The thing about country (even alt-country) love songs is that they are almost always a little bit sad. Someone dies or leaves or loses their job, and loving is JUST SO FREAKING HARD. So forgive me if some of these love songs veer in that direction. Also, there are a few tracks here that have at least one foot in folk music, but that’s okay because alt-country isn’t very clearly defined. Even NO DEPRESSION — the former magazine dedicated to the genre — said it covered “alternative-country music (whatever that is)”. Well, whatever it is, it makes us swoon.
Lay and Love | Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
I wholly and completely love this song. It’s like Will Oldham wrote down my exact feelings for my significant other… years before I even met him! This guy’s a genius! Check out these lyrics:
From what I’ve seen, you’re magnificent
You fight evil with all you do
Your every act is spectacular
It makes me lay here and love you
This song is gorgeous and it makes me cry. In a good way. Also, I just listened to it eight times in a row. Love.
Hem is a little difficult to categorize, but alt-country is close enough! (Although it is a little hard for me to accept that a band from Brooklyn could *really* be country.) This song is perhaps a bit more about longing for love and attention than it is about love triumphant, but it still has a sweetness to it. Or maybe that’s just Sally Ellyson’s voice?
Love and Some Verses | Iron and Wine
I love Samuel Beam’s lyrics, voice, guitar playing and beard. His songs tend to be rather folky ballads, but this one has some nice twang. Makes me want to grab a margarita and head to the porch to put my feet up.
Sweet Loving Man | Jolie Holland
This song’s a good example of a sad love song:
Sweet loving man you got something to prove
That’s alright darling my money’s on you
You gotta figure it out, let me know when you do
That dark horse you’re riding has gotta carry me too
She loves and believes in him, clearly, but it seems the man’s got some demons. But, actually, don’t we all? And aren’t we all looking for someone who will hold our hand during rough times?
Bedroom Eyes | Laura Veirs (no link available)
Been gone so long baby I wrote you this love song
My heart the engineer now she’s running strong
Taking me back to your bedroom eyes
This song sounds so sweet that it makes me wonder if bedroom eyes has a meaning I’m not familiar with. I’m pretty sure it’s a seductive/suggestive glance, but nothing else in this song suggests a tumble between the sheets. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Babe, You Turn Me On | Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Where Laura Veirs is perplexing, Nick Cave is anything but. Any song of his that mentions love is about (a) sex or (b) how love is a trap. Since we here at Bridebird believe in love in all its forms, we’re not afraid to post a song about (a). And he even mentions panties!
Nobody ‘Cept You | 16 Horsepower
I fell in love with 16 Horsepower after listening to one song. That was sixteen years ago (and I’m not even old! I swear!), and I still haven’t found another musician that has David Eugene Edwards’ particular blend of talent, raw intensity and weirdness. This song is a Bob Dylan cover — but like they always do with covers, they made it their own. Powerful. Beautiful. And it rocks.
I Want You | Tom Waits
There is something to be said for simplicity. This song is about as simple as they come, but it directly says everything with just a few words. I want you.
Far, Far Away | Wilco
My boyfriend and I live 1,282 miles apart. This song doesn’t fully convey how hard that can be, but it does express the simple longing I often feel. Not to mention the sense of peace that I have in spite of that difficulty. Kudos, Wilco. Kudos.
Avenues | Whiskeytown
Even if you’re not a big Whiskeytown fan, you can’t argue with Ryan Adam’s song-writing ability:
All the sweethearts of the world are out littering the bars
And I am still avenues from any place you are
You know avenues run one way
The streets they run the same
It’s going to take a lot of shit for me to stay away
I love how there is both sadness (at separation) and determination (to be together) here. So combine this, “Far, Far Away” and “Lay and Love,” and you’ve pretty much got how I feel about my guy.
Everybody Needs Love | Drive-By Truckers
It’s unlikely you’ll often hear me singing the praises of Drive-By Truckers, but this song has such a clear, strong, universal message that it is impossible to exclude it from this list. Everybody needs love, love, love!
You Belong To My Heart | Old 97’s
Well this is something. Nothing sad here — not even the music! This is quite a happy song, so it’s a perfect one to end this list on a positive note. You might even want to get your dance shoes ready for this one!
This is by no means an exhaustive playlist of alt-country love songs, so feel free to suggest additions in the comments below.
Anna says: Here at Bridebird, music is crucial to our very essence. What I would obsess over at my wedding? The playlist. (Seriously; a likeminded friend just assembled 8 hours of music to play at his recent wedding, with different playlists at the ready in case people were bored, or sleepy, or pumped drunk.) In that spirit, we are thrilled to offer weekly playlists, inspired by a particular theme or feeling or pop cultural moment, that you can purchase over at Amazon, through our affiliate links, we hope. Our only request? To please purchase the music legally; stealing, just like a crappy DJ, is poor form. And we know, we know; we left something out/included a dumb song/generally have strange musical taste. Tell us all about it in the comments!