My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Razor X’s Top Ten Singles of 2011

It seems like every year it gets more and more difficult to find new single releases that I actually like. There were a few — but only a few — gems this year. Here are some of my favorites:

10. Northern Girl — Terri Clark. Clark’s homage to her homeland, co-written with former Sugarland member Kristen Hall, is her first single that I’ve truly liked in quite some time. Sadly, it failed to gain any traction on either side of the border.

9. Drink Myself Single — Sunny Sweeney. Currently at #36 on the charts, the third offering from Sunny’s Concrete collection has already out-performed its predecessor and hopefully will become her second Top 10 hit. It reminds me of the type of song radio regularly played back in the 90s during the line-dancing craze.

8. Home — Dierks Bentley. Finally, a song about love of country that manages to avoid jingoism and combativeness. It was written in response to the shooting incident that critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six other people in January of this year.

7. Cumberland Rose — Sylvia. The former 80s star returned in January with her first single release in 24 years. Often unfairly dismissed as a minor talent, Sylvia delivers a lovely vocal performance on this folk ballad written by Craig Bickhardt and Jeff Pennig. I couldn’t find anyplace online to listen to it in its entirety, but it’s well worth the 99 cents to download it from iTunes or Amazon.

6. Tomorrow — Chris Young. The latest in a long tradition of country songs about clinging to one more night before finally ending a relationship that’s run out of steam. Chris Young is one of Nashville’s finest young talents and is destined for great things if he can keep finding material as good as this.

5. In God’s Time — Randy Houser. This introspective number provides a much better showcase for Houser’s vocal ability than his more popular Southern rock-tinged work. It’s the best thing he’s released so far.

4. Here For A Good Time — George Strait. After a couple of rocky years, George Strait finally got his mojo back with this fun number that he wrote with Dean Dillon and his son Bubba Strait.

3. Look It Up — Ashton Shepherd. This blistering confrontation of two-timing spouse deserved more airplay than it got. It may not have been a tremendous commercial success, but I’ll bet Loretta Lynn is proud.

2. Colder Weather — Zac Brown Band. Reminiscent of Dave Loggins’ classic “Please Come To Boston”, the Zac Brown Band continues to push the boundaries of country music without diluting it beyond recognition.

1. Cost of Livin’ — Ronnie Dunn. This tale of a down-on-his-luck veteran is a sad testament to the current economic difficulties in much of the world and a plight to which too many people can relate. Beautifully written and performed, it’s by far the best thing played on country radio this year. It failed to garner any Grammy nominations, but hopefully it will get some recognition by the CMA and ACM next time around.

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8 responses to “Razor X’s Top Ten Singles of 2011

  1. bob December 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Good list. Glad to see some respect for Cost of Livin’ – song of the year IMHO. Kudos to writers Philip Coleman and Ronnie Dunn.

  2. Sam Broderick (@SamB_UK) December 13, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Agree with most of this. Glad to see some recognition for Colder Weather and Cost of Livin’, though I’m sure both will get more, much-deserved praise in upcoming end-of-year lists. I’d have included Staying’s Worse Than Leaving rather than Drink Myself Single though, and I never really got Look It Up – not one of Shepherd’s best.

  3. Jonathan Pappalardo December 13, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Great and solid list. Not a bad selection here. I had all of these in my top 45 except “Look It Up” which I really liked but didn’t make enough of an impression when I was doing my rankings. I chose “Where Country Grows,” though. I had “Colder Weather” in my top five from 2010.

    Can’t argue with “Cost of Livin'” at #1. If I hadn’t put Adele in there, I would’ve put Ronnie Dunn. It wasn’t my favorite song of the year (besides “Someone Like You” I really didn’t have one) but it is the best representation of real country music in 2011.

    What’s great about your lists Razor is how you always seem to include one song I’ve overlooked or didn’t know about. Last year it was Blake Shelton’s stellar “Over You” (different from Miranda Lambert’s new single) and now it’s the Syliva track. I haven’t added it to iTunes yet but I will today. I think she was dismissed in the 80s simply because everyone who remembers here only knows, or remembers, “Nobody” a song I still love, but is a little fluffy. I’ve never dug deep beyond that song, and should.

    Also, glad to see “In God’s Time” in there. I’m amazed how quickly this song has been forgotten by the country music community. And I agree, it is Houser’s best work.

  4. Occasional Hope December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    A nice list, with some overlap with mine, due later this week 😉

  5. Ben Foster December 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Great list, Razor. I did not know that Sylvia had a new single out this year, but I’ll have to give it a listen. I’ve often had something of a soft spot for her 80’s hits, in all their cheesy glory.

    I didn’t know either that Sweeney’s “Drink Myself Single” had cracked the Top 40, but that’s very good news. From what I heard earlier, the single had previously seemed to be struggling. If country radio gets nothing else right this year, they should at least hold on to Sunny Sweeney. Both of her 2011 singles are shoo-ins for my list, but I can’t say for sure which one would top the other.

    Interesting thoughts on the Zac Brown Band also. They really do demonstrate that it is possible to move the country genre forward without resorting to making pop music and calling it country. “Colder Weather” is one of their best yet.

  6. Jordan Stacey December 14, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Great list also thanks for pointing out the Sylvia track nice to know she’s still around somewhat. Also Terri’s “Northern Girl” was a top 10 hit here in Canada, where it peaked at #8.

    • Razor X December 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

      I thought I remembered reading that “Northern Girl” was climbing the Canadian charts when I reviewed the single after it came out. Wikipedia is currently showing it as non-charting in either country. Somebody messed up. Thanks for clarifying.

  7. syhutton May 5, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Hello, I was just made aware that my recording of “Cumberland Rose” made your list. I’m honored. I have loved this song for years and I’m glad a few folks are finding and enjoying it! I’ve released 3 CD’s on my own independent label since 1996. Here is a link: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Sylvia Have a great year and thank you for singling out my recording for your list! Warmly, Sylvia

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