It's 2019, and country artists continue to push the limits of what the genre can do. From Appalachian rock, Americana and folk to pop-country, trap-country and country rock -- and everything in between -- country music is expanding, and there's no better proof than The Boot's picks for the 10 best country and Americana songs of 2019 (so far).
From ballads to bangers, traditional to controversial, the best country and Americana songs of 2019 defy category -- and that's why we love them. Read on for our favorites.
Shelton first heard “God’s Country” -- his latest single, co-written by Hardy, Devin Dawson and Jordan Schmidt -- while driving a skid-steer on his farm in Oklahoma. “It was the most shocking moment I’ve had in my 20 years of doing this,” Shelton tells the Tennessean. “I was in a place physically that I consider to be God’s country … and I had one of those moments that you hear people talk about … where they say they pulled over on the side of the highway and listened.”
What did he hear? According to Shelton, a song that feels somewhere in between “Ol' Red” and “A Country Boy Can Survive.” Shelton’s moment on the skid-steer, and his reverence for both for God and the land, is what “God’s Country” captures.
“Mr. Lonely” sounds like something out of a different era: It's a retro country dancehall tune, right to its core, in the way only an upbeat, danceable song about cheating can be. Even in the little choices, Midland lean hard into the song’s classic honky-tonk vibes: The guitar riff in “Mr. Lonely” borrows from an old Dwight Yoakam song, and midway through, listeners hear a pedal steel solo from the legendary Paul Franklin. This delightful time-hopper was written by the band -- Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cam Duddy -- along with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
When she opens this song by singing, “I drink tequila straight / Haven’t brushed my hair in days / And I’ll kiss on the first date if I’m really feelin’ it,” it’s clear that Andress may not have your grandmother’s sense of what's ladylike. "Lady Like" is not a typical “girl power” anthem, though; there's no foot stomps or hand claps. Instead, the song is a somber, tender, piano-driven declaration. “Lady Like” is the kind of pop-country song that demonstrates how and why Andress is one of The Boot’s 2019 Artists to Watch, and part of CMT’s Next Women of Country 2019 class.
"All My Favorite People"Maren Morris Feat. Brothers Osborne
Morris’ latest album, Girl, is decidedly pop-country, with many of the songs favoring “pop” more than country. But one of the album’s best songs, “All My Favorite People,” also happens to be the most “country”-sounding track on the record. Morris' good friends Brothers Osborne join her on the song, and the result is an electric guitar-, organ- and fiddle-jammed, boot-stomping delight. “All My Favorite People” proves that, when talking about Morris, there’s a reason for the “country” in “pop-country.”
Little Big Town’s most recent song finds the band grappling with what it means to raise a girl in an unequal world. “The Daughters” follows thematically in the footsteps of “Better Man,” but it pulls no punches: "I've heard of God the Son and God the Father / I'm still looking for a God for the daughters," Karen Fairchild sings in the chorus. Fairchild wrote the song along with Ashley Ray and Sean McConnell, and the thoughtful ballad is the first single from an upcoming project from the country quartet.
With his latest single, Childers invites you to stomp your feet, clap your hands and dance around the campire. “House Fire,” the first single from the rising star's upcoming third album, is a repetitive, circular song that barrels along on a whirling combination of banjos, fiddles, mandolins and electric guitars. It’s Childers’ signature Appalachia rock at its finest, and it’s aided by production from David Ferguson and fellow Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson.
"Neon Moon"Brooks & Dunn Feat. Kacey Musgraves
Brooks & Dunn’s Reboot is a full album of old favorites re-recorded as duets with some of today’s biggest country stars, but one of its most successful tracks is “Neon Moon,” which features Kacey Musgraves. The song opens focused almost exclusively on Musgraves’ voice, with only sparse instrumentation in the background; Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn join in later, providing light harmonies, but Musgraves’ clear, bright voice is the star of the song.
While this version of “Neon Moon” doesn’t stray too far from the basic blueprint of the original, it still manages to sound completely fresh and revitalized. If the goal of Reboot was to introduce a new era of listeners to the iconic country duo, consider this song mission: accomplished.
"Old Town Road (Remix)"Lil Nas X Feat. Billy Cyrus
No matter what Billboard says, “Old Town Road” was always a country song. Call it trap-country or country rap or whatever you want, but there’s a reason it went to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart before the media organization decided it didn't belong there.
Thank goodness for Billy Ray Cyrus, then, who heard the original "Old Town Road," knew he was listening to a country song, and volunteered to help Lil Nas X double down on his country cred by recording a remix with him. The result may be the best and most beloved performance Cyrus has given since “Achy Breaky Heart” (and with its multi-week No. 1 ranking on the Billboard Hot 100, “Old Town Road (Remix)" has officially outperformed “Achy Breaky Heart” commercially).
You can call "Old Town Road" whatever genre you want -- but we’re going to call it one of the best country songs of the year.
There’s no way around it: “Violins” is a total banger. Relatively new pop-country hitmaker Ashton is fully in control of this song, from its booming, bluesy vocals to its super-catchy chorus. “Violins” is essentially one giant eye-roller at a cheating ex-lover trying in vain to apologize: “Guess I lost my give a damn / ‘Cause I can’t hear the violins you’re playing,” Ashton sings in the chorus. The song is great on its own, but check out its accompanying music video: Ashton sewed all of the women’s marching band costumes!
“Beer Never Broke My Heart” is one of those phrases that it’s hard to believe never made its way into a country song before now. But it’s a good thing it didn't, because a song like this one was waiting to be written and performed by Combs.
Combs wrote "Beer Never Broke My Heart," along with Jonathan Singleton and Randy Montana, while on tour, and it quickly became a fan favorite. Now, the official studio version is here, and listeners everywhere can enjoy the quick-witted, quick-moving, bombastic country force. The song, the first single from Combs' still-untitled sophomore album, has quickly risen into the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.