Signature nineties hits from Tracy Lawrence, Collin Raye, and Sawyer Brown brighten up this batch.
Tracy Lawrence, “Time Marches On”
#1 | 1996
ZK: My favorite Tracy Lawrence performance, highlighting, as Kevin notes below, the angst that comes with making the most of our time here and constantly feeling suffocated because of it. In reality, it’s a vicious cycle we have to try and enjoy, rather than fret over. About Right
KJC: It’s below “Alibis” and “Sticks and Stones” on my list of personal Tracy Lawrence favorites, but this Bobby Braddock hit had the biggest impact back in the day. What I love about this song is the pure banality of the lives being led by all four family members. Life is…not that interesting, and then you die. About Right
JK: I’m in full agreement on this one: Not my favorite Lawrence single, but that it’s all so purposefully ordinary is what elevates it. When American Beauty came out a few years later and people were acting like it was profound social commentary, I was like, “Tracy Lawrence covered all of this better, and in three and a half minutes.” In the grand scheme of things, though, I’d say this is just a skoch Too High.
Henson Cargill, “Skip a Rope”
KJC: An underrated talent that was overshadowed by this, his first and biggest hit. About Right
JK: Such a fantastic record that absolutely holds up. I also loved the version George Jones did on his Hits I Missed… And One I Didn’t project. About Right
ZK: I’m thrilled they included this socially conscious tune. An under the radar gem that deserves to be here, for sure. About Right
Brad Paisley, “Ticks”
#1 | 2007
JK: This is one of Paisley’s uptempo hits that I’ll still go to bat for. His performance is one long piss-take that shows that he’s fully aware of the absurdity, and that guitar lick that runs throughout is one of his best. That said, this one belongs in the 1000-950 range, not ahead of “Jolene.” Too High
ZK: I didn’t even think this was funny in grade school. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: This song is disgusting. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Alan Jackson, “Tall, Tall Trees”
#1 | 1995
ZK: Very few could do justice to this George Jones/Roger Miller tune, but Alan Jackson, like Jones, delivered his material with a warm simplicity that just worked. And he channeled Miller by downplaying the goofy lyrics with an effective sense of subtlety. I actually forgot how good this is, but it’s a bit too goofy for, you know, the top 500. Too High
KJC: Leave it to Alan Jackson to unearth a 1958 George Jones B-side that the legend wrote with Roger Miller, and turn it into one of his biggest hits. A wonderful bridge between past and present, that’s still a little Too High.
JK: A terrific cover, to be sure, but Jackson has so many entries on this list already, and I just can’t bring myself to commit to the idea that this single is one of the 1000 best or most significant songs in all of country music. I’d cut it, with at least a tinge of regret. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Lefty Frizzell, “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”
#1 | 1950
KJC: As much as I love the Willie Nelson version, you can’t top the original. Not enough Lefty on this list, and this entry is definitely Too Low.
JK: This is actually my favorite Frizzell cut, and I’d have it in my top 50, at the very least. Entirely Too Low.
ZK: I can’t quibble much with the placement, but there’s so much wrong with this. One, it’s the first time we’ve seen Lefty Frizzell’s name since the 900s … with “Long Black Veil,” mind you. Two, “Saginaw, Michigan” just … isn’t here at all. Three, I repeat, the placement is right, but this should have been the first Frizzell selection for this list, with those aforementioned tunes and “I Never Go Around Mirrors” somewhere in the top 100. About Right, But Still So Wrong
Josh Turner, “Would You Go With Me”
#1 | 2006
JK: One of the few singles of Turner’s post- “Long Black Train” that truly plays to his strengths and artistic persona. A winner, but, big picture, it’s still Too High.
ZK: This feels like an easy choice to say is too high, but I’ve always loved how warm, wistful and unique the production job is here. It’s a simple little love song, but one of the best of its kind. I don’t know; blame it on nostalgia, but I think we took Josh Turner for granted in the 2000s, even if I wish more of his material felt as adventurous as this or, say, “Long Black Train.” About Right
KJC: This was Turner’s best single, and it is completely deserving of this ranking. About Right
Collin Raye, “Love, Me”
#1 | 1991
ZK: Well, we already saw “Little Rock” on this list – which I wouldn’t have minded seeing here, mind you – but this is another Collin Raye single I don’t mind seeing here. Maybe it was just me revisiting it in a down year, but I liked it better then more than I ever did before. And the ending still got to me, even after all this time. Too High
KJC: This one is still a sucker punch, almost thirty years after the first time I heard it. As irritated as I am that the even better “Where’ve You Been” is absent entirely, I will not fault this ranking. About Right
JK: In the same way that Martina McBride spent her career chasing another “Independence Day,” I always felt that Raye chased another song like this one and, give or take “Little Rock,” never found it. It skews maudlin, and Kevin’s exactly right that “Where’ve You Been” is the superior version of this song, but this is still well-written and thoughtfully performed. I’d bump it down a bit, though. Too High
Little Big Town, “Pontoon”
#1 | 2012
KJC: A career record that turned them into the dominant vocal group overnight, after years of toiling in the shadows of the lesser Rascal Flatts and Lady A. It doesn’t belong quite this high, but it’s a keeper. Too High
JK: I’d put it in the 900s somewhere for its impact overall and for how it was LBT’s years-overdue launch onto the A-list, but I honestly never thought much of it on its own merits. I’ll forever remain bitter that the perfect “Sober” wasn’t this big of a hit for them. Too High
ZK: Ugh … it should be here, but it’s more of a begrudging concession for a band with a history of inconsistent chart success. A roundabout way of saying there’s a good chunk of their early and current work that, in a just world, would be here instead. So Wrong (This Song)
Mickey Gilley, “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time”
#1 | 1976
JK: I mean, we’ve had to put up with Chase Rice for almost a decade now, so the sleaziness of this premise scans as… quaint? This is fine. It does not in any way belong in this section of the list. Too High
ZK: Innocuous, upbeat honky-tonk that really could have benefitted from a more effective singer – I’m talking charisma; not pure power. All of Gilley’s selections have felt a bit too high, but this is one I would have just outright swapped for something else. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: My favorite story about this song has nothing to do with Gilley. When K.T. Oslin was promoting “Younger Men,” a DJ refused to play it because he didn’t want to offend his male listeners. K.T. asked if the DJ played this song. When he confirmed, she responded, “don’t you think that song’s offensive to women?” The DJ hung up on her. Too High
Sawyer Brown, “Some Girls Do”
#1 | 1992
ZK: At this point, we need a sixth rating: “Upbeat Ditty Is Fine, But Not Top 500 Worthy.” For now, Too High.
KJC: I’ll put the 1990-1993 run of Sawyer Brown singles up against any country band’s peak. “Some Girls Do” is fantastic, and it’s still not in the top five of that run. Too High
JK: They had such a brief run of true greatness, but they knocked it out of the park every single time during that run, especially in comparison to their dreadful, hacky late 80s output. This is easily the least single of their golden era, but I’d still have it on the list. Too High