2018 has brought the beginning of a revolution in country music. While Bro-Country and snap tracks still dominate the airwaves, audiences are turning to alternative sources to discover and stream more interesting songs that harken back to the roots of our genre; songs that rely heavily on storytelling and steel guitar. Artists who can’t get airplay from the starched collars in terrestrial radio are gaining critical acclaim, building fan bases independent of a traditional promotional tour, and earning Grammy
When Heather Morgan dropped “Arms of a Lion” we knew it was going to be spectacular. This song, co-written with Lori McKenna, highlights both Morgan’s phenomenal writing ability as well as her vocal strength and vulnerability.
19. “Waste of Good Whiskey” – Lainey Wilson
Lainey Wilson is the next generation of long-standing lyricists and singers in Nashville. We have no doubt that we will still be covering her music in twenty years. This song is just one in a long line of Wilson’s clever works with classic, elegant musical execution.
18. “Somewhere Between Bridges” – Dallas Moore
17. “American Scandal” – Ashley McBryde
Most of McBryde’s music is older than 2018, but Warner Music has oddly decided to remarket it like she just wrote it yesterday or something. We still love this song and appreciate the lyrical genius that is Ashley McBryde. You go, Girl!
Ooooo, girl! Here we’ve got our Leading Lady of the Great White North, featuring our favourite Canadian troubadour. Do yourself a dadgum favour and check out both of these incredibly talented musicians. Seriously.
15. “Mirror, Mirror” – Randall King
The second this handsome honky-tonk crooner came on the scene, he had completely stolen our hearts.
14. “Oklahoma Stars” – Jamie Lin Wilson
Perfect. Just perfect. (Our Okie is only slightly biased.)
13. “Hotels & Highways” – Terry McBride
Even if you don’t know him, you know him. We know you know him. We can guarantee it.
12. “The Only Bible” – Bill Anderson
We dare you to try and make it through this one without your “allergies” acting up. Go on, try.
11. “A Couple More Years” – Bobby Mackey
He might be the owner of America’s most haunted honky tonk, but Bobby Mackey can hold his own in the studio and on the stage. He’s got a voice that belonged up there on the charts with Haggard, Jennings, and Jones! According to Spotify he also may or may not have been our music critic’s most listened to artist of 2018.
How could we not put this on the list? It’s such a happy, catchy, feel-good song. And the lyrics MEAN SOMETHING. Thank you, Jason Boland and Sunny Sweeney, for cutting a love song with no daisy dukes, tailgates, or bad beer.
9. “Cocaine Cowboys” – Margo Price
The only thing better than Margo Price is Margo Price live. We saw her in her debut performance at Red Rocks this year with Lyle Lovett. The woman sounds the same live as she does on a track—a RARE feat in today’s landscape.
8. “Mr. Jukebox” – Joshua Hedley
Hedley’s got a voice that makes you want to close your eyes and imagine you’ve stepped back into the Opry Ala 1955. Everything Hedley touches turns to gold. We don’t make the rules.
7. “Life Sounds Easy On the Radio” – Aaron McDonnell
Mr. Aaron McDonnell has become a good friend of ours here at Lula. So much so that we wholeheartedly believe he could do no wrong.
6. “Feathered Indians” – Tyler Childers
Finally. A song about a woman that doesn’t glorify her gender and put her up on a golden pedestal. He doesn’t expect her to save him or forgive all his sins, he just wants her to hold him. That’s something us ladies can do. We weren’t put on this earth to bring you salvation, you gotta find that for yourself, Cowboy.
5. “In Love With a Fool” – Paul Cauthen
Elvis. We hear Elvis.
4. “ A Mother Never Rests” – Lori McKenna
Perhaps one of the most underrated voices in Nashville, Lori McKenna is known primarily for her songwriting talents. Her latest album, The Tree, is a lyrical work of genius. Her voice is as unique as her lyrics, and this song should make everyone wanna call their mama.
3. “Ruby’s Stool” – Loretta Lynn
The Queen of petty, Miss Loretta Lynn, ladies and gents.
2. “These Boots” – Erin Enderlin
Erin Enderlin is a songwriting goddess. That’s all.
1.”First Fool in Line” – Kimberly Kelly
Kimberly Kelly has a phenomenal talent for choosing songs that match her voice as if she wrote them with lyrics that can evoke emotion from even the most stoic listener. In this house, we love Kimberly Kelly.