A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #600-#591

Roy Clark’s finest moment makes an appearance as we inch closer to the halfway mark of the list.

 

#600

Mickey Gilley, “Stand By Me”

#1 | 1980

JK: Gilley is an underrated talent; I’ve always been a fan of his voice and sense of phrasing. He has 16 #1 singles to his credit, and this cover would have been one of the last of those I’d have chosen to represent him. So Wrong (This Song)

KJC: Leave this one to Ben E. King, and find a better representation of Mickey Gilley.  So Wrong (This Song)

 

#599

Kenny Chesney, “Anything But Mine”

#1 | 2005

KJC:  I love this song so much. He does so many party songs and island songs, but this one captures the feeling of the last night of a vacation, where reality is slowly seeping back in.  About Right

JK: One of the finest singles of the aughts and, without question, the high point of Chesney’s career. The only time his boozy, off-pitch singing has been in-service to the song he’s singing, and it’s a beautifully written, melancholy triumph of a song, at that. It’s one of only three singles of his I own. Too Low

 

#598

Charley Pride, “Crystal Chandelier”

Did Not Chart | 1967

JK: Kevin tells me this is a signature song for Pride, despite not being a proper single, which I didn’t realize. I’m fine with the idea of including album tracks on this list, and this is lovely, but Pride is wildly underrepresented here– look below, and I have to come up with something to say about Billy Fucking Currington yet again– and so many of his massive hits are missing. Too High

KJC:  Why go out of your way to include an album cut from so early in his career when you can celebrate a hit from the other end of it, instead? I’d swap this one out for “You’re So Good When You’re Bad.” So Wrong (This Song)

 

#597

Billy Currington, “Don’t”

#2 | 2008

KJC:  A great voice singing mediocre material, which could be copy and pasted about far too many of Currington’s hits.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: Okay, I won’t. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#596

Alabama, “Forty Hour Week (For a Livin’)”

#1 | 1985

JK: Alabama at their most corn-pone, and this working-class kid has always hated it. Randy Owen’s delivery has never been campier. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

KJC:  This working class kid loved this song back in the day, and I have even more of an appreciation today for the acknowledgement that the essential workers in America aren’t all dudes in hard hats.  Some of them are behind cash registers and waiting tables, too.  About Right

 

#595

Brad Paisley, “Little Moments”

#2 | 2003

KJC: The most condescending love song since “Honey,” with Paisley trashing his spouse for a laundry list of reasons, then giving himself a pat on the back for loving her anyway. Everything I don’t like about Paisley in one record.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: I think it’s interesting how our differing pro v con biases about Paisley impact our respective interpretations of his songs here. I’d say this is one of Paisley’s best ballads, and one that’s often overlooked in his catalogue. Still, I’d say it’s Too High.

 

#594

Ronnie Milsap, “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me”

#1 | 1981

JK: Milsap’s output hasn’t aged well at all because of its overly slick production. This single is no exception, but it’s a good choice among many possible good choices to represent Millsap. Still, this doesn’t belong however many hundred spots above “When I Call Your Name.” Too High

KJC: Kacey Musgraves does a charming cover of this that hews close to the original, which is an essential Urban Cowboy-era hit.  I’d rank it lower than this, though.  Too High

 

#593

Roy Clark, “Yesterday, When I Was Young”

#9 | 1969

KJC: A masterpiece of broken dreams and deep regrets.  Too Low

JK: A single I wasn’t familiar with before researching for this countdown, and what a stunner. Too Low

 

#592

Tim McGraw, “The Cowboy in Me”

#1 | 2001

JK: Not one of the handful of McGraw hits that I’ll go to bat for. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

KJC:  I never cared for this one.  McGraw should have released “Why We Said Goodbye” as a single, instead.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#591

Garth Brooks, “The River”

#1 | 1992

KJC: It’s a classic, for sure.  Garth ballads were always better when he avoided the vocal histrionics and let the lyrics do the heavy lifting.  About Right

JK: It’s overranked in relation to some of Garth’s other hits, but I agree with Kevin that it’s a keeper, thanks to a relatively restrained vocal performance. Too High

Previous: #610-#601 | Next:  #590-#581

15 Comments

  1. Can’t lie; I’m secretly hoping for one more Billy Currington single just for the commentary … OK, wait, there’s 5 more to go? Good Lord.

    Anyway, I’m genuinely glad to see the Roy Clark representation. Love Hee Haw, of course, but it’s material like the above song that really shows another side to him.

    I’ll have to take Jonathan’s side on both Alabama and Brad Paisley in general, though Kevin has made me see “Little Moments” in a completely different way. Paisley has never been great at being romantic.

    Agreed on the Chesney tune; agreed on the McGraw tune (that I have very little memory of anyway, for good reason). Garth … he’s somehow one of the most important yet infuriating figures in country music history, but yeah, I’ll go to bat for “The River.” Not as much as “The Beaches of Cheyenne” or “The Dance” but, hey.

  2. Re. “Stand By Me”: John Lennon also had a hit with it in early 1975. That said, though, I do think that Mickey Gilley’s version (which also got to #22 on the Hot 100) was a good one.

    Re. “Yesterday When I Was Young”: Yes, this one came just before Roy and Buck Owens teamed up for Hee Haw on television; and it was also a sizable pop crossover hit as well (#19, August 1969).

    Re. “There’s No Gettin’ Over Me”: Much as people might be dubious about that song nowadays, it seems fair to point out that a lot of Ronnie’s material has old-school R&B in it, and this is no exception (especially since he was a session player on Elvis’ 1969 Memphis sessions that yielded some of the King’s most transcendent music ever).

  3. I, too, do not understand why Billy Currington has so many songs on this list. He had a pretty good voice, but so many of the songs he records leave much to be desired. He’s as bad as Tracy Byrd in that respect, albeit in a different way.

    I never thought about comparing “Little Moments” to “Honey,” but that is a apt comparison — brilliant, even. That particular album was about the point I hopped off the Brad Paisley train, honestly; that song was part of the reason for it.

    Gosh, that Roy Clark song is an absolute stunner indeed. Frankly I think it should be much, much higher, as in top 20.

    “It seems the love I’ve known has always been the most destructive kind. I guess that’s why now, I feel so old before my time.”

    What a subtle yet powerful opening, to one of the most emotionally devastating songs ever.

  4. I’ve loved “Crystal Chandeliers ” ever since I was a child, but I never realised that it wasn’t a single for Charley Pride.

  5. Interesting set of songs – “Crystal Chandeliers” was a top ten chart hit for Carl Belew back in 1965. I think Charley’s version was released as a single in several European countries but it has always been one of his most requested songs, especially since it appeared on his LIVE AT PANTHER HALL album.

    Other than “Don’t” and “The Cowboy in Me” I like all of the song the songs in this group.

    The Roy Clark classic “Yesterday When I Was Young” was a translated cover of a song by French artist Charles Aznavour. I was living in England when Clark’s record came out – I don’t think the song was released as a single in the UK but it received a little airplay on the BBC and apparently charted in France as I heard it played on Radio Luxemburg. I had heard Aznavour’s version a few years earlier (sung in French) and liked the melody and emotion Aznavour poured into the song even though I had no idea what the song was about. Not surprisingly, the sing was a huge hit in Canada going #1 A/C, #2 Country and #7 Pop. This song belongs in the top 200 (at least)

  6. I have always really liked Mickey’s version of Stand By Me.” I think its my favorite of his. I also neer knew “Crystal Chandeliers” wasn’t an official single.

    “Don’t” explains why im not a billy Curington Fan, although I do like ‘People Are Crazy.”

  7. I love Ronnie Milsap but was never a fan of this song. I can’t believe this song made the list but greats like It Was Almost Like A Song, Only One Love In My Life, Back On My Mind Again, and My Heart did not.

    On the other side, I am not a Kenny Chesney fan but absolutely love Anything But Mine. It is his best song by far in my opinion. Love the song, love his take on it, love the video – can’t say enough good about it.

    I like just about anything from Tim McGraw from Everywhere thru A Place In The Sun thru Set This Circus Down. It’s my favorite period of McGraw’s where he just couldn’t miss with every song he released, including this one.

    Loved early 80s Alabama but by the time we got to 1985, everything they put out sounded just the same, and not in a good way.

    Brad Paisley’s annoying habit of putting out a funny song followed by a cutesy love song got old fast. Not a fan of this clunker.

    I’ll close with how wonderful it is to see the great Roy Clark on this list. What an amazing talent. He deserves any and every accolade he has ever received. The man is a genius on any instrument and has a wonderful, soothing voice made for country music.

  8. Favorites in this group:
    Roy Clark’s Yesterday When I Was Young – a Mantle favorite (see song 693 comments)
    Alabama’s 40 Hour Week
    Ronnie Milsap’s No Gettin Over Me – wouldn’t make my top 10 RM songs
    Garth’s The River – I also have The River by Victoria Shaw who co-wrote the song with GB. I prefer her version.
    Charley Pride – Crystal Chandelier (heard for the first time)

  9. If you weren’t familiar with Yesterday When I Was Young, I am suspicious of your qualifications to do this review.

  10. Steve,

    The purpose of a list like this, if it’s done well, is to lead to brilliant moments of discovery like hearing Roy Clark’s “Yesterday, When I Was Young” for the first time.

    I knew this song because my mom is a Roy Clark fan.

    Because my parents played Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, John Conlee, crossover Dolly Parton, Lee Greenwood, Rosanne Cash, Johnny Horton, Reba McEntire,and Conway Twitty in the car all the time, I know those artists very well, despite them being well before my personal discovery of country music.

    Heck, go back to the 1988 version of me, and I would’ve told you that “Jolene,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” and “Me and Bobby McGee” were all Olivia Newton-John songs!

    Other artists of those eras who eventually became favorites of mine, like Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, pre-crossover Dolly Parton, and George Jones, I had to discover on my own.

    In fact, I went to Sam Goody in the mid-90’s to buy a George Jones CD that had “He Stopped Loving Her Today” on it because a country magazine had ranked it as the #1 country song of all time, and I had never heard it before.

    All of which is to say that Jonathan is well versed in country music, and the fact that we’ve gotten this far in the list without him discovering a classic that he’d somehow missed is an indictment of the list itself, not Jonathan’s knowledge base.

    There aren’t nearly enough hidden gems and lost classics in this top 1,000.

  11. Steve,

    My usual response to comments like yours is … hey, there was a time you didn’t know the song, either. Like Kevin said, unfamiliarity with one song doesn’t discount a writer’s knowledge of the genre as a whole.

    And I think, personally, we should encourage more knowledge of the genre’s vast history, especially with the strong disconnect between mainstream country music and a good chunk of 20th century country music (anything other than the ’90s, really). But being close-guarded and flaunting around our own knowledge of the genre doesn’t do anyone any good.

  12. Okay then, better late than never to recognize how good Yesterday When I Was Young is. And He Stopped Loving Her Today. That one, we had a local DJ ask my work crew to stop requesting it every Friday night on their request hour! They wanted everyone to request the stuff they were playing all day anyway. Go figure.

    You’re both right about When I Call Your Name, which is criminally low. It should be Top 10 in my book.

  13. I will agree with Jonathan that Alabama is prone to corn pone. “Music for the country dentist” in one memorable Rolling Stone Album Review. Likewise, he nailed the problem with Ronnie Milsap. To be fair, much music was that slick and overproduced then.

  14. KJC ‘Heck, go back to the 1988 version of me, and I would’ve told you that “Jolene,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” and “Me and Bobby McGee” were all Olivia Newton-John songs!’

    I don’t think Olivia nailed any of the four songs, but I understand. I like artists with a historical bent and I tend to associate a song with the first artist to have a hit with the song. The first time I heard “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain”, I though ‘nice – Willie’s covering an old Roy Acuff song’. To me “Six Days On The Road” will always be Dave Dudley, not Sawyer Brown, and I’ve always been partial to the original recording of “Me and Bobbie McGee” by Roger Miller (my second favorite version is Kris Kristofferson’s ‘cover’ of his own song).

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