2021 was a great year for country music, so to celebrate, we’ve compiled our biggest year-end list to date! Scroll through several of our favorites from the year and read along to learn why we loved them so much. Be sure to listen to them all on our Spotify playlist!
Gloria Anderson- “Like She Does”
A largely acoustic melody puts Anderson’s Dolly-esque vocal delivery and strong storytelling at the forefront as she spins a tale about the memories an old car captures during its lifetime. “Like She Does” is an interesting perspective, and coupled with her debut single, “Yours,” has cemented Anderson as an artist to watch going into 2022.
Cody Johnson- “I Always Wanted To”
If there is a sadder, more well-written song that has been released over the last several years, we certainly haven’t heard it. The concept of memories from experiences that never happened still fading is absolutely heartbreaking, and as usual, Cody Johnson’s vocal is top notch.
Carly Pearce (featuring Patty Loveless)- “Dear Miss Loretta”
It was pretty evident in the first ten seconds of this tune that it was going to be a memorable, standout song on Pearce’s newest album. Twanging guitars, plenty of fiddle and dobro make early appearances and remain prominent throughout. Pearce delivers a knockout vocal, and coupled with Patty Loveless’s duet vocal and legendary harmonies, this may just be the best song released in the mainstream in all of 2021.
Kensie Coppin- “Drinkin’ Song”
Talk about a song made for dancehalls. Coppin turns the steel and fiddle up a few notches as she laments for songs to pop a top to, as well as traditional country instrumentation in those tunes. “Drinkin’ Song” is tailor made for boot scooting’ and feels like it can be a live staple for Coppin for years to come.
Alan Jackson- “The Boot”
Some of the best songs that Alan Jackson has released in his legendary career have been story songs. While “The Boot” will likely never see the radio airwaves like some of his hits of yesteryear, it’s a more than worthy addition into the category of the best songs Jackson has released in the 21st century. As would be expected, Jackson’s voice still sounds excellent, and he can still deliver a story that elicits a “wow” after listening.
Molly Lovette- “Break a Heart”
There’s plenty of great heartbreak songs that speak from the perspective of the person who had their heart broken, but it is a bit more rare to get the perspective of the “heartbreaker” in a breakup scenario. Lovette delivers an emotional vocal that is placed at the forefront of tasteful piano, acoustic guitar and steel work. It’s a refreshing new perspective that’s delivered expertly and is sure to ease the mind of anyone that finds themselves as a “heartbreaker” in a relationship.
Emily Scott Robinson- “Hometown Hero”
Emily Scott Robinson’s music has never been for casual listening. Her music begs the full attention of listeners to fully appreciate her artistry. Over the course of two albums and an EP, Robinson has shown the ability to tackle heavy subject matter, all the while, not being too heavy-handed with her lyrics. Robinson tackles a heartbreaking tale of PTSD on this standout track from her newest album, American Siren. Robinson has one of the most beautiful voices we have ever heard, and she’s sure to impress anyone who sits back and takes a deep dive into her music.
Taylor Austin Dye- “Water Me Down”
2021 was a breakout year for Taylor Austin Dye. She found a passionate audience on TikTok, and delivered two strong singles for them this year. Her second single, “Water Me Down,” delivers a good-timing tune filled with rollicking steel guitar and Dye’s twangy vocal. This song sounds straight out of the 90s and is sure to fill the dance floors of anyone in earshot.
Shelby Lee Lowe- “Miss Tennessee”
News of a new Shelby Lee Lowe album in 2021 was very welcome, and he certainly delivered. The first single from that album, “Miss Tennessee,” is an 80s-sounding tune that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Ronnie Milsap album. Lowe’s voice sounds as good as ever, and his music is as country as ever as well. There are several gems on his album, Stubborn Heart, but we’ve found ourselves consistently coming back to “Miss Tennessee” as our favorite of the bunch.
Leah Marie Mason- “I Wish”
Leah Marie Mason is another artist who found a strong audience and following on TikTok. Mainly offering songs of heartbreak, Mason proved to have a strong storytelling voice and offered a relatable voice for those who have experienced heartbreak. If her chart success and streaming numbers are any indication, Mason’s ascent is just beginning.
Zach Neil- “Half Bad”
If Zach Neil has proven anything over the last few years, it’s that he’s a reliable source for a good ol’ solid Texas country tune. While several of his recent releases tackled more serious subject matters, Neil cranked the fun up to 11 on his sole release of 2021. The windows down, singalong chorus sticks in the head like an earworm, and as should be expected from a Zach Neil song, there’s plenty of steel, fiddle and twanging electric guitars to go around.
Savanna Chestnut- “My First Rodeo”
Fresh off of her time on The Voice, Savanna Chestnut is sounding better than ever with her newest single. It was pretty evident upon hearing the opening fiddle lick and Chestnut’s smooth delivery that we were in for a good-timin’ tune as she offers a warning to potential suitors. “My First Rodeo” has quickly become Chestnut’s second most-streamed single on Spotify and serves as a great introduction to her forthcoming album.
Brandi Behlen- “I Wish He’d Been Drinkin’ Whiskey”
If you know anything about us, we’re clingers to those sad ol’ songs, and if you’ve been following along for a while, you also know that Brandi Behlen is one of our favorites to deliver them. Simply put, Behlen’s latest single is a country-as-hell ballad about heartbreak, and she knocked it out of the park. The way Behlen’s vocals build from a lower part of her register to belting by the end of the chorus is done expertly. If you’re looking for a good heartbreak song, this may have been the best of the year.
Hunter Thomas Mounce- “Alone in the Lone Star”
2021 was admittedly the start of a new musical chapter for Hunter Thomas Mounce, and with a handful of single releases dispersed through the year, we’d call it a great success. Mounce’s voice sounds better than ever, and on his first release of the year, Mounce put both a prominent fiddle and storytelling at the forefront as he delves into a story of heartbreak and occupying a favorite drinking spot to drown the memories of love gone wrong.
Addison Johnson- “You’ll Do Just Fine”
We regularly have a new favorite cut from Johnson’s 2021 album Dark Side of the Mountain, and recently, it has been his warning to up-and-coming, possibly overconfident new artists chasing their own neon rainbows. Johnson weaves through the “real” side of being an artist and how it can potentially turn away a weaker-minded musician, all the while, closing with a reassuring “I’m doin’ just fine.”
Caitlin Quisenberry- “Take Only What You Need”
2021 was quite the year for Caitlin Quisenberry. She catapulted herself into the country music conversation, and formulated an aggressive (and successful) single release strategy. Quisenberry delivers a rock-solid vocal on one of those singles, “Take Only What You Need,” as she clings to memories of a love gone wrong; perfectly capturing the emotions encapsulated in the song’s story.
Braden Jamison- “Hardwood Heartache”
There may be no EP title that perfectly captures the essence of the music it holds than Braden Jamison’s Hardwood Heartache. The title track sounds like it came straight from a bar room with a sawdust floor where patrons are drowning heartbreaks from a lost love. It sounds vintage in the best possible way, and is drenched in steel guitar sure to satisfy even the most traditional country music listeners.
Randall King- “Record High”
For several years now, Randall King has been one of our go-to sources for rollicking, steel-soaked Texas country tunes, and 2021 was no different. King’s voice is rock-solid country, and on “Record High,” he offers a number that will certainly be a staple in both King’s live shows and dancehalls for years to come.
William Beckmann- “Bourbon Whiskey”
William Beckmann has one of those voices that sounds like it has aged like fine whiskey, which is fitting for his single, “Bourbon Whiskey,” released in March. The uber-traditional number features largely sparse instrumentation, a lush steel backing and a lyric that laments a love gone wrong being drowned by a drink of choice. It’s a breathe of fresh, familiar air to drinking songs of yesteryear, and Beckmann did so expertly.
Kristen Foreman- “I Don’t Cry in My Cowboy Hat”
Kristen Foreman leaned even further into a 90s country sound in 2021, and if her EP, I Don’t Cry in My Cowboy Hat, proves anything, it proves she’s right at home with that sound. The title track finds Foreman on a barstool drinking away an old flame and using a ball cap to hide her tears, because she refuses to cry while wearing her cowboy hat. It’s a fun perspective for a heartbreak song, and there’s plenty of steel and fiddle to transport listeners to that 90s country sound.
Jeffery Allen Imler- “Cowgirl Don’t Ride Away”
We’re certain that if this song were pitched to George Strait, he would have cut it. Thankfully, it landed in the hands of Jeffery Allen Imler, who added his twanging vocal to this extra-traditional release. There’s plenty of lush steel and fiddle all over this one, and Imler doesn’t sound dissimilar to The King himself with his delivery of the song.
Sam Bowlds- “Stumblin’ Into Another One”
Though she mostly released deep, heartfelt songs in 2021, Sam Bowlds closed her year with this honky tonkin’, steel and fiddle-filled single. “Stumblin'” is a good time tune for lovers that sees allows Bowlds to flex her steady, smooth vocals, and sounds as if it could be an anthem for lovers for years to come.
Hershell Golden- “Somebody Else Will”
It was pretty evident that we were going to love this one just before the two-second mark. In just that short time, we’re hit with a country-as-hell vocal, a twanging guitar matched by a prominent fiddle. Hershell Golden doesn’t take his foot off of the traditional country pedal for the duration of the song, sure to elicit some boot tapping. The steel and twin fiddle solos are the icing on the cake.
Dusty Leigh- “Take a Ride with Me”
2021 was a year of breakthrough growth for Dusty Leigh, and her bluegrass-tinged single, “Take a Ride with Me,” was a standout for the now Nashville-living singer/songwriter. The infectious chorus is sure to get stuck in listeners’ heads after just one listen, and Leigh offers a charismatic vocal on a song of hope and dreams.
Holly Jo- “Let It Go”
It had been a while since we had heard from Holly Jo, but she more than made up for lost time with this single to close the year. Holly delivers a belting vocal on a song that delves into coping before moving on from a love gone wrong. Holly sounds better than ever as she delivers a lyric that it is easy to tell she has lived through.
Triston Marez (featuring Ronnie Dunn)- “Where the Neon Lies”
Triston Marez has been on a well-deserved ascent to one of the top names in the Texas country music scene. Marez delivers this barstool-sittin’ number expertly, and enlists the help of the legendary Ronnie Dunn for a duet vocal. The production of the song is beautifully lush and piano, steel and guitars layer behind the tandem of vocalists. If you’re somehow not on the Triston Marez bandwagon yet, it’s not too late to hop on before he explodes.
*Listen to all of these songs on our Spotify playlist!*
**All images courtesy of artists’ Facebook pages**