When Jon Randall made his way to Nashville from Dallas as a teenager, he didn't waste any time fulfilling his dreams. And although he started his career as a guitarist in Emmylou Harris' backing band, the Nash Ramblers, Randall would soon solidify himself as a sought-out singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
Throughout his decades-long career, Randall has released four solo albums of quintessential country music, bringing bluegrass, blues and even funk influences into the mix to create a fresh sound under his own name. A fifth, self-titled project — Randall's first solo album in 15 years — is due out on Friday (Sept. 10).
Even more, Randall's songwriting and production credits are equally prolific: He's written tracks that have been cut by everyone from Blake Shelton to Emmylou Harris and Dierks Bentley to Miranda Lambert.
Randall's songs are unique, balanced and fresh, perfectly tailored to their respective performers but always bearing a signature sound that is all his own. Whether he wrote them, sung them or both, this list of Top 10 Jon Randall Songs is an impeccably great list:
"By My Side"From Lorrie Morgan's 'Greater Need' (1996)
Appearing with his then-wife Lorrie Morgan on her song “By My Side,” Randall earned his first Top 40 single with this song in 1996. The mid-tempo ballad appears on Morgan’s fifth studio album, Greater Need, and the combination of the duo’s smooth vocals over twangy guitars is everything we love about '90s country music. Randall and Morgan's duet peaked at No. 18 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
"Walking Among the Living"From 'Walking Among the Living' (2005)
The title track of Randall's 2005 album (and most recent solo work to date), "Walking Among the Living" is all about second chances, and not taking them for granted. Co-written with fellow artist Jessi Alexander (who also contributes backing vocals), this song finds Randall playing to his strengths, both as a singer and a songwriter.
"I could hear them talking as I was layin' in that hole / With a mountain of trouble weighing on my soul / They all stood around kicking dirt on my grave / It's a miracle I'm standing here today," Randall sings about his life, before it was renewed by a force that seems greater than himself. "I'm walking among the living again / I'm talkin' and breathing, forgiving of my sins / Finding new faith in the arms of old friends / I'm walking among the living."
"Highway"From 'Moody Bluegrass Two ... Much Love' (2011)
“Highway” may be original to the English rock band the Moody Blues, but Randall made it all his own when he covered the track in 2011. Recorded for a bluegrass tribute album to the band, Moody Bluegrass Two ... Much Love, Randall's smooth tenor is well-placed on "Highway," with his plaintive vocals wondering, "It's a long, long highway / Will this road of life lead me to someone?" The bluegrass version also trades the Moody Blues' electric guitars and synths for a sweet banjo and mandolin undercurrent, making "Highway" as at home in the bluegrass world as it is in rock.
"Savior's Shadow"From Blake Shelton's 'If I'm Honest ...' (2016)
Written by Randall, Jessi Alexander and Blake Shelton, "Savior's Shadow" makes this list because the song marked a departure -- both creatively and thematically -- for both Randall as the writer and Shelton as the performer. With a stripped-down arrangement and powerful lyrics, "Savior's Shadow" details a faith that remains even in troubling times, and a narrator who is made stronger because of it.
"Though the devil try to break me / My sweet Jesus won't forsake me / When I'm in my Savior's shadow / Where I'm supposed to be," Shelton sings.
Appearing on Shelton's 2016 album If I'm Honest ..., "Savior's Shadow" was released to country and Christian radio. It charted on both and received critical acclaim.
"Walk the Line"From 'Willin'' (1999)
By the time Randall released his 1999 album Willin', he was ready for some experimenting. Turning traditional country music on its head, he seemed to have the most fun with the album's ninth track, "Walk the Line." Infused with a bluesy guitar and heavy drum backbeat, "Walk the Line" sees Randall taking a decidedly funkadelic approach, even including a minutes-long instrumental jam session at the end of the track. It was a different sound for the traditionally bluegrass-based country singer, but one that was welcome, mostly because he pulled it off so well.
"Draw Me a Map"From Dierks Bentley's 'Draw Me a Map' (2010)
Randall’s voice may not appear on “Draw Me a Map,” but you can certainly feel his songwriting (and production) presence. Co-written with longtime friend Dierks Bentley, the song was released as a single off of Bentley’s 2010, bluegrass-infused record Up on the Ridge. Rich lyrical imagery permeates the whole song, with the chorus asking a former love to “draw me a map that leads me back to you” -- a line that just so happens to feature the queen of bluegrass herself, Alison Krauss, singing backing vocals.
“Draw Me a Map” was one of four songs Randall co-wrote on Up on the Ridge. He also produced the album.
"Cold Coffee Morning"From 'Cold Coffee Morning' (1998)
Written by Rodney Crowell and Beth Nielsen Chapman and released on Randall's studio album of the same name, "Cold Coffee Morning" tells the story of a man living a life that just ain't worth living after his love walks out of it. In the song, love is a "hurricane," and the protagonist is "directly in the path of a love that died too soon," likening the loss of love to a negative weather forecast.
"She hit me like a hurricane / And blew my heart away / She clouded up my thinking / And rained on my parade," Randall sings. "I'm here in the aftermath / With nothing to hold on to / Nothing but a cold-coffee morning and a warm-beer afternoon."
Highlighting Crowell and Chapman's suburb lyrical imagery and Randall's smooth drawl, "Cold Coffee Morning" is a classic country track that finds itself at home on the honky-tonk dance floor just as much as country radio
"Tin Man"From Miranda Lambert's 'The Weight of These Wings' (2016)
Written alongside Jack Ingram and Miranda Lambert, and appearing on the latter's 2016 album The Weight of These Wings, "Tin Man" earned Randall an ACM Awards trophy in 2018 for Song of the Year. Inspired in part by Kenny Chesney's 1994 track "The Tin Man" and in part by Lambert's own personal journey in the wake of her divorce from Blake Shelton, Lambert, Ingram and Randall channeled those feelings of emptiness and loneliness into a heartbreakingly beautiful and honest song about love, loss and pain.
"Just Like You"From 'What You Don't Know' (1995)
Calling on longtime friend and folk queen Emmylou Harris, "Just Like You" perfectly blends two distinct voices to create a song full of heartache, loneliness and resignation as the narrator realizes that after a breakup, "Love won't be coming back / Just like you." Randall released this song on his 1995 debut album, What You Don't Know, and drew on Harris' talent ... because she had drawn on his first. For years prior to the release of his own music, Randall's first professional gig was as a guitarist in Harris' band, the Nash Ramblers; in fact, Randall's only Grammy Awards win to date was as part of the Ramblers for their Live at the Ryman album in the category of Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal.
"Whiskey Lullaby"From Brad Paisley's 'Mud on the Tires' (2004)
Penned by Randall and Bill Anderson, “Whiskey Lullaby” was recorded by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss for release on Paisley’s 2004 album Mud on the Tires. The heartbreaking ballad relies on Randall and Anderson’s suburb lyrical imagery, with the narrative centering on a couple destined for tragedy due to alcoholism, heartbreak and even death. Written in the aftermath of Randall’s divorce from Lorrie Morgan and during a time when he was turning regularly to alcohol, “Whiskey Lullaby” is certainly not the most upbeat of tracks, but one that highlights Randall’s storytelling acumen and ability to turn a painful experience in his own personal life into a truly beautiful country song. The single reached No. 3 on the country charts and earned a CMA in 2005 for Song of the Year.