Perfect 10

by

April 29, 2009

tenAs April is one of the odd months that has five Wednesdays, I thought I'd take a break from Country Quizzin' for this week and try out a new discussion-thing.

Given the current mainstream climate, it's been a while since I've felt able to heap unfettered praise on a piece of country music here, and that frankly bums me out a bit. So in the spirit of un-bumming, I'm going to share ten country songs from the 70's on that I find absolutely flawless – my “Perfect 10″ – and I invite you to do the same. It's a simple enough concept – you could just think of it as Recommend a Track times 10 plus a punny name.

Still, I suspect the outcome could be really interesting if everybody puts in the effort to pick ten songs that they consider the absolute cream of the crop. We're talking all-time best material here, whatever “all-time” happens to mean to you. You don't have to rank them, and they don't have to be your definitive top ten; I sure wouldn't be able to produce that list without a lot more thought. They just have to be up there – the kind of songs that you love fully and deeply, that still engage and surprise you after countless listens.

Most of the ten I've picked below are pretty well-known. Feel free to go as popular or as obscure as you like – great music is great music!

In chronological order:

Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”

I've never heard anything else like this. Even if you ignore the compelling Southern Gothic mystery the song serves up in just over four minutes, there's so much magic in the writing itself. The intense attention to detail doesn't just paint a vivid picture; it serves an actual literary kind of purpose, illustrating the insensitivity of the narrator's family. I miss songs with subtexts.

Loretta Lynn, “Fist City”

“Fist City” is in the inner circle of big Loretta hits, but it usually has its spotlight stolen by more topically revolutionary numbers like “Don't Come Home A Drinkin'” or “The Pill.” But no longer! This saucy prelude to a catfight could be her most tightly-written anthem ever, with a killer hook and excellent one-liners all around. “The man I love, when he picks up trash, he puts it in a garbage can. And that's what you look like to me.” Damn!

John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Call it musical comfort food. Denver's stuff was never good for extremists: the hardcore folkies found it too simplistic and starry-eyed to be intellectually palatable, while the hardcore country fans found it too poppy to have any hillbilly integrity. If you ask me, those arguments were more about context than substance. This single seamlessly blends its folk, pop and country sensibilities, and Denver's soaring voice can sell this kind of romanticized lyric all day.

Jerry Jeff Walker, “Gettin' By”

Another helping of comfort food. This here's a take-it-easy anthem with a similar vibe to “Don't Worry, Be Happy,” but with less potential to annoy you.

Merle Haggard, “If We Make It Through December”

The kind of understated song that speaks for itself and doesn't try to sound more important than it really is, which is charming, since this song's sentiment is actually more significant than a lot of songs which employ a more dramatic approach. Haggard's writing here is also proof that specificity of storytelling often makes a song that much more relatable.

Alabama, “Dixieland Delight”

What can I say; I love the feel-good anthems. I have to admit that I mostly included this because I wanted to give the 80's at least one song and it was the first thing that came to mind, so it may be a tier lower than some of the others in terms of my love. But I don't think these guys get enough credit for the legitimately good country-rock stuff they did.

Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Why Walk When You Can Fly”

Easily the most obscure thing on this list, this gorgeous album opener

was released as a single and peaked at #45. I first heard this while driving to Kroger at night and just about pulled over so I could listen properly.

Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone”

If there is any justice whatsoever in the country music world, historians will remind the public hung up on “the incident” that the Chicks also produced some of the best singles of their time, especially with this Darrell Scott-penned beaut. What a masterwork.

Josh Turner, “Long Black Train”

I reached a point in life last year where my religious beliefs just seemed to fall out from underneath me, and I've been pretty much undecided on that front since. Incredibly, it's only made me appreciate Turner's spiritual beckon even more, which is a testament, I think, to how substantially it presents its point-of-view. And gosh, does it ever sound good. Josh oughta crack open that Hank Williams box set more often.

Nickel Creek, “This Side”

This was one of the key songs that hooked me for good into country music, so I had to include it. The writing is more abstract pop-rock than anything else, but the pulsating instrumentation is so sweet that you're a fool if you care one way or the other. Listen to this with a good pair of headphones and hear the world unfold.


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  1. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Great topic Dan!

    In no particular order, my list would look something like this.

    -Patty Loveless, Nothing but the Wheel..
    (the perfect Country song from the perfect Country singer)
    -Patty Loveless, Big Chance (the perfect BLUEGRASS Song from the perfect Bluegrass singer!)
    -Hank Williams, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
    -Sara Evans, Three Chords and the Truth
    -Brad Paisley, Mud on the Tires
    -Dwight Yoakam, Intentional Heartache
    -Mark Chesnutt, Bubba Shot the Jukebox (seriously!)
    -Highway 101, Just Say Yes
    -Patty Loveless, Keep Your Distance
    -Clint Black, When My Ship Comes In

    Dang, I think that’s ten already…but if we could choose 20, (and these could easliy make my top 10 on any given day) I would add..

    -Vince Gill (with Patty Loveless) When I Call Your Name
    -Patty Loveless, You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive
    -Pam Tillis, Maybe it Was Memphis
    -Kathy Mattea, Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses
    -Sara Evans, Love Don’t be a Stranger
    -George Strait, Carrying Your Love with Me
    -Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride, Trip Around the Sun
    -Suzy Bogguss, Someday Soon
    -Little Big Town, Boondocks
    -Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl

    I could go on and on,(and on), but I won’t…This is just a top of my head list, for sure..;)

  2. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    And Dan, great commentary with each song, and I love that you included Ode to Billie Joe as well…and Alabama, but my favorite from them is High Cotton.

  3. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    And Mary Chapin Carpenter, Down at the Twist and Shout…Ok, I’ll stop now, promise!

  4. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    Josh Turner – Long Black Train
    Clint Black – Something That We Do
    Garth Brooks – The Dance
    Hank Williams – Your Cheatin’ Heart
    George Strait – Amarillo By Morning
    Chris LeDoux – Someday Soon
    Brad Paisley – She’s Everything
    Webb Pierce – There Stands the Glass
    Diamond Rio – I Believe
    Eddy Arnold – Make The World Go Away

  5. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    OK, fist off, I’m not evengoing to try to stop at 10 , but i wont go on forever either..in no particular order or rank. I’m numbering only so i dont actually go no forever.

    1. “I’m so Lonesome I could cry”
    2. “Travelin Soldier”
    3. “Feed Jake”
    4. “Forever and Ever Amen”
    5. “After All this time”
    6. “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses”
    7. “Here I Am”
    8. “I Still Believe in You”
    9. “I’m No Stranger to the Rain”
    10. “Please Remember Me” (I like Tim’s version best, but Rodney’s is good too)
    11. “Chisled in Stone”
    12. “Your Man”
    13. “And Still” I could pick a lot of Reba songs, but this is her at her best)
    14. “Baby’s gotten Good at Goodbye” (I say the same about George as I said about Reba)
    15. “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
    16. “Unanswered Prayers”

    OK, 16 is enough.

  6. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    Here are ten favorites of mine, three of which do go more or less off the beaten path:

    Johnny Cash, “FOLSOM PRISON BLUES”: One of those songs that established the Man In Black at Sun Records in 1956, but the song had even more punch when he did it live before a (pardon the pun) “captive audience” in Folsom itself in 1968. “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die!” I doubt anyone would even try to write a killer line like that today.

    The Flying Burrito Brothers, “SIN CITY”: Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman do a sort of late 1960s Louvin Brothers thing on their classic C&W/rock narrative as they warn about the evils of temptation and sin in a place called Hollywood: “This whole town’s filled with sin/it’ll swallow you in/if you’ve got some money to burn.”

    Tom T. Hall, “A WEEK IN A COUNTRY JAIL”: The Storyteller’s first #1 hit as both writer AND performer, this hard-driving narrative talks about his grim seven days in a small town cell just for doing a few miles over the limit.

    Buck Owens, “ACT NATURALLY”: There’s a lot of sardonic humor in this song about a guy who hopes to make it big on the big screen by playing the role of a man who’s “sad and lonely” totally without rehearsing. One of Owens’ signature hits (though the late Johnny Russell wrote it), it later got covered by the Beatles, whom Buck whole-heartedly endorsed on their arrival to America in 1964.

    Merle Haggard, “TODAY I STARTED LOVING YOU AGAIN”: Most people wouldn’t believe that this 1967 classic was actually a B-side (to “The Legend Of Bonnie & Clyde”), since everyone remembers it more than “Legend.” This is proof that there was more to Merle before “Okie From Muskogee” (not to mention afterwards as well).

    Emmylou Harris, “BOULDER TO BIRMINGHAM”: This is a perfect example of Emmylou’s piercing style of singing and songwriting, which is both traditional and modern in its scope. Dating from 1975, it is her channeling her feelings about her mentor Gram Parsons’ untimely death by overdose two years before.

    Glen Campbell, “GENTLE ON MY MIND”: This John Hartford-penned song is what really put Glen on the national music scene in 1967, although it was really only a minor hit at the time. It has that bluegrass underpinning because of both his and Hartford’s connections to the genre, plus Doug Dillard’s rolling banjo in the background.

    Linda Ronstadt, “WILLING”: A truck driver’s anthem (written by the late Lowell George of Little Feat) with a twist, in that it’s a woman doing it. Not something that happens all the time, but Linda’s gutsiness in doing a song about having been from “Tucson to Tucumcari/Tehachapi to Tonopah” is part of what makes her so admired by so many of her fellow female singers.

    Hank Snow, “I’M MOVIN’ ON”: One of those signature songs for the entire country music genre (and the man isn’t even an American!), this one spent 21 weeks at the top of the country chart in 1950, and it’s not too hard to see why.

    Waylon and Willie: “MAMAS, DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE COWBOYS”: Kind of self-explanatory, isn’t it? It’s two legendary figures doing one of the signature songs of the Outlaw era. ‘Nuff said.

  7. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll come up with my list soon, but I just wanted to say great list and I’m glad you included a John Denver song. My parents’ love of Denver has filtered to me and “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”, Grandma’s Feather Bed” (the live version) and “Country Roads” are the songs of Denver that especially make me smile. I’m with you on Alabama too. While I used to be bigger fans of theirs than I seem to be now, they had some killer songs that I still appreciate.

  8. [...] Universe’s Dan Milliken listed ten songs he considers absolutely flawless — ranging from Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” to Nickel Creek’s [...]

  9. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    01. Trace Adkins – I’m Tryin’
    02. Mary Chapin Carpenter – You Win Again
    03. Rosanne Cash – Runaway Train
    04. Mark Chesnutt – I’ll Think of Something
    05. Terri Clark – Easy From Now On
    06. Dixie Chicks – Voice Inside My Head
    07. Faith Hill – Cry
    08. Patty Loveless – Nothin’ But the Wheel
    09. Pam Tillis – The River and the Highway
    10. Trisha Yearwood – On a Bus to St. Cloud

    Well, I had planned to reveal this list when I released my covers album (My Turn for Sleepless Nights), but I suppose I could do it now. :) I hope I get all 10 points this week…

  10. ErikNo Gravatar says:

    In no order:

    “The River” by Chely Wright
    “Atlanta & Birmingham” by Deana Carter
    “Love Land” by Martina McBride
    “Only In My Mind” by Reba McEntire
    “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” by Patty Loveless
    “Down From Dover” by Dolly Parton
    “Pretty Things” by LeAnn Rimes
    “I Learned That From You” by Sara Evans
    “What About The Love We Made” by Shelby Lynne
    “Melancholy Blue” by Trisha Yearwood

    ….wow, that’s an odd list.

  11. ErikNo Gravatar says:

    I also feel obliged to mention “My Wild Frontier” by Faith Hill.

  12. Hmm comeing up with a final top 10 list would be nearly impossible so I’ll Just list 10 (or about 10) that come to mind when I think perfect songs….

    In no particular order…
    01. Martina McBride – “Independance Day”
    02. Matraca Berg – “Back When We Were Beautiful”
    03. George Jones – “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
    04. Sarah Buxton – “Tomorrow”
    05. Gary Allan – “Smoke Rings In The Dark”
    06. Tanya Tucker – “Two Sparrows In a Hurricane”
    07. Dottie West – “Lesson In Leavin’”
    08. Hank Williams – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
    09. Buck Owens – “I’ve Got a Tiger By The Tail”
    10. Patsy Cline – “Crazy”
    11. Loretta Lynn – “Miss Being Mrs.”
    12. Wynonna Judd – “She Is His Only Need”
    13. Terri Clark – “No Fear”

  13. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    It’s a very short list

    “The Last Letter” by Rex Griffin (later by Jack Greene and others). Waylon recorded this song in the 1970s but he left out the crucial fourth verse that makes this probably the saddest song ever written

  14. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    1. “Good Woman Blues” by Mel Tillis
    2. “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait
    3. “Good Ol’ Boys Like Me” by Don Williams
    4. “Hey Cinderella” by Suzy Bogguss
    5. “Roll On Mississippi” by Charley Pride
    6. “The Most Beautiful Girl” by Charlie Rich
    7. “Here You Come Again” by Dolly Parton
    8. “Ridin’ My Thumb To Mexico” by Johnny Rodriguez
    9. “Honky Tonk Heroes” by Waylon Jennings
    10. anything by John Conlee

  15. BLLNo Gravatar says:

    In no particular order:

    Dearest Esmerelda- John Denver
    He’ll Have to Go- Jim Reeves
    Last Thing on my Mind- Glen Campbell
    I Don’t Paint Myself Into Corners Anymore-Trisha Yearwood
    Wolves-Garth Brooks
    Silence on the Line- Chris LeDoux
    Two More Bottles of Wine- Emmylou Harris
    He Stopped Loving Her Today- George Jones
    Under the Table- Garth Brooks
    Dreamin’ Fields Trisha Yearwood

  16. vpNo Gravatar says:

    I first thought this would be easy but I think it may take a little iPod checking fist. Great topic and great songs from everyone.

  17. Sam GNo Gravatar says:

    A few off the top of my head, with some country and some… not.

    Gram Parsons – Hickory Wind
    Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
    Charlie Robison – John O’Reilly
    The Pogues – Rainy Night In Soho
    Emmylou Harris – Green Pastures
    Hank Williams – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
    Robert Earl Keen – The Road Goes On Forever
    Beirut – Postcards From Italy
    Guy Clark – Dublin Blues
    The Decemberists – The Mariner’s Revenge Song

  18. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – George Jones
    “Letter to Me” – Brad Paisley
    “Jesus, Take the Wheel” – Carrie Underwood
    “What I Cannot Change” – Leann Rimes
    “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” – Lee Ann Womack
    “Baby Blue” – George Strait
    “Top of the World” – Dixie Chicks
    “Independence Day” – Martina McBride
    “Long Black Train” – Josh Turner
    “Stand By Your Man” – Tammy Wynette

  19. JoeBNo Gravatar says:

    Wow … all great songs. I love Chris’s list the most. And I forgot how much I singularly adore “Only in My Mind” until I saw it on this page.

    Carlene Carter’s “Easy From Now On” always makes me smile, and I’ve long believed Highway 101′s “Somewhere Tonight” to be the perfect country song: lyrics, production, harmonies, sing-along-ability.

    Maybe something from Steve Wariner should be included, too: how ’bout “Where Did I Go Wrong” or “The Domino Theory”?

  20. BrodyNo Gravatar says:

    “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” – David Allan Coe

    I kid. Here’s my list, which could have been much longer and has a slight Texas bent.

    ———–

    “The Randall Knife” – Guy Clark
    “Desperados Waiting For A Train” – Guy Clark
    I could probably give you 10 Guy Clark songs I consider perfect, but I don’t think anyone would pay attention.

    “Waco Moon” – Todd Snider
    When Snider is on, he’s on. And he’s on for this ode to Billy Joe Shaver’s son who died from an overdose. Check out the version from the tribute album to Shaver.

    “My Brother and Me” – Bruce Robison
    Dean Brody has a cool last name and everything, but his song about brothers pales in comparison to Robison’s.

    “Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room” – Dwight Yoakam
    Yoakam does such a good job making the listener feel the character’s heartbreak that I don’t know whether I feel more sorry for him or the lover he ends up killing. I like the version from dwightyoakamacoustic.net.

    “Cold Cold Heart” – Hank Williams
    Hank Williams doing what he does best — breaking hearts.

    “Highway Patrolman” – Johnny Cash
    I like songs about familial bonds.

    “Pancho & Lefty” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
    It’s all been said before, and probably better too, so if you haven’t heard it yet, just listen.

    “Step Inside This House” – Lyle Lovett
    Guy Clark’s first song. He never recorded it and rightfully so. Lovett owns it.

    “El Paso” – Marty Robbins
    I’m a sucker for cinematic westerns and this — along with “Pancho & Lefty” and Michael Martin Murphey’s “Fiddlin’ Man” — is one of the earliest songs I remember listening to.

    “Mariano” – Robert Earl Keen
    I like the version from No. 2 Live Dinner.

    “Tonight We Ride” – Tom Russell
    The badassery of this song actually spurred me to buy a book about Pershing’s hunt for Pancho Villa. Good stuff.

    “Old Five and Dimers (Like Me)” – Waylon Jennings
    It’s hard to go wrong with anything from the Honky Tonk Heroes album.

    ———–

    Oops, that’s 13.

  21. John LNo Gravatar says:

    Trisha Yearwood: Down on my Knees
    Keith Whitley: Don’t Close your Eyes
    Larry Cordle & LST:Murder on Music Row
    Patsy Cline:Sweet Dreams
    Alison Krauss: Now That I Found You
    Alan Jackson: Midnight in Montgomery
    George Strait: Carryin Your Love with Me
    Waylon Jennings:Rainy Day Woman
    Patty Loveless:Crazy Arms
    Vince Gill: Pocket Full of Gold

  22. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    OK, I fibbed. 16 isnt enouggh because i left off a few important artists…

    Alabama–”Dixieland delight”
    Merle Haggard–”Mama Tried”
    Alan Jackson–Again so many, but the one that i would pick is “Where were you when the World Stopped Turnin?”
    The Statler Brothers–an important message song “More thn a Name on a Wall”
    Patsy Cline–”Walkin after Midnight”
    Loretta Lynn–”Coal Miners Daughter”

    OK, I’m really done now.

  23. CMWNo Gravatar says:

    Really cool topic, Dan. I could go on forever about classics, so I’m limiting myself to the first few that come to mind from the past 20 years or so.

    Here in the Real World – Alan Jackson
    A Living Prayer – Alison Krauss
    Travelin’ Soldier – Bruce Robison
    Choices – George Jones
    Long Black Train – Josh Turner
    Pilgrim’s Progress – Kris Kristofferson
    Too Cold at Home – Mark Chesnutt
    Farmer’s Blues – Marty Stuart/Merle Haggard
    Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
    Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill

  24. Craig.RNo Gravatar says:

    I like so many of the songs listed but these would be mine:
    1. Marty Robbins-” El Paso”
    2. Glen Campbell-” Wichita Lineman”
    3. Waylon Jennings-” Dreaming My Dreams”
    4. Dolly Parton-” Jolene”
    5. Roger Miller-” King of the Road”
    6. Deana Carter-” Did I Shave My Legs for This ”
    7. George Jones-” Walk Through This World With Me”
    8. Willie Nelson- ” Me and Paul”
    9. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash-” Jackson”
    10.Jeannie C. Riley-” Harper Valley P.T.A”
    11.Loretta Lynn-” Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’”

  25. Off the top of my head and not in order:

    He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones
    On The Other Hand – Randy Travis
    Would These Arms Be In Your Way – Keith Whitley
    Chiseled In Stone – Vern Gosdin
    Farewell Party – Gene Watson
    Hearts In Armor – Trisha Yearwood
    Boulder To Birmingham – Emmylou Harris
    Cold Cold Heart – Hank Williams
    You Don’t Even Know Who I Am – Patty Loveless
    Jolene – Dolly Parton

  26. Molly PNo Gravatar says:

    1. Chattahoochee – Alan Jackson
    2. I’m No Stranger to the Rain – Keith Whitley
    3. Neon Blue – The Mavericks
    4. She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind – Brooks and Dunn
    5. Born to Run – Emmylou Harris
    6. Honky Tonk Man – Dwight Yoakam
    7. Fancy – Reba McEntire
    8. Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away – Vince Gill
    9. Callin’ Baton Rouge- Garth Brooks
    10. Heartland – George Strait
    11. Always Wanting You – Merle Haggard
    12. Find My Way Back to My Heart – Alison Krauss & Union Station

    … I could go on forever.

  27. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    These follows Dan’s comment that “they don’t have to be your definitive top ten,” as that would definately take a lot more thought. This is an overview for me though, just ten of many.

    Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues”
    Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
    Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone”
    Emmylou Harris, “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”
    Dwight Yoakam, “Streets of Bakersfield”
    Patty Loveless, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”
    Ashley Monroe, “Satisfied”
    The Be Good Tanyas, “Dogsong”
    Crooked Still, “Wind and Rain”
    Kasey Chamber and Shane Nicholson, “One More Year”

  28. KentNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t necessarily think all of these deserve a perfect ten, but I love them (probably for their melody mostly), so here goes:

    Josh Gracin – Stay With Me (Brass Bed)
    One of my favourite songs. There’s just something magical about it.

    Jason Aldean – Amarillo Sky
    This song grabs me from the pen note. Very nice.

    Dierks Bentley – Every Mile a Memory
    I don’t know what I loved so much about this song. In reality, it seems duller than most of the stuff I like, but there was something about this that I loved.

    Taylor Swift – Should’ve Said No
    The first time I heard this was on the ACMAs. And she blew me away. I think the combo of pop rock and country, the intensity of the bridge, the finality of some of the Em chords, and the amazing final chorus (on the ACMA performance at least) make this a winner for me.

    Big & Rich – several of their loud pop rockish songs such as Loud, Soul Shaker, and Rollin’
    Most fast country songs lack the energy and edge of some pop rock music. And a lot of the time, that’s OK. But once in a while it’s nice to hear Big & Rich play it rowdy.

    Carrie Underwood – Flat on the Floor
    Her vocals blow me away. She gets right into it, and I love it! Hopin’ for it to be the last single.

    Carter Twins – Heart Like Memphis
    This song just makes make happy.

    Rascal Flatts – What Hurts the Most
    I don’t why I like this either. I just do. Emotion and melody are possibilities.

    Josh Gracin – Let Me Fall
    Another great vocal performance. Maybe for the emotion on the album version, but for the range. And I just love it!

    Keith Urban – Everybody
    I was disappointed in this single release at first. And then it grew massively on me. The emotion is amazing.

    Sugarland – Stay
    Usually I like music with more production. But Jennifer’s voice is simply so engaging and full of emotion that this stops me every time.

    So in the end, the reason I like all of these is because I like their melody. How shallow am I? But for me to want to hear it, it has to be sonically pleasing.

  29. pselbyNo Gravatar says:

    I really thought I could do just 10, but I started going through my mp3 player and I truly, truly love all of these songs and never get tired of them:

    1. Bobbie Cryner – You’d Think He’d Know Me Better
    2. Buck Owens & the Buckaroos – Buckaroo (hmmm….or Made In Japan)
    3. Marty Robbins – El Paso
    4. George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today
    5. Willie Nelson – Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground
    6. Porter Wagoner – The Cold Hard Facts of Life
    7. Charlie Pride – Kiss An Angel Good Morning
    8. Merle Haggard – You Take Me For Granted
    9. Charlie Rich – Life’s Little Ups and Downs
    10. Gene Watson – Farewell Party
    11. Charlie Louvin – Ain’t You Even Gonna Cry
    12. David Allen Coe – Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile
    13. Earl Thomas Conley – Once In A Blue Moon
    14. Ernest Tubb – Soldier’s Last Letter
    15. Tex Ritter – I Dreamed of A Hillbilly Heaven
    16. Foster & Lloyd – Sure Thing
    17. Glen Campbell – Manhattan Kansas
    18. Hank Sr – I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You
    19. Johnny Cash – Thing Called Love
    20. Jerry Reed – Alabama Wild Man
    21. Jimmy Rogers – Waitin’ On A Train
    22. John Conlee – Rose Colored Glasses
    23. Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes
    24. Willie & Merle – Pancho & Lefty
    25. Lee Ann Womack – The Fool
    26. Mark Gray – Left Side of the Bed
    27. Marty Brown – High And Dry
    28. Mel Tillis – Send Me Down To Tucson
    29. Kenny Rogers – Lucille
    30. Merle Haggard – Daddy Frank
    31. Patty Loveless – Don’t Toss Us Away
    32. Perfect Stranger – You Have The Right To Remain Silent
    33. Ray Stevens – Misty
    34. Ray Price – For The Good Times
    35. Vince & Reba – The Heart Won’t Lie
    36. Robbie Fulks – She Took A Lot of Pills And Died
    37. Sawyer Brown – All These Years
    38. Star de Azlan – She’s Pretty
    39. Rick Trevino – Separate Ways
    40. Steve Earle – I Ain’t Ever Satisfied
    41. T Graham Brown – Wine Into Water
    42. Tom T Hall – Old Dogs & Children & Watermelon Wine
    43. Willie & Ray – Faded Love
    44. Vern Gosdin – Chiseled In Stone (so long, Vern)
    45. Dwight Yoakam – Honky Tonk Man

  30. LanibugNo Gravatar says:

    OK — so I have thought about this — a lot of good ones named – and I will just add –

    Sugarland – Stand Back Up
    Ashley Monroe – Used
    Bobbie Cryner – He Feels Guilty
    Shelly Fairchild – Tiny Town

  31. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    In no particular order:

    God Save Me From a Thinking Man – Mitzi Goppall
    Sweet Country Music – Atlanta
    Not Ready to Play Nice – Dixie Chicks
    Jimmy’s Finger – Cowgirl Catfight
    God Bless The USA – Lee Greenwood
    Stones in the Road – Mary Chapin Carpenter
    Bob That Head – Rascal Flatts
    Dancy’s Dream – Restless Heart
    The Girl Who Put It There – QuickStop
    One Voice – Billy Gilman
    Lizzie and the Rainman – Tanya Tucker
    Of Thee, I Ching – The Rice Kryspies

  32. EmmyNo Gravatar says:

    Second to some already mentioned –
    Sawyer Brown – All These Years (the best they ever did by far, and it was great)
    George Strait – Amarillo by Morning (love the fiddle)
    Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (the only thing of his I really like, and I love it)
    Gary Allan – Smoke Rings in the Dark (everything going for it)
    Patsy Cline – Sweet Dreams (beautiful)
    Dolly Parton – Jolene (picking the best of the best)

    New ones –
    Alison Krauss – Steel Rails (early in her career and it has always stayed with me, I also second Living Prayer as a more recent perfect AK song)
    Merle Haggard – Silver Wings (I love most everything he did, but this is tops for me)
    Alan Jackson – Monday Morning Church (I don’t think it gets better than this, and Patty Loveless always helps a song)
    And I honestly can’t pick from the Dixie Chicks or Mary Chapin Carpenter – several songs from each that have everything going for them

  33. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    This is certainly not an exhaustive list of songs that I think are perfect, but it’s a start with Dan’s parameter of 10:

    Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel”
    Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, “One More Year”
    Willie Nelson, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”
    Kris Kristofferson, “Why Me, Lord?”
    Don Williams, “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” (A silent prayer I pray every day, though the Kristofferson song is the one I should be praying more often if I were only less selfish)
    Alison Krauss and Union Station, “If I Didn’t Know Any Better”
    John Denver, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”
    Patty Loveless, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” (Hey Steve!)
    Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone”
    Hank Williams, “I Saw the Light”

  34. Craig R.No Gravatar says:

    Leeann- great choices- And you reminded me of a song I would consider the perfect perfect country song: Hank Williams- ” I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. That poem could stay up against Yeats, Milton, Whitman and Poe any day of the week. Aside from Johnny Cash singing ” Hurt”, Patsy Cline singing ” Crazy” and Judy Garland singing “Over The Rainbow” ,I cannot think of another artist so connected to the music and lyrics of a song. You feel every emotion- every one- because Hank Williams put all of himself, naked and raw into that song. That song can scare you because it is so raw. That is not a sound that Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney or Rascal Flatts could ever make. You have to be open to that journey to make it and take us along. You have to be brave.

  35. Mike KNo Gravatar says:

    “Tecumseh Valley” – TVZ
    “Here I Am” – Patty Loveless
    “I Never Go Around Mirrors” – Keith Whitley’s Version
    “Let Him Roll” – Guy Clark
    “Walk Through this World With Me” – George Jones
    “Snuff Queen” – Gary Stewart
    “Marie Leveau” – Bobby Bare
    “Someday When Things Are Good” – Merle Haggard
    “Blue Kentucky Girl” – Emmylou Harris
    “Farewell Party” – Gene Watson
    “Ft. Worth Blues” – Steve Earle
    “Without Me Around” – George Strait

  36. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Leeann :)..

    No Vince on your list?!

  37. LynnNo Gravatar says:

    I love the production, lyrics, vocals and overall vibe of these songs (although not a comprehensive or definitive list by any stretch):

    1. “Old Five and Dimers (Like Me),” (I’m partial to the Billy Joe Shaver version)
    2. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” Willie Nelson
    3. “Walkaway Joe,” Trisha Yearwood
    4. “Forever and Ever, Amen,” Randy Travis
    5. “Van Lear Rose,” Loretta Lynn
    6. “Famous in a Small Town,” Miranda Lambert
    7. “Truth #2,” Dixie Chicks
    8. “Copperhead Road,” Steve Earle
    9. “Mama Tried,” Merle Haggard
    10. “All the Good Ones Are Gone,” Pam Tillis

    Okay, so 10 is a ridiculously small number! I have a million more…

  38. SaraNo Gravatar says:

    I picked the ones that ripped my heart out the first time I heard them and the ones I listen to the most.
    1. Hurt, as covered by Johnny Cash. I’ve got this on my iPod and I listen to it every day, no lie, and I’ve yet to get tired of it. It’s stunning.
    2. Pancho and Lefty, by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. I love me a good Willie Nelson duet (remember the one he did with LeAnn Womack– “Mendocino County Line”? Totally underrated), and this has been one of my favorites since I was a kid.
    3. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, by Lucinda Williams. Probably not technically country as defined by this site, but I’ve always thought of it as country so I’m including it here. The title track to the best album I’ve ever heard. I got it for Christmas and the morning I listened to it I felt like I lived all the songs.
    4. You Can Sleep While I Drive, by Trisha Yearwood. Originally written by Melissa Etheridge. Tender, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Trisha’s best, best work.
    5. Long Way Round, by the Dixie Chicks. It makes me happy. Simple.
    6. Me and Bobby McGee, by Janis Joplin. Another probably unconventional choice, but her take on it has always had the soul of a great country song to me.
    7. Fancy, by Reba McEntire. When you need a big over-the-top ballad, you cannot do better than Reba. And Reba cannot do better than this one.
    8. House of Cards, by Mary Chapin Carpenter. It’s really hard to narrow it down to just one MCC song but this one is my favorite of the moment. I’m also a huge fan of Stones in the Road and the aforementioned Why Walk….
    9. Small Town Saturday Night, by Hal Ketchum. Great slice of small-town life. “When people leave town they never come back.” Indeed.
    10. I Can Still Make Cheyenne, George Strait. Up there with Hurt and Pancho & Lefty as the saddest songs ever.

    Why is country music so great at sad songs?

  39. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I guess I should go ahead and complete a top ten list

    #1 The Last Letter – Rex Griffin, Jack Greene

    Tied 2 through whatever

    Chiseled in Stone – Vern Gosdin
    Small Town Saturday Night – Hal Ketchum
    Sing Me Back Home – Merle Haggard
    El Paso – Marty Robbins
    If Tomorrow Never Comes – Garth Brooks
    I’m Moving On – Hank Snow
    Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – Roy Acuff
    I’m So Lonesone I COuld Cry – Hank Williams
    There Stands The Glass – Webb Pierce
    Farewell Party – Little Jimmy Dickens, Gene Watson
    Walking The Floor Over You – Ernest Tubb
    Once A Day – Connie Smith
    When The Grass Grows Over Me – George Jones

  40. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    He Thinks He’ll Keep Her: Mary-Chapin Carpenter
    Folsum Prison Blues: Johnny Cash
    Good Ole Boys Like Me: Don Williams
    King of the Road: Roger Miller
    The River: Chely Wright
    So Lonesome I Could Cry: Hank Williams
    Seven Year Ache: Roseanne Cash
    Coal Miner’s Daughter: Loretta Lynn
    Gentle On My Mind: Glen Campbell

  41. George & Tammy – Two Storey House
    Buck Owens – Lookin’ Back To See
    Porter Wagoner – Misery Loves Company
    Johnny Cash – Ballad Of A Teenage Queen
    Gram Parsons – $1000 Wedding
    Lee Ann Womack – Ashes By Now
    Merle Haggard – Workin’ Man Blues
    Tanya Tucker – Two Sparrows In A Hurricane
    Johnny Paycheck – Only Hell Mama Ever Raised
    Ernest Tubb – Thanks A Lot

  42. BlueBayouNo Gravatar says:

    I’m a new poster here, but thought I would start by adding my favorites. I couldn’t do ust 10, so I did 20.. and that’s not nearly all of them, but oh well!

    Alan Jackson – Livin On Love
    Martina McBride – A Broken Wing
    Sara Evans – Suds In The Bucket
    Tracy Lawrence – Today’s Lonely Fool
    Dan Seals – Everything That Glitters
    Doug Stone – I’d Be Better Off In a Pine Box
    George Jones – The Grand Tour
    Sugarland – Stay
    Dwight Yoakam – Ain’t That Lonely Yet
    Vince Gill – Pocket Full Of Gold

    Restless Heart – Bluest Eyes In Texas
    Suzy Bogguss – Cold Day In July
    Steve Wariner – Tips of my fingers
    KT Oslin – Hold Me
    Don Williams – Good Ole Boys Like Me
    Shenandoah – Sunday In The South
    John Berry – You and Only You
    TG Sheppard – Devil In The Bottle
    Charley Pride – Burgers and Fries
    Reba McEntire – I Know How He Feels

  43. JaneNo Gravatar says:

    Martina McBride – Love Land
    Sara Evans – Tonight
    Dixie Chicks – Long Time Gone
    Carrie Underwood – Don’t forget to remember me
    Faith Hill – Free
    Lee Ann Womack – I’ll think of a reason later
    Sugarland – Want to.

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