Top Songs of The Year
(This article was printed in the January / February 2009 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
I often write about how I take the opportunity to listen to all of the albums. From cover to cover, each note, each syllable is heard. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to the albums, due to their lack of talent. However, I am then rewarded with some of the most beautiful songs. Songs that make our list of Tops Songs of the year.
Each of the following songs were nominated for the 2009 Spirit Award’s Song of The Year Award. Here are those songs...
I begin with one of the most beautiful Christmas albums to be released. In 2005, Pam Tillis released Just In Time For Christmas. However, this album arrived for the first time in our offices in 2008. Pam utilizes the maximum of her angelic vocal talents to bring to life three beautiful songs. The first, "Light of The World," speaks of the birth of Jesus becoming a light in such a dark world. The second, "Seasons," is a soft, gentle song that points out the benefit of each season. However, it’s "Beautiful Night," that sticks in my mind. This song has a light and airy feeling like watching snow fall to the ground. This song points out the unseen benefits of a long winter night.
Kathie Baillie also hit our list this year with a Christmas song entitled "Come Back This Christmas." It’s a mixture of acoustic guitar and piano with Kathie’s beautiful vocals that make this Christmas love song so beautiful.
Taken from the album Christmas Grass Volume 3, comes another Christmas song, "Watching Over The Soldiers At Christmas," performed by 3 Fox Drive with a recitation by Charlie Daniels. This beautiful song takes us on a journey through the many wars in which Soldiers are spent on the front lines at Christmas. This song gives us a different perspective to think about at Christmas.
Another Christmas song in our list of Tops Songs of 2008 comes from Richie McDonald’s debut solo album, If Every Day Could Be Christmas. Co-wrote by McDonald, "Blessed Are The Hands That Give," is really not a Christmas song. It’s more of a song of hope and love. McDonald truly gives a commanding performance in this song!
This brings us to our final Christmas song on our list. "Cold Beer" comes from Tracy Lawrence’s All Wrapped Up In Christmas cd. Performed in a jazzy country feel, this song reminds us to take time for ourselves during the holiday season. Tracy Lawrence hits our list with a second song. Coming from his Then & Now: The Hits Collection, is "If I Don’t Make It Back." This heart warming ballad speaks of the wishes of a friend if he does not make it back from war.
There are times when we receive singles that have yet to be released. This is the case with our next song, "My Amazing Grace" by Linda Davis. This is one incredible and powerful song about the love for a child, with physical problems. As far as I know, this song has still yet to be release.
Another powerful song comes to us from Jack Ingram with "That’s A Man." This upbeat song with strong words speaks about life’s true lessons that make a man a man.
Our next song comes from Trent Willmon. In "There Is A God," Trent sings an inspirational song that gives us a wide variety of reasons in our daily life that proves there is a God.
In 2008, Ricky Skaggs teamed up with Cracker Barrel to release an album The High Notes: A Collection of His Greatest Country Hits: From a Bluegrass Perspective. The last cut on this album is the inspirational song "Somebody’s Prayin.’ This song is performed in a Celtic Bluegrass feel that enhances the message contained within the song. Skaggs chose a perfect time to release this beautiful song with all that went on in 2008.
Another entertainer who teamed up with Cracker Barrel was Aaron Tippin. In this album, He Believed: A Son’s Tribute, Tippin pays tribute to his father with twelve beautiful songs and it was two of these songs that hit our list. The title track, "He Believed," was the first. Written by Aaron and his wife Thea, this upbeat but powerful song is truly a revival song about his father. The second song, "I Got It Honest," is a song in which Aaron sings with pride. A pride of saying that where he is and what he has, "he got it honest..."
Alabama released one of their final albums on Cracker Barrel in 2008. Granted these songs have been previously released, but it’s Alabama! Coming from this Live album is "If You’re Gonna Play In Texas," "Forty Hour Week," and "The Fans." I don’t have to tell you about these songs, they speak for them selves!
Where as Reba McEntire teamed up with Hallmark to release Love Revival, just in time for Valentine’s Day. "With You I Am," was taken from this incredible album. In this ballad, Reba sings about how when we find the right person to love they make us whole.
2008, was truly the year for powerful songs. This is true when it comes to Alan Jackson. Taken from his album, Good Time, comes "Sissy’s Song." The song speaks about how a lost loved one would feel about the rest of us who are living. What’s so unique about this song is it’s simplicity. The melody is so simple that it enhances the lyrics therefore, making them even more powerful than they already are.
Through out country music, you can find many songs about love. But, nothing beats Jimmy Wayne’s "I Will." Coming from his Do You Believe Me Now album, this song sings volume of giving up everything in one’s life to never lose someone.
Then on the flip side, maybe you don’t want a song about love. Well that’s where our next song comes in. Coming from Chris Cagle’s My Life’s Been A Country Song album is "No Love Songs." Like the title states, this upbeat song requests - no love songs!
Montgomery Gentry proved to us that they still have it when they released their latest album, Back When I Knew It All. In this album the boys include a song that many of us can relate too in "Long Line Of Losers." If you feel like you are a loser, this song will certainly make you think twice.
During 2008, we featured many new artists as well as many unknown artists. One man who stood out was Mark Erelli. This past year, Mark released his seventh album, Delivered. At first glance, this album sounded strange. However, as the songs progressed, we became intrigued. It was the fourth cut that brought tears to my eyes. "Volunteers" is a song about a man who ‘volunteered’ to serve his country and his journey through war. This heart wrenching song should be heard by everyone, especially those of us who take our freedoms for granted. "let the records show that I volunteered..." The second song that we pulled from this incredible album is, "Delivered," a simple song with a powerful message of the finality of death. This song contains the acoustic instruments of a guitar and piano. However, the power comes from the beating of a drum that is through out the entire song. This song makes me think of my own mortality.
One of Strictly Country’s main missions is to feature all of country music. This last year we heard a wide variety of country music from modern country pop all the way to bluegrass. It was all good! This past year we were introduced to an incredible all female bluegrass group called Angel Band through their album With Roots & Wings. From this album we took two great songs, including "Drown In The Fountain of Good." This song is performed in the old turn of the century style with a powerful message of good. The second song, "Don’t Stand At My Grave And Weep," comes from an old poem. The Angel Band enhances this old poem with their vast musical and vocal talents in bluegrass.
We were also introduced to an all male bluegrass band called Blue Highway through their album, Through The Window Of A Train. Though the entire album is full of wisdom it was two songs that definitely stood out for us. The first, "Homeless Man," is a heartfelt ballad that tells the story of a homeless man who was a soldier. This song brings the question to the table ‘what happens to our soldiers when they return home from war?’ The second song is another song about our soldiers with "Two Soldiers." This powerful song tells the story of two soldiers who have the unfortunate job of telling family about the deaths of their loved ones who served. This song brings a reality to our current war. It’s a song that truly needs to be heard, especially on Memorial Day.
Another song that needs to be heard comes from The Grascals on their album Keep On Walkin’. "Remembering" is a bluegrass song that takes us on a journey through the memories of a Grandfather’s life in World War II. This is a nice tribute to Fathers and Grandfathers who served during World War II. The Grascals inspire us again with the title track, "Keep On Walkin’." This upbeat song contains an inspirational message that no matter what happens we need to keep on walking.
Our next group celebrated over twenty-five years as one of the most popular groups in Bluegrass. Lonesome River Band released No Turning Back album in 2008. From this incredible album we add "Flowers" to our long list of Top Songs of 2008. Written by Billy Yates and Monty Criswell, this extremely powerful ballad speaks about the effects of losing someone after drinking and driving.
Our last Bluegrass artist on our list this year is Rhonda Vincent. Rhonda entertained us with her latest project, Good Thing Going. On this album Rhonda teams up with Keith Urban in "The Water Is Wide." This beautiful heartfelt ballad made it to our list due to the angelic vocal collaboration of Rhonda and Keith. This song makes me stand up asking for more from these two great artists. Rhonda hit our list again with "I Will See You Again." This soft upbeat ballad speaks volumes. In this song, Rhonda sings about how death does not have victory over us - if we believe. Yes, we will see our loved ones again.
What would our list be with out a Kenny Chesney song? Empty. Kenny hits our list with "A Lot of Things Different."
Newcomer, Ryan Casper hit our list with his song, "American Way."
However, the biggest surprise in 2008 was the release of Carlene Carter’s new album Stronger. Carter proved to us that she is keeping the Cash legacy alive with her music. The first song that came from this incredible album is "Judgment Day." It’s a beautiful song about dealing with heartbreak. We took another song from this album. Carlene gives a commanding performance in "Stronger." A beautiful ballad that speaks volumes about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. This song was a healing song for Carlene Carter. Perhaps it will become your healing song too.
Craig Morgan began a new journey in 2008 by returning to a major record label, BNA, with a new album That’s Why. Morgan is a talented singer / songwriter. The title track on his new album hit our list. In this song, Morgan sings about why he does what he does in his daily life. However, it was the last cut on the album that truly touched our souls. "Ordinary Angels," is a heartfelt ballad that speaks about how strangers can be angels to us. This powerful song should be the anthem of today’s society.
We were introduced to the music of baritone singer Jeff Bates in 2008. His self entitled debut album was filled with thirteen great songs. Two of his songs hit our list, including "I Can’t Have Anything Nice." This song is great Friday night country song with a catchy tune. We also pulled "He Wasn’t Like Us" to add to our list. This is an inspirational ballad about how different people are, more like how different Jesus was from the rest of us.
The legendary George Jones entertained us with a new album. Burn Your Playhouse Down album was a collection of unreleased duets with Mr. Jones. The album opened with a very special heartfelt duet between Mr. Jones and his daughter Georgette Jones, "You And Me And Time." Each of the twelve songs included on this album are truly remarkable, however the only other song that stood out was a duet with Jim Lauderdale in "Tavern Choir." Each of us has our place where we go and hang with our friends. For most, it’s a bar. What happens when a loyal bar patron passes? This song will give you that answer.
2008 brought us another surprise when Mark Chesnutt released his debut album on Lofton Creek Records entitled Rollin’ With The Flow. In this album, Mark proved to us that he will not fall for the next new sound, rather he is still just old Mark Chesnutt. Mark proves this with "When I Get This Close To You," a heartfelt ballad performed in the traditional Texan style. He also entertained us with a great drinking song with "(Come On In) The Whiskey’s Fine." This song is sure to be a favorite song during Mark’s live performances. However, the song that truly stood out for us was "Man In The Mirror." This heartfelt ballad speaks about how we try to be different from our parents, eventually the things that they taught us comes out.
We now come to an album that continues to sit in the CD player in my office. Coming from the legendary Dolly Parton is her latest project Backwoods Barbie. From the opening cut all the way through to the last cut, Dolly inspires and drowns us in sorrow through her music. The first song that we pulled from this incredible album is "Better Get To Livin’." This beautiful upbeat song is sure to inspire even the most depressed person. The second song that we pulled from this album to add to our list is the title track. This song speaks as much volume as Dolly’s signature song "Coat of Many Colors." The last song that stood out from this incredible album was "Jesus & Gravity." In this song, Dolly sings about how no matter how much pride we have gravity is there to pull us down. However, when we are so low that we can not go any further, Jesus is there to pick us up. The quality and powerful message truly stands out. If it were up to me, this album would earn the title of best album of 2008! Truly remarkable!
Which brings us to the album that comes in second. When we were introduced to this next artist we were blown away by his talent. Eric Durrance’s debut album Angels Fly Away is filled with eleven beautiful cuts. This album intrigued us with so many great songs, well we had to add four of them to our list of Top Songs. "Wait Till I Get There," took second in the Spirit Awards, losing only by two votes. This heartfelt ballad speaks about how we want our loved ones to wait until we get there before they pass on. That song was tied with Eric’s title track, "Angels Fly Away." This beautiful and powerful ballad contains many lessons learned in life. However, It was Eric’s theory of "Turn It Off" song that inspired us the most. In this song, Eric tells us to turn all of the electronics off and enjoy your loved ones. This song inspired many to declare a day last year to "Turn It Off" Day. The final song that we took from this album and added to our list was another heartfelt ballad called "Life Is Hard." To me this is the song that should have earned the Spirit Award’s Song of The Year Award. However, I have no say in the Spirit Awards. If there is one song, that I would love for you to hear, I would have to choose this song. Simply beautiful.
This brings us to the last three songs on our list. These songs come from another Bluegrass group by the name of Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain. We begin with "I Don’t Want To Wake Up," a heartfelt ballad about fighting for life without our loved one. Throughout the year we heard several songs about being country. But, none hit us like "Country Strong." There is something about growing up in the country that makes you strong, this song speaks about that.
Which brings us to our final song on our list. This song comes from Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain and has earned the title of Song of The Year from the Spirit Awards. It is my pleasure to announce that fans have officially voted for "She’s A Stranger In His Mind" written by Mark "Brink" Brinkman to win this coveted title. This heartfelt ballad is sure to touch the souls of all who hear it. It’s a song that best describes what people go through when they have to deal with a loved one who has Alzheimer's.
"She’s A Stranger in His Mind"
© 2006 Mark "Brink" Brinkman
She softly walked into his room, sat down and said "hello"He said, "You look familiar, are you someone I should know? I’ve got this funny feeling we’ve met somewhere before. There was a fleeting memory as you came in through the door." She smiled and said "My darling, you’re looking mighty fine In fact we’ve known each other since 1949" They had a lifetime of memories but there’s nothing left to show. When the mind and a body choose a different time to go.
She’s a stranger in his mind. The memories are gone, but his heart’s still keeping time. The cruelest fate for the loved ones left behind. How can life be so unkind? She’s a stranger in his mind.
She tells him stories of the man he use to be. All about their children and his loving family. Every day they spend together is both a blessing and a curse
But she’s faithful to her wedding vows, for better or for worse.
Kneeling by his bedside the tears pour down like rain
She prays that tomorrow he’ll remember her name.
She’s a stranger in his mind. The memories are gone, but his heart’s still keeping time. Say a prayer for the loved ones left behind. How can life be so unkind? She’s a stranger in his mind.
Tag: She softly walks into his room, sits down and says, "hello".
So, there we have it, Strictly Country’s List of Top Songs of 2008! Yes, we understand that many of these songs and artists you have never heard of. However, these are truly country music’s best songs of 2008. So, what will 2009 bring? Only time will tell.
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