Songs about small towns run rampant in country music.
Some of the genre's biggest stars — Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Justin Moore and more — have roots that run deep in the heart of small towns. Sure, their faces may be plastered on the covers of magazines, and their names may be at the top of the charts, but back home, they're remembered for who they were growing up -- back before red-carpet events were a regular part of their lives.
Below are The Boot's picks for the 10 best country songs about small towns. They range from nostalgic to utterly honest, showing listeners the pride that comes from growing up in a small town — and also pointing out the less-than-perfect parts of the experience.
The Eli Young Band proclaim "I'm not afraid to admit, I'm that small-town kid" in their track "Small Town Kid," and the fact that this song is autobiographical makes it even more touching. All a small-town kid needs is a couple good drinks, a lady who can drive his truck and some rock and honky-tonk music. The country band doesn't ask for much, and thousands of miles won't change them -- because they're small-town kids at heart.
Steel guitar and fiddle drive this song, but the lyrics give it the extra oomph needed to lure fans. "Small Town Southern Man" tells the story of, well, a small-town Southern man who fell in love with a small-town woman, had five children, lived in a house he built with his own hands and, quite simply, lived the quintessential life of a small-town guy. From the man's birth to his death, the song strikes a chord with lyrics like, "And he bowed his head to Jesus / And he stood for Uncle Sam / And he only loved one woman / Was proud of what he had."
Parton's life story is a real-life rags-to-riches tale, but she's more than proud of her upbringing in the Smokey Mountains, where she and her family lived in a one-bedroom cabin. She's paid tribute to her growing-up years in numerous songs, including "My Tennessee Mountain Home," the title track to her 1973 concept album. The song describes the town's life as "peaceful as a baby's sigh," with honeysuckle, eagles and crickets making up the backdrop of a downright sweet-sounding home.
Now that Lambert is one of the most prominent faces in country today, she's famous in big cities and small towns alike. But her song "Famous in a Small Town" is a perfect tribute to small-town folks and the impact they have in their own communities. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award, for Best Female Vocal Country Performance, and it's not hard to see why: According to the song -- and reality -- "everybody dies famous in a small town," everyone knows everyone else's business (for better or for worse) and no one needs their face on a magazine cover because they're already known.
Small-town songs agree with Moore: He nabbed his second Top 10 hit with "Boondocks," his third career single. The 2009 hit wasn't inspired by Moore's own hometown of Poyen, Ark. (population: 293) like you might think; rather it came about after a trip to his guitarist's hometown of Greasy Creek, Ky.
"Probably my favorite thing about [the music video] is my guitar. They made me a camouflage guitar for the video," Moore says, belying his own small-town roots. "It’s the simple things in life that make me happy!
Rascal Flatts reached No. 1 with "Mayberry," the fourth and final single from their Melt record. The song is poignant in its desire to slow down and go back to Mayberry, N.C., where worries can disappear. Its lyrics look back on life in a time that was slower paced and simpler: "Sunday was a day of rest / Now, it’s one more day for progress / And we can’t slow down ‘cause more is best," the trio sings, and the description of drinking cherry Coke on a porch swing is a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of busy city life today.
"Boondocks" became LBT's first-ever Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It's full of pride, and right from the get-go, the group proclaims, "I feel no shame / I'm proud of where I came from / I was born and raised in the boondocks." The song has a gritty feel -- an interesting contrast to the rather tender lyrics, which describe the group's small-town roots and admit that a tin roof, gravel road and front porch feel like home, every time.
"Back Where I Come From" was originally written and recorded by Mac McAnally, and then recorded by Linda Davis. But Chesney loved it so much that he included it on his 1996 record Me and You, and on his 2000 Greatest Hits album. The lyrics are hard hitting and honest: Even though small towns may have their faults, Chesney sings about the pride he has for his roots. "Some say it's a backward place / Narrow minds on the narrow way / But I make it a point to say / That's where I come from," he boasts in the chorus.
In this song, Musgraves offers a sly yet deeply insightful look at all that life in a small town brings -- including a stagnancy that's hard to fight. She points out that so many residents in small towns don't have what they want, but it's what they know -- so they'll settle for that, cashing checks for a little distraction. And anyone who's from a smaller town knows the ridiculous-yet-believable truth behind Musgraves' lyrics, "If you ain't got two kids by 21 / You're probably gonna die alone." "Merry Go 'Round" won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song and made it into the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. It doesn't sugarcoat or beat around the bush -- and that's why it's one of this list's top songs.
In 2002, Montgomery Gentry released the title track of their third record, and it peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of their most successful crossover songs. "My Town" paints a picture of familiar landmarks any small-town person can relate to: the "I love Jenny" message painted on the water tower, a full church every Sunday and more. The duo cleverly wraps up the song in heartwarming way, giving listeners a very happy ending at the end of a sentimental song.