If I could sum up 2017 in country, it would simply be "Outsiders." Not necessarily alternative artists, but it was year where the usual heavy hitters like Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, while still hitting heavy, had to share the stage and spotlight with newcomers, outsiders and legends. It wasn't business as usual in country music, nor in country radio. And I really dug it. It was a great year across the country music spectrum, and these were some of my favorites.

Honorable Mentions: Thomas Rhett feat. Maren Morris - Craving You; Lindsay Ell - Waiting On You; Lauren Alaina - Road Less Traveled; Jon Pardi - Heartache on the Dance Floor; Tim McGraw & Faith Hill - The Rest Of Our Life (THE wedding song of 2018)

10 - David Lee Murphy feat. Kenny Chesney - Everything's Gonna Be Alright

A late entry, sure, and that's why it takes the 10 spot because it hasn't had time to fully mature yet, but hot damn is this the song we need to help us close out the year. It's a wonderful affirmation from two of the greats of the past 30 years of country. An all around, simple feel good tune.

9- Charlie Worsham - Cut Your Groove

I've said a lot about how much I dug this track over the course of his Breakthrough Artist, and two appearances on KICK It or Keep It, but ultimately this is one that just landed with me. I kinda fell in love with the whole production of it. It's a well put together track.

8- LANco - Greatest Love Story

Another Breakthrough Artist, these guys from the Class of 2016, LANco had a simple, delightful hit love song. The narrative arc of the story is just country music storytelling at its absolute best.

7- Shania Twain - Life's About To Get Good

Like David Lee Murphy's track, we've got a positive, bouncy feel good track from a 90s era artist aiming for a comeback. The album is fantastic, and this uptempo track is a stand-out.

6- Chris Stapleton - Broken Halos

Stapleton's one-two punch of a double album this year, with From A Room volumes one and two getting released six months apart means he probably could have just dominated this list easy. But to keep it fair, I opted for his soulful, cathartic rumination on loss.

5- Carly Pearce - Every Little Thing

An elegant ballad with a simple instrumentation highlights the power of Pearce's vocals as she pours some serious emotion into the emotional longing of heartbreak.

4- Luke Combs - When It Rains it Pours

A counter to Pearce's emotional ballad, we've got Luke Combs with a cheeky ode to his ex he's none too concerned about never seeing again. As he puts it, "I've been on a hell of a redneck roll for three weeks now, And it all started on the day that she walked out..." Sometimes a break up is painful, sometimes it's the best thing to happen.

3- Nikki Lane - Jackpot

I couldn't even tell you how I stumbled into Nikki Lane's Highway Queen earlier this year. It just kinda showed up in my recommendations and I listened to it. I was enamored with the great callback to classic 60s/70s era outlaw, with a twist of the Bakersfield honky tonk sound. Jackpot is just all out fun.

2- Midland - Drinkin' Problem

I think the jury is still out on whether these guys are classic sound in earnest, or if theirs is an ironic wink & nod. Either way, I dig it, and I loved Drinkin' Problem's wordplay.

1- Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - If We Were Vampires

No single act, no single album, typified the outsider mentality that dominated the country music landscape this year than Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit's "The Nashville Sound." Not just the best country album of the year, but one of the best all-genre albums, there's a pure, raw country energy to it. If We Were Vampires is a beautiful love story as only Isbell could write.

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