Tim McGraw, Gwyneth Paltrow and Faith Hill attend the ceremony honoring actress Gwyneth Paltrow with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame held on December 13, 2010 in Hollywood, California
Barry King/FilmMagic

'Country Strong': A Track By Track Guide To The Country Music Drama's Powerful Soundtrack

12 years ago, Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow proved her skills as an artist when she took on the lead role of Kelly Canter in the country music drama Country Strong. She knew nothing about country at the time but fully immersed herself in the genre by familiarizing herself with all of the great female voices — Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and more — taking notes from the great female trailblazers who have turned country music into what we know today. Paltrow already had a great voice, so she was able to do all of her own singing while starring opposite real country star Tim McGraw. Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester rounded out the cast as two rising country singers on Kelly's tour, so there was ample opportunity to give this film one heck of a country soundtrack.

In the film, Kelly is a recovering addict trying to resurrect her career. She and her husband, who's also her manager (McGraw), have gone through some serious trauma together, so the new tour they embark on isn't exactly easy on anyone. The film is really quite sad at its core, despite giving a really interesting look into what it really takes to be a major country star going through personal loss.

From original music recorded specifically to the film to resurrected old classics, here's a song-by-song guide to Country Strong's powerful soundtrack.

"Country Strong"

It's kind of crazy to think that this song wasn't actually written for the movie. In 2007, Jennifer Hanson, Tony Martin and Mark Nesler wrote the song that was initially recorded by Britni Hoover for her debut album. The song was brought onto the soundtrack for Country Strong, recorded by Gwyneth Paltrow, with Vince Gill and Patty Griffin providing background vocals. It's the title track of the film, though isn't actually the strongest track on the soundtrack. The song did chart on the country charts, though, peaking at 30, with Paltrow's country twang making the song sound like a mainstream hit.

"Love Don't Let Me Down"

Chris Young and Patty Loveless joined the soundtrack with this emotional duet. Recorded specifically for this soundtrack, the touching lyrics are all about coming out on the other side of a tough situation with love there to guide you. Kelly has Beau (Hedlund) on the road with her as a support system, as well as the love of her husband there to guide her despite everything that has happened in their past. Will it be enough to see her through the resurrection of her career? Sadly no, but it's still an encouraging and romantic song that served the story.

"A Little Bit Stronger"

This Sara Evans classic was released on her 2010 album Stronger but was a great addition to the Country Strong soundtrack. It was released as the album's second single, though Leighton Meester recorded her own version of the song that was included on the follow-up album, Country Strong: More Music From the Motion Picture. The lyrics really were a perfect accompaniment to the story in the film. Evans sings about how she gets up every day and feels stronger and stronger, a reflection of Kelly Canter really trying to make it work as she battles the ghosts of her past and her addiction issues.

"Chances Are"

In the movie, Garrett Hedlund's Beau has some strong country pipes, but with definitely more of an outlaw vibe compared to a mainstream star. At one point, he's compared to Townes Van Zandt, which is truly apparent in his recording of this song for the film.

"Liars Lie"

Lee Ann Womack's "Liars Lie" is just a fun country song about liars, cheatin', singin' and dreamin'. She rounds out the soundtrack really well this twangy tune that really pays homage to old-school country.

"She's Actin' Single" (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)"

Written by Wayne Carson, Gary Stewart first recorded this song back in 1975. But Brooks and Dunn's own Ronnie Dunn recorded his own version specifically for the film. As much as we love both Brooks and Dunn, Ronnie's rendition of this old '70s tune is great.

"Shake That Thing"

Kelly Canter is a country star, so naturally, she needed to have an upbeat pop number to dance to during her concerts. Paltrow really channels her inner Faith Hill as she grabs the mic onstage and dances while performing this song to cheering fans. It's definitely a fun addition to the film and makes Kelly feel like a true star with a strong portfolio of hits.


Written by Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Brett Eldredge, this Hank Williams Jr song was definitely a great fit for the movie. The outlaw country star was perfect to sing this upbeat drinking song for the soundtrack, juxtaposing fun lyrics with the fact that the film's star is a struggling alcoholic.

"Give In To Me"

McGraw's wife and fellow country star Faith Hill recorded this country pop ballad specifically for the album, though an alternate version was recorded with Hedlund and Meester, who performed the song as a duet in the film. Both versions charted on the billboards, and for some reason, this is the only song on the album not actually included in the film outside of the duet version. But Hill is a master at romantic songs, and though you don't get to hear her powerful vocals while watching the movie itself, she's definitely a strong addition to the soundtrack. My only complaint is how much better would this have been if it was a duet with her husband?

"Timing is Everything"

Beau actually performs this song in the film, with Garrett Hedlund's gravely voice singing about how love comes along when you least expect it because timing is everything — an ode to his character's unexpected but sweet love story with Chiles Stanton (Meester), his polar opposite but perfect match. For the official album though, country legend Trace Adkins recorded the song. As another singer with a notably gravely voice, he was an ideal choice to record the song from a real country star as much as Hedlund's rendition was strong in the film itself.

"Words I Couldn't Say"

When Country Strong came out, Leighton Meester was best known for starring on the teen drama Gossip Girl. But this film really proved that she had some serious skills as a singer and also had the acting chops to star alongside the likes of Oscar-winner Paltrow. Originally a Rascal Flatts song from their 2006 album Me and My Gang, Meester's version was unexpected and fitting for her character Chiles as she grows immensely throughout the film from former beauty queen to rising country star. Her rendition even charted briefly on the Billboard Country Digital Songs.

"Coming Home"

Potentially the most emotional moment in the entire film comes with this performance from Gwyneth Paltrow. Co-written by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey, the song was even nominated for an Oscar. Paltrow gave an emotional performance of the song at the 2011 Academy Awards. After everything Kelly has been through in the film, she ends her tour with a stunning performance of this song.

"Me and Tennessee"

Considering Tim McGraw was the only real recording artist in the world of country music starring in the movie, it was a bit shocking for fans when he doesn't sing at all in the film. But he does make it on the soundtrack with this duet with co-star Paltrow. Written by Paltrow's husband at the time, Chris Martin of Coldplay, the song is a touching tribute to the characters Kelly and James and everything they endure throughout the film. The song even charted on the country Billboard charts. McGraw even said that it was a tough song to record because of how emotional the lyrics were, especially when you get to witness the sad tale of Kelly and James unravel over the course of the film.

READ MORE: 12 Tim McGraw Songs That Prove He's One of Country Music's Great Voices

READ MORE: 'Country Strong': 8 Things You Didn't Know About the Country Music Film