A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #240-#231

Several all-time classics show up too early, alongside a record that has no business crashing this particular party.

 

#240

Faith Hill, “This Kiss”

#1 | 1998

ZK: I don’t recall finding much fault with the Faith Hill selections, and I do like this catchy little ditty. I just wouldn’t have it nearly this high. Too High

KJC: I’d flip the ranking of her two big hits. “Breathe” was technically bigger, but I think that “This Kiss” is the stronger record.   But both records belong higher than this, as two of the biggest and best records of the late nineties, powering their respective albums to combined sales of over fourteen million units in America alone. I’m a broken record on this by this point, but I’ll say it again: this list has significantly downplayed the impact of the genre’s most important female artists. Too Low

JK: Easily the best of her pop crossover hits: That melody is indelible, and the production is buoyant. Hill’s performance in the chorus skews too screamy, but there are some nice, subtle flourishes to her deliveries throughout the whole record. Still, this ranking is far Too High.

 

#239

George Hamilton IV, “Abilene”

#1 | 1963

KJC:  One of the biggest records of the mid-sixties, and frustratingly under-ranked.  Too Low

JK: A just flawless recording, with Hamilton’s easy-going performance a perfect foil for one of the strongest melodies in the genre’s history. Too Low

ZK: A very joyful, rollicking record that, if I’m giving credit where it’s due, is another example of Sirius picking an oddball selection and getting it right. Too High

 

#238

Eli Young Band, “Even if it Breaks Your Heart”

#1 | 2011

JK: A terrific cover that was, deservingly, a hit at radio. I’d honestly have Will Hoge’s more soulful original ranked on the list and this version farther down. Too High

ZK: Back before the band lost the plot and before Will Hoge settled on making whiny “genericana.” Guess I’ll keep on dreaming for a return to form for both someday … even if it breaks my heart. Too High

KJC:  Their signature hit deserves a place on this list, but not all the way up here.  Too High

 

#237

Waylon Jennings, “Amanda”

#1 | 1979

ZK: I’ve always loved the quiet, mysterious, alluring quality to Jennings’ ballads, which is why they’re among my favorite cuts of his. The Don Williams version of this song has always won out for me, but it’s incredibly close. A mark of an excellent song, then, that this is Too Low. 

KJC: With eleven singles in the top 500, and three in the top 100, Waylon’s been given his due by this list by the numbers.  But numbers don’t tell the whole story.  This is one of his most important and emotionally impactful recordings.  Too Low

JK: So much of what gets written about Jennings focuses only on the Outlaw movement, overlooking the fact that he was also a great singer, and “Amanda” is perhaps his most nuanced vocal performance. Which makes it one of his best singles, which makes this ranking Too Low.

 

#236

Tim McGraw, “Just to See You Smile”

#1 | 1998

KJC:  I’m a big fan of McGraw’s work from this era, and this is arguably his strongest single from the late nineties and early aughts.  I think that it belongs higher. I’d swap it with “Something Like That” or “Where the Green Grass Grows.”  Too Low

JK: McGraw’s best uptempo single by miles: His ability to emote his way through just about anything has rarely been served by a line as good as, “I told you that I was happy for you / And given the chance, I’d lie again.” About Right

ZK: I love these types of driving, wistful songs that work with happy, lovestruck sentiments and then rip away the veneer by the end, revealing that all of that happiness is really just a bittersweet sigh of relief and regret for what might have been. If anything, McGraw’s emotive ability has always been top-notch, and hearing him fight his way through this facade makes for his best single. About Right

 

#235

Patsy Cline, “She’s Got You”

#1 | 1962

JK: Well, I’ll be damned. When we wrote about Loretta Lynn’s version of this a few entries back, I assumed it meant Patsy’s definitive version had been omitted. Which makes the inclusion of Loretta’s cover all the more inexplicable, and this ranking is just far, far Too Low.

ZK: I mean, I’m confused why we had to cover the Loretta Lynn version – not that long ago, either, I might add – but, yes, absolutely. It’s not as immediately recognizable “Crazy” or “Walkin’ After Midnight,” but it’s easily among Cline’s best, and that’s saying something. Too Low

 

KJC:  How do they understand that “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces” belong in the top twenty, then have this all the way down here?  This might be her pinnacle as a vocalist.  “I’ve got your memory, or…has it got me?” couldn’t have been delivered so brilliantly by anybody else.  Too Low

 

#234

Luke Bryan, “Crash My Party”

#2 | 2013

ZK: And just as I give Sirius credit for including “Abilene” and the correct version of “She’s Got You,” they go and do this. No, it’s not nearly among Bryan’s worst, but he sounds so painfully out of his element here. At least his earlier stuff was, I don’t know, fun? So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

KJC: This is a perfect example of everything that went wrong with country music around this time. The chorus is flat and unmelodic, robbing the lyric of any kind of urgency or emotion. What’s he feeling here? Anticipation? Lust? Heartache? Who knows?   So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: King of the bros tries to be serious, fails. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#233

Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”

#1 (Pop/R&B/AC) | 1962

KJC:  Ray Charles brilliantly covered Don Gibson, and managed to improve on an already excellent country record.  At a time when country music was still struggling for mainstream acceptance, Charles brought the genre’s songcraft to a much wider audience, including an international one: this topped the pop charts in the U.K., too.  About Right

JK: That it was a hit on literally every format except Country says a lot, none of it good. Charles’ rendition of this classic song is my favorite among countless, and this is wildly under-ranked. Too Low

ZK: It’s a shame that the country music industry has only acknowledged the lasting impact of Ray Charles’ covers of country classics in somewhat recent years. A classic single got a deserved boost in stature, and received its best take ever. Too Low

 

#232

Keith Urban, “Somebody Like You”

#1 | 2002

JK: One of the strongest singles from Urban’s peak run. At the time, no one did pop-country like this better than Urban, and few– especially not Urban himself– have done it this well since. Still, this ranking is Too High.

ZK: No lie: I really dig Keith Urban’s 2000s output. I wouldn’t designate any of it as essential – though “But for the Grace of God” comes close – but he was consistently good. This is breezy, radio-ready pop country that excels off a great hook, driving melody and compelling performance, and is a formula that served Urban well until he lost the plot in the mid-2010s. Too High

KJC:  This list didn’t do a great job with the Keith Urban selections. I’d be totally fine with this being the Urban record in the top 200, instead of “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.”  But it’s also fine where it is.  About Right

 

#231

Hank Williams Jr., “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)”

#2 | 1981

ZK: One of my favorite mysteries as a kid was trying to figure out if his rowdy friends came over tonight before they settled down. A “chicken or the egg” question for country music, if you will. It didn’t make much make sense to me for this to be the first single then and still doesn’t, but I love the wry, humorous self-awareness that shines through, especially considering the outlaw fever really didn’t live to see the ’80s. One of my favorites of his. About Right

KJC: This is fine where it is.  But where on earth are “Family Tradition” and “Whiskey Bent and Hellbound,” his two finest singles?  About Right

JK: Another of Jr’s hits that I won’t argue with on impact, but no way should this be ahead of something like “I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” or “Coat of Many Colors.” Too High

 

Previous: #250-#241 | Next:  #230-#221

7 Comments

  1. I largely agree with the panel’s comments except I regard McGraw’s “Just to See You Smile” as being placed much too high. The lyrics are insufferably stupid, although (1) I normally like McGraw and (2) he sings it well.

    Ugh – I cannot believe that Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” is this low. I have it in my personal top fifty and wouldn’t be surprised if many had it in their top twenty – it’s a great song given a great rendition buy a great artist.

    Ditto for Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You”

    I would like to have seen a pre-outlaw Hank Jr. on this list. I think “Eleven Roses” belongs somewhere – perhaps around #200

  2. Re. “I Can’t Stop Loving You”: Without question, this is one of the great recordings of American popular music across all sectors, pop, R&B, and country, solidifying Brother Ray’s reputation as The Genius.

    Re. “Abilene”: Such a great story song; and, much like another hit of that same time, namely Mr. Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, Hamilton’s hit became a favorite of the folk music movement, as well as a pop crossover hit of significant size.

    Re. “She’s Got You”: Another great reason why Patsy was arguably the ultimate female stylist of the time, country or otherwise…and a painful reminder of how tragically short her time on earth was.

    Re. “Crash My Party”: Another great example of the “do your worst” cult of personality known as the Bromeisters (IMHO).

  3. Except of the inclusion of “Crash My Party” and the EYB and Urban songs being too high (and the rest being too low), this is a pretty solid group of songs.

    “Just To See You Smile” may be my all time favorite Tim McGraw song with “Everywhere” being a very close second. I love everything about it from the great fiddle and steel playing throughout, the beautiful melody (typical of many of Mark Nesler’s songs), and Tim’s emotional performance. Also, this song always brings back great memories from 6th grade during the Winter in early 1998 for me and hearing it all the time on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Countdown show until it eventually got to number one. And this one certainly deserved its long stay at the top, imo.

    “This Kiss” is definitely one of the essential female pop country songs from the late 90’s. There was absolutely no getting away from this song during that time, and even though my mom never liked it, I was always secretly enjoying it. As many times as I’ve heard it, I still really enjoy hearing it today, especially now that it takes me back to a much better time in my life. And once again, I agree completely with this list downplaying the success of the 90’s and early 00’s country females. With the exception of maybe Tim McGraw, it was definitely the ladies who ruled the roost during that late 90’s/early 00’s period, namely Faith, Shania, The Chicks, Martina, Jo Dee Messina, Lee Ann Womack, etc. Looking back on those times just makes it even more sad knowing how things would end up going a decade later.

    “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down” is my all time favorite Hank Jr. song, and another one that takes me back to when I was a little kid in the early 90’s. My dad bought his The Pressure In On album on cassette back then, and that’s still my favorite album of his, as well. Like Zachary, I always found it a bit odd that this one actually came out before “All My Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” And wow, I can’t believe they omitted those other two Hank Jr. classics from this list altogether. “Family Tradition” is another favorite of mine, especially.

    I agree completely with the panel that Waylon has always been severely overlooked as being a great ballad singer. Always loved his rich, warm baritone on such songs, “Amanda” being a fine example. In fact, it’s probably my all time favorite Waylon song followed closely by “Luckenbach, Texas.” His 1990 album, The Eagle, also has quite a few top notch cuts that show his more tender/softer side.

    “She’s Got You” is another timeless Patsy Cline classic right up there with “Crazy” and “I Fall To Pieces” in my book, and has absolutely no business being this far down the list, especially right below Crash. My. Freaking. Party.

    It’s been pretty disappointing seeing so many 50’s and 60’s classics ranked far too low on this list, and “Abilene” is yet another. George Hamilton IV is another artist whose discography I’ve been exploring after getting hooked on a lot of country from that time period.

    Seeing Ray Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” also on here softens the blow of Don Gibson’s being way too low just a bit, but both versions are still much too low, imo.

    “Somebody Like You” is still one of the best of Urban’s pop country singles, imo, and he’s rarely ever reached the heights of this song again. “But For The Grace Of God” is still my all time favorite of his, though, and probably the closest he’s ever gotten to recording a traditional country song.

  4. Kevin, I gotta pick “Everywhere” as the best single from that particular time period, but “Just To See You Smile” would rank very closely behind it. I didn’t think JTSYS would have been released as a single, but I’m glad that it was.

    Really, Luke Bryan just sticks out like a sore thumb at this point on the list, and not in a good way.

    I never was a fan of “Abilene,” but then that may well be because it seems to be about the only George Hamilton IV song ever played. Funny story: way back when, I remember Texas Highways ran a story about Abilene, Texas, in which that song played a prominent part….but the song was written about Abilene, Kansas.

    I do really like Hamlton’s version of “Early Morning Rain,” though.

  5. Just over 2 years ago, I posted my ten favorite Patsy Cline songs. She’s Got You was #1.

    also love Ray Charles’ I Can’t Stop Loving You

    Most of my favorite Keith Urban songs come from 1999 Keith Urban, 2002 Golden Road and 2004 Be Here

    Tim – Just to see you smile is good but i agree with Pistolero on Everywhere

    like EYB’s Even If it Breaks Your Heart but didn’t know it was written by Wiil Hoge and Eric Paslay and recorded by Will Hoge.

    haven’t heard George Hamilton IV’s Abilene in a very long time. I also didn’t know it was written about Abilene Kansas.

  6. I’m still not sure I’ve seen specific information on who compiled the list, and what their criteria supposedly was. I know it’s a “Sirius” list, but who at Sirius was involved?

  7. i was never a fan of “Abilene”…way too high
    “Amanda” is too low, ut not much. only a small objection here.
    She’s Got You” should be in the 30’s not the 230’s
    Ray Charles should be in the top 120.

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