Best Songs of 2013

Staff | December 23rd, 2013

2013 was a good year for music, so much so that we’ve beefed up our annual “Best Songs” poll, choosing over a hundred of our favorites. This list is what we thought were the year’s best roots songs – whether you’re a fan of traditional country, mainstream country, bluegrass, Americana, roots rock, or even the occasional bit of experimental folk, there’s something here for everyone.

  1. Ashley Monroe – “Like a Rose” (Guy Clark/Ashley Monroe/Jon Randall)
  2. Kacey Musgraves – “Follow Your Arrow” (Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally/Kacey Musgraves)
  3. Brandy Clark – “What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” Brandy Clark/Mark Stephen Jones)
  4. Sturgill Simpson – “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean” (Sturgill Simpson)
  5. Brandy Clark – “Stripes” (Brandy Clark/Matt Jenkins/Shane McAnally)
  6. Brandy Clark – “Pray to Jesus” (Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally)
  7. Alan Jackson – “Blue Ridge Mountain Song” (Alan Jackson)
  8. Guy Clark – “My Favorite Picture of You” (Guy Clark/Gordy Sampson)
  9. Brandy Clark – “Take a Little Pill” (Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally/Mark D. Sanders)
  10. Ashley Monroe – “She’s Driving Me Out of Your Mind” (Ashley Monroe/Jon Randall)
  11. Amanda Shires – “Wasted and Rollin'” (Amanda Shires)
  12. Aoife O’ Donovan – “Red & White & Blue & Gold” (Aoife O’Donovan)
  13. Ashley Monroe – “Two Weeks Late” (Shane McAnally/Ashley Monroe)
  14. Jason Isbell – “Traveling Alone” (Jason Isbell)
  15. Amy Speace with John Fullbright – “The Sea and the Shore” (Robby Hecht/Amy Speace)
  16. Alan Jackson – “Blacktop” (Alan Jackson)
  17. Holly Williams – “Waiting On June” (Holly Williams)
  18. Ashley Monroe – “Monroe Suede” (Vince Gill/Ashley Monroe)
  19. Ashley Monroe – “Weed Instead of Roses” (Sally Barris/Jon McElroy/Ashley Monroe)
  20. Amy Speace – “How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat” (Sally Barris/Amy Speace)
  21. Ashton Shepherd – “Andy”
  22. Chris Stapleton – “What Are You Listening To?” (Lee Thomas Miller/Chris Stapleton)
  23. Brandy Clark – “Hungover” (Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon/Shane McAnally)
  24. Ashley Monroe – “Used” (Sally Barris/Ashley Monroe)
  25. Jason Isbell – “Cover Me Up” (Jason Isbell)
  26. Sturgill Simpson – “You Can Have the Crown” (Sturgill Simpson)
  27. Amos Lee with Alison Krauss – “Chill in the Air” (Amos Lee)
  28. Claire Lynch – “Patch of Blue” (Claire Lynch)
  29. Will Hoge – “Strong” (Will Hoge/Zach Crowell/Ashley Gorley)
  30. Caitlin Rose – Waitin’ (Mark Fredson/Jordan Lehning/Caitlin Rose/Skylar Wilson)
  31. Alice Gerrard – “Sweet South Anna River” (Alice Gerrard)
  32. Drew Kennedy – “Good Carpentry” (Drew Kennedy)
  33. Dale Watson – “I Lie When I Drink” (Dale Watson)
  34. Chris Scruggs – “Just a Little Lovin'” (Eddy Arnold/Zeke Clements)
  35. SteelDrivers – “When You Don’t Come Home” (Gary Nichols/Tammy Rogers)
  36. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “Dreaming My Dreams” (Allen Reyolds)
  37. Jason Isbell – “Elephant” (Jason Isbell)
  38. Valerie June – “Workin’ Woman Blues” (Valerie June)
  39. Bonnie Whitmore – “Heartbreaker” (Bonnie Whitmore/TJ McFarland)
  40. Bonnie Whitmore – “Too Much Too Soon” (Bonnie Whitmore/Aaron Lee Tasjan)
  41. Del McCoury Band – “Streets of Baltimore” (Tompall Glaser/Harlan Howard)
  42. Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss – “No Mas Amor” (Sammy Barrett/Keith Gattis)
  43. Amos Lee – “Burden” (Amos Lee)
  44. Sarah Jarosz – “Build Me Up From Bones” (Sarah Jarosz)
  45. Jason Isbell – “Songs She Sang in the Shower” (Jason Isbell)
  46. Kellie Pickler – “Selma Drye” (Phillip Lammonds/Billy Montana/Kellie Pickler)
  47. Erin Enderlin – “Monday Morning Church” (Brent Baxter/Erin Enderlin)
  48. Brandy Clark – “Just Like Him” (Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon/Shane McAnally)
  49. Bear’s Den – “Agape” (Andrew Davie/Kevin Jones/Johannes Refsdal)
  50. Alan Jackson – “Knew All Along” (Adam Wright/Shannon Wright)
  51. Dierks Bentley with Kacey Musgraves – “Bourbon in Kentucky” = 365
  52. Lindi Ortega – “Hard as This” (Lindi Ortega)
  53. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison – “9,999,999 Tears” (Razzy Bailey)
  54. Blitzen Trapper – “Shine On” (Eric Earley)
  55. Erin Enderlin with Joey Martin Feek – “I Let Her Talk” (Erin Enderlin/Leslie Satcher)
  56. Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay – “Before the World Was Made” (Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay)
  57. Lindi Ortega – “Tin Star” (Lindi Ortega)
  58. Carrie Rodriguez – “Sad Joy” (Carrie Rodriguez/Chip Taylor)
  59. Lee Ann Womack – “Let ‘Em In” (Paul McCartney)
  60. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “Hanging Up My Heart” (Hank Devito)
  61. Daniel Romano – “I’m Not Crying Over You” (Daniel Romano)
  62. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “Back When We Were Beautiful” (Matraca Berg)
  63. Dailey and Vincent – “Hills of Caroline” (Vince Gill)
  64. Chris King – “Goodbyes & What You Leave Behind” (Chris King)
  65. Clint Black – “She Won’t Let Go” (Clint Black/Frank Rogers)
  66. Donna Ulisse – “I’ve Always Had a Song I Could Lean On” (Donna Ulisse/Rick Stanley)
  67. Charlie Robison – “Out of These Blues” (Robyn Ludwick)
  68. Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay – “Let’s Don’t Get Married” (Noel McKay)
  69. George Strait – “When Love Comes Around Again” (Monty Holmes/Donny Kees/Jeff Silvey)
  70. Peter Cooper – “Grandma’s Tattoo” (Peter Cooper, Tommy Womack)
  71. Mavericks – “Come Unto Me” (Raul Malo)
  72. Ronnie Dunn – “I Wish I Still Smoked Cigarettes” (Lori McKenna/Luke Laird/Barry Dean)
  73. Drew Kennedy – “Age and Color” (Drew Kennedy)
  74. Charlie Robison – “Brand New Me” (Bruce Robison)
  75. Jason Isbell – Stockholm (Jason Isbell)
  76. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison – “Border Radio” (Dave Alvin)
  77. Alice Gerrard – “Payday at the Mill” (Alice Gerrard)
  78. Dean Brody with Lindi Ortega – “Bounty” (Dean Brody)
  79. The Band Perry – “Better Dig Two” (Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally/Trevor Rosen)
  80. Chris Young – “Lonely Eyes” (Johnny Bulford/Jason Matthews/Laura Veltz)
  81. Della Mae – “This World Oft Can Be” (Courtney Hartman/Celia Woodsmith)
  82. Chris Wall – “El Western Motel” (Chris Wall)
  83. Gibson Brothers – “They Called It Music” (Eric Gibson, Joe Newberry)
  84. Gibson Brothers – “I Will Always Cross Your Mind” (Roy Hurd, Elizabeth Hill)
  85. Valerie June – “You Can’t Be Told” (Valerie June/Dan Auerbach/Kevin Augunas)
  86. George Strait – “I Got a Car” (Tom Douglas/Keith Gattis)
  87. Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay – “Let’s Go to Lubbock on Vacation” (Brennen Leigh/Noel McKay)
  88. Jason Eady – “OK Whiskey” (Jason Eady)
  89. Patty Griffin – “Don’t Let Me Die in Florida” (Patty Griffin)
  90. Guy Clark – “Good Advice” (Guy Clark/Gordy Sampson)
  91. Will Hoge with Wade Bowen – “Another Song Nobody Will Hear” (Will Hoge)
  92. Slaid Cleaves – “Texas Love Song” (Slaid Cleaves)
  93. Brothers Osborne – “Let’s Go There” (Jon Mabe/John Osborne)
  94. Churchill – “Lock Your Heart Down” (Tim Bruns)
  95. Alan Jackson – “Blue Side of Heaven” (Alan Jackson)
  96. Pistol Annies – “I Hope You’re The End of My Story” (Miranda Lambert/Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley)
  97. Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay – “Great Big Oldsmobile” (Noel McKay)
  98. Steep Canyon Rangers – “Come Dance” (Nicky Sanders/Graham Sharp)
  99. Caitlin Crosby – “Save That Pillow” (Caitlin Crosby/Boots Ottestad)
  100. The Lone Bellow – You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To (Brian Elmquist/Trisha Ivy /Matt Knapp/Kanene Doheney Pipkin/Zach Williams)
  101. Patty Griffin – “Ohio” (Patty Griffin)
  102. David Mayfield Parade with Dierks Bentley – “Tempted” (Paul Kennerley/Marty Stuart)
  103. Chris Young – “Text Me Texas” (Rhett Akins/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne)
  104. Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay – “Breaking Up and Making Up Again” (Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay)
  105. Lindi Ortega – “Lived and Died Alone” (Lindi Ortega)
  106. Pokey LaFarge – “The Devil Ain’t Lazy” (Fred Rose)
  107. The Civil Wars – I Had Me a Girl (John Paul White/Joy Williams)
  108. Della Mae – “Empire” (Celia Woodsmith)
  109. Craig Campbell – “When She Grows Up” (Craig Campbell/Alex Dooley/Arlos Smith)
  110. Robbie Fulks – “When You Get to the Bottom” (Robbie Fulks)
  111. Kim Richey – “Breakaway Speed” (Kim Richey/Mando Saenz)
  112. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison – “Leavin'” (Bruce Robison)
  113. Nora Jane Struthers – “1943” (Nora Jane Struthers)
  114. Cassadee Pope – “11” (Nathan Chapman/Cassadee Pope)
  115. Fort Frances – “I Had Love”
  116. Mandolin Orange – Waltz About Whiskey (David Andrew Hutcheson/Andrew Marlin)
  117. Billy Currington – “Hallelujah” (Shy Carter/Brad Warren/Brett Warren)
  118. Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott with John Prine – “Paradise” (John Prine)
  119. Greencards with Sons of Fathers – “Forever Mine” (Carey Ott/Kim Warner)
  120. Rebecca Frazier – “Better Than Staying” (Rebecca and John Frazier)
  121. Houndmouth – “Houston Train” (Zak Appleby/Shane Cody/Matt Myers/Katie Toupin)
  122. LeAnn Rimes – “Borrowed” (Darrell Brown/LeAnn Rimes/Dan Wilson)
  123. The Westbound Rangers – “Gone for Way Too Long”
  124. Blue Sky Riders – “Little Victories” (Richard Marx/Blue Sky Riders)
  125. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver – “When Love Is All You Want” (John Burchett/Carl Jackson)

1 Ping

  1. […] Aoife O’Donovan’s “Red & White & Blue & Gold” […]
  1. Jeff Miller
    December 23, 2013 at 9:12 am

    What a list. I don’t know how you rank these things, stiff competition throughout. It was a good year for a song.

  2. Dave D.
    December 23, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I agree with Jeff Miller, it was a good year for a song. Kudos for including four Brennen Leigh/Noel McKay songs (my second favorite album of the year after Southeastern) – even though Soft Guitars wasn’t included.

  3. Doug
    December 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Wait…ONE Kacey Musgraves song in the Top 125?!

    What is the completely tuneless “Bourbon in Kentucky” doing on this list?

    Great to see Lindi Ortega mentioned – though “Tin Star” should have ranked much higher.

    Nice to see Ashley Monroe and Brandy Clark on the list.

    Pokey LaFarge’s “Central Time” deserves a mention.

  4. bob
    December 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    That Nashville Sound wins with 126 songs to 125 here. Glad to see Brandy Clark so often on this list and yet my favorite, “Hold My Hand”, didn’t make it. The album is so good that I can easily see people having different favorites.

    Like the Ashley Monroe songs here, except for Monroe Suede.

    Wade Bowen’s “Songs About Trucks”, written with Brandy Clark, should have earned a spot on this list if only for the line “Don’t play no songs about trucks”.

    The biggest shock on the Nashville Sound list was actually seeing a Blue Sky Riders song at #89, “Little Victories”, with Georgia Middleman on lead with husband Gary Burr and some guy named Kenny Loggins on harmony. I see that “Victories” made it here at #124. The Blue Sky Riders album “Finally Home” is outstanding although overall it’s more pop than country. Great harmonies, singers and songs. One of my other favorites on BSR is “A Thousand Wild Horses” with Burr on lead.

  5. John Porter
    December 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    thrilled to see that you guys agreed with me on “The Sea & The Shore” by Amy Speace & Robby Hecht. Weird that you missed the quality of songwriting on The Howlin’ Brothers album…

  6. Jim Moulton
    December 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Not a bad list, Lots of great bluegrass this year, Some very good real Nashville too.

  7. BRUCE
    December 23, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Click this link and watch the video. It says it all.

    I liked it even if it was from a “critic”.

  8. Scooter
    December 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Im glad to see “Andy” by Ashton Shepherd on the list.
    That album got so little press and while I was a little disappointed in it- it had a few good songs
    on it. Andy was probably my favorite song on the album.

  9. Andrew
    December 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Mostly good, but I’m baffled by Musgraves only being on here once.

  10. Luckyoldsun
    December 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Not as baffled, I bet, as Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Darius Rucker, Kid Rock, Carrie Underwood, Gary Allen and Jamie Johnson must have been for being on here, by my calculation, a combined zero times between them.

  11. Arlene
    December 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Do almost all critics and bloggers omit songs included on Patty Griffin’s album, Silver Bell, which was finally released commercially in 2013, from 2013 Best Song lists because most of them were recorded in 1999? I can’t think of any other reason that not only the staff here, but also the staff at American Songwriter, Paste, Pop Matters, etc., have failed to include gems such as “Truth #2″ and “Top of the World” on their year end lists.

  12. BRUCE
    December 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Seems to me the list I would pay more attention to is one of my own making. However, the benefit of these lists is that I may be exposed to a song I had not heard before. That is the main reason why I read these and not for any relevance otherwise.

  13. Both Kinds of Music
    December 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    But Bruce, don’t you see all the songs Engine 145 clearly missed on their own list?

  14. BRUCE
    December 24, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Yes, and that is why it is of no relevance other than what I mentioned. I like what I like based upon my own personal review; however I am still glad to be exposed to music I might not have known otherwise.

  15. Thomas
    December 25, 2013 at 10:06 am

    …only one song by the pistol annies, seriously folks? that can’t be right, just on the basis that ashley monroe’s “like a rose” – a wonderful album – scores so heavily. the pistol annies combined are more fun, voice, melody and appearance than all the other talented female singer-songwriters on their own and at least on par when it comes poignant songwriting.

    eventually, one could also see, how outstanding a year it really was for ashley monroe. great solo effort and smashing contributions right down to the knickers as one of the annies. so talented and still overlooked.

  16. Country fan
    December 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

    What no Jamie Johnson?

  17. Ken Morton, Jr.
    December 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Country Fan, Jamey Johnson’s Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran album came out in October of 2012 so it would be ineligible for both our Best Songs of 2013 ranking and upcoming albums list.

  18. Noah Eaton
    December 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Fabulous, thorough list! =)

    I honestly wasn’t nearly as impressed with “Follow Your Arrow” as many reviewers have been in their Year-End selections. “All Kinds of Kinds” tackles the inclusive subject matter much more richly than “Follow Your Arrow” in my opinion, and while I get why “All Kinds of Kinds” wasn’t eligible in that it was off a fourth-quarter 2012 release, “Follow Your Arrow” just can’t help but appear inferior in comparison. It would surely chart, but it probably wouldn’t even make my Top Forty.

    As for the rest of “Same Trailer, Different Park”, I agree I don’t necessarily see a lot of year-end candidates among the deeper cuts. Don’t get me wrong: it was a very enjoyable album, but I also consider it arguably the single most highly overrated country album of 2013 with the Sandi Thom/Lana Del Rey-esque degrees of hype showering the release from the onset. And in the end, I simply felt as great as the album was, there were at least half a dozen superior albums from fellow females of the genre, and more on top of that. I would, however, probably place “It Is What It Is” on my list.


    I agree with your top selections from both Ashley Monroe and Brandy Clark’s records, and also concur both artists deserve at least multiple slots on my year-end list. I’m still mulling whether “Like A Rose” will top my list or not, but it’s definitely a leading contender along with “What Are You Listening To?”, “It Ain’t The Whiskey” and “I Let Her Talk” by Erin Enderlin.


    I’m honestly mystified to see Lindi Ortega’s title track from “Tin Star” placed at a noteworthy low #57. That to me was also a key highlight of this year. Or “Borrowed” from LeAnn Rimes at #122…….below a Cassadee Pope track. And, I feel Caitlin Rose deserved more representation than indicated here.

    Finally, among mainstream-oriented considerations, I’ll just come out and say it as someone who makes a concerted effort to find equilibrium in appreciating music both on and off the radio. I thought Brad Paisley’s “Wheelhouse” had a couple of exceptional tracks that would be candidates for my list (“Those Crazy Christians”, “Runaway Train”). Despite the rest of the album doing absolutely nothing for me, “Lindy” was an outstanding exception to the rule off of Kenny Chesney’s “Life on a Rock”. I most enjoyed “The Singer” from Randy Houser’s “How Country Feels”. “It Ain’t Pretty” may be my favorite song Lady Antebellum have ever released since their breakout mega-hit “Need You Now” (which isn’t saying a lot given how much banal, forgettable material they’ve released ever since, but seriously: “It Ain’t Pretty” is absolutely worth listening to). I love “Cop Car” from Keith Urban’s “Fuse”. And finally, “One Mississippi” from Brett Eldredge.


  19. TX Music Jim
    December 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Enjoyed the list the one that i do not see on there that I would include is Dark and Diry Mile by Jason Boland and The Straglers.

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