Country music has changed quite a bit since the golden era of the 20th century. Now, the genre largely incorporates other influences to create a new sound with that classic country spin.
Take a listen to the following songs, all of which came out in 2022. You’ll get a good idea of just how expansive the country music genre really is.
Along the way, count how many times you encounter a stereotypical country lyric cliche in each song.
“Whiskey On You” by Nate Smith
Nate Smith’s Whiskey On You takes a smooth pop approach to its modern country sound. In some ways, it’s mostly just the vocals that retain the classic country aesthetic.
It’s about how somebody can be quick to move on and find someone else after the end of a relationship. Now, that is surely something just about everyone can relate to, and no amount of whiskey can answer for it.
“Beers On Me” by Dierks Bentley, Breland, Hardy
If you’re really paying attention to the actual release of songs, you might have an issue with Beers On Me. The song was recorded during the COVID-19 lockdown and released in 2021.
So, why is it mentioned here? The simple reason is that Beers On Me actually topped the country radio charts in the spring of 2022.
This track has a slack backbeat against some classic twang and some rhythmic spitfire delivered vocally.
“Something In The Orange” by Zach Bryan
Are you looking for a country song that will shake you down to your roots? Zach Bryan’s Something In The Orange toes the gray area of love, dancing between logic and reason.
Supposedly written in a cabin, the song does use images found in nature to help convey its message. Nevertheless, it’s quite a heartbreaking story, deserving to be on an album titled, American Heartbreak.
“5 Foot 9” by Tyler Hubbard
Florida Georgia Line was a constant presence in country music until 2022. Tyler Hubbard proved he was capable of just as much success on his own with 5 Foot 9.
This pop track managed to chart within the top 5 positions on the various country charts in the US. The song also saw great success in Canada, peaking out at the number 3 spot on the Billboard charts.
“No Hard Feelings” by Old Dominion
What do you get when you combine Margaritaville philosophies with new-millennium pop stylings and country vocals? The answer to that would have to be Old Dominion’s track, No Hard Feelings.
This song definitely has crossover potential as it isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry country song. No Hard Feelings performed quite well in both the US and Canada.
“Safe In The Arms Of Vernacular” by Pony Bradshaw
Pony Bradshaw might be an artist that isn’t on your radar yet, but that’s all about to change. In January 2023, he’ll be dropping his newest album, North Georgia Rounder.
Safe In The Arms Of Vernacular is a single from the album and gives a taste of potent lyricism. It touches on topics related to the 30+ years of conflicts experienced in the Middle East with the US.
“Slow Down Summer” by Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett’s Slow Down Summer officially came out at the tail end of 2021 but charted in 2022. This song is a full-on pop track with just about the only thing reminiscent of country being the vocals.
Nevertheless, Slow Down Summer received quite a bit of play on the airwaves. It’s about enjoying the last of a relationship that is destined to come to an end.
“Angel Band (Jubilee Version)” by Tyler Childers
For a while, it seemed as if “corporate country” largely ignored Tyler Childers. Instead, Childers became so successful in the underground that the commercial side of the genre couldn’t ignore him.
Now, Tyler Childers is one of the current giants of the genre. His track, Angel Band (Jubilee Version), comes from his newest double album, Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?
“I’m Just A Clown” by Charley Crockett
If you’re searching for that classic country sound from the golden era of the genre, Charley Crockett’s your man. In both sound and aesthetics, Crockett upholds the traditions of the genre without modernized pop elements.
His track, I’m Just A Clown, comes from his latest album, The Man From Waco, released in September 2022. It’s a country song that embodies the genre's roots while providing a cinematic sound.
“Cut A Rug” by Paul Cauthen
Country music has always had a tinge of party antics, with the 1970s being perhaps the loosest period. For the last 30 years, country music has been largely associated with alcohol over any other substance.
Paul Cauthen seems to embody the party side of country with his latest single release, Cut A Rug. This pop-heavy (bordering on the dance genre) is all about breaking out in a dance and having a good time.
“Cypress Hills And The Big Country” by Colter Wall
Country music certainly is no stranger to having the cowboy as the main subject. But, what about the environment you’ll typically find a cowboy working?
Colter Wall’s Cypress Hills And The Big Country isn’t an homage to the popular rap group like you might think. Instead, this track talks about the vast beauty and serene stillness that exists in the open ranges of the west.
“Big Time” by Angel Olsen
So far in 2022, Angel Olsen’s album, Big Time, is one of the most critically successful albums of the year. It’s bound to be in the rankings as one of the best, bolstered by hits such as its self-titled track.
The song, Big Time, came out in April and features a classic country sound. Angel even released a version with the famed country singer, Sturgill Simpson.
“Falling Apart (Right Now)” by Wilco
Wilco isn’t typically a band you would think of when it comes to country music. But any fan knows these indie rockers have a penchant for folk and country sounds.
Their song, Falling Apart (Right Now), features some tasty B-bender Telecaster licks played by Pat Sansone. You’ll have this song on repeat, guaranteed.
“Cruel Country” by Wilco
It might seem like a copout to include another Wilco song, but their song, Cruel Country, needs recognition. This song is a political statement surrounding the reputation of the US and how it feels to be a citizen.
Commercial country fans might not totally agree with the song, based on political demographic history. However, Tweedy’s lyrics, augmented by Telecaster twang, deserve to be heard by everyone.
Really, you owe it to yourself to check out the band's album of the same name. This double album is a slow-burner, and it will definitely grow on you over time.
“Wyoming” by Benjamin Tod
Sometimes, music is the only thing able to convey a deeper message. More often than not, it allows for vulnerability, revealing truths that might not otherwise be so forthcoming.
Benjamin Tod’s track, Wyoming, grapples with the concept of death and accepting one’s own death. It is something that every human on Earth will have to confront at some time or another.
“Black Muddy River” by The Infamous Stringdusters & Anders Osbourne
Black Muddy River is probably not what you’d consider being country. However, this Grateful Dead song has plenty of country characteristics going on within its composition and lyrical content.
Like every other Dead song, it’s prime for artist covers. This country bluegrass version by The Infamous Stringdusters and Anders Osbourne is especially tasty.
“Mother, Son And Holy Ghost” by Paula Cole, Jason Isbell, John Paul White
Any serious country fan is probably familiar with Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit. You might even know of him through his previous membership in the band, Drive-By Truckers.
In 2022, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with his project with Paula Cole and John Paul White. The song, Mother, Son And Holy Ghost has a tinge of country with some old-school folk stylings.
“Welcome 2 Club XIII” by Drive-By Truckers
Speaking of Drive-By Truckers, the band recently released a new album in June 2022. The album has been received fairly well by most standards, proving they have plenty of relevance left in the scene.
Their title-track song, Welcome 2 Club XIII, takes on a sort of indie rock sound. This is completed with its jangly guitar lines and its drum beat providing plenty of bop.
“Wild And Blue” by Brent Cobb
If you’re not familiar with Brent Cobb, you will be after reading this article. Brent has written songs for some of the biggest names in country music along with having a successful solo career.
The song, Wild And Blue, is actually a track written by country music legend, John Anderson. Cobb is fantastic in this rendition, which is a part of a massive compilation of songs by various artists.
“Dancin’ Around A Fire (Far Out West Sessions)” by Flatland Cavalry
Flatland Cavalry is an up-and-coming band that is starting to spread like wildfire. This country group has plenty of americana roots showing in their sound.
The song, Dancin’ Around A Fire, was recently released as part of the Far Out West Sessions. This recording finds the group performing the song next to a campfire, out on the open range.
“Smoke Stack” by Kitchen Dwellers
Considering how much pop is in country music, you have to be okay with some bluegrass crossover. If you’re on the fence, check out the song, Smoke Stack, by Kitchen Dwellers.
This group tends to draw bluegrass fans along with fans of jam bands. However, any country fan would do themselves a favor by discovering why the party is always in the kitchen.
“Long Journey Home” by Billy Strings
If you’re really on the fence about bluegrass crossing over into country, Billy Strings will change that. Billy Strings might be young, but he has guitar skills and a penchant for songwriting that demand respect.
His song, Long Journey Home, comes from his latest record, which was done with his father. This single gives just a taste of what the album will sound like when it is released in November.
“Luxury Liner (Live)” by Midnight North
Serious music fans generally know that the real gold usually lies in a band’s live performances. Songs tend to get stretched out, and certain musical things take place, which usually doesn’t make it on the record.
If you’re a fan of live music, check out Midnight North’s track, Luxury Liner. This track comes from the band’s performance at Levon Helm’s studio.
“The Great Divide” by Railroad Earth
Speaking of live music, Railroad Earth is a string band typically reputed for its live shows. Any country fan can likely appreciate the unique and diverse styles this band has to offer.
Their song, The Great Divide, has been released numerous times, with 2022 being no exception. It is, after all, a fan favorite.
“Chicamacomico” by American Aquarium
Remember how we referenced Wilco earlier? They were obviously influential, as American Aquarium is a reference to a line in a massively famous Wilco track.
American Aquarium is a group from Raleigh, North Carolina, and is fronted by the powerhouse, BJ Barham. The song, Chicamacomico, shows Barham’s prowess as an expressive storytelling vocalist.
“Hillbilly Daydream” by 49 Winchester
So far in 2022, no other country band has had the meteoric rise that 49 Winchester has experienced. The group got a stamp of approval from Luke Bryan, who wore the band’s shirt and advertised it on Instagram.
Their track, Hillbilly Daydream, is a prime example of why they are gaining so much attention. They have an organic country rock sound without relying on digital pop cliches to be commercially successful.
You could almost say that 49 Winchester has a sort of outlaw country rock sound. Fans of Charlie Daniels will definitely appreciate what 49 Winchester has been releasing as of late.
“Preacher Man” by J.R. Carroll
Out of all the groups listed in this article, J.R. Carroll is perhaps the least-known artist on the list. That’s bound to change if he continues to release the potent songwriting for which he’s starting to gain a reputation.
Songs like, Preacher Man, showcase Carroll’s honest writing. You can find this song on his album, Raging In The Dark, which was released in July 2022.
Top New Country Songs From 2022, Final Thoughts
As you can see, the country genre is certainly not afraid to explore outside of its traditional boundaries. Some songs are far more pop than country, yet are considered country because of the singer’s voice.
Others are considered country simply because the song uses country instrumentation. Yet, there are also some country songs that take the genre back to its roots without concern for commercial success.