Summer is officially here. What does that mean? Barbecues, pool parties, long days, warm nights and lots of sun. Okay, well maybe not if you live in fog-kissed San Francisco, but for most parts of the country this is the time of year to break out the sunscreen, pack up the car and head to the beach or the lake or just about anywhere with water.
It’s also the best time for country music. I am going to see one of my favorites Kenny Chesney on July 25. And I’ll be proudly wearing my country boots. He’s coming into town as part of the Country Megaticket tour at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Basically eight major stars will bring their twang to the Bay Area throughout the summer including Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Jason Aldean.
I grew up in San Jose, far from a country lifestyle, but I fell in love with country music’s simplicity and realized I could relate to it even if I’m not from Nashville. Whether in traditional folk, bluegrass, Celtic, hillbilly or modern country, the stories can be as touching as the most beautiful poem. Or they can just be fun and not taken too seriously.
Modern country covers all the best summer-related topics: white tank tops, sweet tea, ice-cold beer, trucks and fishing. This summer forget Call Me, Maybe and give county music a chance to be your soundtrack. Crack open a beer and let the good times roll. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of country songs that capture the essence of the good ole’ summer time.
1. Kenny Chesney: “Summertime”
“Perfect song on the radio
Sing along ’cause it’s one we know
It’s a smile, it’s a kiss
It’s a sip of wine, it’s summertime
There are so many good Kenny Chesney tunes, picking one or even two, is never easy. If seasons could have a mascot, it would be him. He’s a self-described sun worshipper, spending his off time in the Caribbean. His concerts are epic tributes to sun, fun and the islands. This song just says it all. It’s summertime. Have fun. Don’t think too much.
2. Kenny Chesney: “Beer in Mexico”
“So I’ll just sit right here and have another beer in Mexico
Do my best to waste another day
Sit right here and have another beer in Mexico
Let the warm air melt these blues away.”
Even if you’ve never been down south of the border, Kenny makes you feel like you have with this song. He says he wrote it while hanging out in Cabo for Sammy Hagar’s birthday. Sure, it might be a tribute to men going through a midlife crisis, but really it’s a universal message that everyone from the housewife to the tech worker can understand. Realizing that in the moment, you don’t have to make up your mind. You just need to take a deep breath and open another beer. The answer will come if you let it.
3. Tim McGraw: “Something Like That”
“I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt
She was killing me in that miniskirt
Skippin’ rocks on the river by the railroad tracks
She had a suntan line and red lipstick
I worked so hard for that first kiss
And a heart don’t forget something like that…”
Tim McGraw, you are one of my favorites. This chart-topper from 1999 still holds up today. The song recounts the narrator’s youthful experience of falling in love for the very first time at age 17. Whenever I hear this it, I just want to fall in love on a Ferris wheel, sharing sticky cotton candy on Labor Day weekend. How could anyone resist this handsome cowboy in the black hat?
4. Little Big Town: “Pontoon”
“On the pontoon
Makin’ waves and catchin’ rays up on the roof
Jumpin’ off the back, don’t act like you don’t want to
Party in slow motion
I’m out here in the open
It’s a classic country anthem that will live on for summers to come. It’s reminiscent of a lazy lake day, but is also quite innovative in it’s sound. Listen closely and you will hear an organ, a bass and yes, even a sitar! The quartet has five albums, a Grammy and “Pontoon” is a platinum-selling song. Enough said.
5. Zac Brown Band: “Toes”
“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today”
Whether you want to call them bluegrass, southern country or a jam group, The Zac Brown Band is all about feel-good music. This song says that no matter where you are–a city, tropical island or at home you really can’t complain as long as you do what you love, life is good today.
6. Brad Paisley: “Beat this Summer”
“As long I live, whatever I do,
As great as it is, you know what’s a bummer
I ain’t ever gonna beat this summer with you”
Another song taking us back to our first love and yes, there’s a Ferris wheel. The music video is adorable. Two little kids, playing skeeball, running through the sand and experiencing life untainted. They even share champagne glasses of milk. This is country music. This is summer.
7. Jake Owen: “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”
“Yeah, caught up in a Southern summer,
a barefoot, blue jean night”
If one had enough time and money it would be possible to follow the summer around the world, making it endless. This song makes you want to give it all up, quit your day (or night) job, and just chase the rays all around the globe. As the song says, never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down.
8. Florida Georgia Line: “Cruise”
“She was sippin’ on Southern and singin’ Marshall Tucker
We were falling in love in the sweet heart of summer
She hopped right up into the cab of my truck and said,
“Fire it up, let’s go get this thing stuck.”
Roll down your windows and cruise. Florida Georgia Line recently released a remixed version with none other than Nelly, but I like the original. It’s infectious. Country soul meets rock n’ roll.
9. Blackjack Billy: “Booze Cruise”
“On the booze cruise
What kind of liquor makes your tushy move
Y’all let me mix you up a Redneck Margarita
You know the one just straight tequila
Good Lord all aboard
Come on jump on”
Redneck margaritas (you know, straight tequila). This song is a little bit like watching train wreck. It’s campy, silly and seems to be making fun of itself. It’s not sweet love at the summer fair. It’s about drinkin’ and drinkin’ and more drinkin’. Yes, the pontoon is mentioned in this one, too. Maybe they should meet up with Little Big Town on the lake and have good ole’ fashioned hoedown.
10. Rascal Flatts: “Summer Nights”
Everybody, are you with me?
Let that igloo cooler mark your piece of paradise
Everybody’s feeling sexy
Holler if you’re ready for some summer nights
It’s summertime, baby! This one’s about bikini tops, soft sand and everyone joining the party.
So go find some sun or put on your headphones and pretend you’re in the sun, get yourself a cold beer and enjoy the summer, country-style.