Category Archives: Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists

Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Randy Travis

Randy Travis

Randy Travis

Randy Travis has one of the most distinctive voices in country music.  Moreover, his unbridled twang is credited for helping to pull country music out of the doldrums of the Urban Cowboy phase that plagued the eighties.

With his unmistakable rich baritone, Randy Travis was able to hook me from the first time I heard his voice sing “Before You Kill Us All” in 1994.  Since then, of course, I have been pleased to be able to go back and discover his music that began in 1986 with Storms of Life and continues to this day with his recent release of his July 2008 offering, Around the Bend.

While his deep catalog of music, which consists of 17 studio albums, has made it somewhat difficult to choose just 25 of my favorite Travis songs, I have enjoyed the excuse to immerse myself in his music for the past week in preparation for this list.

“Pray for the Fish”
Rise and Shine (2002)

This tongue and cheek account of a baptism finds a man who must have been quite a scoundrel prior to his redemption: “Then the preacher said/People take a moment or two/There’s something we need to do/Pray for the fish/They won’t know what’s coming/When the sin starts rolling off the likes of him/Lord, be with them they ain’t done nothin’/Please, won’t you just leave them a little bit of room to swim/Pray for the fish.” Randy’s delivery makes this song fun and not judgmental.

“Love Lifted Me” (with Mack Powell from Third Day)
Worship & Faith (2003)

This song starts slow and gives the illusion that it’s going to be another somber rendition of an oft sung song, but it is pleasantly deceiving. After delivering a few slow bars, the song picks up the pace with a rousing rootsy production. The addition of Third Day’s Mack Powell, with his soulful growl, is a welcome one. Travis turns this song that I usually find mundane into something fun and uplifting.

“A Man Ain’t Made of Stone”
A Man Ain’t Made of Stone (1999)

I love Travis’ vulnerable, yet passionate, vocal delivery in this song. This man thought it was important to seem strong and unflappable, but realizes that she needed to see the softer side of him at times. Unfortunately, he reached this conclusion too late. Her leaving unearths his emotions and he abruptly learns that “a man ain’t made of stone/A man ain’t made of steel.”

“An Old Pair Of Shoes”
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (1992)

As one might expect, Randy can turn out a good self pitying song with the best of them. Using an old pair of shoes as his metaphor for feeling unimportant, he complains, “There’s a hole in my soul/And I’m really feeling used.”

“Too Gone Too Long”
Always & Forever (1987)

This starts with a cool guitar riff that makes the song instantly identifiable. Travis’ is telling his ex that she’s “been too gone for too long”, which means it’s too late to come crawling back now. My favorite line is the bitter punch of “It’s been so long since you walked out my door/Now you’re just an old song that nobody sings anymore.”

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Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists: Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks lowest-selling studio album (Scarecrow at 5 million) is more albums than the most successful country music artist, with the exception of a few, can sell in today’s struggling CD market. Love him, hate him or indifferent to him, it cannot be disputed that Garth Brooks has had a profound influence on country music and music in general. This Oklahoma boy, who truly appreciates his hordes of fans, has enjoyed more success than even he thought possible… and we all know that Garth isn’t lacking in the confidence area.

Many things can and have been said about Garth Brooks, but the fact that he and his producer, Allen Reynolds, had a vision for his music that has quite obviously been successful is what makes this countdown relevant today.

“Beer Run (B-double E-double Are You In?)” – Duet with George Jones

Scarecrow (2001)

This song with his worthy idol, George Jones, is a fun tune that captures the energy of a bunch of friends who are itching to quench their week long thirst. Since they live in a dry county, they all have to cram into the truck to cross the county line. It’s okay, though, because “half the fun is in the getting there.” I hope so, because Garth seems to suddenly realize that it’s his turn to drive!

“Standing Outside The Fire”

In Pieces (1993)

Although Garth’s enunciation is a bit strange in this song, the infectious guitar pattern sticks in your head. His message is something that he is certainly qualified to preach. He simply advises us to fight the urge to avoid risks, which is a lesson that has strongly resonated with many people.

”Learning To Live Again”

The Chase (1992)

“Learning To Live Again” is a simple song, but it is sung with lots of emotion. The character in this song is having a difficult time of getting back into the dating game. Somehow, his friends convince him to go on a double date with them. He is so nervous that he can’t even seem to focus on the conversation. Worst of all, he’s forgotten his date’s name, which is a line into which Garth puts a lot of emotion.

“Cowboy Cadillac”

Sevens (1997)

“Cowboy Cadillac” has no lyrical value, but it’s sure fun and catchy. His girl looks as good as a Cadillac.

“The Beaches of Cheyenne”

Fresh Horses (1995)

This is a heartbreaking illustration of what could happen if you don’t adopt the sentiment of Garth’s song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” As if losing her husband to bull riding wasn’t enough, her diary reveals that they had had a fight before he had left. Likely, out of fear for his life, she told him that if he went to Wyoming, he might as well not bother to come home. So, he didn’t, which ends in two tragedies.

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Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists: Alan Jackson

In CMT’s recent Nashville Skyline column, Chet Flippo said it best when he wrote: “In some ways, Jackson has become the Ernest Hemingway of country music. In writing, that is. Not necessarily in lifestyle. At Hemingway’s best, he told stories very simply, getting directly to the point. He knew his subject inside out, whether it was bullfighting or deep-sea fishing and could brilliantly tell a vivid story about it in as few words as needed. Similarly, Jackson, has staked out his turf and can write and sing about it in a simple and direct style.”

In great anticipation of Alan Jackson’s forthcoming album called Good Time”, set for a March 4 release, I will be counting down 25 of my favorite Jackson songs. With this list, I am sure that we will discover Flippo’s Hemingway analogy to be quite accurate. Hopefully, his new album will leave me wishing that I could update this list.

“I’ll Go On Loving You”

High Mileage (1998)

Whew! Many times, talking songs don’t quite work for me, but this one certainly does. It’s raw and hot! Jackson is able to use his deep speaking voice to make us forget that he hardly sings.

“It’s All About Him”

It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life (2007) – Denise Jackson book

This is one of two songs recorded for his wife’s book, “It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life.” The title was kind of clever because it made the average tabloid reader think it was referring directly to Alan. In reality, the title refers to a Greater Power. Inspired by the book’s title and premise, this is not another love song for his wife, but a song that focuses on God, the One who is credited for saving their once faltering relationship.

“Let It Be Christmas”

Let It Be Christmas (2002)

This is the first of two Christmas songs on this countdown. It’s simple, but captures the spirit of Christmas. In all actuality, the words may be somewhat cheesy, but it sounds like a classic coming from Jackson. It’s one of the few times that a children’s choir works.

“Rainy Day In June”

What I Do (2004)

This song captures the essence of loneliness very well. It uses the gloominess of a rainy day in June to paint the picture of the singer’s feeling of loneliness since his significant other has left him. “The sky is grey and {he} is blue and Jackson’s performance compliments this sad proclamation.

“It Must Be Love”

Under the Influence (1999)

Alan Jackson proves his ability to interpret a song. This already good Don Williams song is expertly covered by Jackson on this album of cover songs. While he doesn’t necessarily reinvent the sound, he updates it so that it would reemerge as a hit with his own signature sound.

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Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Emmylou Harris

With her long overdue induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame finally coming to pass, it seems the perfect time to take a look at my favorite Emmylou Harris songs.I’ll admit, I wasn’t an instant fan. Her voice is an acquired taste, but once I was hooked, it proved infectious. It doesn’t hurt that she has an exceptional gift for selecting good material, and in recent years, she’s proven herself capable of writing some great songs herself.

When choosing the songs for this list, I had to whittle down the 356 songs of hers on my iPod to a mere 25. I don’t make the claim that these are Emmylou’s best songs by any objective standard. I’m not sure such a standard even exists. But these are my favorite songs, and since she’s one of my favorite artists, I’d call it a good fit for this feature, don’t you think?


“Luxury Liner”

Luxury Liner (1977)

Emmylou’s not exactly known for her up-tempo romps, but the title track from her fourth album is a raucous one. “You think I’m lonesome?” she growls. “So do I, so do I.” She sings the hell out of it, but the song’s main reason for existence is letting the band cut loose, resulting in one of the best instrumental showcases of her catalog.


“Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”

Trio II (1999)

Fans of Dolly Parton have often viewed “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” as one of her biggest lost opportunities, a classic country song weighed down by a horribly tacky early eighties pop production. The brilliance of the song is still there, buried under the surface, but it finally gets to shine brightly with Emmylou singing the lead vocal on the second Trio project. Dolly provides a sweet harmony vocal that elevates the final third of the song.

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Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Vince Gill

I am excited to introduce a new feature to Country Universe. From time to time, we will be choosing an artist and counting down our favorite songs by that particular artist. The rules are very simple. Any song sung by the chosen singer is eligible for this countdown, including songs recorded for projects other than his/her solo studio albums.

Since I make no secret of the fact that he is my favorite artist, I have decided to begin this feature by counting down my favorite songs by Vince Gill. Vince Gill has more than proven his musical prowess with his triple threat talent—respected songwriting, high quality musicianship and, of course, his distinctive tenor voice. Picking 25 of my favorite songs has proven to be an almost impossible task, because there are so many songs from which I can choose. In fact, if you don’t see your favorite Vince song on this list, you’re probably correct in assuming that it should be, as far as I’m concerned.

“Oklahoma Swing” (duet with Reba McEntire)

When I Call Your Name (1989)

An infectiously fun song done in the western swing style. Reba sings the heck out of this one and it was nice of her to help out a struggling friend.

“The Reason Why”

These Days (2006)

The rolling piano in this song is enough to get my attention. This is a simple, melancholy melody that accompanies the sentiment of a man who can’t understand why his relationship has gone sour.

“It’s Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chews Your Ass Out All Day Long”

The Notorious Cherry Bombs (2004)

Perhaps this song, with its ridiculous and less than flattering lyrics, should offend me, but it doesn’t. Instead, I find it deliciously funny. Its pure country intro only adds to the hilarity.

“Old Time Fiddle”

Next Big Thing (2003)

I’m a sucker for fast songs and fiddles, which are both contained here. This one is catchy. Once it’s in my head, it stays there for awhile.

“High Lonesome Sound” (bluegrass version)

High Lonesome Sound (1996)

This is a perfect modern bluegrass song. The Alison Krauss harmony is what makes it so perfect.

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