Say what you will about Netflix original series The Ranch as a sitcom, but at least give whoever’s in charge of the musical selections their due.
A cover of the Ed Bruce-penned Willie and Waylon classic “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by famous sons Lukas Nelson and Shooter Jennings accompanies the opening credits. It suits the show’s two main themes, kin folks and cowboys.
The tv series revolves around the Bennett clan, mainly on the relationship between former high school football phenom Colt Bennett, played by Ashton Kutcher, and ornery, Colorado ranch-running father Beau Bennett, portrayed by quintessential modern cowboy actor Sam Elliott. The show also stars Debra Winger as matriarch “Maggie” and that 70s Show actor Danny Masterson as Colt’s brother, Rooster.
The opening song fits another ongoing theme, as well. Be it a cost-saving measure or a cultural statement, the show favors roots-minded artists to classic standards and modern pop-country. Through all 20 season one episodes and the first 10 of season two, there’s been exceptions to that rule. For example, binge watchers will hear selections by everyone from the legendary Patsy Cline to contemporary pop-country mainstay Luke Bryan.
Here’s a quick glimpse at the artists getting further exposure by The Ranch, per the show’s lengthy and diverse Spotify playlist.
“Cows Around” by Corb Lund (Season 1, Episode 1)
What better way to commemorate Colt’s return to the family ranch than this throwback? It falls somewhere between Dwight Yoakam and Lund’s fellow Canadian Hank Snow on the roots spectrum.
“Family is Family” by Kacey Musgraves (Season 1, Episode 2)
Although she’s hardly an unknown commodity, Musgraves has the perfect tongue-in-cheek song to back the Bennett clan’s dysfunctional home life.
“Weed Instead of Roses” by Ashley Monroe (Season 1, Episode 10)
Fair or not, the Pistol Annies get perceived as a Miranda Lambert side project. Her two cohorts are great performers in their own right, evidenced by Monroe’s solo selections and Angaleena Presley’s mind-blowing 2017 album Wrangled.
“The Trouble With Drinkin'” by Aaron Lee Tasjan (Season 1, Episode 13)
This rugged take on hard living comes courtesy of a rising roots musician and Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ understudy.
“Slippin'” by Amanda Shires (Season 1, Episode 19)
Even if viewers aren’t up to speed on Shires’ solo output, she should at least sound comfortably familiar to most due to her work with the Texas-born Thrift Store Cowboys and of course her husband, Jason Isbell.
“My Church” by Maren Morris (Season 2, Episode 2)
This song is hardly a hidden gem, considering it won a Grammy. Still, this truly great country song likely gets overlooked by roots fans with little interest in commercial radio playlists.
“Dirt On My Boots” by Jon Pardi (Season 2, Episode 5)
Pretty much every Ashton Kutcher character comes across as a guy who just wants to party all night. Guys with that mindset and good musical taste surely have a go-to jam or two on Pardi’s breakthrough album California Sunrise.
“I’m Not the Devil” by Cody Jinks (Season 2, Episode 7)
Who better to pair with the tv series’ theme song than a young artist who’s among the closest things we have to the elder Nelson and Jennings, singing his own “Trouble Man?”