Let's start with five songs you may have never heard because they weren't released as singles (but should have been) or never made it very high up the charts.
This is a song Dolly Parton would have made a hit from during the '70s. A beautifully told story about love and the human spirit, with simple, swelling music and Hope's clear, strong voice, it's just a shame country radio has lost its taste for this kind of song. More people should here and be touched by its power and promise.
I love the story of heartbreak that is so visually painted with these lyrics: "That old porch swing, those songs we sang and the cold and bitter truth... the heaven we had, the hell that I'm going through, other than that, there ain't much left of lovin' you." Great guitar and drums drive the song along like a man falling head-first into a bottle.
This little-noticed single (it peaked at 35) shows Owen is a vocal powerhouse and I have no idea why it wasn't embraced by radio. Too cowboy-sounding? I loved the old Western sound of it. Is Owen's country hottie/bad boy image coming back to haunt him? Did the video's '70s porn vibe turn people off? Possibly. Let's hope the new CD promised in 2011 will get Owen the attention his singing and songwriting deserves, and the bad boy persona is laid to rest. With his talent, he doesn't need it. Don't believe me? See him live and you'll be a believer.
A sad and beautiful little cut from the otherwise goofy fun "Hillbilly Bone" CD -- I mean six-pack (let's leave that idea behind in 2010!) -- "Delilah" highlights Shelton's vocal and songwriting prowess. This song really should have been a single.
I'm hoping there still might be a chance we'll get "Draggin' the River" -- Blake's upbeat, twangy, funny duet with finance Miranda Lambert on the radio. I've heard that it won't be released because Blake and Miranda are on different labels. Come on, country radio -- you got Brad Paisley to release "This is Country Music" early. Why not use your muscle to get "Draggin' the River" released. Think of it as a wedding present!
Probably my favorite song on the excellent "I'm About to Come Alive" CD, the bluesy music, fascinating storyline and outstanding vocals (with help from Miranda Lambert) leave me feeling like I just watched a great old movie that I want to see again and again. Every note, perfection! Why wasn't this a single in 2010?! Can we hope for it in 2011?
And now the songs you did hear...
5. "The Boys of Fall" Kenny Chesney
This song sounds beautiful, tells a compelling story and touches the heart with its earnestness and passion. I knew it would be a hit the first time I heard it, and I never change the station when it's on. (I'll leave others to speculate as to why one of they year's most heart-felt love songs is about football players.)
4. "She Won't Be Lonely Long" Clay Walker and "Love Like Crazy" Lee Brice (tie)
I put these two together because they remind me of the classic country of my youth. Simple stories, strong (but not show-stopping or overwhelming) vocals, and charming music that just lets the story play out. Refreshing, both of them. I'm not surprised neither made it to number one because they're kind of old fashioned. But I do love them both.
2. "Highway 20 Ride" Zac Brown Band
This song is so sad, sweet and beautiful, it makes me cry every damn time I hear it. Awesome songwriting, understated music, great harmonies. It tells a story that touches the heart. ("As She's Walking Away" is also great.)
1. "The Truth" Jason Aldean
Go away, you haters. Say what you will about Jason Aldean's brand of rockin' country (which I happen to love), you can't deny that this haunting ballad of a broken man is pure country worthy of Waylon or Cash. Or at least Crazy Heart's Bad Blake.
Other songs I loved in 2010: "Suffocating" by Blake Shelton; "From a Table Away" by Sunny Sweeney; "Hell on the Heart" and "Smoke a Little "Smoke" by Eric Church; "Way Out Here" and "Won't Be Lonely Long" by Josh Thompson; "The Call" by Matt Kennon; "Little White Church" by Little Big Town, "Mine" by Taylor Swift; "Lies" by Martina McBride; "Up on the Ridge" and "Draw Me a Map" by Dierks Bentley; "Hello World" by Lady Antebellum; "The Man I Want to Be" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" by Chris Young.