Christianity is Making a Comeback on Country Music Charts

Blake Shelton performs “God’s Country” at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.
(Photo: Larry McCormack / Tennessean.com)

Country music stars are putting their faith in new songs that focus more on the church pew than the bar stool.

While religion has always been deeply entrenched in the genre, a slate of Christianity-infused tracks are receiving radio play this year, and they’re being belted from award show stages.

At least seven high-profile songs reference God or His Son or wade into the spirit of Christianity.

“It is noteworthy,” country music historian Robert K. Oermann said. “It is not common that there’d be this many at the same time.”

Blake Shelton

“GOD’S COUNTRY”

In April, Blake Shelton performed his foot-stomping anthem “God’s Country” at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas as the new single was shooting up the country airplay chart. The song was one of four sang from the award show stage that leaned into country music’s fondness for Sunday mornings.

“God’s Country,” written by Jordan Schmidt, Michael Hardy and Devin Dawson, weaves together holy imagery with a rural pride and appreciation for the dirt beneath a farmer’s feet.

Shelton drives home those ideas as he circles through a chorus that nods to songs that famously paired country and Christianity well before he became a star:

“I saw the light in the sunrise/ Sittin’ back in the 40 on the muddy riverside/ Gettin’ baptized in holy water and shine/ With the dogs runnin’/ Saved by the sound of the been found/ Dixie whistled in the wind, that’ll get you heaven bound/ The devil went down to Georgia but he didn’t stick around/ This is God’s country.” 

Little Big Town

“THE DAUGHTERS”

From the same stage, Little Big Town debuted its haunting single “The Daughters,” which rolls through the unfair expectations society puts on women and girls. It’s the last lines of the chorus that sound most like a prayer.

“And pose like a trophy on a shelf/ Dream for everyone, but not yourself/ I’ve heard of God the son and God the father/ I’m still looking for a God for the daughters.”

Group member Karen Fairchild, who co-wrote “The Daughters” with Sean McConnell and Ashley Ray, said the song is not questioning God, but pushing listeners to think.

“I believe that God’s love is for everyone, and I don’t think he has an equality problem,” Fairchild said. “So much of our lives are still framed in a masculine way for men, and this was just saying where’s the God for the daughters and why are we still fighting these battles.”

But it’s not just this decade’s consistent chart toppers carrying these tunes; newcomers and country legends are, too.

Matt Stell

“PRAYED FOR YOU”

The largely unknown Matt Stell stormed onto the radio chart this year with his runaway hit “Prayed for You.”

Stell, who passed on Harvard University’s pre-med program to take a music publishing deal in Nashville, wrote the confessional single with Ash Bowers and Allison Veltz. The song is a meditation on praying for a future spouse.

” ‘Cause every single day, before I knew your name/ I couldn’t see your face, but I prayed for you/ Every heartbreak trail when all hope fell/ On the highway to hell, I prayed for you/ I kept my faith like that old King James/ Said I’m supposed to/ It’s hard to imagine, bigger than I could fathom/ I didn’t know you from Adam but I prayed for you.”

George Strait

“GOD AND COUNTRY MUSIC”

Of the songs fueling this revival, it’s “God and Country Music,” a track on George Strait’s new album, that illustrates country and religion’s longstanding relationship best. The industry veteran performed the ode to two staples of pastoral American living at the April 7 award show.

“God and country music are like whiskey and a prayer/ Like Johnny Cash’s arm around Billy Graham … It’s a dance between the sin and the salvation/ Come hell or high water/ There’s two things still worth saving/ God and country music.” 

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SOURCE: The Tennessean, Holly Meyer