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Journal / Music

Old School Playlist (Part 2)

The Bobby hotel takes its Music City roots seriously, making it easy to listen to up-and-coming musicians [ML1] and hear the beat of the city. If you are visiting for the first time, you might want to get some perspective and how and why Nashville got its reputation. Instead of forcing you to download forever, here are 14 more essential songs to get you started. Add these your playlist to cover Nashville from the 1980s to the present. (Click here for Part 1.)

To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, Willie Nelson.
Of course, now Nelson is known as Texas’s finest. But before he went to the Lone Star State, he lived in Nashville. Much of his later musical acclaim as a pioneer in Outlaw Country came as a reaction to the more conservative environments he experienced while living in Music City. While in town you can eat at two different restaurants named to honor the singer: Redheaded Stranger and Shotgun Willie’s BBQ.

Fancy, Reba.
You know you’re big deal when you don’t even need to use a last name anymore. Reba McEntire charted her own course when she took creative control of her music after her second album release. Her cover of Bobbie Gentry’s Fancy was a crossover hit for her, rooted in the storytelling of country music, with the production values of pop music. You can visit a wax replica of her at Madame Tussauds in Opry Mills.

Home, Joe Diffie.
His debut release was the first of a career of chart-topping songs for Diffie. While he was sometimes underappreciated as a solo artist, he wrote songs for himself, Marty Stuart, Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Jones and others. His novelty songs, including Pickup Man and Third Rock from the Sun, showed off his sense of humor.

She’s in Love with the Boy, Trisha Yearwood.
The lead single on Yearwood’s debut album of the same name, this song was the start of the singer’s career which skyrocketed thanks to her storytelling chops. Yearwood also writes cookbooks, hosts TV shows and sometimes shows up on stage with her husband superstar Garth Brooks. He’s opening a bar on Broadway in 2024, so it’s possible she may be there from time to time.

She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind, Brooks and Dunn.
Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn were each solo artists until a music industry exec paired them up. The duo has had 19 songs in the top 10. This one typifies mid-1990s country sound and harkens back to earlier honkytonk music roots. Today Brooks is an owner in Arrington Vineyards, which you can visit south of Nashville.

Not Ready to Make Nice, The Chicks.
In 2003 The Chicks (then called the Dixie Chicks) were shunned by the country-music radio after criticizing President Bush and the invasion of Iraq. The backlash led to this song becoming an anthem for speaking truth to power. The Chicks received death threats and suffered financial implications. In 2006 they released this response, a song that became their biggest hit and won three GRAMMYS.

Love Interruption, Jack White.
While he is known locally for bringing attention to non-country music-makers in Nashville with his Third Man Records label, Jack White is also an artist in his own right. This song, on debut solo album, is a fusion of Americana and blues. Visit Third Man Records’ shop for all things relating to White and the musicians he supports.

Blank Space, Taylor Swift.
As any Swiftie will tell you, Taylor changed country music. Or, actually, music in general. At her core, she is a songwriter out of the tradition of Nashville. This song, from an album that crossed her over from country music to popstar, has a strong narrative story arc like all good country songs do and helped launch her megastar status.

Something in the Water, Carrie Underwood.
An emotional song about baptism, this tune, co-written by Underwood, features some lyrics from the gospel classic Amazing Grace. Underwood won her seventh GRAMMY for her performance of this song, which critics felt showed off her vocal range.

Merry Go ‘Round, Kacey Musgraves.
Musgraves brought glam back to country music in a way that was more hipster than traditional female country artist, with more primary colors and liberal leanings than you might expect.

Turtles All the Way Down, Sturgill Simpson.
Crowds love Simpson because he is the opposite of bro-country, because he skips award shows, because he doesn’t seem to care about being on country radio. His guitar playing skills and his songwriting prowess are demonstrated in this song, which shows off his range as a musician.

Cumberland River, Old Crow Medicine Show.
The Americana sweethearts like to sing about the places they live and travel. Every concert includes meaningful connections to the places they play. This song is often played as a nod to the waterway that runs through Nashville and a reminder of the 2010 flood that transformed the city.

Life is Confusing, Langhorne Slim.
An East Nashville resident, Langhorne tells from-the-heart stories in his songs, which are strongly rooted in Americana’s narrative storyteller history. The lyric “Life is confusing, and people are insane” is one of his most well-known, appearing on t-shirts and shouted at concerts.