A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #280-#271

No fewer than three classic records from female artists show up way too early on this list.

 

#280

Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine”

#1 | 1996

JK: An even more absurd ranking than Randy Travis’ “On The Other Hand.” It’s arguably the finest composition of Matraca Berg’s brilliant career, and Carter would never better the empathy and weariness of her performance on this single. That it was actually a hit at radio– it’s five minutes long, and it’s a goddamn waltz– is a testament to everything country music got right in the 90s and a damning indictment of everything it’s gotten wrong in the two-plus decades since. “I was thirstin’ for knowledge / And he had a car,” is my favorite single line in all of country music, in no small part because I had to explain to a college friend– a poetry major, no less, who went on to get an MFA– that it isn’t in any way a non sequitur. It’s a top 50 record, easily. Too Low

ZK: I will not top what’s above me – The comment or the song. Too Low 

KJC: This is a top 100 record, minimum.  Too Low

 

#279

Gary Allan, “Nothing On But the Radio”

#1 | 2004

ZK: I made a top 25 list for Allan last year. I could have ranked all of his songs in general and this would have been near the bottom of the pack. I know it’s one of his few No. 1 hits, but even still, on historical weight alone, people will remember Allan for his moodier – and, honestly, just better – material. You could have included “Smoke Rings in the Dark,” Sirius people, and your Allan picks just suck. So Wrong (This Song)

KJC: This is a charming record that would’ve been great a few hundred entries ago, which is a comment that could be copy-and-pasted for many records to come.  I’d include it, but I echo my colleagues in terms of better choices for Allan that would justify this high of a ranking.  Too High

JK: If any Allan song deserves a ranking this high, it’s “Songs About Rain.” He’s one of the few men of his era who could sing about sex and actually project sexiness, which made this single stand out at the time. But I wouldn’t have included it. So Wrong (This Song)

 

#278

Eddie Rabbitt, “Two Dollars in the Jukebox”

#3 | 1976

KJC:  Zack’s Dave & Sugar slander below will be addressed at another time!  As for this entry…I love Eddie Rabbitt.  I even have an out of proportion sense of affection for Eddie Rabbit, given we were both born in Brooklyn, but come on. He’s already got three singles in the top 200.  This is a waste of an upper echelon ranking.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: Rabbitt’s material hasn’t aged well due to its production, which is very much of its era. But I’ve always liked him as a performer, and this song is solid. Still, this ranking is far Too High.

ZK: I like Rabbitt more than I do most performers of this era (y’all remember Exile and Dave & Sugar? Dear Lord), but I’m not even sure my favorite cut of his, “Drivin’ My Life Away” would make my personal top 1000. Maybe I’ll change my opinion when we get to that song. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#277

Travis Tritt, “Anymore”

#1 | 1991

JK: Tritt now spends his time trying to see if he can be a more belligerent, toxic social media presence than John Rich. That’s resulted in some unfair criticisms of his actual output– which, unlike Rich’s, was frequently among the best of his era. Tritt sings the absolute fire out of this ballad of deep regret, and it’s as riveting a performance now as it was 30 years ago. About Right

ZK: I liken Travis Tritt to Garth Brooks: He’s insufferable now, but his ’90s run was just excellent. And honestly, on pure talent alone I’m going to go with Tritt anyway, who was one of the finest voices of his era and gave us both soulful ballads like this and rockers that could actually kick a little bit of ass. I just, again, can’t hide the way I feel about him now “anymore.” About Right 

KJC: Easily his best record, and I’m pleased that it’s included, given that the list isn’t too Tritt heavy and there are two other singles from this album already on the list.  About Right

 

#276

Blake Shelton, “Austin”

#1 | 2001

ZK: Probably the only single of his I’d have this high, and I’m not even 100% sold on the placement. But it’s a fantastic ballad and one of the bright spots of early 2000s country radio, as well as an example of why Blake Shelton had the talent to ascend to superstardom a decade later. Don’t know how he was able to hang on with increasingly more generic material, though. About Right 

KJC: Slot this in among records that I can recognize as essential even if I’ve never understood the appeal myself.  About Right

JK: What Kevin said: It’s Shelton’s obvious bid for a classic, but… I still kind of don’t care? It’s fine. I wouldn’t have it ranked quite this high, but I certainly wouldn’t cut it. Too High

 

#275

Tammy Wynette, “I Don’t Wanna Play House”

#1 | 1967

KJC:  Her domestic dramas were peerless.  This one might be the best out of all of them.  Too Low

JK: An obvious genre classic, but one that I’ve never cared for; I’m just not a Wynette fan, and this record has never been able to convert me. I’d have “Apartment No. 9” ranked around here and drop this one back a bit. Heresy, I know. Too High

ZK: Gutting, and an example of why I prefer this side of Wynette over “Stand By Your Man.” The way her voice creeps up and transcends itself on that hook – y’all. Too Low

 

#274

Kenny Rogers, “Through the Years”

#5 | 1982

JK: I’d swap this ranking with “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” which it feels like we covered a lifetime ago based on how much utter bullshit we’ve seen in the interim. Too High

ZK: Rogers himself called it a career song, but to me it just sounds like him going through the motions. An example of what I don’t like about this era. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

KJC: We had the kids sing this to my first principal as she retired, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  I understand why it resonates as much as it does.  It’s not a top 300 record, though.  Too High

 

#273

Brett Eldredge, “Don’t Ya”

#5 | 2012

ZK: I remember rooting for Eldredge when he had “Raymond” in 2010. Then he put this out, and I knew it’d be his breakthrough hit by how utterly generic it was. I wouldn’t even have “Raymond” this high, though there’s an argument to be made for “Sunday Drive.” Like Randy Houser, he’s one of the good guys now. So Wrong (This Song)

KJC: I agree with Zack.  Eldredge is doing some great work these days.  This isn’t one of his better songs.  So Wrong (This Song)

JK: I’ll break with the group again: This is an example of an artist whose most popular single is also their best. One of the better-constructed and better-sung pop-country hits of its era– though, admittedly, five years earlier, Eldredge would’ve been slotted as a Hot AC act rather than a country one with this exact single– and far superior to the overly self-serious work he’s done recently, which I’ve found just ungodly dull. Grand scheme of things, this is still Too High.

 

#272

Jeanne Pruett, “Satin Sheets”

#1 | 1973

KJC:  I went to Opryland once during my freshman year at Belmont.  It closed shortly thereafter.  My only surviving memory of the experience was Jeanne Pruett’s candy shop, Satin Sweets.  Yes, that’s how big this record was.  It’s also an essential recording, as one of the most powerful early examples of a woman owning her sexuality and demanding fulfillment that her husband can no longer provide.  Too Low

JK: Oh, man, the Opryland amusement park was a riot, and I 100% remember Satin Sweets. This song is a stone classic, and I agree with Kevin that its ranking is Too Low.

ZK: She’ll forever be associated with this song and this song alone, and that’s kind of sad. In the absolute sense, About Right, but check out “Back to Back” or some of her Marty Robbins duets, too. 

 

#271

Garth Brooks, “What She’s Doing Now”

#1 | 1992

JK: A bizarre ranking for a ballad that Brooks, at least in comparison to some of his other singles from this era, kind of undersells. I wouldn’t cut this one, but the ranking is far Too High.

ZK: An overlooked ballad in Brooks’ catalog – and he’s got some worthy of being here that we’ll see later – but not one I’d place this high. Too High 

KJC:  Ah, the song that blocked “Maybe it was Memphis” from #1 on the Radio & Records chart.  I shouldn’t hold that against it, but I do.  I will never understand how this was such a big record.  It’s my least favorite single from Ropin’ the WindToo High

 

Previous: #290-#281 | Next:  #270-#261

 

8 Comments

  1. Some real classics here (Strawberry Wine, I Dont want to…) both of which are both way too low…
    and a few real duds {Eddie and Gary’s songs) which are too high

  2. The success of “Strawberry Wine” on the radio was all the more extraordinary in that it was her *first* single release of any note. It’s easy to get the chronology wrong, because Deana had some extraordinary material for the American release of her first album: “Count Me In”, “How Do I Get There”, “We Danced Anyway”, and of course the album’s title track, which itself deserved rather more play than it got. But no; it was “Strawberry Wine” that came first, and shot to #1 entirely on its own merit.

    …which segues into a wider observation I have about this list: In the selection of singles from consistent multi-decade hitmakers like Chesney and McGraw, I note a distinct bias even there towards recency, when in my opinion an opposite weighting should have been applied. Chesney bringing “Me and You”, or “That’s Why I’m Here” to #2 near the start of his career (before and just after “She’s Got it All”, respectively) means a whole lot more than bringing “When the Sun Goes Down” or “Livin’ in Fast Forward” to #1 after he was a consistent hitmaker. I’d like to have seen more of Chesney from back when he was trying to say something, or, y’know, *sing*.

  3. Re. “Strawberry Wine”: Yes, one of the highlights for the female country explosion of the 1990’s, both for Deana as the singer of said song, and for Matraca Berg as its writer. Those were the days….

    Re. “Satin Sheets”: For all the bellyaching some country heavyweights did back in the 1970’s about pop crossovers, it’s not like they weren’t doing the same thing at that time, with good results. This one was not only a #1 C&W hit for Jeanne (natch!), but also a #28 pop hit in July 1973 for Jeanne, sometimes played alongside Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, and Jim Croce.

    Re. “Anymore”: While I certainly think that this is Travis Tritt at his best, it’s also, as others have said here, a case of how far down the rabbit hole he’s gone in recent years, and not just politically either (IMHO).

  4. Interesting. “What She’s Doing Now” was actually my favorite single from that album… maybe the only one I liked at all. The Tritt selection is fine enough, but I think “Foolish Pride”, “Sometimes She Forgets” and “Between an Old Memory and Me” are better.

    I suppose the point of a list like this is to keep people from turning off Sirius, so it seems like each group has a little something for everyone. Above we get Tammy Wynette for fans of classic country, Travis Tritt for 90s country fans and Brett Eldredge representing today’s country.

  5. I largely agree with the panel’s comments, although none of these songs would be in my top 200 (“Strawberry Wine” and “Satin Sheets” would just miss.

    Eddie Rabbitt made a turn toward a more traditional country sound late in his career. He died at s young age without getting a chance to recast his bigger hits in a more traditional manner, or even as bluegrass

  6. Agree with Michael A re What She’s Doing Now – favorite single from that album, co-written by Pat Alger & GB.

    never cared for Strawberry Wine – might have liked it better if covered by a different vocalist

    Uusally i lean toward ballads as favorites but with Tritt i liked his uptempo songs better, songs like Trouble, Bible Belt, You Never Take Me Dancing (Richard Marx)

  7. I thought it was a guilty pleasure to like Strawberry Wine, but it’s not only me. Like JK, I think that line is a highlight. And DC nails it. I’d heard the song 10 times before I really picked up on that line. Man, the wistfulness in her voice…whew! For my money, Travis Tritt is the most underrated country artist in history. Satin Sheets is way low, as is Play House. Unlike the panel, I think Two Dollars is a lot low, maybe top 100.

  8. “What She’s Doing Now” is actually my favorite single from Ropin’ The Wind, as well (sorry Kevin!), and it’s one of my favorites of the ballads he’s done. I’ve always loved the wistfulness of it, Garth’s laid back vocal performance, and just that it’s one of those great Fall/Winter ballads. I really miss when singles were perfectly chosen and timed for the seasons. Joe Diffie’s “Is It Cold In Here” and George Strait’s “Chill Of An Early Fall” were also hits around the same time this song was out.

    “Strawberry Wine” most definitely should be higher. Even in the 90’s, this song was something special and unique from what else of what was mostly on the radio. I’m really glad it’s become one of the most remembered songs from the decade, though I can’t help but wish Deana ended up having more success than she did. I love all of the other singles from Did I Shave My Legs For This, as well as the very underrated “Absence Of The Heart” from her second album.

    Always liked “Anymore,” as well, though there are other Tritt ballads I like even more like “Help Me Hold On,” “Drift Off To Dream,” “Nothing Short Of Dying,” “Can I Trust You With My Heart,” “If I Lost You,” and “Best Of Intentions.” I also say they got this one about right.

    “Austin” is still one of the best things Blake ever released to radio, and even that one I eventually got tired of due to overplay back in the day. But now, I’d much rather hear this one over and over than the majority of his singles from the past decade even once.

    “Through The Years” is one of those Urban Cowboy love ballads that’s always been a guilty pleasure for me. Definitely shouldn’t be this high, though.

    Eddie Rabbit is another artist whose Urban Cowboy stuff from the late 70’s and 80’s I’ve actually enjoyed, as well, even more than his countrier hits from earlier in the 70’s like this one. I do also really like his more neo-traditional sounding music from the early 90’s that Paul mentined, like “On Second Thought” and quite a few of the cuts on his 1991 album, Ten Rounds. BTW, always thought it was cool that he was one of those rare country artists to hail from New York City.

    Gary Allan’s “Nothing On The Radio” being on the list and up this high is just more evidence that they’ve made most of these selections based on radio overkill than the actual quality of the songs. How else could you explain why this is here, but “Smoke Rings” is not? Seriously, there was one point around the mid 00’s where you just couldn’t get away from this song. Not that it’s a bad song at all, and yes I was glad to see Gary’s career finally picking up some serious steam then, but he’s had much better singles that should’ve been just as big of a success as this one was.

    Nathaniel, I’m with you all the way on those earlier Kenny Chesney singles. “When I Close My Eyes” and “That’s Why I’m Here” are easily better than most anything he put out in the next decade when he became a Jimmy Buffett clone.

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