A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #290-#281

Any list of ours would have a better sense of country music history than this one has demonstrated, especially in this section.  On the other hand, we’re closer to being done than ever, so…

 

#290

Sam Hunt, “Leave the Night On”

#1 | 2014

KJC: Even the CMA Awards was reluctant to embrace Sam Hunt, despite his commercial success, so I take some comfort in there being some bridges that shouldn’t be crossed. He’s reasonably talented, I guess, in a C-list Shawn Mendes kind of way.  But the story of country music can be told without this song, if not without Sam Hunt entirely.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: Sam Hunt appropriates music made infinitely better by black and Latino/Latina artists in the pop and hip-hop spheres and makes it safe for a genre that continues, even in this exact moment, to refuse to address its problems with race. He’s an utter hack– an utter hack who has been, bizarrely, embraced and overpraised by members of the general music press– and represents the modern country music industry at its most insidious. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

ZK: Sam Hunt is the worst artist to ever, shall we say, enter the country music genre. 

Now, I admit that the person I was in high school ran with the “oh, it’s because he’s not country” excuse, but I’ve grown past that and still have never cared for Hunt. He’s got personality, but it’s often creepy and unlikable – Anyone remember him airing out his ex-significant other’s troubles in “Drinkin’ too Much” and trying to frame it as an apology? – he blends multiple genres together, only, as Jonathan notes, not nearly as well as artists in their respective lanes. And even when he does, it doesn’t help that his mixes often sound like, well, ass. Good on you for incorporating Webb Pierce into your stupid breakup song, Hunt. What purpose does it actually serve, though? It certainly does nothing for the song. And his actual writing, oh my, his actual writing. He’s whiny, self-obsessed, and reliant on supposed mind-melting charisma to bolster his romantic sentiments. And, just, noooooooo

So, yeah, it all started here and I blame this song. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#289

Porter Wagoner, “Green, Green Grass of Home”

#4 | 1965

JK: Another stone classic, ranked ignorantly. Too Low

ZK: Yes, a top 20 all-timer is just a little bit better than a Sam Hunt song. Makes complete sense. Too Low and Once Again Blowing A Gasket

KJC: Wagoner’s penchant for melodrama always worked best when it had a story worthy of such delivery.  This one is quintessential Porter Wagoner, and in turn, quintessential country music.  I’d have it in the top 100.  Too Low

 

#288

Shania Twain, “Any Man of Mine”

#1 | 1995

ZK: For my own personal reasons, I’ve been researching country music history from around 1989-now. So, naturally, I’ve fostered a new appreciation from Shania Twain from it, and while many cite 1995 as around the time the ’90s boom ended, Twain was just getting started with a new sound that would make her the female equivalent of Garth Brooks, arguably really starting with this single. Actually, it’s women who kept the momentum going, and on that pure merit alone – along with this being an absolute riot: Too Low  

KJC: One of two singles included in this section that permanently altered the course of country music, and the best evidence yet that this list has completely failed in accurately telling the story of country music.  For decades, country music labels had insisted that their largely female audience wanted to hear men singing to them, and in turn, wanted their women to be non-threatening and humble.  There were many female artists successfully laboring against that perception during the nineties boom, but Twain blew the doors wide open.  

Disregarding antiquated ideas of what women wanted to hear, she bared her belly button and owned her sexuality, which provided the perfect cover for what she was really doing: ignoring men completely and speaking directly to her audience, while the suits were too busy drooling over her to properly notice. 

This led to the explosion of album sales for female country artists, and it’s worth noting that in the years since Twain broke through and in spite of a twenty year long backlash that exiled women from country radio, it’s been only female country artists that have sold 5 million copies or more of a studio album, some burning out quickly (Deana Carter, Gretchen Wilson), but others enduring (The Chicks, Faith Hill, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood.)   Too Low

JK: So, I’ve already stated that “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and “No One Needs to Know” are her best singles, and Kevin’s already written a correct treatise on “You’re Still the One” and the blatant disrespect this list shows to women, especially to Twain. In terms of Twain’s overall impact, I actually think the placement for this, her breakthrough hit at radio, is the most egregious ranking among her singles. It’s been described as a bomb going off in country music, and that’s fundamentally accurate both in terms of its actual production and the force it exerted on the industry. It showcases Twain’s wit and singular point-of-view, and, compared to what’s on radio right now? It sure sounds a lot more like an actual country single than a lot of people said at the time. Too Low

 

#287

Joe Nichols, “Gimmie That Girl”

#1 | 2009

KJC:  Gimmie that girl singer, and that girl singer, and that girl singer, over “Gimmie That Girl” and Nichols’ two other singles in the top 300. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: I actually like this single: It has a solid rhythm section and cadence to its language, and Nichols sings it well. I’d never have it anywhere near my t1000. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

ZK: Gimmie one reason why it’s here. Not here, here. Like, here at all. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#286

Waylon Jennings, “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way”

#1 | 1975

JK: Another song whose premise I just kind of reject out-of-hand– the genre’s revisionist history of acting like it’s ever been a bastion of artistic purity– but can’t deny based on overall impact. I wouldn’t have it ranked this highly. Too High

ZK: A stomping classic from an excellent era. About Right 

KJC:  “Traditional country music” has historically been determined by a specific white male southern posture, and often unrelated to the actual sound of the records.  Jennings incorporated contemporary rock as much as Jones drenched his hits in orchestral strings. But they were presented as stalwart guardians of the genre, anyway. Hank didn’t do it this way at all, but Waylon could claim Hank’s legacy as his own because of their common identity.  Food for thought.  Too High

 

#285

John Anderson, “Straight Tequila Night”

#1 | 1991

ZK: I’m not sure what to make of their John Anderson inclusions. Like, they included this and “Seminole Wind,” and while I’d have this a little higher, the placement isn’t, like, egregious. But he deserves more than five slots and something else that isn’t “I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal … ” A Little Too Low

KJC:  And then I have to pivot to a defense of Sirius, at least as it comes to John Anderson.  The temptation to put either his crossover mega-hit (“Swingin’”) or his environmental message song (“Seminole Wind”) as his highest ranking single would be understandable, but “Straight Tequila Night” really is his best single.  I dare say I’d rank it quite a bit higher.  Too Low

JK: I mean, I assume that “Wild And Blue” isn’t going to turn up in the top 20 like it ought to, and this is the best of Anderson’s just-awesome 90s run. Grand scheme of things, this strikes me as About Right

 

#284

Jana Kramer, “I Got the Boy”

#5 | 2015

KJC: Of course they think this is a worthy representation of female artists on this list.  The song is centered entirely on men, and how they grow and change and mature and isn’t that too bad for the girl that dates them when they’re younger but also aren’t men great and don’t they get even better with age?  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: The fact that they placed two singles by Jana Kramer, the twenty-teens version of Ronna Reeves in terms of actual talent, in the top 300 of this list is just infuriating. They did a piss-poor job of representing women, but they went all-in on Jana Kramer? Come the entire fuck on. The song’s fine; would’ve been nice to hear it performed by a competent vocalist. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

ZK: A fantastic song by a mediocre vocalist who squandered a good thing with that “Said No One Ever” thing. This was a bright spot at radio in 2015, but hardly worth a place anywhere near this high. And I don’t mind not including Kramer at all, especially when I prefer Lucy Hale, in terms of actresses who “went country.” Too High 

 

#283

Randy Travis, “On the Other Hand”

#67 | 1985

#1 | 1986

JK: Wild that this section has two debut singles that belong in the top 50, ranked alongside nothings by Joe Nichols and Jana Kramer. This is one of the finest country singles of the 80s, and Travis would have been an all-timer if he never released anything else half as good. But he did, over and over. Too Low

ZK: The start of a phenomenal career and one of the best ever debut albums. I love the story surrounding the second wind this song got at radio, and y’all, that hook. Too Low 

KJC:  And now we can move on to the other single in this section that permanently altered the course of country music, this time nine years earlier than Twain’s seminal smash.

The New Traditionalist movement was already underway when Travis had his first #1 hit, but the countrypolitan years wouldn’t come to a complete halt until Travis outsold all those crossover records, which were already few and far between by the mid-eighties.

As Chet Atkins famously observed, when rattling the loose change in his pocket, “This is the Nashville Sound.”  The town follows the money, and Travis becoming a multi-platinum artist meant fiddles and steel were back on the radio.  If not for good, then at least for a couple of decades.  

So it’s a top ten record in terms of historical impact.  But even beyond that, it’s so damn good. Too Low

 

#282

Loretta Lynn, “She’s Got You”

#1 | 1977

ZK: Look, Lynn is a powerful writer, but if we’re left comparing pure vocal presences here, this doesn’t even come close to the Patsy Cline standard. I agree with Jonathan: Throw in “Portland, Oregon” as a fun wildcard pick. And just throw in more Lynn in general of her singing her own material. So Wrong (This Song)

KJC:  Y’all, it’s not even the most egregious and random Patsy Cline cover we’ve come across yet.  Gird your loins for #105.  And while I co-sign my colleagues’ request for a different Loretta Lynn record, let me also note that this wasn’t even the best single from her Patsy Cline covers album, I Remember Patsy.  “Why Can’t He Be You” >>> “She’s Got You.”  So Wrong (This Song)

JK: Lord God. They wasted one of Loretta’s too-few spots on her version of a song far more closely associated with Patsy Cline, and rightfully so. “Rated X” or “Portland, OR” should be ranked around here, instead, and I’m just going to assume Patsy’s version is missing altogether because this list just hates women. So Wrong (This Song)

 

#281

George Jones, “White Lightning”

#1 | 1959

KJC: I’m with Jonathan. Correct in a general sense, but wrong in the grander scheme of all things Jones. About Right. 

JK: In an absolute sense, this ranking is About Right, though it should not be ranked ahead of “She Thinks I Still Care,” which we’ve already seen. They really fucked up their Possum.

ZK: I prefer sad Jones – miserable Jones, to be shamefully honest – but on a list that actually tries, this would have been placed about right. That is, provided that list placed its proper amount of sad Jones well above this. About Right, But Still Somehow Wrong?

 

Previous: #300-#291 | Next:  #280-#271

 

16 Comments

  1. Favorite in this group is Randy T’s “On the Other Hand”, written by Don Schlitz & Paul Overstreet. Those two also collaborated on “Forever and Ever Amen” and “Deeper than the Holler”. Never got to see Randy in concert (or Paul Overstreet). Saw Schlitz about a dozen times and he almost always sang the first two songs.

    I was wrong about Joe Nichols. I thought he would be a big star in country music.

  2. KJC sadly we can’t really say “Any Man of Mine” permanently changed the course of country music since not 15 years later it was back in the same mindset that men didn’t want to hear women singers.

  3. That awkward moment when you like Jana Kramer as a singer and think she deserves to be on the list. I get personal preferences and I respect Jonathan’s opinion, but I heavily disagree, and I also do think Jana Kramer is at least somewhat talented and I do like “I Got The Boy” as a single.

    Sorry.

  4. I largely agree with the panel’s comments. The Loretta Lynn Patsy Cline tribute album was a wasted opportunity – it included a remembrance track that would have worked better as liner notes and the songs selected did not really play to Loretta’s strengths. I love Loretta but a torch balladeer she wasn’t and she would have been better advised to go deeper catalogue and pick some of Patsy’s up-tempo recordings

    “Seminole Wind” defies classification but it is a worthy part of the John Anderson canon but it belongs as does “Straight Tequila Night”, “Wild and Blue” and several others

    It’s hard to have too much Randy Travis on this list and “On The Other Hand” is an all-time classic – top 50 for sure.

    There are a number of great recordings of “Green Green Grass of Home” ranging from Johnny Darrell to Porter Wagoner to Tom Jones. During the days when albums always contained several covers of recent hits, this song was heavily covered – I probably have at least forty versions of the song in my collection – it is such a well written song, that it is difficult to mess up. Even Don Williams (Pozo Seco Singers) covered the song

    I too thought Joe Nichols would become a big star but I think he arrived a little too late as the market was shifting away from actually being country music anymore. Had he arrived a decade earlier I think he would have been huge

  5. Sorry, but Green Grass is a painfully stupid story. I wake up from a dream to realize I’m dead? Come on, man. Shania doesn’t have a bad voice, but really, it’s nothing special. Randy Travis rescued country in my estimation and The Other Hand played a big part. We’ll get to another one that I can’t understand not being in everyone’s top 10. This is an embarrassment for Loretta Lynn. When she tries and miserably fails to imitate Patsy’s rolling purr of “orrr it’s got me”, I cringe. Willy’s Roadhouse plays it often and I can’t stand it. Everything considered, it’s Loretta’s worst song.

  6. Sure you could tell a story about the history of country music without Sam Hunt but it wouldn’t be a true story.

    It would be dishonest to the story of country music in the 2010’s to dismiss and ignore Hunt’s contributions, if by no other metric than sales alone. Not to mention what followed him through the breach in country music’s mainstream identity politics.

    For better or for worse.

    Just because many hate his lowest common denominator, hybridized style doesn’t mean Hunt’s significance and contributions to country music’s story are any less. They are just more difficult to get a handle on and make sense of, especially in the moment.

    Context is king, and we don’t have much perspective yet on Hunt’s creative output which totals just two studio albums.

    Raging against his version of country music as if it is some sort of impediment to the genre’s growth and purity is an all too familiar a backward-looking approach to tradition. Twain was arguably equally vilified and excoriated for the same sins when her music was live and new in the mid 90’s.

    We should allow for the possibility that twenty years from now country historians might celebrate Hunt as being more than just the most recent barbarian hack at tradition’s gate at the time.

    I believe a conversation about country music’s story is more alive and meaningful when we wrestle to try to hear the “country-ness” of non-traditional styles, sounds, and productions in country music’s present as opposed to filtering it through some already established version of country music’s past.

  7. @Jason – female artists have never returned to their pre-Shania posture, and despite radio’s resistance, only female artists have approached Shania’s sales figures since.

    @Steve – the narrator of “Green, Green Grass” doesn’t wake up dead. He wakes up from his dream of a warm welcome home in a jail cell, where he is awaiting execution.

    @Peter – just to clarify my comment, I said the story of country music could be told without this particular Sam Hunt song, not Sam Hunt himself. I’d include “Body Like a Back Road” and “Break Up in a Small Town” on the list, despite not particularly liking either song. He’s a key artist from this past decade.

  8. Kevin, Thank you for clarifying your comment.

    I read the original post as suggesting the story of country music could just as easily be told without Sam Hunt entirely as it could be told without “Leave the Night On” specifically.

    I absolutely agree he is a key artist from this past decade and I think Hunt does not receive the credit he deserves for the smart word play in his songwriting.

    The punning and cleverness in many of his lyrics are the most “country” aspects of his craft. This is most evident to me in “Montevallo’s” “Ex To See” and Southside’s “Hard to Forget.”

    I think a case could be made for “Leave the Night On.” It passes the test of how inviting the song title would look on a jukebox. (Because obviously I associate Sam Hunt songs with jukeboxes!)

    I know it will be considered sacrilege but the fun Hunt has with words, and the speed of his rhymes, brings to my mind both Clint Black and Roger Miller.

    In saying that, I am just trying to make country connections between artists and aspects of their work from different generations and not direct comparisons between the significance of those artists to the history of the genre.

    I will duck and cover now….

  9. I just took a peak at the rest of the Top 1000 – Sirius really did a squalid job on representing women singers (they didn’t do all that well with the men either) – I can think of a lot of worthies that could be on this list, singers such as Rattlesnake Annie, Iris Dement, Jody Miller, Mandy Barnett, Gail Davies, Donna Ulisse – I could go on and on. And like others I am outraged by the omission of Suzy Bogguss (I have 13 of her albums)

    I have two of Jana Kramer’s albums and some by other luminaries such as Kassie dePaiva and Shelly Fairchild – gifts from younger relatives who know I like country music but have no idea what it actually is about

    Keep plodding onward and fight the good fight – I love this feature and you guys are doing a great job. After about #200 the list is mostly comprised of good songs and good recordings, although not necessarily slotted properly

  10. ‘Leave tHe Light on” does belong but its a mid 900’s song for me.
    “Green Green Grass of home” was great but for my money, Porter’s best was
    Carroll County Accident”
    “White Lightning” is too high, but not by a lot.

  11. Well, I’m hacked off now. 50 years ago, a teacher told me Green Green Grass of Home was about a guy waking up in a coffin, which were the 4 gray walls. Since then, I’ve thought it was just hopelessly stupid. I thought the guard was a military honor guard accompanying the priest down the road to the Oak tree. At least I learned something here.

  12. Sorry Peter, but I’m totally with the panel, especially Zackary, when it comes to Sam Hunt. I just can’t stand the guy’s music, period, and to see anything by him ranked this high on the list and knowing what’s behind it and what’s not on the list at all is simply disgusting to me.

    “Any Man Of Mine” is a classic, and I still remember the video being on TV all the time like it was yesterday. With the fiddle and steel loud and clear in the mix and unmistakably country melody, it truly sounds like a pure country song compared to what’s on the radio today, even though it was considered more contemporary back in its day. It probably deserves to be the highest ranked of the The Woman In Me singles due to its impact, though “No One Needs To Know” will always be my personal favorite.

    I also agree with them ranking “Straight Tequila Night” the highest of the Anderson singles, not only because it’s such a great song overall, but also because it’s responsible for one of the most awesome comeback stories in the genre. Should’ve definitely been higher! Actually, I wouldn’t have argued one bit if all of the other Seminole Wind singles made it on the list, especially the now criminally underrated “Let Go Of The Stone.”

    “On The Other Hand” is another classic that has no business being this low on the list, and it’s yet another fine example of the excellent songwriting team of Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz and the roll they were on during the mid-late 80’s. As I’ve said elsewhere, Randy Travis is one of the main artists who provided the soundtrack to my early childhood, and looking back at the string of excellent singles he released back in the day, I’m truly thankful that I got to live some of my earliest years during that awesome late 80’s-early 90’s period.

    “White Lightning” is still so much fun today, and it still never fails to make me laugh. I agree that “She Thinks I Still Care” should be ranked higher, though, when it comes to early Jones. Since the Possum is mainly known for his sad songs, it’s a bit shocking to learn that they were a bit skimpy on putting more sad Jones songs higher on the list.

    Had to chuckle at Jonathan’s comparison between Jana Kramer and Ronna Reeves. Nice blast from the past! While Ronna has never been one of my top favorites of the female artists that came out during the early 90’s boom, at least she never did anything as horrendous as “Said No One Ever,” and “The More I Learn” is still a jam for me. As for Kramer’s “I Got The Boy,” it was indeed a breath of fresh air for me when it came out mainly because of the beautiful melody (songs with nice, memorable melodies were already scarce then) and the prominent use of the dobro. It’s just too bad it ended up being the only single of hers I truly liked. I’d have put this somewhere closer to the bottom, and call it a day for Jana.

    I’m completely with the panel on “Gimmie That Girl.” Gimmie one reason why this song is still remembered and apparently popular enough to be considered one of the greatest country songs of all time. Like many other traditional leaning artists whose careers took off in the 21st century, Nichols has been very hit or miss for me with his material, despite really liking his voice. I suspect I would’ve liked him much more if he started somewhere in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

    “Green Green Grass Of Home” is one of the songs I’ve really come to appreciate after exploring a lot of country from the 50’s and 60’s. The ending still gets me every time. What a joke to see it just one spot ahead of Sam Hunt. Talk about musical whiplash!

  13. I don’t have a strong opinion when it comes to Sam Hunt. (Much has been said already :) But Dwight Yoakam did quip about Hunt’s music which I find interesting, coming from someone usually categorized as a neo-traditionalist:

    “It reminds me a little bit of, with the infusion of soul and southern R&B, with the things that happened surrounding the album that Ray Charles put out – the very historic album The Modern Sounds of Country Music back in the early ’60s[…] It was a reinterpretation that not only intrigued country audiences at the time, but it brought a brand new audience to the country music world.”

  14. I was playing “The Brenda Lee Story, Her Greatest Hits” this morning and thought of Paul’s comment
    about sirius and female singers. I scrolled thru the thousand songs (i’m not aware of any quick way to search the list) and didn’t find any of her songs (i could have missed the listing for her i admit). Granted that some of her hits, e.g., “Sweet Nuthin’s”, were big on rock radio, i think she should have been represented at least once somewhere on the list.

  15. For my money — and I think I’ve said this here before — Merle’s version of “Green, Green Grass of Home” is the best one. But I do like Porter Wagoner’s recording of it.

    And it’s sure as HELL better than just one slot above not just “Leave the Night On,” but ANYTHING Sam Hunt has ever recorded and probably ever will record. Maybe the story of country music can’t be told without including Sam Hunt, but only because the chapters of the music’s decline need to be told as well. One might as well call his music progressive metal or salsa, because frankly it bears about as much resemblance to those genres as it does country.

    I too like slow & sad George Jones better than happy & upbeat George Jones. The fact that “A Good Year for the Roses” isn’t on this list is an absolute travesty.

    I can’t really think of any other Loretta Lynn cut to replace No. 282, but if it’s gotta be a cover, make it Paths Cline’s cover of “Lovesick Blues,” for the notes she hits in that song alone. My God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.