Archive for the ‘Yesterday’s Songs’ Category
Friday, August 15th, 2008
This feature is back upon popular request. Today, we'll look back at the top twenty country singles from sixteen years ago. For the writers of this site, the nineties are considered a golden age in country music. In 1992, the genre was nearing its commercial peak, and some of the greatest artists of that era were coming into their own. However, there was still quite a bit of chaff among the wheat.
Top 20 Country Songs
August 15, 1992
“You and Forever and Me”
This is the prototypical early nineties country ballad, one part Alabama and two parts Restless Heart. There was always a faceless quality to the harmonies of Little Texas, and there's nothing particularly distinctive about their material here, either. C
There's a quaint charm to this single, by a band that never quite made an impact. But in the end, it's pretty forgettable. B-
He's mostly remembered for his horrendously sappy love songs, but when he put his impressive vocal chops to work on a honky-tonk number, the results were fantastic. Ironically, it's most of his other work that should carry warning labels, particularly for diabetics. This one's a winner. B+
“I Wouldn't Have it Any Other Way”
Nobody did working class anthems better than Aaron Tippin. Given that nobody's doing them at all anymore, at least on country radio, this is even more welcome listening now than it was back then. A
“Five O'Clock World”
Leave it to Ketchum to transform this pop hit into blue-eyed country soul. His vocal on the chorus is otherworldly. A-
“Could've Been Me”
Billy Ray Cyrus
He wasn't the one-hit wonder he's often remembered to be, and his follow-up to “Achy Breaky Heart” was a much better record. B+
“I Saw the Light”
The singles off of Wynonna's debut solo album struck a perfect balance between smart material and radio-friendly production. This is one of her biggest and most charming hits. A
“A Woman Loves”
Sweet, simple and honest. All the hallmarks of a good Steve Wariner record. B
“I Still Believe in You”
A masterpiece ballad. It won the CMA for Song of the Year, and deservedly so. A+
“What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am”
Lee Roy Parnell
It's amazing how effective
ly Nashville smoothed the edges of Lee Roy Parnell's music to make it palatable to country radio. It's a solid song, but the muted production doesn't serve it well. B.
Friday, November 23rd, 2007
Looking back five years, this list will feature artists that are more familiar to recent country fans than those on earlier features. I was impressed overall by the quality of the entries here, and I remember 2002 being my favorite country music year since the mid-nineties. Unfortunately, things were going to go downhill fast, but a list where even Rascal Flatts has a song I like is no small feat.
Top 20 Country Songs
November 23, 2002
A worthy breakthrough hit for this neo-traditionalist, his understated delivery is refreshing. A-
“The Good Stuff”
A modern classic and a signature hit for Chesney, it was still hanging in the top twenty after thirty weeks. A+.
A laundry list of pop culture from the seventies and eighties. This stuff makes for great VH1 specials, but as a country song? Meh. C.
“A Lot of Things Different”
Chesney’s second hit in the top twenty is a mournful look back at a life full of regrets. Heavy stuff, but quite good. A-.
“Strong Enough to Be Your Man”
This is about as generic as Tritt’s ever gotten, a surprisingly personality-free love song. C
Brooks & Dunn
God bless ‘em for covering Kim Richey and getting some exposure for one of her better compositions. Her original version is far superior, but a good song is a good song. B+
“I Just Wanna Be Mad”
Clark’s huge comeback single was equal parts wit and honesty. It’s the blueprint that BNA should be following as they look for another song to get her back to the top of the charts. A
“Fall into Me”
Cheesy country-pop without charm or distinction. D
Rebecca Lynn Howard
“Forgive. That’s a mighty big word for such a small man.” It’s one of the most cutting dismissals of a cheating husband in country music history, and unfortunately the only hit to date for the very talented Howard. A
“Where Would You Be”
McBride successfully revisits the themes and sounds of her earlier hit “Whatever You Say”, and once again makes the rafters ring with a jaw-dropping vocal performance. A-.
Sunday, August 12th, 2007
This list was an interesting trip down memory lane. This particular top twenty has my personal favorites from Brooks & Dunn, George Strait and Pam Tillis, alongside singles I’d completely forgotten about from Vince Gill, Clint Black and Diamond Rio. The breakthrough hits from Shania Twain, Bryan White and David Lee Murphy are here, along with the sole moments of glory from Perfect Stranger and James House.
If you’re wondering why the list looks a bit different, I’ve added download links if they’re available. Just click on the song title!
Top 20 Country Songs
August 12, 1995
“You Better Think Twice”
This year’s hall of fame inductee warns a woman of the man she’s falling in love with, and his cheating, heartless ways. B.
“Finish What We Started”
A pretty ballad that showcases their harmonies, it was a bit too sluggishly paced to rise any higher on the singles chart. But it’s a good record nonetheless. B+.
“Someone Else’s Star”
The Taylor Swift of the mid-nineties. Okay, that’s pushing it. But you could barely fit a needle between the emotional maturity levels of this and “Teardrops on My Guitar.” C.
He never got as bad as Doug Stone with the sappy love songs, mostly because his twang was too forceful and his writer’s mind too clever. But boy, did he come close a few times. B-.
“Walking to Jerusalem”
It borders on nonsensical, but he delivers it with such aplomb that rhyming Jerusalem with Methuselah seems strangely logical. A-
This is my favorite George Strait single ever. Quiet, adult and fully believable. A+
“Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)”
John Michael Montgomery
I thought this was really cool and funny when I was a freshman in high school. Now it just sounds corny. Whether that means I’m more mature now, or just more cynical, I’m not really sure. C.
David Lee Murphy
I went ahead and bought this one myself, a rare instance of a really good single from this era that I’d forgotten about but was happy to be reminded of. A
“She Ain’t Your Ordinary Girl”
Maybe she ain’t, but this is a very, very ordinary single. Let me add, however, that the album it launched has my favorite Alabama single, “It Works.” Just stickin’ with the ‘favorite’ theme I’ve got going here. C
“In Between Dances”
My favorite thing she’s ever sent to radio, a gorgeous waltz about the hesitation and cautious hope that create conflict within when one relationship has ended and another has yet to begin. If you don’t have it already, download it now. It’s awesome. A+.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
No wonder I got into country music in 1991. What an awesome collection of songs. I could actually enjoy country radio if this is what was in the rotation! Sorry this is four days late, but there was no way I was going to find a new list for July 24 when this collection was so damn good.
Top 20 Country Songs
July 20, 1991
“Small Town Saturday Night”
Ketchum’s breakthrough hit is a detail-laden celebration of the mundane social lives of small town teenagers. He didn’t write it, but it’s so intelligent it’s hard to believe he didn’t. Witness the explanation that the world is flat, and drops off sharp at the edge of town, because “when people leave town, they never come back.” A
Lee Greenwood & Suzy Bogguss
Greenwood’s last top ten hit was Bogguss’ first, and she elevates the proceedings by her mere presence. He mercifully keeps his vocal histrionics in check. B+
“Down to My Last Teardrop”
Smart, vivacious and sung with fire, Tucker’s rarely sounded better. This is one of her best singles that isn’t from the early seventies. A
Gill does a little rockabilly number that sounds pleasant, but doesn’t really go anywhere. B-
“We Both Walk”
Morgan growls her way through this insistent kiss-off number, as she tells her man, “Don’t you try to come through my door. I can’t watch you leave anymore.” A-
“She’s a Natural”
Unbelievably sappy. Crosby lays it on thick. It’s hard to believe that he was among the prodigious early roster of Arista Nashville, which featured Alan Jackson, Pam Tillis, Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio and Lee Roy Parnell. C
“One of Those Things”
Speaking of Tillis, her second hit single was a re-recording of a song she wrote that failed to chart when she was a Warner Bros. artist. Janie Fricke covered it soon after, but it wasn’t until the newly confident writer ripped into it on her Arista debut that it was finally a hit. A-
“Fallin’ Out of Love”
McEntire does her very own “Woman to Woman”, whispering in the ear of a female friend who has just been done wrong, but in a demonstration of how things have changed for women, she celebrates with her friend as the man who left her behind comes crawling back, and she turns him away. One of the best singles in a very illustrious career that’s been full of great, great singles. A+
“Til I Found You”
Even Marty filler is pretty good. But this is Marty filler, no doubt. B-
“You Know Me Better Than That”
Love this song. Hilariously true to life. We put on airs, but eventually people see us as we really are. A
Wednesday, July 4th, 2007
Four years after the first list, some of the names have changed and so have the sounds. Notice the crossover flavor of this list? We’ve still got one foot in country music but it’s standing on a banana peel.
Top 20 Country Songs
July 4, 1998
“I Said a Prayer”
Pam rocked the top twenty for the last time, introducing the world to songwriter Leslie Satcher in the process. One of her catchiest hits. B+
“If You Ever Have Forever in Mind”
All smooth style and jazzy charm. Vince takes his time and reels us in. B
Bright, bubbly, smartly written. A tad overproduced, but not a single note oversung. B
“Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me”
Faith Hill featuring Tim McGraw
Their voices blend together nicely, but there’s no disguising the fact that this is just an “It’s Your Love” retread. C+
“One of These Days”
A man looks back on his childhood as a bully, his teenage youth as a heartbreaker, and comes to realize he can turn himself around and rise above his mistakes. Tim found this on the same Marcus Hummon CD that also contained the future Rascal Flatts smash “Bless the Broken Road.” Leave it to Tim to pick the odder, deeper song and make it a smash hit. A
“Texas Size Heartache”
It may sound like dull radio filler today, but check out the pop-flavored songs in the rest of the top twenty and you’ll understand how refreshing that fiddle and pure country voice sounded in comparison. B-
“There’s Your Trouble”
Sure, it was their first #1 hit, but this remains a silly ditty that was a carbon copy of “I Can Love You Better”, the silly ditty that preceded it. C
“From This Moment On”
Shania Twain & Bryan White
I love this song. The pop version, that is, where the sexiest woman in country music history is flying solo instead of singing with a prepubescent twelve year-old boy. C-
“There Goes My Baby”
The album it came from is the weakest of her career, but you never would’ve guessed from this killer lead single, which has one of Yearwood’s most powerful vocal performances. She’s a friggin’ sixties girl group unto herself. A
“To Make You Feel My Love”
Garth Brooks covers Billy Joel covering Bob Dylan. Three legends connected to one hell of a boring record. C
Monday, June 25th, 2007
Here’s a feature I’ve been wanting to start for a long time, since the good folks at Entertainment Weekly do it so well with the pop charts. How do yesterday’s hits sound today? Lets’ take a look back to the hit parade from thirteen years ago today.
Top 20 Country Songs
June 25, 1994
“That’s My Baby”
Lari White would eventually score her first of three top ten hits with this breakthrough single, which is so light and fluffy that it is hard to even take seriously. C-
“It Won’t Be Over You”
A clever kiss-off number that I’d completely forgotten about. Wariner just might be the king of forgotten hits. B
“How Can I Help You Say Goodbye”
A three-act masterpiece that rivals “Where’ve You Been” in the pantheon of heartbreaking country story songs. As poignant today as it’s ever been. A+
“I Wish I Could Have Been There”
Country music’s very own “Cat’s in the Cradle”, delivered by one of the genre’s finest vocalists of all-time. A
“One Night a Day”
Ugh. Garth Brooks tries to channel Billy Joel and ends up with a very irritating record. I’d forgotten how bad he sounded when he did that operatic thing with his voice. D
“Lifestyles of the Not-So Rich and Famous”
Just in case you think the current redneck anthem craze is bad, here’s a timely reminder that it was much, much worse in the nineties. D
“The Cheap Seats”
A fun and entertaining celebration of minor league baseball. One of their best singles from the nineties. A-
“Every Once in a While”
Breathtakingly, deliciously arrogant. B+
For all of his outlaw bombast, Tritt’s greatest strength was always his killer ballads. This is one of his best. A
“Don’t Take the Girl”
Good Lord, Tim sounds so darn earnest, as if being close to tears himself will make the listener cry. Excessive and over the top, but still pretty darn entertaining. B-