A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #80-#71

As we move ten entries closer to the top, we still don’t see the universal quality that is expected in the upper echelon of a list like this.

 

#80

Faron Young, “Hello Walls”

#1 | 1961

JK: As brutal a song as has ever been a hit at country radio, and I’m stunned Sirius did right by it. About Right

ZK: I kind of get why Faron Young made fun of Willie Nelson for this, but what a concept to frame a song around, am I right? About Right 

KJC:  Willie Nelson’s idiosyncratic songwriting led to some very distinctive hits in the early sixties, and this is one of the best.  About Right

 

#79

Chris Young, “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)”

#1 | 2009

ZK: After my little rant for No. 100, this is more like it. Had Young continued on this path, he could have easily carried the Vern Gosdin/Josh Turner flag for neotraditional country singers that possess great voices but never ascend to the A-list. I’d have “Neon” pretty high up on the list, but this is fine, too. Too High 

KJC:  As good as anything on the radio in the last twelve years.  Which still makes it Too High

JK: The idea that Chris Young has 200% more entries in the top 100 of this list than Buck Owens is nauseating. This is from the era when he showed promise instead of from the era when he squandered that promise, which means that I wouldn’t necessarily cut this altogether, but is it ever Too High.

 

#78

Eddie Rabbitt, “Drivin’ My Life Away”

#1 | 1980

KJC:  Nothing wrong with having one of the best Urban Cowboy hits in the top hundred.  About Right

JK: One of the best hits of its era, thanks to the propulsive arrangement and Rabbit’s ingratiating performance. A keeper. About Right

ZK: Rabbitt’s best single, and one I was obsessed with in high school. Not sure it’s quite top 100 worthy, but it’s close. It rocks and it countries. Too High 

#77

Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”

#1 | 1956

JK: On any given day, this is one of the singles I’d have in contention for Cash’s best. As much as Sirius has wildly over-represented his catalogue, I’m inclined to say this is a bit Too Low.

ZK: As poetic as a testament to love gets. Always thought its context made it a bit awkward in hindsight, and it’s far from a favorite. But this may objectively be a top ten candidate. Too Low

KJC: Yep. I’d put this right below “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” which means this one is Too Low

 

#76

Toby Keith, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”

#1 | 1993

ZK: “Who’s That Man” is his shining moment, but this is his most iconic. I’d have it in the mid-100s maybe on quality and impact. I wish you would have been a cowboy, Toby Keith. Too High 

KJC: This became a standard over the years, and since Keith definitely deserves representation in the top hundred, I’ll call this one About Right, even if I’d have it a bit lower on my own list. 

JK: The popular consensus pick for Keith’s finest moment, and I’d say the consensus is correct in this case. Grand scheme of things, this is still Too High, but it’s not as egregious as the Chris Young or Blake Shelton or Jason Aldean or Kenny Chesney entries.

 

#75

Billy Currington, “People are Crazy”

#1 | 2009

KJC:  Currington’s got a way with conversational story songs, so pair him with a composition as strong as this, and you have a winner.  Too High, but not too too high. 

JK: Another massive hit from Currington that does nothing at all for me. I can at least hear why it’s popular, but I just don’t think it’s particularly good in any meaningful way. Too High

ZK: Childhood nostalgia makes me love this every time I revisit it. I find Currington to be hit-or-miss in a general sense, but when he hits, he hits. Quietly one of the most charismatic presences in the 2000s (if that makes sense), but I wouldn’t have this song this high. Too High 

 

#74

Merle Haggard and the Strangers, “The Fightin’ Side of Me”

#1 | 1970

JK: Sirius really has no idea what makes Merle Haggard Merle Haggard. Yes, this should obviously be included and should obviously be ranked pretty high, but it’s not in any way contextualized correctly in his work. Too High

ZK: We should be discussing “Mama Tried” or “Silver Wings” or “Sing Me Back Home” here (and higher) instead of when we did way back yonder. You know what the only other Haggard selection left here is, and are you surprised at how wrong they really got it? Of course not. Too High 

KJC: His political songs weren’t his very best songs.  They belong on the list, but this is Too High

 

#73

Martina McBride, “Independence Day”

#12 | 1994

ZK: As our resident Gretchen Peters stan, of course I’d include this. Of all the songs by women in the ’90s that addressed real problems deemed taboo for radio – like, you know, here – this top 20 hit still arguably carried the most impact, and with one of McBride’s best vocal performances here. About Right, but five bucks says these folks only placed this correctly because they saw the title without hearing the actual song.

KJC: I’m going to be the voice of dissent here. “Independence Day” is one of the most important records in country music history, and belongs alongside “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Stand By Your Man” among definitive female country records.  For me, this is about fifty slots Too Low. 

JK: I’d have it ranked in the top half of my own list and would be just one of two McBride singles I’d include at all (Justice for “Whatever You Say” now). Personally, I think this is too high, but on its overall significance as a record, I will settle on About Right without any complaint.

 

#72

Brad Paisley, “Mud On the Tires”

#1 | 2004

KJC:  Nope. Brad Paisley is the Lady Gaga of country music, as far as I’m concerned. Talented, but his work is too obviously derivative to interest me.  This is a boring rewrite of the much more clever and far more seductive “Hey Bobby,” the K.T. Oslin hit that should be swapped in at the expense of this stale slice of gluten-free white bread. So Wrong (This Song)

JK: A fun enough single for what it is. Which means it should be somewhere in the 600s or so. Too High

ZK: And speaking of the 600s, that’s where you fuckers placed “Whiskey Lullaby.” Switch. Them. Too High 

 

#71

Hank Williams, “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”

#1 | 1952

JK: Hold up. They ranked this ahead of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Cold Cold Heart”? My God. Too High

ZK: Like George Jones, I only want to hear the sad bastard side of Williams henceforth. Too High 

KJC: And I shall dissent again. Williams wrote a lot of great heartbreak songs, but this celebration of Creole culture is his most impactful and far-reaching composition, being covered by everyone from Fats Domino to the Carpenters.  It’s been a hit around the world by local artists, even as far away as India.  Williams is rightfully celebrated as one of country music’s finest songwriters, but “Jambalaya” proves his mettle as one of the best songwriters in the history of popular music.  About Right

Previous: #90-#81 | Next: #70-#61

9 Comments

  1. While i gave up on TK thanks to songs like get drunk & be somebody and get my drink on, i still love the Cowboy song.
    I’m not a big fan of Billy C but love People Are Crazy
    Agree w kjc re Independence Day
    still like the Black Dress Song but agree it’s too high

  2. The Black Dress sons is ttoo high but i really like it. Ditto Independence Day. and Mud on the Tires. TK doesnt deserve to be in the same sentence as Johnny Cash, let alone higher thn “I walk the Line.”

  3. Basically agree with the consensus except I think “Independence Day” is too high by about 300 slots.

    Re: Jambalaya – the song was a co-write between Hank Williams and Moon Mullican with Hank owning the copyright, but Moon was paid royalties (there are a number of Hank Williams – Vic McAlpin co-writes where only one or the other name appears). If you are familiar with Moon Mullican, “Jambalaya” sounds much more like a Moon Mullican song than a Hank Williams song. If fact there are several Moon Mullican songs that truly belong on this list

  4. Re. “Hello Walls”: Yes, this is one of those early 1960’s country hits that found considerable favor on the Other Side Of The Fence. There’s also what I guess you’d call a certain wryness in Willie’s lyrics and Faron’s delivery of them (IMHO).

    Re. “The Fightin’ Side Of Me”: This and “Okie” are the two songs that the political Right in this country like to use to peg The Hag as being on “their side”. Maybe that was true to a certain extent in 1969 and 1970, when we were a country getting torn apart at the seams because of Vietnam, but not necessarily in the way they may have believed.

    Re. “Independence Day”: To ZK’s point, Sirius is probably not the only entity that only looked at the title of the song. Fox News’ Sean Hannity misused the song constantly at his so-called “Support The Troops” rallies during the Iraq war, which irritated Gretchen Peters no end, and she never hid her disdain for it.

    Re. “I Walk The Line”: This and the original recording of “Folsom Prison Blues” were really how audiences got introduced to Mr. Cash; and its placement up this high was appropriate (IMHO).

  5. …”jambalaya” is ranked way too low. everybody and his dog around the world probably knows that one as a famous classic country song. a top ten contender even in my book based on its lasting impact and because it still sounds rather fresh.

    “independence day” is a genre milestone and therefore, if anything, placed rather too low.

    i can see “should have been a cowboy” among the top 100 of this list. a modern classic by now.

    love a good truck song – “mud on the tires” is a very charming one on top of that. not top 100 stuff, but easy going, charming and as country as it gets.

    the “black dress song” is easily one of the best country hits this century. justifiable ranking.

    when it comes to impact – miss jamie is right up there. i’ve been listening to ol’ mixed tapes from the late 80’s and early 90’s for weeks now in the car. diffie’s “ships that don’t come in” – what a beauty – followed by diamond rio’s terrific “norma jean riley” and mcbride and the ride’s “sacred ground”. what a time spring 1992 was between orlando and charleston with the top rolled down and a stiff neck once in a while.

  6. Hello Walls might be a bit low, but top 100, who can argue? Chris Young, meh, okay song, but Top 100 indispensable? Nope. Drivin’ My Life Away is a bit TOO Nashville for me, a bit slick, a bit forumlaic, particularly for a truck driving song. I love the genre, but can’t see this one so high. I Walk the Line is fine, but sorry, Johnny’s voice is pretty mediocre after all, his talk/sing/talk/sing voice brings this down a little in my estimation. Shoulda Been a Cowboy and People Are Crazy are fine, but both are far too high. Ditto Independence Day. I still hold Broken Wing as a Top 10 of all time. I seem to be like the only person on earth who does. I really don’t get why Independence Day is more highly thought of. Mud on the Tires is probably a 500ish song, like some of the others in this group, surely not top 100. Jambalaya is a rare Hank song where his voice doesn’t detract, so this is about right.

  7. This is one of the few groupings where I genuinely like each of the songs (I hadn’t heard the Chris Young song before, but I just listened to it and it’s good).

    That said, I agree that Gettin’ You Home, People are Crazy and Mud on the Tires are not Top-100 songs IMO.

    I Walk the Line is much too low, but most of the remaining songs are pretty close to appropriately ranked.

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