PITTSBURGH – Music is largely based on mood. What music fits this moment I’m currently in?
Driving down the highway on a sunny, 75° degree day would likely elicit a different mental response than sitting inside a cold apartment, when it’s rainy and 43° degrees outside. There are millions of different scenarios like this – this is just one.
But it’s an important part of making and curating playlists, especially when it comes to specific genres of music, relative to the playlist you are making.
For instance, my personal preference of listening to country music largely depends on the weather. And because 95% of the country songs I prefer are of the ‘upbeat’ variety, listening to upbeat songs usually doesn’t fit the mood of the cold, dreary winter months¹
But now, with April upon us and the summer months on the horizon, the country songs and playlists on my iPhone are getting more and more streams each and everyday.
Below is a list of 11 songs that are currently in heavy rotation. They are ordered in sequence of when they were added to the playlist – not in order of best to worst.
1) Sam Hunt: “Body Like A Back Road”
“Body Like A Back Road” sounds like a lost John Mayer song circa 2003 – 2006. From the bluesy guitar lick that kicks off the song, through the laid back vibe, all the way to the lyrics. This is a good thing (especially since this song is much, much better than anything from Mayer’s most recent album – “The Search For Everything”). Sam Hunt nails the mood with a nice blend of his singing/talking style – more singing, less talking here. Some nice production techniques (snaps, whistles, handclaps, ad libs and background ‘hey, hey, hey’ vocals during the chorus).
2) Thomas Rhett – “Craving You” (feat. Maren Morris)
Holy 80’s. Has Thomas Rhett been listening to M83’s “Midnight City” non-stop for the past two years? While this may sound like a pejorative, much like Sam Hunt/John Mayer from above, this is also a good thing. Rhett has dabbled in these sounds before (“Anthem” for starters and “Make Me Wanna” – even though the latter is more 70’s disco). Plus, this is where a lot of country music has headed, production-wise, over the past few years (hello, Kip Moore!). Ultimately, this is another great offering from Rhett. From the slapback echo on the drums to clean guitar lines and synths (as well as the cover artwork), this is a step in the right direction for Rhett’s next album.
3) Brad Paisley – “Last Time For Everything”
Continuing with the 80’s theme…renowned guitar virtuoso Brad Paisley begins “Last Time For Everything” with an arpeggiated guitar line that hearkens back to the Police and songs like “Every Breathe You Take”. Here, it works well within the framework of the song’s central theme that bounces back between both the serious and lighthearted. Ultimately, Paisley is one of the few who can deliver lyrics in straightforward manner like this, without sounding too cheesy or cringe-inducing. Plus, he peppers his songs with tasty guitar licks and solos that are measured, and always fit well in the song.
4) Brett Eldredge – “Somethin’ I’m Good At”
Brett Eldredge returns to follow-up his highly successful “Illinois” with the jubilant “Somethin’ I’m Good At” – a cross between an upbeat Zac Brown Band song, with a hint of Avett Brothers-esque euphoria thrown in for good measure. Based around a rolling (and rollicking) drum beat, Eldredge packs the song to the gills with tons of ear candy (ad libs, banjo, hand claps, accordion and slide guitar) but never lets the song feel cluttered or lose focus. Plus, he’s given multiple avenues to showcase his vocal range and ability (especially in the bridge following the guitar solo that leads to the third chorus, as well as the verse following that chorus). Great song for the summer months, indeed
5) Aaron Watson – “These Old Boots Have Roots”
The most underrated song of this group of six, sung by one of the most underrated singers in country music today. From the fiddle and chiming guitars that kick things off, to the driving rhythm and melodic flourishes, capped off by a chorus that just begs to be cranked to 11, Watson nails every aspect of the song while keeping true to his Texas roots. A fantastic effort from a guy who has many more like this in his repertoire.
6) Chris Stapleton – “Broken Halos”
After a short hiatus following a whirlwind 18 months of touring, appearances and influencing country music, Stapleton is back with another offering that sticks close to his brand of old-school country, southern rock and blues. “Broken Halos” is simple in its tone, delivery and message – Stapleton’s acoustic guitar rings out over his earthy, gritty vocals, keeping pace with the songs smooth, languid beat. His wife joins him for background vocal accompanyment just as she did on his previous album to smooth out the rough edges. It seems Stapleton is going to deliver more of what got him to the precipice of country music stardom with his new album, as this excellent debut track demonstrates.
- Moreover, the large majority of country songs I like describe some activity that is either outdoor based, or involves something in the Southern part of the country. None of this is evocative of Pittsburgh during the winter months. Plus, I don’t subscribe to the “this songs helps me think of the beach and gets me through the winter” theory of liking certain songs.