The Best Country Songs Of 2008

Staff | January 5th, 2009

The 50 Best Country Songs of 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, after weeks of mulling over nearly every country album released last year, we’re proud to present The 9513’s Best Country Songs of 2008.

To be eligible, a song may not have appeared on 2007’s Top 50 list, and all significant covers have been excluded. Also, please note that a song need not be released as a single in order to be eligible (album cuts are allowed). Our final list was compiled based on the votes of The 9513’s editors and writers, who each submitted their Top 75.

50. “Hearts Are Breaking Across Texas” – Aaron Watson
49. “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” – James Otto
48. “Highway 20 Ride” – Zac Brown Band
47. “Do You Still” – The Wrights
46. “Made of Stone” – Dolly Parton
45. “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack (with George Strait)
44. “Lone Pine Hill” – Justin Townes Earle
43. “In My Arms Instead” – Randy Rogers Band
42. “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” – Hayes Carll
41. “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” – Darius Rucker
40. “It’s a Shame ” – Hayes Carll
39. “Yesterday’s Gone” – Hal Ketchum
38. “Georgia” – Ralph Stanley II
37. “Sparrow” – Hal Ketchum
36. “House with No Doors” – George Strait
35. “Outlaw Shit” – Waylon Jennings
34. “I Think I Know” – Lee Ann Womack
33. “Crooked Road” – Chris Knight
32. “Impatient Love ” – Twilight Hotel
31. “Heart of Stone” – Chris Knight
30. “Drunken Poet’s Dream ” – Hayes Carll
29. “A Marriage Made In Hollywood” – Jerry Douglas (feat. Travis Tritt)
28. “Til The Last Shot’s Fired” – Trace Adkins
27. “Texas Afternoon ” – Eleven Hundred Springs
26. “Anyone But You” – Jewel
25. “Sounds So Good” – Ashton Shepherd
24. “Lord Help Me Find the Way” – Ralph Stanley II
23. “Dig Two Graves” – Randy Travis
22. “Sweetest Waste Of Time” – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
21. “Rattlin’ Bones” – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
20. “Lonesome, Heartbroke and Blue” – Rodney Hayden
19. “Once In a While” – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
18. “I Ain’t Dead Yet” – Ashton Shepherd
17. “Cheater Cheater” – Joey + Rory
16. “One More Year” – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
15. “Ragged As the Road” – Reckless Kelly
14. “Bottle By My Bed” – Jason Boland & The Stragglers
13. “Heart of the Wood” – Joey + Rory
12. “I Can’t Outrun You” – Trace Adkins
11. “You Didn’t Have a Good Time” – Randy Travis
10. “Comal County Blue” – Jason Boland & The Stragglers
9. “By the Mark” – Dailey & Vincent
8. “She Left Me For Jesus” – Hayes Carll
7. “Sometimes a Man Takes a Drink” – Trace Adkins
6. “Either Way” – Lee Ann Womack
5. “Huntsville” – Rodney Hayden
4. “Anything Goes” – Randy Houser
3. “Last Call” – Lee Ann Womack
2. “Very Last Country Song” – Sugarland
1. “Sweet Emmylou” – Joey + Rory

3 Pings

  1. [...] nomination methodology utilized here are different than those used to produce our Top Albums and Best Songs lists, which are meant as a broad representation of our staff’s top picks for the year. Because [...]
  2. [...] For complete list click here. [...]
  3. [...] from previous years can be found here: 2009 | 2008 | 2007 [...]
  1. Cheryl
    January 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Troubador, Small Town Southern Man, and Just a Dream by Carrie Underwood should have been included. Otherwise, good list.

    I love that Ashton Shephard song. She needs to get more attention as she is WAY better then Taylor Swift, who is not even country.

  2. Billy
    January 5, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    While I liked Sweet Emmylou, I don’t think that it should’ve been number one on your list. I am shocked that What I Cannot Change was not included on the list at all.

  3. Nicolas
    January 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I am surprised at the #1 song — but I agree, it is very good and I like that Joey+Rory got the top spot :D

  4. nm
    January 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    All those Lee Ann Womack songs and not “If These Walls Could Talk”?

  5. Leeann Ward
    January 5, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Probably my favorite J+R song from their album and my favorite Kasey & Shane track took the highest K&S spot on the list. Suffice it to say that I’m pleased indeed!

  6. Brody Vercher
    January 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Wait, “Holler Back” didn’t make the final cut?! I want a recount.

  7. Brian
    January 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    What happened to Trisha Yearwood? This list is the reason why real talent isn’t recognized in country music anymore. I used to respect this industry and loved listening to the great selection of songs on country radio; but ever since this industry has spit in the face of Trisha Yearwood (one of it’s most gifted artists), I have stopped listening to country. It’s a shame.

    Trisha’s album this year was critically acclaimed (like all of her albums really) and had some stellar songs on it. “This Is Me…” – divine, “Let The Wind Chase You” – stellar, “Dreaming Fields” – gorgeous, etc, etc.

    What I can’t understand is that this site has always been so nice with Trisha reviews and then totally omits her from this list. That makes no sense.

    Sorry 9513, I come here every single day to check your site and I always look forward to all your stories, etc. But now, I can’t believe how disappointing this is.

  8. Brady Vercher
    January 5, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Brian, Trisha’s album was actually released last year. Check out The Best Country Songs of 2007 and Top 10 Country Albums of 2007.

  9. Pierce
    January 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm


    Have no fear! Trisha had 3 songs in the top 15 of 2007, including the top overall song, “Dreaming Fields”. She released no new material in 2008.

    I think we need to have some kind of pop-up ad, or maybe a click-through page that alerts people to our “eligibility” requirements for these lists.

  10. ccdixon
    January 5, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Brian, click on the link for 2007’s Top 50 List and you will see basically all those songs of Trisha’s that you mentioned were picked last year.

  11. Chris N.
    January 5, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Um, could all the “You forgot …” folks save everyone a lot of time and effort by looking the dates up first?

  12. Marc
    January 5, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Sorry, the fact that Jewel even shows up on this list disqualifies it! :)

  13. Leeann Ward
    January 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Well…Brian…that was quite harsh, considering last year’s list. What ever happened to reading an entire article and clicking on the offered links before commenting? I hope their 2007 lists make you feel “Rick Smacked.”:)

  14. Rick
    January 5, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Hey, where’s Jypsi’s “Halfway Home Cafe” and Miss Leslie Sloan’s “Honky Tonk Hangover”? This is outrageous! (lol)

    I’m glad to see The Wrights, Ashton Shepherd, and Joey + Rory on the list. I’ll have to take your word on all the songs I’ve never heard that are included.

    Since “Sweet Emmylou” is # 1 I think it only fair you let the 9513 participants hear Jamey Johnson’s demo version of the song for reference purposes (via a form that can’t be downloaded/copied). Assuming its legal that is…….

  15. Stormy
    January 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    No, “All I Intended to Be?”

  16. Kelly
    January 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    It’s funny that the album of the year didnt land a song in the top 10. I am not sure how I feel about that…ok, I’m over it.

  17. Brody Vercher
    January 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    @Kelly – There were a bunch of solid songs on that one, so I’m sure there was a little vote splitting going on.

  18. Leeann Ward
    January 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Come to think of it, Kelly, you’re right!!:) Hmph!

  19. Dan Milliken
    January 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    No way do I think “Sweet Emmylou” should be at the tippity-top, but great list nonetheless.

  20. Karlie
    January 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    The top five are solid, solid country songs that I can see standing up over time. A nice final list.

  21. Brady Vercher
    January 5, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    This list doesn’t closely resemble anyone’s personal picks, but I think it does a good job of balancing out various factors/biases and presents a solid collection of quality songs.

    Regarding Rattlin’ Bones, I think the album is greater than the sum of its individual songs, of which, none absolutely stood out. That leads to vote splitting, but I don’t think any of the songs should have cracked the top 10 anyways. It did get pretty good representation by placing 3 songs in the top 25, though.

    As for “Sweet Emmylou,” I don’t think anyone rated it as the best song of the year, but the consistency with which it was rated as a quality song allowed it to sneak in by being the most agreeable. There certainly isn’t any song on the list that could be unanimously crowned number one. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

    Thanks for the feedback, guys.

  22. Justin Foster
    January 5, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Great list! Glad to see The Randy Rogers Band make your Top 50. A few that I think were worthy:

    Blue Edmondson – “The Echo” – This whole album is amazing.

    Jackson Taylor – “Outlaw Women” – JLT is finally gaining some popularity. “Outlaw Women” wasn’t the best off “Dark Days” but it charted the highest on the Texas Music Chart

    Ryan Bingham – “Southside of Heaven” – Bingham gained a lot of exposure through his appearance on Leno, plus some video rotation on CMT.

    Jamie Richards – “Drive” – Another great song on a great album. Jamie would have been a radio star in the 90s with the right breaks.

  23. Dan Milliken
    January 5, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    “I don’t think anyone rated it as the best song of the year, but the consistency with which it was rated as a quality song allowed it to sneak in by being the most agreeable.”

    I figured as much – the same thing happened with “What I Cannot Change” when we did our singles list, which was actually a little frustrating to me, since none of us ranked it better than #5. I guess I’m just surprised that “Sweet Emmylou” was the one that pulled it off here – it’s not a bad song by any means, but I would have called it a dark horse at best. Good for them, though!

  24. Leeann Ward
    January 5, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Interesting, I’ve read the opposite opinion about Rattlin’ Bones from others, including our very own Dan M.:) I can’t weigh in on the debate, however, because I’m quite biased on the matter. I think both the songs and the album are superb. I can’t seperate the two very well.

    Yeah, it’s interesting how these ranking systems turn out in the end.

  25. Pierce
    January 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    This is definitely a solid list. Unlike the albums list (which only had 2 of my top 10), I had 44& of my top 50 (I think) here, which is a good percentage. If everyone has 30+% of their songs on here, that makes a pretty good sampling of our collective tastes.

  26. Zach
    January 5, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Umm.. well.. I checked last year’s list and everything, but I’m still not seeing “It’s Not Supposed To Go Like That” from Rascal Flatts on your list anywhere. I’m concerned. I guess I’ll wait until the Songs of the Decade list next year.

  27. Drew
    January 5, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I’m surprised Dean Brody’s “Brothers” didn’t crack the list, I really like that song and would’ve put it in the top half or so.

  28. Leeann Ward
    January 6, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Ha, Zach, I don’t know you, but can I assume you’re kidding?:)

  29. Brian
    January 6, 2009 at 7:10 am

    I’m sorry everyone really. I shouldn’t have said what I said in retrospect. In my defense, I am suffering from a very bad cold right now and I think I’m going to be quitting my job due to its stress level. So, all that was just adding up to a really bad day yesterday.

    So again I whole-heartingly apologize if I offended anyone that either reads this site or is employed here.

    Thanks for setting me straight.

  30. Nashville4U
    January 6, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Some good songs on the list that don’t really get radio play or much exposure at all for that matter. I thought it was funny though that Darius Rucker got a song on the top 50 but also tied for worst album of the year. Would be tough to do a top 50, I had trouble putting together my 5 favorite albums of the year.

  31. Brady Vercher
    January 6, 2009 at 7:56 am

    That album list that Rucker topped started off something like this: Don’t confuse disappointing with worst…

  32. Matt B.
    January 6, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Had we used a song and not single ‘metric’ at Roughstock, our Top 40 singles would’ve crossed over.

    Bleu Edmondson’s “The Echo” was one that was a contender.

  33. Chris N.
    January 6, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Where the hell is Dale Watson?

  34. Jim Malec
    January 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Is that a trick question, Chris? Dale Watson is everywhere.

  35. Dave S
    January 6, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Where’s “Bob That Head”? Haha

  36. Davey
    January 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    what was RF thinking with that song? I like their stuff, but that sucked. oh well.
    Dale Watson is still kicking around here somewhere. Love his “from the cradle to the grave”

    Now that its almost a week into 2009 are the year end lists done? can i ring in the new year yet?

  37. Hollerin' Ben
    January 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    “Is that a trick question, Chris? Dale Watson is everywhere

    super duper funny.

  38. Chris D.
    January 6, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Yeah, I would have preferred Womack or Sugarland’s songs to replace “Sweet Emmylou”, but overall, it’s a great list.

  39. Chris N.
    January 6, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Is Dale Watson Santa Claus?

  40. Mike Parker
    January 7, 2009 at 9:18 am

    I’d have liked to see The Steeldrivers make the list with “Sticks that Made Thunder.” Also, there were a couple songs off of Todd Snider’s Peace Queer that should’ve made it.

    Also, wasn’t “It’s a Shame” on an older Hayes Carll album- and wouldn’t that disqualify it from this list?

  41. Brady Vercher
    January 7, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Mike, I considered “Sticks that Made Thunder” for my list, but it ultimately fell outside what I felt were the top songs. I thought “Fortunate Son” was the best recording on Peace Queer and although I liked “Ballad of Cape Henry,” they promoted it is a Civil War sea shanty when it wasn’t and there seems to be some inconsistencies in the song. I don’t think anything else on that EP is worthy, though.

    You’re disqualified for pointing out the Hayes Carll song appeared on a previous album. No, but seriously, that was before he had long hair, so it still counts…

  42. Mike Parker
    January 7, 2009 at 9:40 am

    disqualified?! I thought I’d get some sort of prize package… It’s a shame… It’s a damn shame.

  43. Walter Morbeck
    January 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for posting the list! It’s an interesting selection of songs; can’t say I wholeheartedly agree with all of them but to each his own. As a frequent reader of your site I thought I’d share my own favorites that didn’t make the 9513 cut.

    “Never Lovin’ You” – Blake Shelton
    “Roll With Me” – Montgomery Gentry
    “The Last Cowboy” – Jamey Johnson (not on the original 2007 MP3 album)
    “Crazy Like Me” – Ray Scott
    “Sweet Contradiction” – Aaron Watson
    “Motel in Memphis” – Old Crow Medicine Show
    “Time That It Would Take” – Toby Keith
    “The Good Ol’ Days Are Gone” – Trent Willmon
    “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
    “Angels & Outlaws” – Aaron Watson
    “Green” – Blake Shelton
    “I’m Alive” – Kenny Chesney
    “Look Some More” – Montgomery Gentry
    “You Already Love Me” – Toby Keith
    “Workin’ My Way Back Home” – Ray Scott
    “Little Set of Horns” – Trent Willmon
    “Poor Folks” – Ray Scott
    “Kentucky Jelly” – Brad Paisley
    “Alabama High-Test” – Old Crow Medicine Show
    “Good at Startin’ Fires” – Blake Shelton
    “One Trip” – Montgomery Gentry
    “The Way I Remember It” – Trent Willmon
    “Love Makin’ Song” – Aaron Watson
    “Lost You Anyway” – Toby Keith
    “Barbed Wire Halo” – Aaron Watson

  44. Matt C.
    January 7, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    I do have to say that this is a disappointing list. The exclusion of songs that made last year’s list is unfortunate, as the result is a list that doesn’t represent the entirety of the 2008 country music landscape. Additionally, as others have mentioned, “Sweet Emmylou” is not a credible choice for the best song of the year, and it’s unfortunate that the number one song was merely an artifact of the selection process.

  45. Brady Vercher
    January 7, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    I disagree with the assessment that the list is disappointing. Only 30 or so of my top 75 made the cut, but I still consider it to be fairly solid. There isn’t a way to create something definitive that won’t exhibit flaws, especially when evaluated against one’s personal choices, but combining the results of an informed group of people comes as close as anything is likely to.

    As for the ranking algorithm, it’s used by the AP, NCAA, educational institutions, and even governments around the world to elect their officials. Various academic studies have been performed on ranking methods, and all are flawed in one way or another. Nevertheless, at least a few people would have qualms with whichever song was named number one.

    Only 5 or so songs from last year’s list would have been eligible this year, and of those only Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” was significant enough for it to represent the 2008 landscape. Additionally, the major goal of the list isn’t to represent the best of the year based on accessibility, so I don’t see any problems with excluding those few tracks.

  46. Hollerin' Ben
    January 8, 2009 at 12:35 am

    I didn’t actually contribute to this list, but I don’t think it’s disappointing at all. I think it’s a solid list that represents material from a lot of different corners of country music.

    Furthermore, I think “Sweet Emmylou” is a completely credible choice of #1. It’s probably the only song from a mainstream country album that stopped me in my tracks and that I immediately wanted to play for people and Joey’s performance on it is phenomenal.

    My list, had I compiled one, surely would have looked as radically different from this list as my album list looked from the official list, probably even more so, but a strong list in my opinion nevertheless and I’d take “Sweet Emmylou” over anything in the top 10 of last years list (with the exception of Porter covering Hank).

  47. Jim Malec
    January 8, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I think “Sweet Emmylou” is the kind of song that few people are capable of writing. There’s a reason why it showed up on so many of our individual top ten lists.

  48. Rick
    January 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Let us not forget that Catherine Britt was the co-writer with Rory Feek on “Sweet Emmylou”. Catherine recorded a rough demo right after the songwriting session was completed that is included as a bonus track on some version of her “Little Wildflower” album according to her website. Catherine was working in the RCA studio with Jamey Johnson at the time and both of them recorded separate demo versions of the song. Catherine likely never expected to see this song released commercially in the US by anyone.

  49. Brady Vercher
    January 8, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Britt’s demo is tacked onto the end of the final track, “Bruised,” on her Little Wildflower album, but like Rick mentioned, it’s pretty rough.

  50. Leeann Ward
    January 8, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    While I was surprised to see this song at the top spot, it was a pleasant surprise. I think this is an excellent example of a name checking song done right. And like Ben said, Joey’s performance is fabulous! This is a very solid list for sure.

  51. Linda
    January 14, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Great to see Ashton Shepherd making the list.

  52. Troy
    January 19, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I think Just a Dream and White Horse should be on the list

  53. Ben
    January 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Where the HELL is Jamey Johnson on this lame-ass list?

  54. Brady Vercher
    January 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Try looking at last year’s list. Go ahead, it’s linked up in the short intro that you probably didn’t read.

  55. CB
    December 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    “Sweet Emmylou” is one of the best songs ever written, and Joey is about the finest new country vocalist we have today.

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