26 country songs you need to know from 2022 so far

26 country songs you need to know from 2022 so farPublished: June 19, 2022

It's been a great year for country music so far, with long-awaited returns from established artists, breakthroughs from promising up-and-comers, and country pivots from indie greats like Angel Olsen, Wilco, and Big Thief. If you're looking to catch up or hear something great that you may have missed, we've put together a list of 26 country songs from 2022 that you need to know. There are way more than 26 good country songs released this year so far, so let us know which ones you've been digging. Read on for the list (in alphabetical order) and hear a playlist of all 26 songs at the bottom of this post…

Amanda Shires – "Hank for the Dove"

Amanda Shires' new album Take It Like A Man comes out in July via ATO, and the first single is the moody, anthemic opening number "Hawk for the Dove," which has Shires singing in the chorus, "I’m well aware of what the night's made of, and I’m coming for you like a hawk for the dove. You can call it serious trouble, cuz that’s what I want.” It also has Shires and Isbell letting loose with their instruments. “This is the song where Jason finally had enough of the buzz in the studio and switched to a Gretsch," says Amanda. "That was the moment he realized why Chet Atkins loved Gretsch guitars.”

Angel Olsen – "Big Time"

Angel Olsen's new album Big Time is her most direct foray into country music, fleshed out with lap steel, barroom piano, and other twangy elements that suggest a love of anything from Tammy Wynette to Townes Van Zandt. It's also one of her most personal albums yet, and all of this comes across on the gently rollicking title track.

Arlo McKinley – "To Die For"

Arlo McKinley's upcoming album This Mess We're In has a more melancholic vibe than his breakthrough 2020 album Die Midwestern, but that doesn't mean there's no room for a swelling, rousing country rocker like "To Die For." You'll be humming along to that anthemic hook after the first listen.

Big Thief – "Red Moon"

That's my grandma!

Denitia – "Highways"

New York's Denitia used to be known for indie-R&B, but it looks like she's pivoting to folk and country for her upcoming album Highways, which was made with producer/instrumentalist Brad Allen Williams, who's also worked with Brittany Howard, Jose James, and more. The transition is seamless on the gorgeous title track, one of the most lovely songs of its kind in recent memory.

Hailey Whitters – "Boys Back Home"

If you miss when Kacey Musgraves was writing small-town-pride country songs like "Dime Store Cowgirl" and "This Town," you need Hailey Whitters' "Boys Back Home" in your life. Hailey's resonant storytelling, soaring voice, and addictive hooks make this one a show-stopper.

Ian Noe – "Tom Barrett"

"You wanna write a song that’s been there forever," Ian Noe said in the press materials for his sophomore album River Fools & Mountain Saints. "When you listen to ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ by The Band, you don't think about what year it is. It sounds like it’s always been there." Ian says his goal for this new album was to make each song like that, and if you need proof that he succeeded, look no further than the instantly-timeless "Tom Barrett."

John Moreland – "Ugly Faces"

With its mix of warm, rustic Americana and glitchy programmed drums, John Moreland combines the traditional and the futuristic on "Ugly Faces" off his upcoming album Birds In The Ceiling. It's a country song, but with John's introspective lyricism and subdued delivery, it also reminds me a little of Pedro the Lion.

Joshua Hedley – "Found In A Bar"

"The last bastion of country music was the early 1990s, roughly 1989 through 1996," Joshua said in press materials for his new album Neon Blue, out now on New West Records. "You could turn on the radio and immediately know you’re hearing a country song. You could still hear steel guitar and fiddle. But there was a hard fork around 1996 or ‘97, when country veered off into pop territory. Neon Blue asks, What if that fork never happened? What if country kept on sounding like country?" That is indeed exactly what Neon Blue does, and here's one of its many highlights.

Kaitlin Butts – "It Won't Always Be This Way"

It's no surprise that rising singer/songwriter Kaitlin Butts has been compared to Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert, artists who won over mainstream Nashville while also winning over the people who turn their noses up at mainstream Nashville. Kaitlin's not the only up-and-coming artist toeing that line, but what really separates her from the pack is her voice, which is so strong and distinct that it'll reverberate in your head for weeks after hearing it, especially on a song as catchy as "It Won't Always Be This Way."

Kelsey Waldon – "Sweet Little Girl"

Kentucky-born country singer Kelsey Waldon is gearing up to release No Regular Dog on August 12 via the late John Prine's Oh Boy Records. The album was produced by Shooter Jennings, who called Kelsey "a top shelf artist who feels a deep responsibility to country music, the preservation of its history, and the quality of its future," and the first single is the lovely, breezy country folk of "Sweet Little Girl." Kelsey says the song is "in part about me, but perhaps it’s also about you. It’s about the rage and unrest inside during a process to find healing. It’s simply just about a gal who is trying to find her way back ‘home.’"

Lainey Wilson – "Heart Like A Truck"

Lainey Wilson's first single since her 2021 breakthrough album Sayin' What I'm Thinkin' proves her rise won't be slowing down anytime soon. As on that album, "Heart Like A Truck" broaches familiar themes without relying on clichés, and it's catchy enough for the radio without pandering to it.

Mariel Buckley – "Shooting at the Moon"

Canadian singer/songwriter Mariel Buckley has announced that she'll follow 2018's Driving in the Dark with her sophomore album, Everywhere I Used to Be, on August 12 via Birthday Cake Records. It was produced by Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire, The Weather Station, etc), and the first single is "Shooting at the Moon," a propulsive heartland rock/alt-country song that comes with soaring pedal steel, a War On Drugs-y rhythm section, and a hook from Mariel that you'll be humming after one listen.

Matt Koziol – "House to Build a Home"

Having started his musical career writing for other artists, Matt Koziol just recently put out his own album, Wildhorse. On it, he channels an array of country, folk, and Southern and heartland rock influences, recalling anything from Springsteen and Petty to Isbell and Stapleton, and developing his own sound in the process. Among its many highlights: the propulsive "House to Build a Home."

Michaela Anne – "I'm Only Human"

Michaela Anne has been through a lot. In the lead-up to her great new album Oh To Be That Free, she got sober, had a child, and her mother suffered a near-fatal hemorrhagic stroke, all while the COVID-19 pandemic was already altering the lives of Michaela and everyone around her. When life throws all that at you at once, you do what you gotta do, even if it's not perfect, and that's the premise of the album's stunning highlight "I'm Only Human."

Miranda Lambert – "Actin' Up"

"Got my own kind of country, kinda funky," Miranda Lambert sings on "Actin' Up," a swaggering, bluesy song that very much backs up that claim. It's the opening track of her excellent new album Palomino, which straddles the line between pop country and something a little more alternative-friendly than any other album released this year.

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway – "Dooley's Farm" (ft. Billy Strings)

Molly Tuttle goes full-on bluegrass with her new album Crooked Tree, and it's a version of bluegrass that sits nicely next to today's indie folk and alt-country. The album's also got a star-studded cast of guests, including bluegrass wunderkind Billy Strings, who assists Molly on the moody highlight "Dooley's Farm."

Morgan Wade – "Run"

The best artists are always the ones where you can never really figure out where they fit in. "A lot of people wanted to corner Morgan as, ‘You’re the next Tyler Childers,'" said Sadler Vaden (of Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit), who produced her 2021 album Reckless, "and she did not want to be that." When asked about her influences, she's quicker to mention Lana Del Rey than country singers, and like Lana, her music defies easy categorization. Reckless was one of 2021's best country albums, and this year she put out an expanded deluxe edition, including new single "Run," a song as instantly-satisfying as anything on the original album.

Nikki Lane – "First High"

Nikki Lane's first album in over five years, Denim & Diamonds, was produced and mixed by Josh Homme and made with a band including three other Queens of the Stone Age members, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, and Autolux/Jack White drummer Carla Azar. The first single is "First High," a driving country rocker that Nikki says "is about chasing that feeling of the first roller coaster, the first drag of a cigarette, that first kiss. Those moments are harder to come by the older we get, yet only get better each time." The song definitely gives off that feeling, and so does the video, which Nikki adds "captures that feeling of being young in a small town on a summer day, and the lack of inhibition that came with it."

Ryan Culwell – "All I Got"

One of this year's best albums to bridge the gap between country, rock, and folk is Ryan Culwell's Run Like A Bull. Comparisons to Jason Isbell, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac all feel apt, but Ryan stands out with words and melodies that hit with immediate impact and a world-wearied voice that becomes increasingly unmistakable after repeated listens. The album's got a lot of range, and one of its most immediate songs is "All I Got," which peaks with a singalong chorus that sounds like the most rustic moments of classic rock radio.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – "Talkin' to Myself"

Sarah Shook has always approached country with punk grit, in both their rejection of country's oft-held conservative values and in the way they write music, and you can definitely hear that coming through in "Talkin' to Myself," which has the twang of the Opry and the toughness of CBGB.

Sunny Sweeney – "A Song Can't Fix Everything" (ft. Paul Cauthen)

Houston-born country singer Sunny Sweeney's first album in five years, Married Alone, was co-produced by Paul Cauthen, who also sings with Sunny on lead single "A Song Can't Fix Everything." As the title implies, it's a bittersweet, melancholic song that's about life's struggles but also the comforting power of music. It's a gorgeous first taste of the album.

Vandoliers – "Before the Fall"

"We wanted to make an album that had the same power as our live performance — a tight, big sound," frontman Joshua Fleming of Texas country-punks Vandoliers said of their upcoming LP The Vandoliers. "Through trial and error, label closure, fatherhood, sobriety, relapse, the album grew on its own stylistically." The first single is "Before the Fall," which has a calmer vibe compared to some of Vandoliers' more overtly punk-inspired stuff, but it's still got some dirt under its nails, and it evolves into a subtly anthemic hook.

Vincent Neil Emerson – "Son Of A Bitch"

Texas country singer Vincent Neil Emerson released his self-titled album last year on La Honda Records (Colter Wall), and this year he returned with new single "Son Of A Bitch," a melancholic solo acoustic song that would sit as nicely next to Vincent's hometown hero Townes Van Zandt as it would next to someone like David Crosby. "One of the aspects of my songs, in dealing with the tough parts of life, is that I want people to have hope, to understand that you deal with the difficulties and you keep going," he said to CMT. "It won’t work out how we want or imagine, but it will work out if we keep at it."

Wilco – "Cruel Country"

Wilco's most overtly country album since their 1995 debut is not just inspired by American music, but also by the state of American affairs, and in the spirit of "This Land Is Your Land," "Fortunate Son," and "Born in the USA," it's more critical than it might sound on a cursory listen. "I love my country like a little boy/Red, white, and blue," Jeff Tweedy sings on the title track, before switching to "I love my country, stupid and cruel," and going in an even darker direction from there.

Zach Bryan – "'68 Fastback"

With major label American Heartbreak, Zach Bryan has quickly become one of country's fastest-rising stars. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country and folk charts (and No.1 on the Hot 100), and in addition to hitting major festivals like Stagecoach, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza and opening for Willie Nelson this year, he's been playing increasingly large headlining shows (like the one he's got coming up at NYC's Rooftop at Pier 17), and it's all because the 34 (!) songs on American Heartbreak are just that good. How do you pick just one of those for this list? I don't know, but to quote Whiskey Riff, country music needs more sad songs about cars, and that's what "'68 Fastback" — which is really a metaphorical song about heartbreak — is.

Listen or subscribe to a playlist of all 26 songs…