A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #10-#1

The journey comes to an end with the same maddening contrast of classics and clunkers that we’ve seen all along the way.

 

#10

Marty Robbins, “El Paso”

#1 | 1959

ZK: One of the very best vocal performances in country music history from one of the best interpreters in country music history, included within one of the best and most ambitious concept albums in country music history. We are off to an excellent start here. About Right 

KJC: A slam dunk top ten, and a glorious reminder of the days when this was “Country & Western” music.  It’s a flawless story song that couldn’t have a better singer to deliver it.  About Right

JK: The best exemplar of “& Western,” bar none, thanks to a narrative so simple but so masterfully constructed that it remains riveting more than 50 years on. It isn’t just the story, though, that makes “El Paso” one of the genre’s best recordings; Robbins’ performance is arguably the single finest vocal turn in all of country music history, a masterclass in tone, range, and control. At least until the 2000s, the men of country music could really and truly sing, but few could rival Marty Robbins. About Right or even just slightly Too Low.

 

#9

Jason Aldean, “Dirt Road Anthem”

#1 | 2011

KJC:  This is an important historical marker for the decline of country music.  Indeed, “Dirt Road Anthem” was country music officially waving the white flag and declaring defeat, retreating into the shadows of popular music and away from contemporary relevance.  This led to a decade of insularity and retreat, with the country music industry pretending its mediocre bumper crop of bro country stars were A-listers, despite tepid music and bored disinterest from critics and record buyers alike.  

It seems appropriate that Aldean was awarded Artist of the Decade, the full realization of the deluded idea that he’d been the leader of a winning era for the genre.  It was the equivalent of lionizing Robert E. Lee after he was humiliatingly defeated while fighting for a morally abhorrent cause.  Have they built a Jason Aldean monument on Music Row yet?  Too High

JK: Heinous. Jason Aldean is most notable for having country music’s all-time greatest disparity between popularity and actual recorded output or talent. “Dirt Road Anthem” panders to an audience that Aldean and every single one of his po-faced imitators do not respect as being capable of anything more than this. It’s a callow, artless record that typifies an entire career– Hell, that typifies countless copycat careers– built on a purposeful dumbing-down of an entire genre of vital popular music. If Sirius wanted a single in its top 10 to capture The Fall Of (Country’s) Man, they could’ve swapped this for “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” or “Cruise,” because at least those singles are catchy garbage performed by artists who can at least be chuffed to act like they mean it. Aldean just brays vacantly into the void. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

ZK: And just like that, all of that goodwill goes from El Paso straight to Hell. I’ve had a rant built up inside of me for this song’s placement for so long, yet now that we’re here I just feel … tired; too tired to explain the obvious of why a Jason Aldean doesn’t belong in the top 10. It’s not the fusion of country and rap I’m against – it’s just that it’s done so badly here, and spurred a horrid trend of pasty white dudes attempting these crossovers without any sense of flow or knack for good song structure. Who really needed an anthem for a friggin’ dirt road?!? “Cruise” was stupid, harmless fun. This is the song I blame for turning bro-country – and mainstream country in general during this time – into a bad thing. Blowing a Gasket (For the Last Time … For the Good Times)

 

#8

Roger Miller, “King of the Road”

#1 | 1965

JK: From a composition standpoint, this is diametrically opposed to the preceding entry: Miller’s joy in his wordplay is so palpable and makes him so obviously the cleverest guy in the room in a way that the likes of Wallen, Aldean, Gilbert, and Rice would probably call him a f—-t for laying bare their countless shortcomings. But this is the kind of songwriting that actually typifies country music at its best: It translates everyday experiences into poetry, whether of the heartbreaking and pensive or the witty and wry varieties. What a killer record this is. Lord. About Right

ZK: I … wholeheartedly agree with a top ten ranking for this. Roger Miller was known for penning some very strange, offbeat material that often veered into pure novelty, but this captures his true artistic ethos. Before he made it in Nashville, Miller was a victim of poverty, and bummed around most of his early adult life simply looking for a sense of purpose. But part of the genius was, he was a child at heart, and so hard times never defined him; optimism and a sense for adventure did. This turns the country music tradition of rambling songs into an upbeat celebration that’s personal, yet inspiring, all the same. About Right 

KJC:  Roger Miller was the wittiest and most clever songwriter of his era, not just in country music, but across genres.  “King of the Road” was the pinnacle of his success as a singer and a songwriter, and it still sounds fresh and intelligent today.  “I’m a man of means, by no means, king of the road.”  Brilliant.   About Right  

 

#7

Charlie Daniels Band, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”

#1 | 1979

ZK: Can’t recall if I’ve been consistent with my country music tent and what I have and haven’t allowed within it, but I’d allow this … even if it’s a bigger song in the context of general popular culture than it is a defining staple in country music history. In other words, not a top 10-worthy song for me, and while I guess I’d include it, I’m not sure where I’d have it. Too High 

KJC: It wouldn’t be in my top ten, but would at least make the top twenty, so I’m not going to quibble with its placement here.  It’s one of the few crossover records that centered country music instrumentation without compromising its appeal to pop and rock audiences, and that’s a tough nut to crack.   About Right

JK: His still-going Twitter feed is an absolute caricature of everything wrong with contemporary politics– an old white man who is literally dead but who is still, somehow, capslocking about Benghazi multiple times per day. And that kind of thing matters in the sense that it will inevitably color the perception of Daniels’ work. But this record? As perfect an incorporation of trad-country instrumentation into a rock arrangement as has ever been recorded? It’s as important a single as– and a complement to– Run DMC’s and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” in terms of its masterful marriage of genres, and it betters even that classic record with its mythology-driven narrative. An iconic record that will outlive Daniels’ conspiracy theory missives from the great beyond. About Right

 

#6

George Jones, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

#1 | 1980

KJC:  This was the reflexive No. 1 choice for many years on lists like this, and it’s as good an example as any on why performance and production matter.  “He Stopped Loving Her Today” blends a traditional vocal and country elements with a swelling string section that recalls the glory days of traditional pop.  It never made it to release when Johnny Rusell recorded it, but George Jones and Billy Sherrill understood something about this song that elevated it into one of the best records of all time.  It was the perfect trifecta of song, singer, and producer. Remember that point when we get to No. 4, please.  About Right

JK: Do I get why this has been the default #1 pick for lists like this, pretty well since 1982? Of course. Its merits are bountiful and obvious, and it’s damn near impossible to go wrong with George Jones, whose performance on this record is truly one for the ages. But real talk: This is maybe my 10th-favorite Jones hit. Which is to say that it would still rank in my personal top 100 or so, and I’m not at all displeased to see it ranked here. But, in my heart of hearts, I’m pretending this is “The Grand Tour.” About Right, sure.

ZK: I’m somewhat surprised this isn’t their choice for the No. 1 slot, and yet so very not surprised that this shares a top ten slot with “Dirt Road Anthem” and the song above it. But what else is there to say? It’s an iconic weeper in country music history, and even if you see that twist coming from a mile away, it’s still effective each and every time, if wildly overpraised as an individual song. I’d probably have “A Good Year For the Roses” or “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me” here instead on a personal list, but it’s impossible to quibble with a top 10 placement. About Right 

 

#5

Eric Church, “Springsteen”

#1 | 2012

JK: Absolutely not. As a song and a single, this is fine. It’s one of the better– but not best– hits of its era. It’s thoughtful and goes for melancholy in a way that few of Church’s contemporary men ever are or do. But the fifth best record in the history of country music? It’s my fifth favorite song on its own parent album. I’ll concede that it’s the first time Church so nakedly grasped for rock cred and actually kind-of got his fingertips around it, but he’s always better when he’s less strident or when he goes more purposefully weird. “Creepin’” all day over this one, as far as I’m concerned, and even then, I’d have that as his top-ranked entry back somewhere in the 300s. Far, Far Too High

ZK: Look … I like it. I really like it. It’s one of my favorite Eric Church songs, and I’m not the type of person who says we can’t have anything modern in the top 100 – or even the top 50. But, doesn’t it feel weird to anyone that a list of the top country songs of all time includes a tribute to a rock legend within its top 10?!? Too High? 

KJC: And will anyone ever acknowledge that this is a carbon copy of Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw,” with the artist and some smaller details changed to make it appeal to the aging Generation X demographic? Too High

 

#4

Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You”

#1 | 1974

ZK: If “Coat of Many Colors” was above this, I’d say to push this to No. 11. But they got that so, so wrong, so with this as their highest-ranked Dolly Parton song, I can’t complain that much. While iconic for other reasons, this was her cry of independence that fueled one of the best careers in country music history. For this particular top five, this feels About Right 

KJC: Nobody is happier (or more vindicated) than me about the recent collective realization that Dolly Parton is a national treasure worthy of veneration. I will say without hesitation that she is the most culturally significant and deeply talented artist in the history of country music, most especially because of her songwriting talent.

So I would endorse “Coat of Many Colors” or “Jolene” or “9 to 5” as a top five all-time country record.  If this was a list of the best songs to ever come out of country music, I might even get on board with “I Will Always Love You” being in this slot.

But let’s get real.  “I Will Always Love You” is here because of Whitney Houston’s legendary recording of it, which is the best selling song ever by a female artist. Remember what I said about “He Stopped Loving Her Today?”  It’s even more true for “I Will Always Love You.”

Whitney Houston and David Foster understood the depth and conflicted emotions within this song in a way that Parton herself either didn’t fully contemplate or couldn’t effectively communicate on record. Her original recording is a gem, of course, plaintive and heartfelt and worthy of being on this list.  But the Parton version is to Houston’s what the Carole King recording of “Natural Woman” is to Aretha Franklin’s: touching and well-done, but not the definitive version by any stretch of the imagination.  And this is hardly a controversial opinion; it’s one Dolly wholeheartedly agrees with

I go back and forth between Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” when contemplating the greatest pop record of all time.  As for the greatest vocal performance I’ve ever heard put to tape, it’s this Houston record..  Some will argue that the Parton version is better for whatever reason, much like the argument is advanced on behalf of Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy” (understandable) or Vicki Lawrence’s “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (batshit insane.)  But what cannot be argued against is that, just like with the two Reba covers, we’re only discussing the original recording of “I Will Always Love You” all of these years later because of the cultural impact of Whitney Houston’s definitive version. Parton’s recording of the song would never have been in the top ten of a list like this without Whitney immortalizing it two decades later.  

So thank you, Sirius, for acknowledging Dolly Parton, but the record you chose to represent her with here is another reminder of how you know next to nothing about country music. Even Rolling Stone knew to rank Parton’s recordings of  “Coat” and “Jolene” alongside Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You.”  There’s no excuse for getting this one so wrong, even though it does very much belong.   Too High

JK: Thanks, Kevin, for putting my blurb below yours, as though there’s any possible way to top it. I agree with it full-stop. As I said ages ago, I’d have “Coat of Many Colors” at the top of my own list. Too High

 

#3

Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues”

#4 | 1956

KJC:  I think the live version is even more essential than the original recording, and I would probably follow Zack’s lead here and place “Sunday Morning Coming Down” in this specific slot on my own version of this list. Then again, “Folsom Prison Blues”  includes the couplet: “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.  When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.”  So I just can’t bring myself to go below About Right

JK: I’ll always point to the, “I shot a man in Reno,” line as the obvious rebuttal to the genre’s authenticity fetishists who insist that the only artists who are worthwhile are those who trade exclusively in autobiography and who “paid their dues” at that very exclusive bank. Johnny Cash always knew that line of reasoning was utter bullshit: What matters isn’t authenticity but believability. His performance here is so larger-than-life that it allows for the suspension of disbelief needed for the record to work. And it works. I agree that I’d include the live version, and I also agree that “Sunday Morning Coming Down” is still the superior recording. But I’m not at all mad at this, and Sirius has made me plenty mad about Johnny Cash over the course of this list. About Right

 

ZK: I mean, this song has a complicated legacy of not even being much of an original Cash tune. I get why someone who knows nothing about country music history other than a few Cash tunes might feel inclined to put this here, but the song I’d have in this exact spot is “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” hands down. Too High 

 

#2

Patsy Cline, “Crazy”

#2 | 1961

JK: On the day, I might prefer “She’s Got You” or “I Fall to Pieces,” sure. And I’m not necessarily someone who believes that a genre steeped in heartbreak, struggle, and hardscrabble working-class sentiment should have a perfect recording held up as its “best.” But Patsy Cline’s recording of “Crazy” is truly perfect. Willie Nelson’s song, both for its narrative and its composition, is perhaps the template for what country songs can and should be at their best, and Cline’s flawless vocal turn leaves me grasping for superlatives. About Right

ZK: I don’t know what my personal No. 1 would be, and I’m not even sure what my top five would look like, but this just feels like one of the few dead-on correct placements in this entire section. Cline wasn’t here for long, yet she still left behind a discography full of iconic songs, and what she does to Willie Nelson’s ode to angst and loneliness … pure perfection. If nothing else, having this and “El Paso” here on respective performances alone just feels About Right. 

KJC:  A flawless recording of an idiosyncratic Willie Nelson composition that manages to showcase the pure talents of both singer and songwriter, and make it work as a unified record that really shouldn’t work as well as it does.   This is as good as the Nashville Sound gets, and that’s pretty damn good indeed.  About Right

 

#1

Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places”

#1 | 1990

ZK: Well, this is it. The last selection. And honestly? I expected it to be far, far worse than this. This wouldn’t be my personal No. 1 pick, but on impact alone – where 30 years later, people still know every word to it – it’s a definite top 10 contender. It’s the ultimate barroom anthem that’s damn-near transcendent on pure charisma alone, and whether it’s meant to be seedy or just pure fun, it works either way. Too High for the No. 1 slot, but all in all, not a bad way to end this long exercise at all. We needed to let a little steam loose, and Lord knows the fine folks at Sirius had a few friends in low places to put this monstrosity together.

Man, I’m gonna miss it. 

KJC:  This is the signature song of the biggest star country music has ever seen, which set the stage for the best decade of music that Nashville ever produced, and can be sung along with by memory in every bar from Mississippi to Maine and from Carolina to California.  How I wish this list had a better understanding of why this was such an enormous – an enormously important – record.  They seem to think, looking at the rest of this list, that it was the prototype for bro-country or something.  But even if they chose it for the wrong reasons, they made the right choice for No. 1.  About Right

JK: For all of this list’s flaws– and it would take perhaps another 100 posts to enumerate all of them– its emphasis on the reactive sense of defensiveness the genre has cultivated over the past twenty-five years– at the expense of diversity of thought and sound– is the most damning to me. And there is certainly an uncharitable read of “Friends in Low Places” that it perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes about perceptions of class: That country music can only be by and for the type of person who would lash out when made to feel less worthy than those around them. 

The overall tone of the Sirius list, taken as a whole, is one that seems to champion that mindset. And it does a disservice to the history of country music by amplifying the limited points of view of the likes of Aldean, Bryan, Young, and their ilk at the expense of artists who are neither more nor less “country” but whose work is less reactionary and insular. And it does a disservice to “Friends in Low Places” for exactly the reason Kevin suggests: I’m not willing to give this list the benefit of the doubt that it recognizes the ways that Brooks’ signature hit is more than the predecessor to “Hicktown.”

But it is, and it always has been. For one thing, it’s clear from the shit-eating grin you can actually hear in Brooks’ delivery that he’s in on the joke, and that he knows his song is one that even the people at the “black tie affair” would rowdily sing along to. Yes, he’s been rejected by the upper crust in this particular social milieu, but he isn’t even mad about it, and the song’s open-hearted chorus suggests that if anyone from the high class party made their way down to the Oasis, he’d be the first one to buy them a beer.

Because even when he’s been stung by rejection, Garth’s narrator here is still fundamentally decent. That matters. And, as this list has made apparent so many times over, that decency is something country music has lost along the way. “Friends in Low Places” is a rejection– a perfectly constructed pop-country rejection, at that– of what was to come and of what this list has chosen to elevate. I guess I don’t belong, either. And I’m good with that: Guess I’ll slip on down to the Oasis, too. Who’s with me? About Right

Previous: #20-#11

25 Comments

  1. Thank you for this feature. I know it was a labor of love that seemed endless, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and am sad to see it come to an end.

  2. And here we are. I get why El Paso is considered a classic, but I simply don’t like it. Marty’s voice just sounds too lounge singer schlocky for me to enjoy it. I realize I’m in a distinct minority on this one. Dirt Road in the top 10 is an utter disgrace. Not worthy of any more comment. I really like Roger Miller and King of the Road, but I maaaybe could slide it into the top 100. Far too high here for what’s essentially a rather thin novelty song. The Devil Went Down to Georgia might be 25 or so spots too high, but I have no problems with it here. At #6, He Stopped Loving Her is TOO LOW. This is just plain old country music. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much if what’s at #5 wasn’t.

  3. And the top 5. Springsteen…..are you kidding me? Not When I Call Your Name, not any Hank, hey, where in the world was John Denver, for crying out loud? And this makes top 5? The King’s English fails me. I Will Always Love You is right, but Coat of Many Colors could easily be here. Folsom Prison….I 100% agree with ZK on this one. But it doesn’t bother me much. Crazy is about right. #2? I could see it #1, but it’s one of those songs you hear 1 bar and know it’s a classic. Friends in Low Places…..welllll. I loved it the first 100 times or so I heard it, but it really hasn’t worn well. I wouldn’t put it top 10, maybe top 50, but its historical importance pushes it up a bit. But then, why in the world isn’t Forever and Ever, Amen up here?

    Thanks panel. I don’t agree with all you’ve said, but for sure most of it, and you’ve taught me a lot. For one big thing, I now know what Green Green Grass of Home is about, and I can enjoy it! Thanks to all kibitzers. It’s nice to see people with passion for something, for anything.

  4. I will say this has been such a fascinating feature looking back on so many different artists in country music and the songs. I will also say the ending of this list could have been a lot worse.

  5. I can think of at least two (or more) different Eddy Arnold songs I would put in the top 10 over Dirt Road Anthem and Springsteen. I mean, really???? What were they thinking.

    I have no issues with any of the other 8 spots, even if I might have chosen some others to be placed here. I’m excited to see El Paso, as it was a family favorite and my Dad loved Marty Robbins. Also glad to see Dolly, Patsy, Roger Miller, and George Jones represented here.

    I probably wouldn’t have chosen Friends In Low Places at #1 but I’m fine with it. The song was probably the country equivalent for what Smells Like Teen Spirit was for rock. Brooks definitely changed the rules for what country artists could accomplish.

    It’s been odd, annoying, aggravating, infuriating, and yet also fun to go through this list. It’s definitely been quite a ride. Thanks for all the incredible effort in posting this and especially for all the entertaining write-ups on each song.

  6. I will definitely miss this feature. Kevin and company did a fine job of dissecting Sirius’ missteps.

    For many years lists such as this usually had “El Paso” or “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” at number one. Starting in the mid-1980s “He Stopped Loving her Again” occasionally topped the list

    For grins, here is my list 1-12 (Kevin probably could have guessed my list)

    01) El Paso – Marty Robbins
    02) I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams
    03) I’m Walking the Floor Over You – Ernest Tubb
    04) I’m Moving On – Hank Snow
    05) I’ll Share my World With You – George Jones
    06) Crazy Arms – Ray Price
    07) Crazy – Patsy Cline
    08) Forever and Ever Amen – Randy Travis
    09) You Ain’t Woman Enough – Loretta Lynn
    10) There Stands The Glass – Webb Pierce
    11) Cold Cold Heart – Hank Williams
    12) Sing Me Back Home – Merle Haggard

  7. Not going to start commenting on the list itself now, BUT, thanks so much for this effort. It’s helped me fill out my music collection, sometimes from the list but as often from the “this one instead” commentary. There is some head-shaking music in country and therefore on this list, especially over the past 25 years, but there are also some absolute gems.

  8. It’s perhaps predictable that the Garthmeister (though some have derisively called him “Garth Vader” [and don’t you want to know why?]) would take the #1 spot here. For better or worse (arguably better and worse), the man has been the biggest thing in a ten-gallon hat over the last forty years. It is what it is, so….

    Re. “Dirt Road Anthem”: BLEEECH!

    Re. “King Of The Road”: Yes, this is Roger Miller’s signature song (a monster pop hit as well, getting to #3 in March 1965). In fact, the five Grammys that Roger won for this song were the most any one artist had gotten at a single Grammy Awards ceremony up to that time, a record that would stand until, of course, when Michael Jackson absconded with twelve in 1983.

    Re. “I Will Always Love You”: Besides Whitney Houston’s version of said song, I think everyone here now knows how Dolly had to say No to Elvis when he wanted to record it, because The Colonel, operating with the same kind of penny-wise, pound-foolish mentality that had caused his client’s career to go into decline in the 1960’s, wanted half the publishing rights. But Dolly didn’t lose out, because “I Will Always Love You” was then recorded by her Trio pal Linda Ronstadt in a very straightforward country-rock version (on Linda’s 1975 album Prisoner In Disguise).

    Re. “Folsom Prison Blues”: This original recording is where Mr. Cash started establishing himself as an ultimate ambassador for country music beyond that genre’s usual audiences; and it’s a title he kept until his last day.

    Re. “El Paso”: If you’re going to do an Old West saga song, this might as well be the way to do it; not only did this top the C&W for weeks on end at the end of 1959 and the start of 1960, but it also spent two weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 as well.

  9. While I’m happy for you all that you get to be done with this feature, I’m kind of sad to see it end , since your commentary was so great! Congratulations for making it through this whole list! I’m impressed that you kept pressing forward.:)

    I can’t even imagine why the Jason Aldean or Eric Church songs are in the top 10. It’s baffling. Perhaps I’m being unrealistic, but there are so many great country music songs that Aldean shouldn’t even be in the top 500.

    I agree with Kevin’s take on “I Will Always Love You.” As good of a song as it is, it would not be counted among Dolly’s top 10 songs if not for the Whitney Houston version.

    I appreciate Jonathan’s affection for “She’s Got You.” It’s always been my favorite Patsy Cline song, though I’m happy to have “Crazy” be in the top 10.

    I’m pleased to agree with the pannel about “Friends in Low Places.” It makes sense to me, even though I was somewhat surprised with the unanimous agreement. I was prepared to try to defend the choice before reading the panel commentary, but Kevin’s and Jonathan’s defense of it blew whatever I might try to say out of the water!

    Thank you for persevering through this list and even making me think about many of these songs differently than I had before!

  10. You know, early on when this list first came out, I remember seeing a copy of the list starting at the top from 1 down to 1000…so I saw the top ten first. I remember seeing “Friends in Low Places” at 1, and thought…”I wouldn’t have it here, but hey…Garth has his own radio station on Sirius, so corporate synergy.” Then, I saw “Springsteen” at 5, and shook my head. Decent enough song, but highly, highly overrated.

    Then I saw “Dirt Road Anthem” at number 9 and any remote interest I could’ve had in the list went by the wayside. How you could put a song in the top ten, that derogatorily makes light of one of the legends of country (“chilling on a dirt road, laid back swerving like I’m George Jones) at probably one of his weakest moments…is just baffling to me. There’s no lightheartedness in it…the song is played so seriously that if it is supposed to be goofy humor, it’s in direct contrast to the rest of the song. Yes, I know Vince Gill referenced the incident too…he and the possum were close friends, and George was even kind of enough to play along in the video for “One More Last Chance”. But…that was fun and and didn’t even mention George jones by name, and I think you guys nicely point out one of the problems of bro-country: the self-serious nature of it. If you’re not going to put out music that’s good, at least have it be fun. Hell, I routine laugh at most of Florida Georgia Line’s stuff just for how ridiculously awful it is. But, I can’t even say that about “Dirt Road Anthem”…because there’s nothing that is enjoyable about it. Even Aldean doesn’t look like he’s having a good time. When you combine with the Jones quip…it just makes the song even more painful to me.

    I saw that song at number 9, and just laughed…and any remote interest I had this in list went away until you folks took on the tireless routine of reviewing it. I don’t agree with every insight, just as much as you wouldn’t mine…but I appreciate you barreling through it, and giving your opinions on some of the all time greats…and some of the complete jokes of the genre. Kudos.

  11. @KJC:

    With respect to the Linda Ronstadt fan worship I plead guilty to. As for my comments about Garth, the truth of the matter is that I’m neutral on the guy; I’m only reporting what I’ve heard others say about him over time. Even so, he has made more than a few good, and even downright great, records in his day.

  12. Hey, I love Linda Ronstadt, so I’ll always welcome references to her here! I’ve just been surprised by the number of negative comments about Garth as some harbinger of death for the format or something. He’s not among my favorite nineties acts, but absolutely was a net positive for the genre. I don’t think my favorite artists of the era get to sell gold and platinum without his rising tide lifting all the boats.

  13. Can’t stand FILP but i guess it’s better than the predictable He Stopped Loving Her Today… i was almost as annoyed reading it as you all were writing it.

  14. I absolutely believe Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You” should be in the top 10 (or at least close to it). People tend to forget that even though it was a modest #1 in the early 70′, it went number #1 again in the 80’s making country music history before Whitney. No doubt Whitney did a spectacular job and brought new life to the song, but I firmly believe if it wasn’t Whitney it would eventually have been someone else. It’s just THAT good of a song (note: Linda R recorded and Elvis had interest in it). If you think of it, isn’t that what a really great song should do? Shouldn’t it be able to have multiple life’s. For the record I actually truly DO prefer Dolly’s original. It conveys “goodbye” better than any song I have ever heard.

  15. For the list itself. This has been fun and you all did a wonderful job. Thanks for entertaining us.

    Paul W – on a side note, if you happen to read this comment. It may just be me but I love the era of late 60’s/early 70’s county. It seemed back then the song was MUCH more important than the artist and that seems to have changed now. Just was curious of your thoughts

  16. This has been so much fun. Thank you Kevin and company.
    my #1 would be Hank Sr’s “I cant help it If I’m Still in Love With you”

    FILP is a great song. However, its not even the best single from its album. That would be “Unanswered Prayers.”

  17. Tom P – I quite agree, in the sense that the emphasis back then was in recording GOOD songs (regardless of whether or not the song had previously been recorded or released as a single) rather than NEW songs. I disagree in the sense that many vocalists were more distinctive back then, so that a great stylist could sometimes sell a fairly mediocre song. I often thought Marty Robbins, Ray Price or Carl Smith could set the Nashville Yellow Pages to music and make it sound good

    My favorite eras of country music are roughly 1941-1957, 1965-1975, 1989-2002 although I am fully cognizant that much good music was recorded outside of those period and much garbage was recorded during those periods

  18. Congratulations on a job well done by all contributors and commenters. I can’t remember when, but I did a google search “best all-time country songs,” and your site came up. This countdown was in the mid- 800’s then. This is how I discovered you and have been coming back every day since. I love reading the columns and commentary of the music I love and respect the, sometimes, differing opinions. Sorry to tell you, I’m hanging around, lol!!

  19. Well, that was a fun read. Sad to see it go, but I’m glad we got a lot of good commentary out of it. Hopefully they haven’t forgotten about the wrap-up post they teased when #570-#561 went live.

  20. Growing up, my family always played Dolly Parton albums for as long as I can remember – both in the house and in the car.

    Our favorite album of hers was Here You Come Again, but before that came out, we had a greatest hits tape that had Coat Of Many Colors, Touch Your Woman, My Tennessee Mountain Home, Jolene, The Bargain Store, Love Is Like A Butterfly and I Will Always Love You (plus a great album track called Lonely Coming Down).

    When Whitney’s version of I Will Always Love You came out, I was amazed at how many people had never heard Dolly’s version or even knew that she had written the song. My favorite version is still Dolly’s original and I’m glad to see it made the top 10 of this list.

  21. What a crazy ride this list was! As much as it’s often made me want to strangle someone at Sirius due to certain aggravating and bizarre choices and rankings, they did also manage to sneak in a few pleasant surprises here and there and actually get some things right. I have also learned a thing or two from the comments on many of the classic tunes here, and the commentary on the utterly ridiculous picks/rankings always gave me a good laugh. I’m actually gonna quite miss it all!

    I’m especially very happy to see the high ranking for Marty Robbins’ all time classic, “El Paso.” It’s been a favorite of mine ever since I was little, and I still never get tired of hearing it to this day, despite already knowing how the story ends. My step dad first introduced this song to me on one of my mom’s old Marty Robbins’ records from her collection, and then later in the Fall of 1991, he brought home a greatest collection cd of his that also included “El Paso.” I especially agree with the comments on how great of a singer Marty was, and I’d like to co-sign Jonathan’s comment on the men in country being great singers in general until somewhere in the 2000’s. Notice how Marty and many others from this era had a much more natural tone in how they sang, instead of having to put on a pandering phony/exaggerated southern twang like most of the bros and nearly all the rest of the guys do now. I certainly have nothing against twangy voices (I do love me some Hank Sr. and early Aaron Tippin), but it just doesn’t sound as authentic coming from most of the men on the radio now.

    I’m also happy with where “King Of The Road,” and “Crazy” landed. “King Of The Road” has always been one of my step dad’s favorites and one of mine, as well, and I’m very pleased to see it as Roger Miller’s top song. I especially enjoyed reading Zack’s observations on Roger Miller in general, and it just makes even more sense now why this all time classic is still such a pleasure to hear today. I’m also agree with all the comments on the ranking on “Crazy” being just right. “I Fall To Pieces” is probably my personal favorite from Patsy, but “Crazy” is indeed a perfect record and is every bit deserving of its all time classic status.

    I’m okay with Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You” being here, but I probably would’ve picked either “Jolene” or “Coat of Many Colors” as her top selection. As much as I like Dolly’s original version, I have to agree that it probably wouldn’t have been ranked this high if if wasn’t for the more well known Whitney Houston version.

    “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” has always been a fun and enjoyable listen for me every time it came on the radio, and I still never get tired of hearing it today. Not sure if it would make my personal top 10 either, but I’m okay with it here. Still some of the most badass fiddle playing put on record!

    I’m also a bit surprised that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is not at the predictable top spot where it usually resides on lists like these, but I’m not all too mad about it either. Of course, it’s every bit deserving of all the praise it gets, but like Jonathan, I actually like “The Grand Tour” just a bit more. Still frustrates me that this list focused on way too much upbeat Jones numbers and not enough on his classic heartbreak ballads.

    I pretty much echo most of the comments on “Springsteen.” It’s also easily one of my favorite songs from the last decade, and it’s my favorite Eric Church song of all time, but it simply doesn’t belong in the same breath as most of the other all time classics here in the top ten. It’s a great, beautiful song, but it’s not top ten good. I also echo Zack’s last sentence in his comment.

    Sigh…I found out halfway through the list that “Dirt Road Anthem” would be in the top 10, but it sure doesn’t make it any less disgusting actually seeing here. Once again the commentary from the panel expresses my feelings and frustration of this selection/ranking much better than I ever could. I especially agree all the way with Kevin’s first paragraph.

    “Friends In Low Places” as the overall top pick is actually a pleasant surprise for me. It wouldn’t be my personal number one or even my top Garth pick, but I’m actually fine with it here. It certainly does seem to have become THE modern day classic country song of all time, and with this list having an obvious modern bias, I probably should’ve seen it coming. Considering that, they definitely could’ve picked MUCH worse. I’d especially like to take the time to applaud and co-sign Jonathan’s absolutely brilliant commentary here. Again, he has expressed certain frustrations I’ve had with mainstream country for the last decade and a half much better than I ever could. Also, with all the nostalgia I have with this song being one of my earliest favorites as a little kid, I’m actually kind of happy to see it top the list. :) I also agree with others that Garth gets too much hate than he really should. Though he did sometimes go a bit too far in the pop/rock direction on some songs here and there, most of his music is still very country at its core with very prominent fiddle and steel (Not too many others have tried to keep the Western part of Country & Western alive like he has, as well), and I personally don’t think he should really be blamed for where country is now.

    Once again, thanks guys for all the entertaining, funny, and informative comments all throughout this crazy ride of a list!

  22. Jamie,

    I myself always looked forward to reading your own commentary on these songs, so thank you for such passionate and thoughtful blurbs yourself!

  23. Aww, thank you so much, Zack! I really appreciate that. :)

    I still can’t believe it’s all finally over! Now what am I supposed to get all aggravated over? At least my blood pressure will be getting back to normal, which I reckon will be a good thing. lol

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