A few Honorable Mentions: Aubrie Sellers - Sit Here & Cry; Tim McGraw - Humble & Kind; Thomas Rhett - Die A Happy Man

5 - It Don't Hurt Like it Used To by Billy Currington

Billy Currington doesn't reinvent the breakup/heartbreak song. Indeed there are two better released just this year. What he does do is exquisitely move through a break. It simply tells the complexity of what the break-up did to him. Moving from tearing him up inside & working through it in the first verse, to him attempting to move on in the second, then reconciling that it's a constant yin and yang by the third. It's not an intricate song. It's not a subtle song. But it doesn't have to be. He's just laying it bare. It's fascinating.

4 - Parachute by Chris Stapleton

I don't think anyone, Stapleton included, will accuse this of being his best written song, nor his best song on Traveler. But Stapleton's impassioned vocal performance on the track sells this wonderful song of being there for a person you love. That speaks to the power of the vocalist on a song. Give a well written song to a mediocre performer, and you can have a modest hit. Give an OK song to dynamite performer like Stapleton, and you've got magic. And let's face it, Stapleton on an off day is still streets ahead.

3 - Vice by Miranda Lambert

What's unfortunate about this year for Miranda is that all eyes were on her artistic output following her 2015 divorce from husband Blake Shelton. Shelton beat her to the charts with his not-as-clever-as-he-thinks-it-is ode to the break-up (which, for the record, he didn't write) "She's Got A Way With Words." But it was Miranda's owning up to her problems and issues and ultimately her self-destruction of the relationship that made for the best art. Country music is at its best when its speaking from the heart, and few do that better than Miranda. I hate to dwell on the gossip surrounding the art, but when that's where the songs come from, it can't be ignored.

2 - My Church by Maren Morris

What attracted me to this song was Morris' lyrics of finding solace and sanctuary in the things that bring her joy. I have many a time gone on that aimless drive with the windows down and the volume cranked just to clear my head. The forests of Upper Michigan, the mountains of Southern California, the rolling hills of Eastern Kansas they've all been "my church." My sanctuary. We've all been there. Morris was able to tap into that feeling better than almost anyone else this year. I say almost because...

1 - Record Year by Eric Church

While a drive to clear the head is all well and good, I've spent far more time retreating into music and movies over the course of my life than I have cruising aimlessly. Gas is expensive. What Church speaks to, in "Record Year" is the mantra of musicians and music aficionados: "Music is there for you." If you have a good day, music's there for you. If you're having a rough day, the music's there for you. If you're going through a rough patch with work or family or friends or relationships... music is there for you. I can't count the times I've spun some Pink Floyd or Leonard Cohen or Warren Zevon or Dwight Yoakam to work through something. Or not even to work through something. Sometimes you just have to sit with it to clear your head.