A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #650-#641

A ton of signature hits in this section, most of them certified classics.

 

#650

Big & Rich, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”

#11 | 2004

JK: The hip-hop appropriations were problematic then, and they’re problematic now, but this is the only single in their catalogue on which Big & Rich actually treated the idea of cross-genre pollination with the respect it demands and executed it well. It’s more of a rock anthem than anything else– it’s the hardest country hit since the Kentucky Headhunters’ heyday– and the production and construction are flawless. They’d never better this single, and no one else who tried it deserves mention by name. Too Low

KJC:  A modern camp classic that still garners a chuckle sixteen years later.  About Right

 

#649

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, “Rueben James”

#46 | 1968

KJC:  “Rueben James” is like Tammy Wynette’s “Apartment No. 9,” in that is was not a huge hit upon release, but became a classic through its inclusion on top selling hits packages over the years.  Too High

JK: Another selection that’s baffling not because it doesn’t belong– it does, albeit not ranked here– but because the rest of the list is so over-filled with just awful modern chart detritus that I can’t believe the Sirius XM crew would have known about “Reuben James.” Too High

 

#648

The Judds, “Mama He’s Crazy”

#1 | 1984

JK: What’s miraculous about this record is that The Judds don’t overplay their mother – daughter dynamic in the actual performance, despite the opportunity being right there. It adds exactly the right amount of extra pathos to the single without turning it into a novelty. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the best country singles of its era. Too Low

KJC:   The country version of a lady named Madonna getting her hands on a song called “Like a Virgin.”  Knowing it’s a mother and daughter singing this elevates it into classic territory. About Right

 

#647

Billy Currington, “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer”

#1 | 2010

KJC:  I’ve always gotten a kick out of this record.  Currington at his easy breezy best. About Right

JK: As I’ve said with each of his too-many entries thus far: Give me “Love Done Gone.” He’s wildly overrepresented, but I probably wouldn’t cut this one altogether. Too High

 

#646

Toby Keith & Willie Nelson, “Beer For My Horses”

#1 | 2002

JK: I always appreciated how two artists whose voices and styles could not be more diametrically opposed as Keith’s and Nelson’s actually work when combined. Far from my favorite single by either of them, obviously, but I can see why this made the cut. Too High

KJC:  As nice as it was to have Willie Nelson back on the radio in the early 2000s, I’d have opted for the far superior and Grammy-winning “Mendocino County Line” collaboration with Lee Ann Womack. So Wrong (This Song)

 

#645

Steve Wariner, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”

#2 | 1998

KJC:  It has to be on here, as it’s a CMA Single and Song of the Year and Wariner’s signature hit.  But wow, nothing ages worse than yesterday’s sentimentality. Too High

JK: I mean, does it really have to be on here? Like in an absolute sense, if we’re really talking about the 1000 greatest songs in country music history? Wariner’s a major talent who probably deserved to be talked about more often than he is, but not for this mawkish single. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#644

George Jones, “The Grand Tour”

#1 | 1974

JK: Some fine vocalists have covered this song, but Jones is the only one who really and truly sold it. About Right

KJC:   George Jones really made bombastic, Wall of Sound pop records in his heyday, but you’d never know it because of his stunning and purely country vocal performances.  The theatrics of this one never get old. About Right

 

#643

George Strait, “Troubadour”

#7 | 2008

KJC: An excellent choice, as this is probably the strongest record that Strait had a hit with toward the end of his radio run.  About Right

JK: As one of the cheese-stands-alone people who generally prefers latter-day Strait, I’d say he’s recorded a lot more memorable songs as he’s aged. This is definitely one of the best, and he gives a vocal performance that doesn’t simply coast on his easy charm; he actually sounds connected to it in a way that makes it one of his best. Too Low

 

#642

Gary Stewart, “Drinkin’ Thing”

#10 | 1974

JK: As long as this isn’t Stewart’s only entry and “She’s Actin’ Single” is still ahead, I’m fine with this one being here. About Right

KJC:  Gary Stewart was the one male artist who could go toe to toe with the victim queens of the seventies.  Even Tammy wouldn’t sink so low into self-pity to sing a line like, “She’d probably tell the truth, so I don’t even ask” to the philandering spouse.  Good stuff. Too High

 

#641

Shania Twain, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”

#8 | 1998

KJC:   What Shania Twain did best was sing straight to the ladies while the men ogled her on the sidelines.  The pop culture references haven’t aged well – be thankful she removed a reference to the Batmobile that was in the original lyric – but the message and the hook both hold up.  About Right

JK: I thought the references were awkward and trying-too-hard even at the time, and the spoken-word asides are just brutal. But Shania knows her way around a memorable melody, and the production still sounds crisp some 22 years later. Too High

 

Previous: #660-#651 | Next: #640-#631

9 Comments

  1. if I never hear any Big and Rich again (with the exception of “Lost in the Moment”) it’ll be too soon.

    “Pretty Good at Drinkin Beer” is a little too High

    “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” is about right, maybe a little too low

  2. I always thought “Drinkin’ Thing” and “Out of Hand” [#1 Cash Box & Record World]were Gary Stewart’s best songs, but he had a run of three immortal classics (which included “She’s Actin’ Single”) after which radio largely lost interest in Stewart. I would regard “Drinkin’ Thing” as being placed too low

    Strait definitely got the shaft from radio near the end of his chart run, but I suppose that was to be expected. I think “Drinkin’ Man” should have been a monster hit but radio barely gave it a spin.

    Aaron Neville did a nice job with “The Grand Tour”, but it is definitely a Geroge Jones song (and yes, George could make the excesses of the “Nashville Sound” seem almost hard-core traditional)

    The Shania Twain entry belongs, but it is too highly placed, ditto the Steve Wariner entry

  3. Gary Stewart doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. Between “Quits”,”Ten Years of This”, “An Empty Glass”, and “Whiskey Trip”. His voice was great and its tragic he wasn’t a bigger name while he was still alive

  4. A few of my favourites on this list, but I’ve never believed that “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy” to be anything but a novelty song and I don’t think it belongs on any list of the greatest country songs. Love all the other songs though.

  5. Never liked “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” and not a big fan of B&R. My favorite songs of theirs are “Faster than Angels Fly” and “8th of November”.

  6. I like “save A Horse”. It was innovative at the time, but something that should have only been attempted once.

    I agree with Jonathan’s stance on Currington’s “Love Done Gone”!

    I did not like Strait’s “Troubadour” at first and I believe I even gave it anegative review back in the day, but I ended up really liking it and I can’t even understand why I didn’t like it before.

    I agree about Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me”. Those talking asides are awkward (then and now) and certainly feel outdated.

  7. Re. “Save A Horse”: It might be a stretch to say this, but that one single may have been a precursor to the Bro-Country craze that came less than a decade later. Back then, though, it was the Muzik Mafia. Dubious distinction, to say the least (IMHO).

    Re. “Ruby”: The First Edition’s version didn’t chart anywhere near as high, at least not on the country chart, as a version done by Johnny Darrell in 1967. His went up to #17; the First Edition’s only got to #39. On the overall Hot 100, however, the First Edition’s was a monster hit, peaking at #6.

  8. Johnny Darrell will not appear anywhere on this list, but he was a supremely talented artist who was really good at unearthing songs and songwriters. He was the first to release singles on “The Green Green Grass of Home”, “Ruby …”, With Pen In Hand”, “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp” and “Why You been Gone So Long” and for my money, his were the best recordings of any of these songs

    Unfortunately his label (United Artists) was not a power in the genre and his singles were difficult to find and the label wasn’t good at getting radio stations copies, either.

    Darrell died many years ago of complications from diabetes, but he is worth checking out.

    Here’s a live version of his biggest hit

  9. “Troubadour” is one of my favorite Strait songs to this day, and I have all his stuff and have been buying it on release day since 1996’s Blue Clear Sky Just an excellent, excellent song.

    “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” was pretty lame, but the album it came from was excellent. Steve Wariner’s always been a favorite in general. (“Some Fools Never Learn” is my all-time favorite song, from any artist in any genre of music.)

    “Drinkin’ Thing” was one of my favorites from Out of Hand. That entire album is really good too; the title track alone was worth it for me.

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