I just got back from a conference in Rhode Island–if you’ve never done a Liberty Fund reading group, you are missing out on one of the joys of academia. Most of the participants flew out, but after confirming that the price was comparable I decided to drive. If you don’t know why four days alone in the car sounded fun you probably don’t have small children at home.

To the point here, I decided to spend a chunk of that time listening to contemporary Country Music radio stations, with the resolution that I would listen enough that I could be sure that I had heard the rotation currently cycling over the airwaves. I do not recommend this activity.

If you’ve been following the City of Man episodes Danny, Michial, and I have done on Country Music, you know that we tend to come down pretty hard on the new stuff. And I think that we are right to do so. But that’s not to say that there’s nothing good being made these days. So for your listening pleasure, I have distilled 6-8 hours worth of listening to the radio across upstate New York into the few songs that are worthwhile. I don’t promise to think they’re still worthwhile next week, but for now they’re fine. At least they are better than the others I heard.

All of these songs were released in the last few months (and I’m leaving out older songs that I hadn’t heard before, but which are decent–like this one). Presented roughly in ascending order of quality:

Beers and Sunshine by Darius Rucker

Say what you like about Not-Hootie, the dude always sounds like he’s having a great time. This is no exception:

One Too Many by Keith Urban/P!nk

I don’t think the episode where Danny tears into Keith Urban has dropped yet, but everything you’re going to hear him say applies to this song too–both positive and negative. Certainly a major negative is that the chorus appears to be “Whoa, oh yeah!”
Also, I’m not sure how that ‘!’ affects the pronunciation of ‘P!nk’, but there are enough English Professors on the network I bet someone here knows…
Still, “I spent all my money drinking on my own” is the countriest line you’re going to hear this year.

What’s Your Country Song? by Thomas Rhett

In what’s increasingly a golden age of nostalgic Country Music, this is one of the weaker contributions to the subgenre (about which we should probably do an episode, right Danny and Michial?).
Still, the songs it references are solid ones and I can hope it’s going to be a gateway for younger listeners to those classics.

Starting Over by Chris Stapleton

Again, I don’t think the episode has dropped yet where Danny raves about Chris Stapleton, but everything he says there applies to this song as well. (You’ll just have to believe me until that episode is released.)
A couple of the lines are forced, apparently for purposes of rhyme scheme. But this is still a solid, solid song.

Hole in the Bottle by Kelsea Ballerini

I admit I’d never heard of Kelsea Ballerini, and the number of her songs I’ve heard now totals one. But it’s a good one.

So there you have it, the best of what’s on Country radio right now. Some are quite good, some are just okay, and all are better than a song about how sad it is to get one’s driver’s license.

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