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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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