Lydia: “Love in a Bar” by Ryan Hurd
I recently stumbled across the YouTube videos “Ryan Hurd: Volume 1 & 2” in which the tag line reads, “What’s the loudest sunset you’ve ever seen… get to know me more at ryanhurd.com.” That’s all it took, that one question drew me in and left me wanting to find out all I could about this artist.
Needless to say, I liked what I found. Ryan Hurd has made the sometimes-precarious move from songwriter to artist look easy. He’s already a successful songwriter with a No.1 hit, the Grammy-nominated “Lonely Tonight” (Blake Shelton feat. Ashley Monroe), under his belt and numerous songs cut by the likes of Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, and Tim McGraw. Hurd’s “Love in a Bar” showcases what can happen when you take that leap of faith during a chance encounter with someone who just may turn out to be someone special.
Hurd’s ability to capture a feeling through his lyrics is evident in lines like “And hearts on fire like the cigarettes you smoke.” He has a unique country-rock sound and gritty vocals that blend perfectly together. Rolling Stone Country named him as one of their “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know” in February 2016, and their description of Hurd – “A raspier Dierks Bentley with the attitude (and hair) of the Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston” – is dead on. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for Hurd the songwriter AND artist, because I think it’ll be big.
Key Lyrics: “I wasn’t there to get drunk but it happened / Cause I never wanted to say goodbye / We were just friends, just hanging / Just sitting round waiting for somebody to cross the line.”
Christina: “Christmas Makes Me Cry” by Kacey Musgraves
I’m sorry to be that girl, however it is December, so I have to make my must listen this month a country Christmas song. Every Christmas album that is released this time of year has it’s cliche holiday songs, “Let it Snow”, “The First Noel” and “Deck the Halls” however every once and a while a song comes along that is an original, that captures your heart and that you know you will listen to it year after year. “Christmas Makes Me Cry” one of the four originals on Musgraves’ latest holiday LP hits home.
“It’s the ones we miss, no one to kiss, under the mistletoe / Another year gone by just one more that I, couldn’t make it home / And I know that they say “Have a happy holiday,” and every year I swear I sincerely try / Oh but Christmas, it always makes me cry.”
Musgraves’ gloomy lyrics reminds the average Christmas fan that not everyone is filled with jolliness, and sadness is a true feeling for some. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, can’t make it home to family or just aren’t feeling the joy, “Christmas Makes Me Cry” is real, and demands to be felt. Backed by the lovely sound of violins and a cello, Musgraves’ delivery in the below video (from Good Morning America earlier this week) is undeniably touching. Check out the rest of the album and the other new holiday albums here.
Annie: “Tin Man” by Miranda Lambert
Y’all, this song. Written by Lambert herself with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall, this song is a lyrical dream come true – tightly written, subtle, and poignant. “Every time you’re feeling empty, better thank your lucky stars / If you ever felt one breaking, you’d never want a heart” – I mean, come on. It’s also a great winter song (not that, you know, December means heartbreak, just that the beach vibe hibernates for a while). Lambert also sings the hell out of this, for one of my absolute favorites on The Weight of These Wings.
Natalie: “Smoke” by Lucie Silvas
Ooh, y’all, what a JAM. It’s soulful, sultry and anthemic, and the vocals are simply fantastic. (And yes, I know I’m so late to this party.) Her depiction of a girl – and, come verse two, a guy – who makes all the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons is both dramatic and relatable. Written by Silvas, Julian Emery and James Irvin, the song is a standout on her Letters to Ghosts album, among others like “How to Lose It All,” “Pull the Stars Down,” and “You Got It.” Silvas has been touring with the Brothers Osborne and also scored a cut on Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings (“Smoking Jacket”).
Key Lyrics: “Where there’s smoke / There’s always a fire / Her addiction to that thrill / Was the only thing in control.”
Markus: “Better Man” by Little Big Town
After their last album Painkiller failed to showcase their full potential, Little Big Town is back and better than ever with their dynamic new single, “Better Man.” The song is chillingly real – the relatable lyrics depict the regret and sadness felt while reflecting on an unhealthy relationship. While a hard topic to tackle, the songwriter (Taylor Swift) does it in tremendous fashion. Additionally, the production is a crisp blend of Jay Joyce’s unique signature sound with elements of modern and traditional country. The harmonies are haunting, and the melody is as good of one as you’ll find on the radio these days. It’s an absolutely stellar recording – one of the best of the year, even – from one of genre’s most talented acts.
Sam: “Separate Ways” by Kip Moore
The song, newly released on Moore’s EP Underground, is one of my favorite releases this year. This Jordyn Mallory/Dan Couch/Moore co-write seeps with honesty as it unabashedly unveils the heartbreak of drifting apart from someone you once loved. It is raw, heartbreaking, and sometimes hits so close to home that it’s difficult to listen to. “In case you’re wondering, if you can’t tell / This ‘living the the dream’ is a living hell / I sure hope you’re doing well / So I drink and I smoke/ And I act like I’m okay / And I guess we’ll just keep going our separate ways.” It is thoughtful in its lyrics, beautiful in its delivery, and overall an impressive release from Moore.