Continuing our exploration of country music for babies, our initial recommended calming-type playlist, in no particular order, is below. Normally I’d put my caveats, disclaimers and explanations here but Z is strapped to my chest and I want to make sure we hit at least the list before she wakes up. See bottom of the post for those disclosure notes.
- Love Without End, Amen – George Strait
- Even If It Breaks Your Heart – Eli Young Band
- Livin’ On Love – Alan Jackson
- I’d Love To Lay You Down – Conway Twitty
- Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good – Don Williams
- Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
- Good Stuff – Kenny Chesney
- Humble and Kind – Tim McGraw
- Forever and Ever, Amen – Randy Travis
- Colder Weather – Zac Brown Band
- Follow Me – Uncle Kracker
- Springsteen – Eric Church
- Down the Road – Mac McAnally
- Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes – George Jones
- If I Needed You – Emmylou Harris or TVZ, both wonderful
- Angels Among Us – Alabama
- What Cowboys Do – Casey Donahew Band
- Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes – Jimmy Buffett
- I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
- My Church – Maren Morris
- God Bless the USA – Lee Greenwood
- I Wish Grandpas Never Died – Riley Green
- I’m Coming’ Home – Robert Earl Keen
Color on the list. First, no artist appears more than once. We could create a fine playlist with a much smaller handful of artists, but that wouldn’t be as fun for me and wouldn’t capture enough range for baby’s country music learning and enjoyment. Second, as I’ve done with other playlists, the number of tracks here roughly corresponds to how many tracks you’d be able to get onto a burnt CD of my childhood. Third, I’ve focused here primarily, though not exclusively, on calming potential. There’s a great playlist to be made for when you want to purely rock out with baby during awake time, but it’s not this one. Of course it’s not purely about calming – there is consideration given to quality of lyrics and themes and a number of other variables that I’ll unpack in a later post. And so, fourth, this isn’t even the top songs that I find most calming for either me or the baby or solely my favorite group of calming-type songs primarily because, as I’m learning in many other respects too, this playlist is not just about me and I want to try to capture some of those other variables. And as always apologies to the unlisted songwriters who I don’t think ever get enough credit.
If readers have any recommendations that I can add to Z’s playlist, please let me know!
Once I knew we were going to have a baby, I knew the first place we’d start would be Heartbeat Love Songs. For reasons previously discussed, but quite literally applied to this situation, replicating the heartbeat of the womb environment just seemed like a no brainer.
I should probably have consulted my original post for music ideas, but even without doing so my mind went first to Alabama and George Strait. I thought maybe in the future we’d branch out with “radio” but in the first instance we went with pre-created playlists on Spotify so we’d just get the one specific artist. My initial use case was calming (more on that in a later post) and songs by those artists have been pretty successful in that regard. Just to mention a few examples:
Strait: Carrying Your Love With Me; Give It Away; Love Without End, Amen; Ocean Front Property; All My Ex’s Live In Texas; I Got A Car; Fool Hearted Memory; Amarillo By Morning; The Seashores of Old Mexico; She Let Herself Go
Alabama: Angels Among Us; Down Home; Take Me Down; High Cotton; Born Country; Hometown Honeymoon; Love In The First Degree; Close Enough To Perfect; God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You; My Home’s In Alabama
Probably not all of those fall into the strict realm of Heartbeat Love Songs – some are really Heartbeat Love Song-adjacent, but that’s close enough to perfect for these purposes.
Two other artists to mention here. The first is Randy Travis – a tremendous amount of Heartbeat Love Song gold in his catalog. The other, sort of as a segue to a future post on use cases, is Jimmy Buffett. We discovered Jimmy after a couple difficult bath experiences. I’m not for sure if this is what generated the idea, but in retrospect JB seems like perfect baby music, almost like a hybrid of Alabama and Raffi. Maybe this is a subset of the calming function or maybe it’s a separate category all together – I haven’t quite made up my mind – but the use case here was really calming by way of distraction. For this purpose, the fun instruments in Jimmy Buffett songs, irreverent lyrics, sing/humability and island and/or children’s vibe make a lot of Jimmy songs a good fit for the distraction category.
It occurred to me the other day listening to Alabama’s Mountain Music that there aren’t a whole lot of country songs about baseball. There are a bunch of reasons why football might have the edge, particularly wrt high school football, but still once I got to thinking about it I was surprised by how few country baseball songs I could come up with.
Cheap Seats (recorded) by Alabama is one of the two songs closest to the mark I can think of. This song paints a great picture of baseball. It hits the bases of hot dogs, flat beer, jawing at the umpire and of course cheap seats, but also nicely straddles the line between loving the game and just going because it’s something to do and something to watch. I love the lines “we got a great pitcher what’s his name” and “the game was close, we’ll call it a win” and then the reference to the dive bar band’s “kinda minor league sound”. For me the song captures both true love of baseball and simple enjoyment of the game as a means of having a couple of beers with friends. The other song is The Greatest by the great Don Schultz and of course with Kenny Rogers singing it. It hits baseball from the kids angle that I would have expected to be more widespread. To make an incredibly sweet song short, the little kid throwing up pitches to himself in ballfield and swinging and missing repeatedly comes to the realization at the end of the song that he’s the greatest pitcher in the world. It’s the American pastime as a vehicle for youthful optimism.
Even though it’s not strictly country, I’d be sad not to mention John Fogerty’s Centerfield which is at least on par with Cheap Seats and The Greatest. From the references to Casey at the Bat and a bunch of baseball greats to the great line “put me in coach, I’m ready to play” – I like everything about this song.
Trace Adkins’ Swing isn’t a good song, but worth mentioning because it at least has an obvious baseball setting and more interestingly was co-written by a young Chris Stapleton. Other songs weave baseball more softly into an Americana background. I like Aaron Watson’s nostalgic love song line about leaving town to play college baseball but losing out “cause you know the big leagues never called/and you went and fell in love with him”. And I also like Kip Moore’s “I didn’t have the grades but I had myself a major league fastball/got a call from the minor leagues in Wichita/ blew out my arm the first year”. The latter in Reckless, not to be confused with Watson’s Reckless, and on Moore’s Up All Night which is a very good, and his best, album.
Like in Mountain Music, there are probably a whole lot more songs like this, not explicitly about baseball but weaving in the pastime in hitting themes like nostalgia, opportunity and optimism and painting the wonderful American landscape.