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25 Best Country Songs of 2017

Here are Wide Open Country‘s staff picks for the best country songs of 2017.

“Pay Gap” – Margo Price

Margo Prices “Pay Gap” occupies both the past and the present. It’s deeply rooted in the sounds of traditional country music while also serving as an anthem of gender equality — and really, equality across the board. While the Tex-Mex arrangement is laid-back and relaxing, Price’s lyrics are as sharp, potent and as relevant as ever. — Thomas Mooney


“Barabbas” – Jason Eady

On the surface, this cut from Jason Eady’s self-titled album explores what happened to the biblical character Barabas, an insurrectionist who was pardoned instead of Jesus at his fateful public trial. Listen closer and you’ll hear a thoughtful meditation on how we choose to make our way through life. — Matt Alpert 


“Funny (How Time Slips Away)”- Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson

Glen Campbell punctuated his farewell album with this gorgeous acoustic duet with the song’s writer, Willie Nelson. The song netted Campbell the 2017 CMA award for Musical Event of the Year, his first win since 1968. — Robert Moore


“Pay No Rent” – Turnpike Troubadours

“Pay No Rent,” Evan Felker’s fond farewell to his revered Aunt Lou is the heart of Turnpike Troubadours‘ latest album. You don’t just hear Felker’s affection either. He paints years worth of a relationship with rich memories coming from both sides. Pedal steel and fiddle add graceful laments that are warm and sincere.  — Thomas Mooney


“Old Stone Church” – John Baumann

“Old Stone Church” is the sobering foundational piece of John Baumann‘s Proving Grounds. With its’ sharp, crisp textures, Baumann delivers a personal story of redemption that’s as intimate as they come. Sometimes, the silence in a song speaks just as loudly. — Thomas Mooney


“All The Trouble” – Lee Ann Womack

Lee Ann Womack breathes life into the somber slow-burning “All The Trouble.” You hear the flickering neon lights of a late night barroom being switched off as she confidently wails on the cinematic opening track of The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone. In typical Womack fashion, it’s brimming with sultry callbacks to classic country of the yesteryear. — Thomas Mooney


“Universal Sound” – Tyler Childers

The most ambitious track on an already distinctive and unparalleled album, “Universal Sound” is a pulsing, reflective song about finding peace in nature. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer


“Wrangled” – Angeleena Presley

If there’s any song that sums up the plight of women in country music in 2017 (and possibly just women in general), it’s Angaleena Presley‘s “Wrangled.” The title track to Presley’s stellar sophomore album follows a woman who’s been overlooked, controlled, silenced and taken for granted for too long. It’s a story of quiet desperation, but you get the sense that Presley won’t go down without a fight. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer


“Way Out West” – Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives

The title track of Marty Stuart‘s latest album is as way out as it is Western. Psychedelic elements and themes pepper a song driven in equal measure by multi-part harmonies reminiscent of the great singing cowboys. — Robert Moore


“Jamestown Ferry” – Charlie Crockett

Charley Crockett‘s Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee is an unbelievably joyous exploration of country standards and gems from days gone by. “Jamestown Ferry,” an old Doug Kershaw tune made famous by Tanya Tucker, showcases Crockett’s bayou-born bluesy voice on one of the year’s best releases. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer


“Better Man” – Little Big Town

The country world was paying attention to Little Big Town with their first new single after “Girl Crush,” and they didn’t disappoint with “Better Man.” The song also brought a bit of nostalgia back to the CMA Awards, where its sole songwriter Taylor Swift won for Song of the Year. The power ballad captured everything fans love about the quartet. — Jeremy Burchard


“Bottle By My Bed” – Sunny Sweeney

Written by Sweeney and Nashville hit-maker Lori McKenna, “Bottle By My Bed” is a heartbreaking autobiographical tune about Sweeney’s own struggle with infertility and the pain she felt following a miscarriage. The rare tale of domesticity from a road warrior like Sweeney is as raw and honest as a song can get. And that’s what country music is all about. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer


“No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” – Old Dominion

Old Dominion‘s first album was filled with catchy bro country fodder, but when they released “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart,” the band of songwriters proved they’ve got plenty more to say and can still say it in a radio chart-topping way. Lines like, “What am I gonna tell my kids when they see all of this bullshit that goes down on TV” feel like the most honest lyrics they’ve sung yet. — Jeremy Burchard


“Dear Hate” – Maren Morris, Vince Gill


In the days following the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, country artists and fans were struggling to deal with what happened. In response, Maren Morris shared a song recorded with Vince Gill after the 2015 mass shooting in Charleston to help raise money for victims of the Las Vegas tragedy. The track’s poetic message of hope and light instantly connected with listeners. In one of country music’s darkest times, “Dear Hate” reminded us all that love really will conquer all. — Lorie Liebig


“Round Here Buzz” – Eric Church


In his latest cut from Mr. Misunderstood, Eric Church expertly channels the sometimes hopeless feeling that comes from small town life. When love takes a bus out of town, the narrator is left drowning his sorrows and soaking up the reminders of his old life that lurk around every street corner.  — Lorie Liebig


“Cairo, IL” – Natalie Hemby

“Cairo, IL” is a standout on Natalie Hemby’s Puxico, an album full of songwriting gems. Hemby uses a sparse arrangement to paint a nostalgic, almost ethereal, portrait of Cairo, Ill., a once thriving jewel of the Midwest that’s now a defunct ghost town. It leaves an impression that geographical regions are actually living things, and that their ghosts can linger long after their heyday is over — Matt Alpert


“Better Me” – Montgomery Gentry

Days after the tragic death of Troy Gentry, a song from the beloved country duo’s planned new album was shared to country radio. “Better Me” is one of the rare tunes from the group that features only Troy on lead vocals, and it stands as a haunting and fitting tribute to his life and career. Hearing Gentry retell the road that led him to where he was just before his death evokes both joy and sadness over the talent that was lost all too soon. — Lorie Liebig


“Softball” – Caroline Spence

The challenging realities of being a woman have been a huge discussion point in 2017. Through incredible songwriting, Caroline Spence cleverly explained the unfair dynamics that women deal with on a daily basis in her track “Softball.” Only truly great songs can break down difficult topics into relatable and thoughtful explanations, and channeling the viewpoint of a young girl — Caroline herself — who struggles to understand why baseball is seen as a “man’s game” makes those trivial divisions seem even more ancient and unwarranted. — Lorie Liebig


“Either Way” – Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton wrote “Either Way,” a testimony of a broken relationship going through the motions,  years before he recorded his From A Room: Volume 1. By the time he recorded it, a handful of other artists had already cut their versions, but Stapleton’s one-man, soul-laid-bare take packs the most emotional punch. He has an enchanting talent for making you feel all the angles of this relationship that burned out long ago. — Matt Alpert


“Way Down In My Soul” – Zephaniah OHora

Zephaniah OHoras “Way Down In My Soul” takes several cues from Merle Haggard to create a new classic country gem that would’ve been a frequent request on radio in a bygone era. — Matt Alpert


“Old Time’s Sake” – Charlie Worsham

“If there’s one song I could have live on a jukebox forever, it’d be ‘Old Time’s Sake’,” Charlie Worsham told us at CMA Fest. Part of what makes this song special is that it takes a different approach to the guy-meets-girl-in-a-bar trope constantly used in country music. This time, the protagonist is careful to lay the seeds for something more meaningful, opting for lasting love than a one night stand. Worsham said he got the inspiration for the song after watching an episode of Mad Men and used songwriting tricks from George Strait and Dean Dillon to craft the tune. — Matt Alpert


“A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” – Ashley McBryde

Story songs are the backbone of country music, and Ashley McBryde‘s single is one of the best slice-of-life debuts in recent years. Hard times happen to the best of us, but it’s usually the journey you take to get through those barriers that end up being what you remember. McBryde’s raw talent and gritty vocals bring the whole thing to a new level, solidifying her as one of the most promising new voices the genre has. — Lorie Liebig


 “If We Were Vampires” – Jason Isbell

“If We Were Vampires” confronts a sorrowful realization everyone has to face: romantic partnerships on this plane are mortal, and we’ll likely die before or outlive our loved ones. A good song moves you on an emotional level. A great song brings you to a deeper realization about your life and the lives of others. This song does both. — Matt Alpert


“Drinkin’ Problem” – Midland

2017 was Midland‘s breakthrough year, and this was the song that pushed them through the sometimes impenetrable door of the mainstream. The song’s vintage vibe, a throwback to the country gold of the late 80’s and early 90s, immediately struck a chord with country fans who felt disenfranchised by Nashville’s modern take on country. Co-written by band members Jess Carson, Mark Wystratch Cameron Duddy, and songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne,  “Drinkin’ Problem” is a masterfully crafted country hit that that becomes an earworm after a couple listens. — Matt Alpert


“Broken Halos” – Chris Stapleton

Another song embraced by the country music community after the Route 91 shooting, “Broken Halos” is one of Stapleton’s most heartbreaking tracks. The lyrics perfectly honor and memorialize those taken too soon, and gently advises those struggling to cope that we may never have the answers we long for. — Lorie Liebig


Listen to the entire list on Spotify:

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