Chris Stapleton - Nobody to Blame
It's a surprise to see this still climbing the charts, but an absolute blast and a shock to hear it come on country radio. It's like a guy showed up in boots to a black tie affair, but Garth it ain't. While it's far from the best song on Chris' highly awarded Traveller, it's a hell of a song, and a glimmer… no, it's a high beam on a moonless night.
Maren Morris - My Church
Some will focus on the name-dropping and hand clapping and not give this a fair shake, but it's a cool tune. Bluesy, stomping, and honest. Can't help but love the gospel flair in the chorus, tying the whole theme in perfectly. More like this, country radio! Less like "Dibs."
Tim McGraw - Humble and Kind
Simple and affecting. Some may hear this as sappy and calculated, but I hear sincerity. And Tim doesn't have to put out stuff like this. He could still be chasing trends a'la' his misguided "Truck Yeah" era, but the fact that he's chosen to follow his own path and bring mature music to a sophomoric format is a credit to his standing as one of the few remaining artists with ties to the soul of real country music.
Bonus: Big & Rich ft. Tim McGraw - Lovin' Lately
A surprisingly catchy effort from a pair who's flown under the radar in recent years with middling songs nobody remembers 5 minutes after they end. "Lovin' Lately" is anthemic and ear-worm worthy, in a good way. The melody is the thing.
Old Dominion - Snapback
Old Dominion is single-handedly keeping bro-country from truly breathing its last breath. This song has been the source of umpteen memes on Farce the Music and probably will spawn more. It's a straight up piece of crap. Slangy, cocky, sexually harassing. If Robin Thicke and Pitbull showed up on the remix, I would not be shocked in the least.
Cole Swindell - You Should Be Here
I applaud Cole for attempting to bring a bit more depth to country radio, but he should have tried harder. Or less hard, as the case may be. Based on real life or not, "You Should Be Here" sounds contrived and focus-group tested. "Bros Cry Too" would be a more apt title, as it drops all the tropes like drinking and hanging out …into a song about death. Maybe my cold black soul has just become too jaded, but an ASPCA commercial has an infinitely higher chance of dragging a tear out of my eye than this.
Michael Ray - Real Men Love Jesus
Michael has a pretty nice voice, but I'm tired of listing songs and I'm tired of people telling what real men should do. I love Jesus, but a lot of people whose manhood you wouldn't dare question just think Jesus was a pretty cool guy There are ways to say this same thing without painting so broadly. Also, the song has little or nothing to do with the title itself. Jesus is just kinda shoe-horned in there with beer and dirt and barbed wire tattoos or whatever. I'm all for Jesus songs being on country radio, but proclaim Him… live His Word loudly… just don't use Him as a selling point for a middling pop-country song.