Patriotic Country Songs: 10 Prime Hits Staff Choose 10 Favorites From the Past 10 Years

Country music has established its own national anthem with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” However, the last decade has inspired numerous country stars to salute our country in their own way, from Alan Jackson’s somber reflections after 9/11 to the Zac Brown Band’s hearty endorsement of fried chicken, family and our armed forces. Here are 10 of our favorite country songs from the last 10 years, chosen by the staff.

“All-American Girl,” Carrie Underwood
Being an all-American girl can mean different things to different people, but they all have one thing in common. Whether she’s a girlfriend or a daughter, there is something about her that a guy cannot resist, and they will do anything for her. In the music video, Underwood represents a variety of all-American girls, from a firefighter to a nurse to a painter. To me, that is what being an American is all about — representing all different types of people and having the opportunity to be who and what you want to be. — Michelle Ferullo

“American Honey,” Lady Antebellum
“She grew up good/She grew up slow/Like American honey.” Every time I hear this song, I think about hearing the lyrics coming out of my 5-year-old cousin’s little mouth, so sweet and innocent. I think in that moment, she was the perfect representation of “American Honey.” One thing I remember well about my own childhood is running around barefoot in the yard chasing lightning bugs at dusk on summer days — when the air was still warm, but the grass was cool under my feet and I didn’t have a care in the world. At some point, you’re forced to grow up and lose that, but this song takes you back there. — Lacey Spears

“American Saturday Night,” Brad Paisley
One thing that rarely comes up in songs dedicated to the good ol’ U.S.A. is the idea that many things that make us uniquely American actually came from somewhere else. That’s what I like about Brad Paisley’s “American Saturday Night.” Brazilian boots and a German car may not be part of the average American’s everyday experience, but how about French kisses and pizza pies? Even horses, cattle, beer and country music itself owe their existence here to other parts of the world. My favorite line in the bouncy tune is a reminder that no matter where an idea started, Americans take pride in making it our own. “When my great, great, great granddaddy stepped off of that ship/I bet he never ever dreamed we’d have all this.” — Chris Parton

“Arlington,” Trace Adkins
Like many mothers, I’ve helped my kids research Arlington National Cemetery for curriculum fairs, reports and field trips. I became very well-versed in 21-gun salutes, the wreath laying and the intricate choreography of sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns. But until Trace Adkins released a song about Arlington and made a video showing him paying his respects around the cemetery, I’d never been so moved by the history of that peaceful property. Hearing this song makes me agree with Adkins: “And every time I hear 21 guns, I know they brought another hero home to us.” God bless those heroes, all 300,000 of them, this Independence Day. — Alison Bonaguro

“Chicken Fried,” Zac Brown Band
Good eats, first-rate friends, a cranked-up radio and a salute to our soldiers? Sounds like a recipe for country music success. The Zac Brown Band cooked up that winning combination with their chart-topping debut single, “Chicken Fried.” Their signature dish also calls for one part beer, mixed with Friday nights, Mama’s love and just-right-fittin’ jeans. Add a heaping helping of patriotic pride for the stars and stripes, God and our American troops. Lastly, drop a dollop of buoyant beats and a spoonful of roll-off-the-tongue rhymes — and voila! What country fan doesn’t enjoy this deep-fried favorite? — Whitney Self

“Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” Toby Keith
Toby Keith’s no-holds-barred tune, released following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was labeled by the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines as “ignorant” and a feud between the two ensued. Well, if loving this song makes me ignorant, then that’s quite all right with me. No matter if it ruffled a few feathers, there’s no denying Keith’s patriotism when the video features footage from his USO tours. Personally, I get chills every time I see the soldiers cheering so enthusiastically for him and the song’s message. It’s a powerful reminder of the troops’ constant sacrifices and ultimate goal, along with the mindset of many Americans following that tragic day. — Stephanie Pendergrass

“Everyday America,” Sugarland
I like to think Jennifer Nettles is telling her own story, and the story of millions of others, in this catchy (and candid) song about big dreams, small towns, disappointing relationships and family pride. Even though many of us are still “just getting by,” as the song indicates, I feel like optimism remains one of our country’s most persistent traits. — Craig Shelburne

“If You’re Reading This,” Tim McGraw
“Looks like I only got a one-way ticket over here.” That’s all Tim McGraw has to sing to tell you exactly what this song is about: a soldier laying down his gun, hanging up his boots and saying goodbye to his family in a letter he wrote before he died. It makes me sad to my very core, and at the same time, so overjoyed to be an American. That was especially true when he debuted the song on the ACM Awards in 2007 with families of fallen soldiers onstage with him. I cried. The families cried. I think McGraw even cried. It was a memorable five minutes for America and country music. — Alison Bonaguro

“Only in America,” Brooks & Dunn
“Only in America” was released a few months prior to 9/11 and became an anthem that highlighted Brooks & Dunn’s concerts following the attack on the World Trade Center. Musical hooks abound as the lyrics provide a snapshot of people living their daily lives. Although the song celebrates the “promise of the promised land,” it’s not about waving flags. With lines about one kid potentially ending up in prison while another becomes president, the message subtly suggests that a person’s ability to fulfill the American dream generally comes down to personal choices and attitudes. That alone is something worth celebrating. — Calvin Gilbert

“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” Alan Jackson
It is impossible to this day to overestimate the emotional impact that this song had and continues to have on the American psyche. In the wake of the devastation of 9/11, there remained a general hole in the center of many people’s hearts. Alan Jackson filled that vacuum with this simple, yet eloquent song. Like many people in Nashville and across the country, I first heard “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” when he performed it live at the CMA Awards on Nov. 7, 2001. I was at the Grand Ole Opry House that night and still recall the enormous emotional upswelling in the house. I was on my feet and crying, and so was everyone around me in the house. I cannot recall a single instance of a song having the instant healing effect that “Where Were You” had. And continues to have. — Chet Flippo