A great selection of artists, but not a great selection of singles.
Tim McGraw, “My Best Friend”
#1 | 1999
JK: I’ve always been on the negative side of ambivalent about McGraw, and it’s largely because of how often he chooses to sing weak material like this. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: I don’t even need to swap this out with a full song title. I’ll just change one word. “My Old Friend” is one of his best singles ever, and I would not quibble with it replacing “My Best Friend” exactly here. So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: What Kevin said. So Wrong (This Song)
Toby Keith, “I Love This Bar”
#1 | 2003
KJC: This single represents Keith’s full transition from artist to brand, so it’s appropriate that it’s the moniker for his restaurant chain. He sings it well and there’s some decent lyrical imagery, neither of which are a surprise: he’s a great singer and capable songwriter. I hated his “Red, White, and Blue” song, but the “I love my truck, and I love my girlfriend” line in the bridge was the first time I thought of him as a hack. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: The point at which Keith became more interested in being a brand than an artist, and what a shame. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: I’m torn on this one. Keith would milk this theme to death over the decade, but I’ve always loved the imagery and subdued, boozy nature that fits the track. Above all else, he’s a good songwriter when he wants to be. With that said, I’d only have a few Keith singles on a list like this, and even then, I’d use this to help start it off. Too High
Patsy Cline, “San Antonio Rose”
LP Cut | 1961
JK: Lovely, but a strange inclusion for so many reasons– not the least of which being that “She’s Got You” isn’t on the list. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: Of course, she sings it beautifully. But why is her album cut version on the list instead of the hit version by Floyd Cramer, or one of her missing signature hits, like “A Poor Man’s Roses (or a Rich Man’s Gold) or “So Wrong” (This Song)?
ZK: Artists often covered hit songs for their own albums during this time. Really, the average country album then was comprised of the artist’s own hit singles, a bunch of covers and a few filler tracks. It’s a roundabout way of saying I’m not mad this is here. I guess I’m just … confused? Either way, I won’t argue with more Patsy Cline on this list. Too High?
Confederate Railroad, “Trashy Women”
#10 | 1993
KJC: I was prepared for this to have aged terribly, but it’s just as funny and ultimately endearing as it was upon release. It’s the Dolly Parton ideal as the very embodiment of womanhood, and it’s 100% sincere, even if it’s a quite a bit Too High.
JK: Interesting to write this blurb after the Lady Antebellum to Lady A but whoops we didn’t do our due diligence events of the last week, especially given that Confederate Railroad had already lost bookings over their name. The name is problematic for a host of reasons and always was. A key difference with the Lady A(ntebellum) situation is that Confederate Railroad’s music was actually far better than the band was given credit for. “Trashy Women” avoids the sleazy way the men of modern country talk about women in their songs, and it’s both catchy and witty. I’m not mad that this single is here, though I’d argue it’s Too High.
ZK: Like Kevin said, it helps that this song doesn’t take itself too seriously and, in turn, eschews the usual worst elements of southern-rock within country music. I’m still not sure I’d have it here at all, but … Too High
Trace Adkins, “Ladies Love Country Boys”
#1 | 2006
JK: Absolutely not. That he has better material is a function of how bottom-of-the-barrel this is, even for him. I’d go to bat for “Arlington,” but not anywhere close to this high. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: Essentially a genre swap of “Trashy Women,” held back by a surprisingly impotent vocal that sounds overprocessed. This needed more twang across the board. If I’ve said it about an earlier Trace Adkins entry, I’ll go ahead and repeat it: Swap this lesser single out for “I’m Tryin’” or “Arlington.” So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: I’m convinced that one could take Adkins’ best material – “The Rest of Mine,” “Sometimes a Man Takes a Drink” and “Arlington,” for example – and have one of the finest country albums ever. Conversely, take material like this, “Brown Chicken Brown Cow,” “Swing” and plenty more I’d rather not revisit, and you’d have one of the worst country albums ever. By far the most frustratingly inconsistent artist to ever grace our presence. So Wrong (This Song)
Martina McBride, “My Baby Loves Me”
#2 | 1993
KJC: A very deserved breakout hit that still sounds fresh today, with McBride’s power and sass remaining in service to the lyric, rather than overwhelming it as became so common with her later records. As far as ranking goes, I’d say it’s a bit Too High.
JK: I actually loved two of the three singles from McBride’s debut album, but it’s not hard to hear why this was her real breakthrough. The production is crisp, and it avoids all of the decisions, both as a vocalist and in choosing material, that made her latter career so insufferable. Personally, I’d still swap this out for “Whatever You Say,” but I’m also fine with saying this is Too High.
ZK: It’s cute ’90s fodder that’s one of McBride’s better records, but still far Too High.
Zac Brown Band, “Keep Me in Mind”
#1 | 2011
JK: Pleasant and competently performed. But they have far better than that in their catalogue. Give me the breakneck “The Wind,” instead. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: Their radio filler was breezier and more pleasing to the ears than most artists of the time. But radio filler is still radio filler. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: After The Owl, I most certainly will not. So Wrong (This Song)
Tanya Tucker, “San Antonio Stroll”
#1 | 1975
KJC: All of her Southern Gothic records from the seventies belong on this list, but fluff like this should’ve been swapped with something from her eighties/nineties heyday, like “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love.” So Wrong (This Song)
JK: I love her, but I would never have picked this song. Among her 70s run, I’ll still champion “(Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand) Another You.” So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: I had very little memory of this before revisiting it, and even though I won’t argue with a Tanya Tucker song on this list, this is far Too High.
The Wreckers, “Leave the Pieces”
#1 | 2006
JK: I wasn’t a fan of Michelle Branch’s MOR Adult Pop, and I wasn’t at all impressed by The Wreckers’ debut album… beyond this one terrific single that has actually aged really well. Still, overall this is Too High.
KJC: A great debut single that didn’t lead to much of a career. So much promise that went unfulfilled. Too High
ZK: I’m surprised and absolutely thrilled this was included. In a post-Dixie Chicks world, though, (at least in mainstream country music) I blame the timing for this duo’s early demise. About Right
Tracy Byrd, “The Keeper of the Stars”
#2 | 1995
KJC: A middling love song that came off at the time like a John Michael Montgomery reject. He made some great country music, but this and his novelty records seem to be all that’s remembered. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Something I’ve found interesting in the process of reviewing this countdown is how many of our regular commenters were secret Tracy Byrd fans all this time. As with his previous entries, I just don’t get this and anticipate some spirited defenses of it in the comments. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: I never really understood what Tracy Byrd brought to the table that we weren’t already getting from other more competent performers. Case in point. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)