25 Best Country and Americana Songs of 2019 - Rolling Stone
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25 Best Country and Americana Songs of 2019

From defiant anthems by Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert to the mariachi-punk of Vandoliers and “Old Town Road”

Rolling Stone, Country, 2019

Tracks by Luke Combs, Maren Morris, and Miranda Lambert are among the 25 best country songs of 2019.

Images in Illustration from Shutterstock

Country and Americana songwriters reflected the grim mood of 2019 in a variety of ways, whether leaning completely into it, retreating to somewhere more fun, or finding ways to rise above.

Kelsey Waldon and Hailey Whitters crafted biographical songs about struggle and success that resonated far and wide. Yola, Morgan Wallen, and Runaway June looked at (or, in Wallen’s case, refused to look at) the dissolution of relationships from different angles. Midland just wanted to cut loose and have some fun, while Runaway June aimed to reclaim independence.

Maren Morris, the Highwomen (of which Morris is a member), and Our Native Daughters all made powerful statements about womanhood. Vince Gill and Emily Scott Robinson both crafted songs about the epidemic of sexual abuse, while acoustic group Che Apalache pledged solidarity with immigrants crossing our southern border.

Luke Combs, Chris Young, and Jason Hawk Harris provided tear-jerking songs about life and death. And Tanya Tucker, making a welcome return, demanded a celebration of her existence while she’s still alive and kickin’.

And, of course, “Old Town Road” took one hell of a ride.

Here are the 25 best country and Americana songs of 2019.

Hailey Whitters

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Hailey Whitters, “Ten Year Town”

When Hailey Whitters‘ simple, acoustic “Ten Year Town” debuted, it felt like a slice of raw honesty in a world where success seems synonymous with Instagram likes and yet always just out of reach. “Too old to go back to school,” Whitters sang, her voice direct and unvarnished, the kind that wakes you up. “Won’t be much longer, I’ll be old news.” At what point, if ever, do you give up on your dreams? It’s what the Iowa native wondered here, as she chased the small victories that never seemed to lead anywhere and pondered those who shot straight to the top while she waited tables. The beauty, though, is this was the song that put Whitters on the radar, and saw her ending the year with a management deal and tour dates supporting Maren Morris and Brent Cobb. There’s justice in poetry, sometimes. M.M.

Kelsey Waldon

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Kelsey Waldon, “Kentucky, 1988”

Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors.” Margo Price’s “Hands of Time.” Country music has a unique way of telling an entire life story in the span of just a few minutes, and the genre’s best have always done it in a manner that manages to meld the most personal of details with a universal understanding. On “Kentucky, 1988,” Kelsey Waldon told her own origin tale in cinematic detail: the sound of gravel driveways, the Sundays at church, the sunburnt skin from working in the fields, not with a blue collar. And the parents — “two imperfect people” — that raised her, and put her in the middle when times got tough, or succumbed to the bottle far too often (the line about forgiving an angry, intoxicated father, “maybe he should be alone today, I still love him anyway,” is one of those brilliantly simple gut-punches). Set to steel guitar from Brett Resnick, this might be Waldon’s Kentucky autobiography, but it also belongs to anyone who grew up trying to make sense of where they came from, and their parents, who provide both endless love and frequent disappointment. And it’s a reminder to those staring into the eyes of their own children that, no matter what, we’ll all make mistakes. “This is my DNA,” Waldon sang. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” M.M.

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