10 Prime Hits: Fourth of July

Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band Sing CMT.com Staff Favorites

Country stars have long saluted 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. America, here are 10 country songs inspired by you.

Jason Aldean, “Fly Over States”
When I was a teenager, I thought it would be incredibly exciting to move to New York City or Los Angeles. Coming from Alabama, those two cities seemed like another world to me. I never ventured very far from home though — and thankfully so. The older I get, the more appreciative I become about where I’m from. Aldean’s “Fly Over States” hits home for me because he sings of his appreciation for the people and the land between the coasts. During my youth, I took the scenery, residents and overall experience of growing up outside of a huge city for granted. I realize now how fortunate I was to be raised in a close-knit community surrounded by hardworking people who truly want the best for each other. — Stephanie Pendergrass

Dierks Bentley, “Home”
Dierks Bentley doesn’t make a lot of noise and is very understated. Still, his career shows a growing body of songs with an evolving maturity. Written by Bentley, Brett Beavers and Dan Wilson, “Home” is a tasteful, soft-spoken yet proud song of patriotism. He sings: “West, on a plane bound west/I see her stretching out below/Land, blessed motherland/The place where I was born.” A No. 1 hit earlier this year, “Home” strikes me as a full-bore Bentley sentiment and very emblematic of his view of his life and his work. — Chet Flippo

Brooks & Dunn, “Only in America”
Released a few months prior to 9/11, “Only in America” became an anthem at 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

Alan Jackson, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
It is impossible to overestimate the emotional impact of this song 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 most listeners 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. 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

Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)”
Toby Keith’s no-holds-barred tune, released following the attacks of 9/11, 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, 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

Lady Antebellum, “American Honey”
“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

Tim McGraw, “If You’re Reading This”
“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

Brad Paisley, “American Saturday Night”
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

Carrie Underwood, “All-American Girl”
Only in America, right? That’s what I think whenever I hear Carrie Underwood’s 2007 hit song, “All-American Girl.” When I hear her singing about the men she has wrapped around her finger (first her dad, then her high school boyfriend), my mind goes to the video. The one where Underwood is a painter, a firefighter, an OB/GYN, a chef, a swimmer, a beauty queen, a nurse, a cowgirl, a waitress, a cop, a photographer, a flight attendant and more. I always loved that video because it shows in a very literal way all the things a beautiful, wonderful, perfect girl can be. It had kind of a “we-run-the-world” message before Beyoncé started singing hers. And it also gives “America the Beautiful” a whole new meaning. — Alison Bonaguro

Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
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

Check out a video playlist of patriotic songs.