10 Best Country Songs of 2015

This year was a growth phase for country music. The bro-country party that's raged for years began to wane. Female artists began to take their place at the top again. Country artists across the board dabbled with new musical styles, sometimes striking a chord with audiences (Sam Hunt's "Take Your Time") and sometimes striking out (Zac Brown Band's "Beautiful Drug"). Traditional-leaning artists, most notably Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, gained greater recognition in the mainstream, but still struggled to get traction on country radio. All in all, 2015 yielded some outstanding new country music.

We narrowed down our 10 favorite country tracks released this year. Our picks come from the mainstream, Americana world and Texas country music scene. Enjoy!

"Burning House", Cam

It was clear to me that Cam would be an artist to watch in 2015 when she released the anthemic track "My Mistake" in early February. It wasn't until she released her sweeping ballad "Burning House" a few months later that the rest of the industry was overtaken by obvious talent as a songwriter and vocalist. Cam was able to channel all of the complicated emotions that emerged from a haunting dream about her former love into a heartbreaking lyrical plea, enhanced by her pure and elegant vocal performance. Few artists could make a simple story of lost love into a modern classic, but Cam has pulled it off flawlessly. --Lorie Liebig

"24 Frames", Jason Isbell

I'm glad country music is claiming Jason Isbell (in a time when he's probably really closer to rock n' roll, but hey, what's rock n' roll anymore). We'll take what we can get. Jesus, just read this chorus: "You thought God was an architect, now you know/He's something like a pipe bomb ready to blow/And everything you built that's all for show goes up in flames/In 24 frames." Yeah, we'll take him. -- Jeremey Burchard

"Traveller", Chris Stapleton

Good things come to those who wait. That was the case for Chris Stapleton, who, after spending more than a decade in relative mainstream obscurity, became country's breakout star overnight at the end of 2015. His debut album Traveller is chock-full of masterfully crafted songs, but the title track demands the most listens. Stapleton puts all of his hook-writing genius and soulful voice into this catchy track, and the harmony from his wife Morgane is the cherry on top. -- Matt Alpert

"Girl Crush", Little Big Town

Little Big Town flipped the country music world on its head with the release of their smash hit "Girl Crush". Many thought the killer track was dead in the water after it was blacklisted by music promoters who couldn't get past its "controversial" content. Thankfully, country fans were smart enough to see through the politics and immediately connected with the relatable sentiment of the track. Expertly written and well-produced, the track not only helped catapult Little Big Town into a new level of stardom, but moved country music forward as a whole. --Lorie Liebig

"Nothing to Lose", Andrew Combs

Andrew Combs is an incredible talent who deserves more recognition. He's figured out this brilliant way to advance and evolve classic country, pop and rock-and-roll styles rather than replicate them. It's beautiful stuff. "Nothing to Lose", off his new album All These Dreams, was one of the best Americana songs I heard this year. It has this wonderful 70's countrypolitan quality to it, and his voice coupled with the lush arrangement make the song's theme of being at your lowest point really affecting. It's been a long time since I've heard hitting rock bottom sound so sweet. --Matt Alpert

"Ghost Town", Sam Outlaw  

Few songs have popped into my head more often in 2015 than Sam Outlaw's infectious ode to Los Angeles. As he longs for the olden days and mourns the loss of his mother, listeners can't help but become enamored with Outlaw's heartfelt vocals. The haunting pedal steel and electric guitar helps to drive the emotional song, which showcases why Outlaw is one of the most promising country artists of our time. --Lorie Liebig

"Stay a Little Longer", Brothers Osborne

In a time when the old-school definitions of country music are being split apart at their seams, Brothers Osborne released a song that the genre desperately needed. By mixing mainstream production with a well-written storyline about a casual hook-up that gets complicated, the duo created a track that listeners couldn't get enough of. Plus, John Osborne's epic guitar solo cements the song as one of the best surprises of the year. --Lorie Liebig

"Standards", Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers

Wade Bown and Randy Rogers' "Standards" is an anthem for not compromising your music and identity as an artist. In 2015, the best country artists stuck to their guns, and, for the most part, it paid off. Substantive country music is making a comeback, albeit a gradual one. "Standards" hits on all those themes lyrically and stylistically; it's a traditional country shuffle with a fiddle (yeah, remember that instrument?). Message aside, this was one of the most fun and catchy traditional country songs I heard all year. --Matt Alpert

"Dime Store Cowgirl", Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves doesn't give a damn about what you think. That sentiment doesn't come from arrogance, but instead from a confidence in her sense of self which lies as the centerpiece of her single, "Dime Store Cowgirl". In the song, she admits to her faults and pays tribute to her hometown with the utmost authenticity. In true Musgraves form, she even finds a way to tastefully stick it to the woman who criticized her cowboy hat back in the day. She's the fierce female artist country has needed for years, and this track encapsulates everything that makes her our hero in sparkly heels. -- Lorie Liebig

"Heart's Too Heavy", John Moreland

So many good cuts from John Moreland's High On Tulsa Heat, but I had to go with this one because it's just the total package, and I think a great introduction to him for the unacquainted. So many great lines from this one. One of my favorites: "I'm pulling up devils from the long dark past/And the pain starts piling up too fast/I can pin down the minute that I lost my buzz/Thought I was someone nobody could love." Ugh. Dammit John, you're good. -- Jeremy Burchard

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