Strictly Country's List of Top Songs of 2012
Celebrating beautiful music in the New Year.
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
January is a time to reflect back on the previous year. We often find ourselves looking back at the major events that took place in our daily lives. However, rarely do we look back at the music that was released. In fact, the only time we do so is when we watch awards shows such as The Academy of Country Music or The Country Music Association. Rarely do those awards shows focus on the real music released within the calendar year.
The most wonderful thing about Strictly Country is that we pride ourselves in reviewing all of the music sent to us. More often than I can count, do we receive albums that majority of the country music radio stations in America are willing to play on the air. Many of these albums contain some of the most beautiful music, one would hope to hear on the radio.
Music is the essence of life. It allows us to laugh, cry, think and love. Through music we are able to remember the past, look towards the future and just enjoy the present. That being said, here is Strictly Country’s A to Z list of the Top Songs of 2012.
In 2012, Deborah Allen was one of many artists who returned to country music with new albums. Her album, Hear Me Now, featured a beautiful array of music. The album opened with "Amazing Graceland." This beautiful ballad features the raw emotions mixed with incredible instrumentals and Deborah’s vast vocal talents.
Last year we were introduced to Ty Stone. Ty was marketed to us as a country artist. However, we place him into the southern rock to classic rock genre. It’s Ty’s hard core classic rock vocals mixed with southern rock music that captured us with his songs "American Dream" and "American Style." These songs capture the heart and soul of the hard working blue collar worker.
Charlie Daniels is no stranger to our list. His incredible music mixed with powerful lyrics bring "Behold A Pale Horse" to our list.
We were introduced to several new artists this year. One of those artists is Corb Lund. Corb is a wonderful storyteller as he mixes his country music with unique vocals and incredible storylines. Corb teams up with Hayes Carl in "Bible On The Dash."
Often do we come across songs that are pure instrumental, especially when it comes to Bluegrass. Sometimes, all we need to hear is the pure simplicity of a collection of instruments. This is the case with The Matt Flinner Trio’s "Bitterroot."
When we heard "Blessed St. Anthony" by Ty Stone, we were blown away with the vast vocal ability that this song demands. Once you hear this song, you too will be blown away.
Ty Stone then brings it back to earth with a wonderful love ballad called "Bob Seger."
Rarely do Big & Rich hit our list. However, last year they released a wonderful song called "’Cause I Play Guitar." It’s songs like this that keep Big & Rich’s career going.
Another new group that we were introduced to was Pear Ratz. On their live album we pulled "Cheaters." Although, this song was performed live, it had that pure country feel. Especially, with it’s storyline and lyrics.
Although we had heard about Scotty McCreery through the grapevine, we had not heard his music until we heard his Christmas album called Christmas With Scotty McCreery. From that album we pulled our next two songs. The first, "Christmas Comin’ ‘Round Again," a song that speaks about forgiving at Christmas. The second, "Christmas In Heaven," is a beautiful ballad that captured all of our hearts with it’s comparison of Christmas on earth and Christmas in heaven.
Another artist that returned to country music this past year was Sherrie Austin. In March we talked with Sherrie about her new album Circus Girl. On this album we pulled the title track, due to it’s beautiful melody mixed with lyrics that compares life events with a circus act.
Toby Keith hits our list with his song "Clancy’s Tavern." This is a beautiful ballad that captures the essence of a local pub.
Corb Lund returns with his fun song about cows with "Cows Around." No, we didn’t pick this song because we are based in Wisconsin!
We were also introduced to Marlee Scott, one of country music’s newest female vocalists. Her song "Crazy" is an up beat song that captures the feelings that we get when we fall in love with someone.
Chris Cagle returned to country music after four long years away from the music industry. In an article in September, Chris explained why he left and why he returned with his new album Back In The Saddle. The album featured many great songs however, it was "Dance Baby Dance" that captured our hearts and souls. The song speaks about the relationship and special moments between a father and daughter.
Noam Pikelny entertained us with some beautiful music. Including his instrumental song called "Day Down."
Even though Kelly Lang has been around for many years as a song writer, we were introduced to her last year when she released her new album 11:11. Kelly hits our list with "Dead Girl Walking," a beautiful ballad about heartache.
Dwight Yoakam was another artist who returned with a new album, 3 Pears, last year. His song "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" is an up beat song performed in the classic Dwight Yoakam feel.
Very few times does a Top Ten artist hit our list. The reason for that is that majority of the Top Ten artists perform songs that are ‘manufactured’ and don’t have heart and soul. However, Gloriana’s song "Doing It Our Way" captured us with it’s unique message.
New artist Casey Jones captured our attention with his song "Drive." A fast paced country beat song that makes you want to get into your care and ‘drive.’
Bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent captured our attention with their unique Gospel messages with songs like "Eternal Vacation" and "Family Bible."
Carrie Hassler, another Bluegrass artist, captured our attention with her song "Eugene & Diane." This beautiful ballad reminds us that sometimes we need to step up and tell someone that we love them.
One of the most underrated country artists is Craig Campbell. Craig entertained us with his beautiful ballad "Family Man." A beautiful song that captures the heart of a real man.
Bluegrass group Brothers Comatose tells it like it is with "Feels Like The Devil."
Josh Turner has had many hits in his career. However, the one that should be a hit, "Find Me A Baby," is not. But his song "For The Love of God," is one of the most beautiful Gospel style songs.
Although Blake Shelton’s Christmas album was a bomb, he did hit our list with a very unique song from his Red River Blue album called "Get Some." This is a great Friday Night party song.
Corb Lund returns to our list with his hard country rock song "Getting Down On The Mountain."
Blake returns with his song "Good Ole Boys." This is an incredible song that questions the times that we are in.
Audie Blaylock and his band Redline are no strangers to Bluegrass. Audie pays tribute to Grandmothers with his song "Grandmother’s Love."
We were introduced to another great artist by the name of Pat Guadagno. His beautiful song "Gravedigger" captured our interest with it’s incredible lyrics mixed with beautiful melody.
We were also introduced to a new Gospel group called StompTown Revival. Their song "Guiding Me Home," is a beautiful example of well mixed lyrics and instrumentals to bring out the power of the song.
Nu-Blu entertained us with another beautiful EP. The group paints us a very powerful picture with their song "Hammer." A song about Jesus’ death.
Last year we introduced you to a new group called Herrick. It was their song "Hangmen Hill" that captured the essence of an historic event in Washington state.
Pat Guadagno returns with a duet with Aura Guadagno in "Here’s To You." This is a beautiful ballad perfect for any wedding.
Bluegrass artist Donna Ulisse captured one of the greatest stories told - the birth of Jesus Christ, in her album All The Way To Bethlehem. From this album we pull the song she wrote about Joseph in "He’s Not Mine."
Audie Blaylock and Redline return with their song "Home Is Where The Heart Is." This is a beautiful ballad about break up.
Eric Church’s new album Chief was some what of a disappointment. However, we were intrigued with his song "Homeboy" because of it’s strong message.
New artist Jason Cassidy entertained us with two versions of his song "Honky Tonk Heaven." If heard, this song would go straight to the top.
Billy Ray Cyrus released a new album this past year. The album featured many beautiful songs. However, it was his song "Hope Is Just Ahead" that inspired us to place it on this list.
We were also introduced to Lee Brice in 2012. Out of all the Top Ten artists in today’s country music, Lee is the one to seek. His song "I Drive Your Truck," is a very powerful song that pays tribute to a fallen soldier.
Although majority of their music contains the same baseline melody, The Band Perry’s song "If I Die Young" captured our interest.
Kelly Lang returns to the list with her song "If You Knew." This is a powerful song that points out how we need to take more time with our loved ones, because you never know when we are going to lose them.
Another new group that we were introduced to was a group called LiveWire. It was their song "I’ll Go To Prison" that captured us with it’s strong message.
Another powerful message came in a song by Chris Cagle with "I’ll Grow My Own." The best part of real country artists, is how truly down to earth they are. This is the case with Chris and this song.
Julie Lee & The Baby-Daddies are known for their Folk music. However, their song "I’ll Never Be Free" brought us back in time to the 1940’s with it’s beautiful music and gentle message of love.
Marlee Scott returns with a great song called "I Love Hating You." This is the ultimate revenge song that explores the curses we put on our ex-friends.
Kelly Lang has one of the most beautiful set of vocals in country music. This is best heard in her ballad "I’m Not Going Anywhere."
Toby Keith returns to this list with his song "I Need To Hear A Country Song." The title is self explanatory.
Josh Turner performs a beautiful and inspiriational song called "I Was There." This beautiful ballad reminds us that God is always there for us.
Marlee Scott returns with a bold song about suicide in "Jane Doe."
The Pear Ratz reminds us that Jesus loves the sinners just as much as he loves the saints in their song "Jesus Loves Bad Boys."
Deborah Allen returns to this list with her song "Last Time For Everything." A beautiful and powerful ballad that tells us to cherish all that we have each and everyday.
Our next song that hits this list comes from two different artists. We were first introduced to the song "Last Words" by Herrick. As the year progressed we heard the song from Big & Rich as well. This is a powerful song that points out the harshness and power that last words can bring.
New artist Troy Cook Jr. told us how it is in today’s society with his unique song "Lazy American Dream."
Donna Ulisses paints us a beautiful picture of Mary holding Jesus Christ for the first time and what may have gone through her mind at the time in her song "Let The World Wait For A Little While." This song is a song that will be cherished by mothers every where.
Lee Brice sings about how to live our lives in "Life Off My Years."
We were first introduced to Susan Cattaneo with her song "Little Big Sky," a beautiful song about how we need to stop and reflect.
Kellie Pickler returned to the country music scene this past year with her album 100 Proof. From that album we pulled a heart felt ballad of heartbreak in "Long As I Never See You Again."
The biggest return to country music came when the Sweethearts of The Rodeo returned with their album Restless. The first song we pulled was "Love It Away." In this song the girls sing about how life is to short to hold on to the negative things and how we should just love it away.
Toby Keith tells it like it is and how the times have changed for the worse in his song "Made In America."
Craig Campbell sings about the simple things in life with his song "Makes You Wanna Sang."
Kellie Pickler pays tribute to her mother and all of the mother’s out there with her song "Mother’s Day."
One of the most intelligent artists in country music is Charlie Daniels. His song "My Beautiful America" paints a wonderful picture of the best and simplest things that America has to offer.
The Pear Ratz entertained us with a great Friday Night party song with "Nice, Ice Cold Bottle of Beer."
Through the years, Ricky Skaggs has entertained us with some beautiful music. However, "Nothing Beats A Family" has to be the best song he has entertained us with.
We pulled so many songs from Kelly Lang’s album 11:11, because they are that good. Hitting our list is "On And On."
Gretchen Wilson kind of disappeared from the country music scene. However, in 2012 Gretchen released a single called "One Good Friend," a beautiful ballad that points out the best things in a friend.
Sometimes we come across a song that is simply beautiful, however the entertainer singing it just destroys it. This is the case with Billy Burnette and "Only The River Knows."
Josh Turner paints us an incredible picture with his story telling song "Pallbearer."
Another great return came when Exile released their new single "People Get Ready." Performed with acoustic, vocals only song, this is a beautiful inspirational song.
Lonesome River band has hit our list over the years with many of their songs. They hit our list this year four times with "Perfume, Powder and Lead," "Sweet Sally Brown," "The Old Man In The Shanty" and "The Crime I Didn’t Do."
Bluegrass group Lou Reid and Carolina speak of the choice of what we want to be in "Preacher Man."
Charlie Daniels renews an old story in "Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance."
One of the most played songs on the radio as well as in my office has to be Toby Keith’s "Red Solo Cup." Yes, we do love the unique songs like this one!
It’s Sweethearts of The Rodeo that get us going with the title track of the new album, "Restless."
Herrick is another band who pays tribute to grandmothers with their song "Satan & Grandma."
Van Preston intrigued us with her song called "Schizophrenic Heart." This is perhaps the best song that best describes the truth of what our hearts go through each day.
One of the most beautiful songs to come out of 2012 has to be "Ships" by Pat Guadagno. In this poetic song, Pat sings about what it’s like to be a ship. Simply beautiful!
Sweethearts of The Rodeo perform another song about revenge in "Sinful Thoughts."
Charlie Daniels performs one of the most beautiful renditions of the "Star Spangled Banner" that we have ever heard. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the fiddle that draws out the greatness of this song about America.
Another powerful song that we heard came from Sherrie Austin with her song "Streets of Heaven." In this song, Austin pleads with God not to take her ill child.
The Brothers Comatose sing about their musical instruments in "Strings."
Ricky Skaggs pays tribute to Doc Watson with his beautiful song "Tennessee Stud."
Lee Brice returns to the list with his song "That Way Again." This is a powerful song that speaks about how couples drift apart and how sometimes you have to be reminded of what you have in each other. If you are thinking about divorce, this is the song you need to hear before you file.
Craig Campbell returns with a beautiful song about the simple things in life and how they are part of our daily lives in his song "That’s Music To Me."
Billy Ray Cyrus tells it like it is suppose to be in his song "That’s What Daddy’s Do."
Big & Rich surprised us again when we heard "That’s Why I Pray." This is a beautiful song that captures the times that we live in and how we need to keep our faith.
When Kenny Chesney released "Boys of Fall," it captured the hearts of all of us.
Noam Pikelny gave us some beautiful music this past year, including "The Broken Drought."
Kellie Pickler hits our list again with her song "The Letter (To Daddy)."
Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press is no stranger to Bluegrass. His song "The Old Oak Tree" is a beautiful song that brings us back to our childhood.
Dave Stewart gave us a unique song with his "The Ringmaster General."
New group Heartland hits our list with their song "The Sound A Dream Makes." This is a beautiful song that must be shared with all new parents. They will truly appreciate it.
Billy Ray Cyrus hits our list again with "Tomorrow Became Yesterday." This beautiful ballad speaks about how, through the years, we drift apart.
Marlee Scott gains the help from Vince Gill in her song "Train Wreck."
Sherrie Austin returns with her song "Trying To Be Me."
It was Herrick’s song "Walk A Mile" that inspired us to think about things. It also inspires us how we should try to walk in other people’s shoes prior to judging them.
Found on Dwight Yoakam’s new album is "Waterfall." This is a fun song in which Dwight sings about ‘what if he had a waterfall.’
Bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent pay tribute to soldiers with their song "Welcome Home." This song is performed in a The Statler Brothers feel. Truly beautiful.
Jason Cassidy hits this list again with his song "What Do You Have For A Heartache." Performed in the classic George Jones feel, this heartfelt ballad speaks of trying to get over a heartache.
LiveWire returns to the list with their song "What Makes A Man." This is a powerful song that features all the small things that make a man.
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out hits our list with a powerful song called "What’s The World Coming To." This song showcases the hard times that many are going through each day.
Due West hits our list this year with a very powerful song that helped raised money for victims of hurricane Sandy. "What Would You Take," is a heartfelt ballad that makes you think of going through something so hard as those victims did.
Craig Campbell is another entertainer who sings of the times in his song "When I Get It." This fun song features the great line "when I get it, you’ll get it."
Gloriana hits our list again with a song called "Where My Heart Belongs." This song talks about how when we reflect on the past, we find that moments in our past is where our hearts truly belong.
Kenny Chesney touched on a delicate subject that is dear to many people in his song "While He Still Knows Who I Am." This song tells a wonderful story about a father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. This song touches home for me, for my mother is a victim of this horrendous disease.
The Matt Flinner Trio hits our list two more times with two beautiful songs. "Winter Harvest" and "Winter Wheat" are two beautiful, soft, gentle and relaxing instrumentals that capture the heart of winter.
Casey James returns to the list with his song "Working On It." This is a fun, fast paced song that given the chance, will make it to radio. I’m sure many fans will enjoy it’s message as well as it’s catchy tune and lyrics.
The Sweethearts of The Rodeo hit the list again with a western style song in "You Can’t Hold Me Back." This song is sure to inspire many women to move forward.
I find it very fitting that our list comes to an end with Nu-Blu’s "You See Jesus." If we are truly open to seeing things, we can and will be inspired by the work of God and his son Jesus.
There you have it, Strictly Country’s list of Top Songs of 2012! More often than we can count, we always hear "I have never heard half of these songs" or "Who are these people?" from many of you. It is our job to tell you about all of the music that is out there in country music, bluegrass, Americana, Folk and Gospel. With that, it is our job to point out the best songs.
These songs are the songs that make you laugh, "Red Solo Cup;" make you think, "Lazy American Dream;" make you love, "That Way Again;" make you dream, "Ships;" make you enjoy, "While He Still Knows Who I Am;" and make you appreciate, "Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance." These are songs that are the essence of our daily lives.
What will 2013 hold? Perhaps music that will...
(This article was printed in the January / February 2013 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
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