So far this year in Country Music

Jon Pardi - California Sunrise

This has been a good year so far.

There is a lot of junk on country radio, but there are significant bright spots as well. Chris Stapleton continues his unprecedented dominance — routinely topping the country album charts and receiving almost every award in which he is qualified to receive, whether from the Country Music Association (CMA) or the Academy of Country Music (ACM). He is sweeping them all! Thank you, Jesus!

In the list below, you will hear some of my favorite songs right now. We have two representatives of the great state of California: Jon Pardi and Sam Outlaw. I love both, but I am especially fond of Sam Outlaw. Texas native, Maren Morris, is a strong female vocalist with a fine sense of what’s good and how to make it even more good. Tim McGraw reminds us how to mature as an artist, with incredible dignity and grace. I love the guy. Chris Stapleton releases his first music video, “Fire Away,” about bipolar disorder and suicide. Craig Campbell has released his new single, “Outskirts of Heaven,” which is remarkably similar to Kip Moore’s “Dirt Road.” Both songs are about how heaven is not clouds and white walls. Instead, heaven is a lot like Dixie (with an implicit shout-out to Hank Jr.).

Granger Smith has released his first #1 single, “Backroad Song,” which somehow manages to elevate itself above the bro-country landscape. On a more serious side, Dan + Shay’s “From the Ground Up” is a heartwarming look at life-long fidelity between a husband and wife. This is a surprisingly mature theme from the young duo, even if the song is perhaps overly sentimental. Finally, Frankie Ballard has released his best single to country radio: “It All Started with a Beer.”

I hope you enjoy. With each video, I have provided some of the lyrics.


“Head Over Boots,” Jon Pardi

The way you sparkle like a diamond ring

Maybe one day we can make it a thing

Test time and grow old together

Rock in our chairs and talk about the weather, yeah


“My Church,” Maren Morris

When Hank brings the sermon / And Cash leads the choir

It gets my cold, cold heart burnin’ / Hotter than a ring of fire

When this wonderful world gets heavy / And I need to find my escape

I just keep the wheels rollin’, radio scrollin’ / ‘Til my sins wash away


“Angeleno,” Sam Outlaw

She didn’t marry for money / A cowboy’s always broke

She didn’t marry for comfort / A cowboy’s never home

But when she looked in his eyes / She saw his soul

Stretchin’ out like a desert / Angeleno


“Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw

Let yourself feel the pride but / Always stay humble and kind

Don’t expect a free ride from no one

Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why

Bitterness keeps you from flyin’ / Always stay humble and kind


“Fire Away,” Chris Stapleton

Honey, load up your questions

And pick up your sticks and your stones

And pretend I’m a shelter for heartaches that don’t have a home

Choose the words that cut like a razor


“Outskirts of Heaven,” Craig Campbell

Lord when I die / I wanna live on the outskirts of Heaven

Where there’s dirt roads for miles / Hay in the fields and fish in the river

Where there’s dogwood trees and honey bees / And blue skies and green grass forever

Lord when I die / I wanna live on the outskirts of Heaven


“Backroad Song,” Granger Smith

Barbed wire fence carving out a hillside

Cutting holes in the midday sun

Like a postcard framed in a windshield

Covered in dust


“From the Ground Up,” Dan + Shay

Grandma and grandpa painted a picture

Of 65 years and one little house

More than a memory, more than saying I do

Kiss you goodnight’s and I love you’s

Me and you baby, walk in the footsteps

Build our own family, one day at a time

Ten little toes, a painted pink room

Our beautiful baby looks just like you


“It All Started with a Beer,” Frankie Ballard

Cursed the devil and prayed to heaven

Lost it all and we rolled some sevens

Been more smiles than there’s been tears

Been more good than bad years

Ain’t it crazy baby how we got here

Oh, it all started with a beer



  1. No one ever comments on your music posts. I’m not much of a country guy (Outlaw and a little George Strait excepting), but maybe that’s most people who frequent here 😦

    Anyway, I was checking if you had any new posts and saw one of the songs “Outskirts of Heaven” and the little sample of lyrics you posted.

    I have occasionally listened to a hard rock band called “Five Fingered Death Punch”. I absolutely despise them, but have a weird fascination with them. I have this gut instinct that the ethos the band projects is the ethos of future America: it’s an odd combination of grunge/emo authenticity and retreat inward combined with rage and militarism. It’s Nietzsche’s notion of resentment come to fruit among the millenials. It’s hard to explain, but I definitely think the band represents the soul of the neo-silent majority that is forming in this country.

    Anyway, they have a song called “Wrong Side of Heaven” which has to do with living in that borderland between good and evil, doing what needs to be done to keep the pure pure. There are a lot of songs like this, and a lot of media communicating this message. Good is too good for mankind, it’s this inhuman, impossible, naive, stupid, and/or self-righteous disposition. The real Human heroes are in the trenches of the perimeter, not quite good, but faced against evil.

    We live in an era of the anti-hero, who is villainous and full of vice, but does the right thing in the end for some reason. Thus, we don’t really want Heaven but some kind of Valhalla or Elysium where we aren’t bothered with good or evil.

    I used to think this way, desiring to be “south of Heaven, North of Hell” as a power metal song put it. I even used to quote the Punisher, “God can sit this one out”.

    It’s an interesting trend, and it makes me wonder about how Americans, and perhaps Westerners more generally, define righteousness. It seems there’s even an anti-nomian streak among certain Evangelicals who put all the good on Christ and say “hey were sinners and that’s ok”, even though the saints, whether prophets or apostles, kings or priests, condemn sin mercilessly.

    It’s something for Christians to ponder. I don’t think its a bankrupt culture, but that all these portrayals reflect a deep, almost (meta)physical, rejection of something wretched and vomitous. But this demands a rearticulation of righteousness that is not only attractive, but transcendent and transforming.

    It’s for these reasons I’ve been fascinated with a small spate of media characters who embody not a reckless anti-herohood but represent a struggle to present a serious alternative. Particularly, the recent Daredevil series on Netflix presents a hero who not only has a serious, though theologically shallow, Catholic faith, but also has a philosophy of life. He clearly struggles with it, and he’s in many ways a failure to prevent the evil he seeks to fight. But it’s certainly marvelous (pun intended) that characters like that are cropping up.

    Some late night reflections,

    • Ha ha, yeah, I don’t expect any comments for my music posts — though I know Joel appreciates it. As you can see, I have been on a partial hiatus, for the time being. I’ve been blogging for nine years, and this is one of my down times. I am actually working through some fundamental stuff, theology-wise, as well as some personal stuff. Time will reveal.

      Those are some interesting thoughts on the anti-hero phenomenon. As you know, it is very much the trend in television series: The Sopranos, Mad Men, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, et al. — all of which I enjoy. I am intrigued by the parallel with antinomianism in evangelicalism. Even though I would loath any return to a “moral majority” self-righteousness, which is still alive, I am also amused and disheartened by the evangelical “cultural savvy” that masks a basic unwillingness to be exiled and persecuted, however mild. The evangelical is not inclined to value suffering in a way that requires humiliation and self-abasement — after all, sola fide!

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