It looks like the back half of 2017 was very, very good to me as a majority of my ten favorite songs of the year I hadn't heard before July 1st. Let's get into it:

10. "It Ain't My Fault" by the Brothers Osborne

This hilarious ode to very cleverly placing the blame where it does not belong could be considered a difficult listen. And that's only because when you DO laugh, you risk missing something, since every millimeter of this lyric is brutally smart. The guys are on a roll.

9. "She Ain't in It" by Jon Pardi

I was thrilled when Pardi picked up the New Artist CMA in November. He deserves it. It feels like he's going to be a HUGE star, and he's going to bring some traditional licks with him on the way there. Here, he's been invited to hang out with an old friend and he promises he'll be the life of the party, UNLESS a certain someone's name or face horns in on the festivities. Then all bets are off.

8. "Most People Are Good" by Luke Bryan

I normally don't go in for the too-on-point "can't we all just get along" numbers. But this isn't that. Written by David Frasier, Ed Hill, and Josh Kear, "Most People" notices where we are and addresses what we need. Kids outside in the dirt instead of inside in front of a video game, football games on Friday night, judgment-free living, acceptance. Intelligently written and subtly performed with nary a heavy hand in sight. Way to go, guys!

7. "You Broke Up with Me" by Walker Hayes

It's interesting to me that most professional music critics HATE this and every NON-professional music critic I know LOVES this. So a big "what do THEY know" to them! This always makes me smile. And why not? He's gotten over being dumped rather quickly and the lady who dumped him cannot stand it. Sounds like HER problem.

6. "Broken Halos" by Chris Stapleton

Country music in its very early days was replete with mournful ballads of loss. Stapleton's latest hit slides right into the category. A song about those who've gone too soon, it was, in fact, recorded the day an old friend of Chris' passed away. Country music, in ALL of its days, is at its best when it's also at it's most personal.

5. "Greatest Love Story" by LANco

GREAT writing! Thank you, Brandon Arden Lancaster, the "LAN" in LANco. A relationship withstands a long break and the couple involved IN it find that it was the best thing that could have happened now that they're stronger and wiser than when it first began.

4. "Diane" by Cam

It's the third straight year for a Cam song in my top ten. This is a sonic pile driver sung frantically to a woman named Diane BY a woman who's name just happens to be...wait for it...Jolene. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. Brilliant!

3. "Either Way" by Chris Stapleton

My second Stapleton entry is devastating. Two people are just going through the motions. They're doing the "brave face" thing. Going to work and church like there's nothing wrong. And everything's wrong. How can it not be when he "wants" to love her. WANTS to. Doesn't mean he does. And it sure doesn't mean she's staying, but at this point, what good would THAT do? Whew!

2. "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" by Ashley McBryde

Ashley McBryde and her co-writers Jesse Rice and Nicolette Hayford quickly draw you in as the "narrator" sings one for

"The bag packed, first love leaver
The heart cracked, double down dreamer
The homesick for grass that's greener
And a slice of Mama's peach pie"

Really, all of us who've ever had a lousy day and want to forget about it at a favorite hang-out. And then we learn it's all about flipping a crappy 24 hours on its ear and telling it "oh, no you don't!" She's my discovery of the year, an extraordinarily gifted songwriter with a magic vocal touch. At some point, she really HAS to have a hit. I'm in no mood to lose my faith in humanity.

1. "When It Rains It Pours" by Luke Combs

The best country songs are great stories! And this one is my favorite story of 2017, thanks to Luke Combs, who's had a tremendous year. To simply call this one clever doesn't come CLOSE to doing it justice. The tale of a guy who's luck SERIOUSLY changed for the better when his girlfriend dumped him always makes me laugh. There's so much here! Buying beer and gas with scratch-off winnings, partying in Panama City thanks to a radio station contest, getting a great parking space AND the waitress' phone number without asking. Oh, there's so much more. Combs is a serious talent. I look forward to what he brings us in 2018.