "Everything I Want."
Richie McDonald hits this list with several of his songs. He is one of my favorite singers and songwriters. I find his music truly touching. One of my most favorite songs on this list would have to be his "Footprints On The Moon." This song encourages us that the sky is not the limit, especially when there are footprints on the moon. I absolutely love the way he adds the vocals of Astronaut Neal Armstrong.
Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers return with their song "Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back."
One of the most touching and heart wrenching songs of 2011 has to be "Go Get My Angel." This song is the true story written by new comer Darren Warren. Randy Owen lends his vocal talents to this beautiful ballad.
Richie McDonald returns with "Growing Old Together," a beautiful love ballad. I also pulled his "Guntersville Gazette," from his album.
I was entertained by several Bluegrass bands this past year. Blue Moon Rising was one. From their album I pulled "Hard Luck Joe," another song that speaks of the times.
Steve Holy entertained me with a very powerful song called "Heart of A Hero." This song truly captures what it takes to be a hero.
Guy Clark, is one incredible songwriter. He released a live album in 2011. From that album I pulled a fun song in "Homegrown Tomatoes."
Ricky Skaggs returns with a fan favorite in "Honey (Open That Door)."
The next song on this list came in two different versions. I had to include both versions. The song, "I Am Strong," by The Grascals is a very powerful song of hope. The first version features Dolly Parton. Where as the second version features Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Darryl Worley, Charlie Daniels, Terri Clark, Randy Owen, Steven Seagal, Tom T. Hall, Joe Nichols and Ansley McLaurin. Both versions are simply beautiful. I question why the ACM and CMA's do not include this song in their shows. Once you hear this song you will understand why.
When I heard the new duo Curtis & Luckey, I was blown away. These two talented men have embraced Strictly Country as I have embraced their music. From their debut album I pulled "I Have A Dream." This is a great song that speaks about what America was built on.
Montgomery Gentry return with "I Like Those People." The boys gain the help from Charlie Daniels and Randy Owen in this song about real people.
Josh Tuner returns with a heartfelt ballad called "I'll Be There."
Martina McBride released a very powerful heartfelt ballad called "I'm Gonna Love You Through It." I can see this song becoming a healing song for many who are going through breast cancer.
Billy Dean returns with a beautiful inspirational song that many men could relate to in "I Pray." Another song that I took from Billy's album is "It Can't Be."
I'm not a true fan of Steel Magnolia. However, I did find a beautiful song in "Just By Being You."
Jesse Keith Whitley returns with an autobiographical song in "Kentucky Thunder."
You can not have a Steve Martin album with out "King Tut." Steve performs this one with The Steep Canyon Rangers.
When Becky Hobbs released her album she gained the help from various people. One of the songs on the album was "Little Fellow My Son," that was performed by Duane Sciacqua. Duane has a beautiful set of vocals. When you mix his vocals to the lyrics of this song, it becomes a truly remarkable song.
Mark Wills returns to this list with "Looking For America." This is a powerful message that tells us what is missing from the America we grew up with.
Richie McDonald returns with his last song in "Love's The Greatest Thing." This song truly speaks about what love is all about.
Mac McAnally returns with another great song in "Miracle." This song has power and inspiration.
New group Badhorse hits our list with their heartfelt ballad "Mississippi Rain."
Sometimes songs get us to think about things that we would not normally think of. New comer David Wood speaks about life and death in "My Dash."
Chase Rice returns with his beautiful song "My Old Man."
The next song on this list is such a wonderful song. "My Sittin' Window," performed by Blue Moon Rising, is a beautiful ballad that takes you on a journey about a ghost who still resides in his house. This is another of my favorites!
Taylor Swift finally hits one of my lists. "Never Grow Up," is a song that reminds us how we need to stay as innocent as a child.
Willie Nelson tells us we need to take responsible for our own actions in his song "Nobody's Fault Buy Mine."
Jason Michael Carroll performs a wonderful song called "Numbers." This song speaks about how numbers play an important part of our lives.
New comer Matt Bailie hits this list with his heartfelt ballad "Only God Knows Why." This is a powerful song that makes you think about the things that we truly don't understand and how God is the only one who really understands.
The Bluegrass band Grasstowne released an incredible version of the Lord's prayer in their solo song "Our Father."
Becky Hobbs shares with us Native American beliefs in "Pale Moon."
Mason Douglas returns with "People Fall In Love." This is a heartfelt ballad about the little things that makes us fall in love with each other.
Mark Wills pays tribute to all of the country music entertainers who performed on the Grand Ole Opry with his song "Phantom of The Opry." I love this song for so many reasons.
In 2011, Foster and Lloyd got back together to release a new album. From that album I pulled a beautiful song called "Picasso's Mandolin."
When I first heard Lonesome River Band, I was not sold. However, when I took a second listen I found them quite entertaining for a Bluegrass band. I absolutely loved their song "Record Time Machine." This song won the Spirit Award's Song of The Year. Now that wouldn't be my choice. However, I will agree with the fans who voted.
It was so nice to hear music from Charley Pride again. From his new album I pulled "Resting Place." This song speaks about death and the heavenly kingdom where we will go and rest.
Willie Nelson makes demands in "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."
Jesse Keith Whitley performs a heart wrenching song in "Saving Amy." Jesse has the vocals of his father while maintaining the heart of his mother. A truly remarkable entertainer.
Reba McEntire finally hits this list with "Somebody's Chelsea." This song is a beautiful storytelling song.
Dolly Parton returns with a beautiful song in "Somebody's Missing You."
"Somebody's Prayin'," is a song that has been recorded by many artists. However, it's the heart and soul of Ricky Skaggs' performance that brings his version to this list.
One of my favorite bands, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, released a new album in 2011. From their new album I pulled the title track "Speed of Life."
Curtis & Luckey hit the list with their final song in "Tattoo." This song takes a new outlook on having a tattoo. This song touched me in many ways, especially since I have several tattoos.
Mason Douglas sings about how someone else's life could look better than our own in "That's A Life."
This past year, Jack Ingram re-released his ever popular hit "That's A Man."
Josh Turner sings a song of inspiration in "The Answer."
Guy Clark is a wonderful storyteller. In "The Cape," he tells the story of being a child and how the cape was his courage.
Point of Grace hits our list with another Christmas carol in "The Giver and The Gift." The group gains the help from Jim Brinkman in this song about the birth of Christ.
Dolly Parton's last song on this list is "The Sacrifice." Through this song, Dolly sings about the sacrifices that she made to get to where she is today.
Toby Keith hits our list with his fun song "Trailerhood."
Ronnie Milsap truly reminds us what music is all about in "Trapped In An Old Country Song." This is a beautiful classic country style song.
New comer Brennin inspires us to co-exist in "Try."
Where as Aaron Lewis sings about how we are always in "Vicious Circles."
Blue Moon Rising returns to the list with "What A Helluva Way To Go." This is another song about the times we currently live in.
Due West comes back to the list with another great song in "When The Smoke Clears." This song speaks about how our actions have consequences.
Derek Sholl sings about the soldiers in "When They Come Back."
It's been a long time since I heard a really good song from Reba McEntire. However, this past year she released "When You Have A Child," a beautiful heartfelt ballad about children.
Jesse Keith Whitley says it like it is in "Why The Hell Not." This is a powerful song that asks why about things that are wrong in our society.
Rhonda Vincent is one of my favorite Bluegrass artists. In 2011, she asks listeners about their dreams in "You Must Have A Dream." This is a beautiful song, especially how she sings it.
The last song on the list of Top Songs of 2011 comes from Josh Turner with "Your Smile."
These songs brought us on a journey through 2011. A journey that made us laugh, told us how to love, reminded us of the pride in our country, and honored those who served and continue to serve. They inspired us to seek a higher power, while reminded us what country music is all about. They taught us that we are not alone. They told us to act like children while reminding us of our own mortality. They gave us power, while wiping away our tears. Music does all that. It's a vital part of our lives.
Each of our roads are paved in memories. But, I can guarantee that in the background of those memories there is a song.