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Strictly Country Magazine Top Songs of 2018 title

Searching for the Top Songs of 2018…


By: Gina Kay Singerhouse



   It’s a beautiful drive, as we head four hours north of our office to seek respite.  Native Americans called her Gitche Gumee, which translates to “Great Sea.”  It was the French who named her Lake Superior and superior is exactly what she is.

   I was first introduced to Lake Superior by my husband nearly twenty-six years ago, when he took me there on our honeymoon.  Once you meet her, the lake will capture you and hold you within her spell as she becks for you to return.  Since then, I have introduced her to many more.

   Lake Superior is the largest of the great lakes of North America and she is the third largest lake, by volume, in the world.  She holds within her enough water to cover the entire North American continent in twelve inches of moisture.  When I share information about her beauty, most don’t understand that her temperature rarely goes above 43 and never falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit; even in the height of the summer.  Yes, I have waded through her icy waters to cleanse myself.

   She was created by Mother Earth through volcanic activity over 10,000 years ago.  It is her wisdom that some seek and admire; especially Shamans of all nationalities.

   Within her icy waters she holds the spirit of creation, but she has the power of destruction.  If you respect her, she will shower you with much love and beauty.  It is her creative elegance that I share with you today.

   Within her shores and upon her waters, she carries with her many minerals.  For thousands of years these minerals have mixed to create some of the most highly sought after rocks in the world.  Among the basalt and iron ore, shamans of Peru will find healing rocks they call Khuyas; which they gather to add to their sacred medicine bundles called Misas.  Nonetheless, it is the agate that we search for when we arrive upon her glorious shores.

   Christians, who have read the Bible, will recognize the agate as it is written about within the pages and stories.  Nonetheless, many Christians could not identify an agate for they do not know what this precious gemstone looks like.

   Lake Superior Agates, also known as LSA, are some of the most highly sought after agates of the world.  They are found in and around Lake Superior, but also found within four hours of her shores.  It was the glaciers that traveled from her coast and brought with them these precious stones to our neck of the northwoods.  One is lucky if one finds a LSA.

   Most of the agates that we find on her shores are the size of a dime or less.  Sometimes they are the size of a quarter or more.  My husband has been lucky enough to find a couple the size of a silver dollar. We have seen agates, in collections, that are the size of a footballs.

   There are many styles and types of agates.  The dendritic is one of the rarest and often contains a picture of a plant within it’s minerals.  Other agates include the fortification agate, the water-line agate, shadow agate, tube agate, eye agate, plume agate, moss agate, and seam agate; to name a few.  Each of these agates maintain a level of healing qualities within their beauty.

   I have spent hours, walking the serene beaches of Lake Superior in search of these alluring gemstones.  Their colored glass like qualities draw your attention to their true elegance.  Each of these precious stones are individually unique as no two agates are the same.  Each one of them are a creation by Lake Superior.

   Lake Superior creates these exquisite stones to bestow on those who respect her.  But for those who dishonor her, she takes away. Since the time that man has graced her waters, she has taken from him.  Through  the years, there have been over 6,000 shipwrecks in which she has claimed over 30,000 lives.  Perhaps the most known shipwreck is that of the Edmond Fitzgerald. 

   On November 10, 1975, the USS Edmond Fitzgerald and her crew of 29 went down to the deep, due to the November gales that Lake Superior is known for.  Almost a year later, Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recorded and released his tribute to the crew and ship with his song “The Wreck of The Edmond Fitzgerald.” 

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee

Superior, they say, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early…

   Many entertainers have recorded this infamous song.  I once came across a cover performed by Loretta Lynn; however I cannot find it today.

   On this cold winter day, I long for the shores of Lake Superior looking among her creative rocks for that one special agate.  Sifting through the millions of rocks in search of an agate is like sifting through the millions of songs released in a year looking for that one gemstone of a song.

   Each year, the search becomes more difficult as the artistry in music is pushed away for the commercialism.  Among the albums and singles we reviewed in 2018, we found thirty-seven songs that we felt were worthy to add to our ever growing collection of great music.  Each of these songs earned a nomination for the 24th Annual Spirit Awards Song of The Year Award.  Here is Strictly Country’s A to Z list of Top Songs of 2018…

   The epitome of country music is found in the songwriting of Loretta Lynn and it is befitting that we begin this list with one of her songs.  “Ain’t No Time To Go” is a song performed in a genuine classic country feel. Loretta sings about the loss of her husband; nonetheless, one can also interpret the lyric relevant to one’s own death and not the right time to die.

   Dale Ann Bradley is among the celebrated artists within Bluegrass with her pleasant vocals.  The problem with Dale Ann is the fact that she often records cover songs and does not explore her own creativity.  Nonetheless, we did find one of her own with “Blackberry Summer.”  Performed in a classic country mixed with a baseline of bluegrass, this song captures a simple time and memory of the author.

   One of the best albums to come out of country music in a long time was released in 2006 and received by us in early 2018.  The Last Wild Place Anthology by Lacy J. Dalton is perhaps the one album that we have pulled so many songs from to earn nominations.  The first song we come to is the most non-denominational spiritual song ever recorded called “Boundless Skies.”  The gentle melody is one that reminds you of a mild wind as it launches your soul to fly with the eagles, of the lyrics.  If you purchase one song this year, this should be that song.

   There are many songs that I can hear at my own funeral.  Nonetheless, “Boundless Skies” is the one that will be required as it speaks the truth about life and the ever after.  This song should have earned the title of Song of The Year, however the fans disagreed.  It did earn the President’s Choice Award for Best Well Written Song of 2018.

   Some of the best songs in music are those that differ from the mainstream.  In early 2018, The Oak Ridge Boys released a song that reversed the depressing emotions surrounding the lost of a loved one in a song called “Brand New Star.”  Performed in a revival style mentality, this extraordinary song sheds new light to those suffering the heartaches of loss.

   In late 2017, Lacy J. Dalton recorded a comical song just in time for Christmas.  “Carl, The Christmas Dog” tells the now infamous story of a dog who truly ate the Christmas tree.  This song went on to earn the Spirit of Christmas Award during the 24th Annual Spirit Awards.

   Just as I love to sit on the shores of Lake Superior, one of the things I would love to do is spend time with Ms. Dolly Parton.  I often wonder how many songs she has written, but never recorded.  In recent years, she has gained national attention with her children’s book and movie based on her song Coat of Many Colors.  Ms. Parton found that she had an entirely new audience with the youngest generation.  This brought her to release a children’s album in 2018.  In this album we found an inspiring song called “Chemo Hero.”  Ms. Dolly brings hope and joy to all of the children who are brave to face the perils of cancer.

   We return to Christmas with our next song.  Each year we are introduced to many new artists with their projects.  One such artist, Paul Cardall, captured our interest with his artistic capabilities as a pianist.  In his latest project, we found “Christmas Past.”  Through this harmonious instrumental, Paul reminds us that many people find Christmas depressing as they  relive memories of cheerful Christmases of yesterday.

   We return to Loretta Lynn for our next song.  I am sure that many who voted for the Spirit Awards questioned our decision on adding “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to the list.  Nonetheless, this is a new and updated version of Ms. Lynn’s signature song.  If one were to compare her original recording to this new version, one would certainly hear the wisdom that rides the authenticity of this iconic song.

   Don McLean, known for his signature song “American Pie,” released what he called his last original work in 2018.  Although, he is a difficult person to interview, we did find several songs from this project that we thought earned a place on this list.  The first song is another that will comfort those in need with “Grief and Hope.”

   Someone from RCA Records was a genius when they created the subsidiary label called Legacy Recordings.  From this label we have heard some of the most incredible lost and found recordings from the music industry’s notable entertainers.  Among the records released last year, from this label, we heard one from Willie Nelson when he teamed up with his sons.  From this album we found “Healing Hands of Time.” Performed in a classic Texan two-step, the lyric delivers a message of healing after a break-up.

   Very few newer performers are seen on this list, nonetheless, we could not pass by Becky Buller.  What brings Becky Buller to the forefront of Bluegrass musicians is her unheard-of blend among her style of music. A style that mixes many genres of music with her humble Minnesota personality.  She is a singer songwriter who defies the normal subject matter within her music.  Her Spirit Award nominated album, Crepe Paper Heart, has produced several songs that we added to this list.  The first we add is “Heart of The House.”  Its poignant message, mixed with a traditional two-step melody, will make you ponder over an everyday unappreciated occurrence.

   Another new artist we were introduced to last year was The Farm Hands.  Although most of the album consisted of covers, this bluegrass band did include a couple of originals.  “Hillbilly Graham,” with its powerful message of true Christian beliefs is the one we added from this album.

   This brings us back to Loretta Lynn.  “I’m Dying For Someone To Live For,” is a two-step ballad that contains a message of sincerity that is performed with love.

   Bluegrass band Circa Blue is no stranger to the Spirit Awards.  In 2017, they were honored with the President’s Choice Award for their song “Bells of Home.”  From their latest project we add “I Sing Your Song” to our list.

   It seems that the songwriters and industry tend to follow the same trend and this year’s trend was about healing. Another healing song we pulled is  “I’ve Cried All The Tears That I Have” by Don McLean.

   This brings us back to Lacy J. Dalton’s album with her tribute song to her son called “Little Boy Blue.”

   Revisiting Loretta Lynn again, this time we are entertained with a time-honored melody as she tells the story of “Lulie Vars.”

   We head back to the Holidays with two Christmas songs.  We were first introduced to the Memphis Ukulele Band when they released their Christmas EP and within that project we found an unconventional song called “Merry Christmas Broken Hearts.”  The second Christmas song comes from Deborah Allen when she released her song “Moody Blues Christmas.”

   Another newer Bluegrass singer we heard from last year was Rebekah Long.  Long has been through a lot with the passing of her husband, nonetheless, she created a couple of extraordinary songs including “My Greatest Shame.”  Performed in a traditional melody, the lyrics share a story that has been told in a variety of songs.

   Our next song became a very healing song for one Minnesota community.  Becky Buller recorded “Phoenix Arise” to help raise funds for Madelia, Minnesota after a fire raged through Main Street.  Years later, Buller added this song as a bonus song just in time for us to add it to this list.

   The final song from Loretta Lynn’s album is a song that will soon be a time-honored tune called “Ruby’s Stool.”  Among her new heart felt ballads we found this comical ditty.

   This brings us back to Lacy J. Dalton with her song “Sanctuary.”  Ms. Dalton is an active advocate for animal rights and she shares her passion in this song. This gentle lullaby delivers a tale about a horse protecting her new born foal. 

   We could not believe that it wasn’t until 2018, that Irlene Mandrell recorded her debut album.  The very patriotic album showed a vast respect that Irlene has for our nation’s military.  “Sgt. Kelly’s Bridge” is the first of three songs to earn a spot on this list, as it pays tribute to an American hero.

   The final song we add from Becky Buller is “She Loved Sunflowers.”  Through the lyrics, Buller tells the story of a friend who still impacts the family through divine intervention.

   We continue to celebrate Lacy J. Dalton’s album with our her song “Standin’ Knee Deep.”  This is a song that reminds us that we all go through tough times, but there is hope so don’t give in or give up.

   We were excited when we received the newest project from Lee Roy Parnell as we had not heard anything from him a while.  We were not disappointed when we heard his song “Sunny Days.”  Parnell teams up with the infamous Fairfield Four to create a beautiful song of hope.

   The second song we pulled form Irlene Mandrell’s debut album was “The Boots My Momma Wears.”  Based on a letter written by child to her Mother, who is serving in war, this song has rightfully earned the Spirit Of America Award from the 24th Annual Spirit Awards.

   This brings us to the final two songs from Lacy J. Dalton’s album.  “The Last Wild Place” reminds us that we all have within ourselves our own sacred space.  Where as “The Wanderers” is a soul awakening song that reminds us that we are from the stars and we will return to the stars once more.

   Circa Blue adds another song with “Tripped Stumbled And Fell.” Although most of the songs on this list are songs of healing, this is a fun song about falling in love.  One that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

   This list would not be complete with out a song from Mr. Charlie Daniels.  In the autumn of his career, one would think that he would slow down.  Not when you hear the narrative and witty song “Uneasy Rider.”

   We return to Lee Roy Parnell with his song “Want Whatcha’ Have.”  Performed in a catchy upbeat melody, the lyrics suggest that we need to be satisfied with what we already have and not live in a state of want.

   The best singers and songwriters will share their experiences through their music.  Rebekah Long shares with the listening audience her life with her husband in one of the most genuine heart-to-heart ballads called “Woodland Street.”

   Another heart-to-heart ballad we found came from Irlene Mandrell with “You Live On.”  Irlene’s father, Irby Mandrell, was a noted figure in country music.  Irlene gives an emotional performance in this tribute to her father.

   Don McLean adds another song with “You’re All I Ever Had.”  McLean stated that this project was his ‘swan song’ and that he will never create another original project again and this song can be strewed as his final piece.

   This brings us to “You Can’t Go Back Home” by Sylvia.  Sylvia revitalizes her classic country song to create a timeless new rendition.  Performed in a gentle Irish ballad, the lyrics remind us that we can never return to what once was.  This song has earned the title of Song of The Year in the 24th Annual Spirit Awards.


   Four hours north, is where I long to be.  I dream of the summer sun lighting my way as I scavenge through the rocks upon the shores of Lake Superior.  I am searching the shoreline for that one special gift.  A gift from a friend who I have come to know through the years.  A gift like no other, as I have no other friend as I do in Lake Superior.  

   The gift I seek is that of an agate, a beautiful rock to add to my ever growing collection that fills my office.  Among the basalt and iron ore, I see a sparkle.  Could it be?  Is it?  Why yes, it is…a precious gem called an agate…


The best things in life,

Are those that are free...

© Strictly Country Magazine - January / February 2019.

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