My Top Five Favorite Songs of 2018. Don’t @ Me

Do any of your favorites match Tom’s top 5 for 2018?

By kncitom on December 30, 2018

By Tom Mailey

There were some great songs in country music this year…newer artists like Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Carly Pearce and Dan and Shay found their stride and established artists like Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley continued to show why they’re at the top of the heap. And what a year for northern California country artists, huh? Yuba City’s Tyler Rich made a huge splash with his debut single “The Difference” Jon Pardi scored another hit late in the year with “Night Shift”, which is currently working its way towards the top of the charts, and Devin Dawson earned a ton of critical acclaim and respect from fellow artists with his debut album.

And while Bob Kingsley will be counting down the 40 most-played country songs of 2018 on New Year’s day, here are my five personal favorites. Not all of them were “hits”, per se, but to me, they all had that extra something that set them apart and made them a little more genuine, or sincere, or authentic, or whatever you want to call it. See if you agree.

Or not. Heck, I don’t care! That’s the fun of loving music, isn’t it??

5) All On Me Devin Dawson. The Orangevale native/Casa Roble grad had one of the most original albums of the year with his debut release of Dark Horse. Honest, introspective lyrics hint at an artist who spends as much time in his head as he does on, say, a stage. All On Me was a solid debut single, with clever wordplay and the positive message that no matter what, he’s there for you. And it feels like Devin is gonna be there for us for a long time to come.

4) Shoot Me Straight, Brothers Osborne. Why, why can’t these guys break through with a bona fide hit?? I mean, they kinda did with Stay A Little Longer, but the best part of that song was John Osborne’s blistering guitar solo, which you can only hear on the album version of the song. Since then, they’ve been more of a fan favorite than radio mainstays. Which is fine–they’re live shows alone are already legendary. Maybe it’s the 70s rocker that still lives inside me but I’d love if Nashville gave swaggering, sweaty, guitar-based southern rock a little more breathing room nowadays. Hey, Travis Tritt and Montgomery-Gentry proved it could be done. Shoot Me Straight is a no-BS, driving-too-fast, too-late-at night celebration of whiskey, women and too much testosterone and I freaking love it. It’s the lead song on their excellent second album, “Port St. Joe”, and I hope these guys are around to rock our faces off either live in concert or, hopefully, on the radio, for years to come. 


3) Best Shot, Jimmie Allen. What a debut single for a new artist. From the languidly finger-picked guitar open to his plaintive woah, oh, ohs towards the song’s conclusion, this song’s message, is a beautifully worded acknowledgement that despite our imperfections, we can still do our best to be the person we always hope others think we are. This song is the best of what real country music has always been about–honesty, vulnerability, and hopefulness. And, oh yeah, Jimmie also happens to sing the hell out of it.


2) Girl Going Nowhere, Ashley McBryde. If there is any justice in the country music universe, this young lady will be a star. Even though this song, the title track from her latest album, isn’t a “hit” yet on country radio–it was just released recently…so I’m counting as a 2018 song even though if it charts it will be in 2019. And it should chart.  One of the reasons I love it is personal: every time I listen to it, it reminds me of my daughter, Emma, who is 26 and for the last 8 years has been bound and determined to make a life for herself in Los Angeles, despite the occasional…expressions of reservation…from both her mom and myself. And guess what? Like the character in Ashley’s song (which is, of course, her), what do you know? Emma is finally starting to gain some traction, find her footing, and earn a living on her own–and on her own terms, despite the doubters and naysayers. Granted, maybe I love this song because it’s so personally relatable, but…isn’t that a mark of a great song? And by the way, it’s not just this song that makes me feel McBryde should be a superstar–it’s every song on this album. It’s so well, written and so varied–there are reflective songs like this one, and rockers like Radioland, and even an unflinching look at the scourge of opioid addiction–listening to it is like reading a novel by an exciting new American author. If you haven’t checked it out, do yourself a favor.

1) Drowns The Whiskey, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert. Probably the most mainstream of my five picks, but damn, this song is SO good. The production is impeccable (I love that bluesy guitar hook), the lyrics (by Josh Thompson, Brandon Kinney and Jeff Middleton) cleverly flip on it’s ear the old notion of drowning a memory with booze and, coloring up Aldean’s heart-aching, understated vocals, Lambert’s harmonies are just absolutely exquisite. I’ve already heard this song a thousand times and I could hear it a thousand more before I ever get tired of it. People who say “real” country music is dead should sit back, listen to this one and give Jason his due.


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