With 2019 rapidly coming to an end, it's time to take a look back at the year's best, worst and everything in between. Outside of the year's top hits and total flops, there were plenty of great songs that scored critical acclaim and were beloved by fans, but somehow didn't quite soar to the height they truly deserved.
From Tyler Childers' "All Your'n" to Yola's "Ride Out in the Country," these 10 truly great country and Americana songs absolutely should have been major hits. Keep reading for a listen.
To be fair, this song is technically nearly three decades old, but it brings together fans of '90s country and '10s country — and some of the best voices in country music, ever — in a truly amazing way. However, it only peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. This killer version of "Brand New Man" simply deserved better.
It was a big year for Americana outlaw Tyler Childers, who saw his 2019 record Country Squire shoot to the top of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart despite being independently released. The album's single "All Your'n" is the track that should've put Childers on the radars of mainstream country fans everywhere, but it didn't get any traction on radio, even as Country Squire won critical praise and commercial success.
Despite universal critical acclaim upon its release, country supergroup the Highwomen didn't crack the Top 50 on the Country Airplay chart with any of the songs from their self-titled debut, The Highwomen. It's a stunning record from top to bottom, and pretty much any of its tracks would be deserving of the No. 1 spot, but especially "Crowded Table," a modern country anthem that welcomes everybody, even when country radio won't.
With a voice as big as his home state of Texas, veteran performer Cody Johnson made major waves in the mainstream in 2019 with Ain't Nothin' to It, his No. 1 album released back in January. "Nothin' on You," the second single from that record, is one of the best new country love songs in recent memory, but still only reached No. 43 on the Hot Country Songs chart -- which is a real bummer, because more fans need to hear Johnson's killer vocals.
Ashley McBryde was one of the biggest new names in country music in 2019, and won the CMA for New Artist of the Year. The rising star's mission statement, "Girl Goin' Nowhere" peaked only at No. 40 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart -- a peak that belies its incredible critical success. In 2020, the song is up for Grammy Awards for both Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song.
With pink hair and as much fire as ever, woefully underrated country legend Tanya Tucker stormed back into the country music conversation in 2019 with a new album, While I'm Livin'. Just as when she was 13 and belting "Delta Dawn," Tucker's voice is as distinctive and powerful as ever, especially on "Bring My Flowers Now," a track that demands that we give her the respect she's earned throughout a 40-plus career now, instead of waiting until she's gone and it's too late.
Mainstream could certainly use an infusion of bluegrass right now, and there's no better artist to deliver that jolt of twang than Molly Tuttle. Her 2019 album, When You're Ready, is top-to-bottom solid, especially "Take the Journey," a stormy, brooding track that fans of powerful female artists such as the Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss and Carrie Underwood will enjoy. If that one's just a little too twangy, then the pop-rock-influenced "Make My Mind Up" should definitely be a hit.
Also a Texan, Dallas-based troubadour Joshua Ray Walker is definitely an artist to watch in 2020. His January debut, Wish You Were Here, was one of the most stunning debuts of the year, and while it's probably true that its lead single "Canyon" is a little too twangy for most radio stations, there's no denying that this kind of thoughtful lyricism and traditional sonic approach deserve to be at No. 1.
Watch out for Texas artist Koe Wetzel, who stunned audiences with his 2019 album Harold Saul High and plenty of high-octane (occasionally controversial) live performances. It's almost hard to pick which of the 15 tracks from Harold Saul High should've been a country hit in 2019, but that honor should probably go to "L.T.W.Y.H.M," or "Love the Way You Hate Me," a brooding, end-of-relationship ballad that has really resonated with fans.
"Ride Out in the Country"Yola
To be sure, it's difficult to put UK Americana artist Yola in one specific genre, because her sound so effortlessly fuses folk, soul, country, R&B and Americana influences. But with its syrupy steel guitar, traditional melody and lush instrumentation, "Ride Out in the Country" is the exact kind of infusion of uniqueness and depth that country radio needed in 2019. A nominee for four Grammy Awards in 2020, including Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song, Yola is sure to be one of Americana's brightest new stars in the upcoming year.