The list comes to a close with ten classic records from some of the era’s most commercially and critically successful stars.
It’s easy to be cynical about country radio these days, but unlike most of the songs on the lists we compile now, 1993’s best singles got a lot of airplay. All but one of our top ten entries reached the top five of the singles chart. If we could get a success rate today that was anywhere near that, it might be safe to turn on the radio again!
Enjoy the end to this list, and us writers will enjoy that rare downtime that comes between finishing the publication of one of these lists and starting another one!
“Nothin’ But the Wheel”
Written by John Scott Sherrill
#3 – BF | #7 – KJC | #24 – SG
Loveless’ brokenhearted narrator takes to the midnight highway with only the mournful sounds of fiddle and steel for company, sadly aware that she is not being missed at home. In a catalog rich with beautiful ballads, this is one of the finest. – Ben Foster
How strong a year for country music was 1993? Well, if our Best Albums list revealed how many great artists were overlooked, our Best Singles list reveals why there is so little room at the inn.
Out of the forty singles ranked among our best, all but five reached the top twenty of the Billboard country singles chart. Ten of them made it all the way to #1, and another nine of them stopped at #2. Country radio in 1993 was good.
Our list kicks off today with the first ten entries of the top forty. We’ll reveal ten more every day until we get to the top of the list on Tuesday. Under each entry, you’ll see each single’s peak position on the Billboard chart and the individual ranking for each writer who included it on their own top forty list.
“On the Road”
Lee Roy Parnell
Written by Bob McDill
#11 – KJC | #28 – JK
In one of his finest moments, Lee Roy Parnell weaves the stories of a frustrated housewife, high school underachiever, and retired couple into a seamless narrative of finding both escape and salvation on the road. His signature slide guitar licks provide an undercurrent of tension that heightens the intensity of the storylines as they unfold. – Kevin John Coyne
The combined efforts of nine women and three men form the upper echelon of our Best Albums list from 1993. This embarrassment of riches showcases just how much great music there was to choose from that year, especially given how many of the genre’s biggest and most acclaimed stars – Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Pam Tillis, just to name a few – were between albums that year.
It was also a strong and diverse enough year that despite some overall consensus among the lists of all of the writers, each one of us has a different album at #1 on our personal lists.
Enjoy the second half of our list, and look for the Singles list to kick off next weekend.
#1 – JK | #3 – SG
In jumping to a major label, Uncle Tupelo was supposed to give alt-country its Nirvana; though that didn’t happen, the critical acclaim and indie following that Anodyne earned served as an impetus for the nascent alt-country scene.
An album that’s both legitimately great and historically important in equal measure, Anodyne proved that alt-country was commercially viable as a refuge for artists and fans who felt at-odds with the increasingly slick mainstream country of the early 1990s. Borne of long-simmering conflicts between co-frontmen Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, Anodyne is a sprawling and ambitious album that finds Uncle Tupelo at their most fully-realized as a band.
Drawing heavily from country-rock, folk, and traditional styles, it’s easy to hear the band’s lingering influence on both contemporary Americana and on modern country acts like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church. – Jonathan Keefe
Recommended Tracks: “Acuff-Rose,” “The Long Cut,” “Chickamunga”
Back in the day, we used to do iPod checks. Seemed so current at the time!
Now, we’re gonna ask you to go to Spotify or your phone or whatever, and just let us know what you’re listening to the most.
Two Daily Top Fives Today: Your five most played songs from a 2015 album, and your most played country songs of all time.
Here are my lists, sticking to one song per artist:
On the first day of the new month, we’re asking you to share your favorite first singles from an album or compilation.
Here’s my list:
- Trisha Yearwood, “Wrong Side of Memphis”
- Pam Tillis, “Deep Down”
- Tim McGraw, “Please Remember Me”
- Sawyer Brown, “Cafe on the Corner”
- Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice”
Some cover songs pale in comparison to previous incarnations. Other attempts may come across as competent but disposable. But every now and then, a cover song comes along that just might rival or even replace the original in my listening rotation.
What are your top five cover songs that you like better than the original?
Here’s my list:
1. Dixie Chicks, “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac)
2. Linda Ronstadt, “Blue Bayou” (Roy Orbison)
3. Alison Krauss & Union Station, “When You Say Nothing At All” (Keith Whitley)
4. Jo Dee Messina, “Lesson in Leavin'” (Dottie West)
5. Pam Tillis, “When You Walk in the Room” (Jackie DeShannon)
How could you ever tell them apart?
Thank goodness we have the diversity and variety of male voices in country music to keep things fresh.
With deep gratitude to country music programmers for knowing what we really want. Thanks to your leadership, the genre is so much richer with talent today than it was in 1993.
UPDATE: Check out the impeccably researched work of Deb B, also known as Windmills, over at MJ’s Big Blog:
Country Radio & The Anti-Female Female Myth: A Data-Based Look
Via Terri Clark’s Twitter, this gem from radio consultant Keith Hill:
This One’s Not For The Girls: Finally, Hill cautions against playing too many females. And playing them back to back, he says, is a no-no. “If you want to make ratings in Country radio, take females out,” he asserts. “The reason is mainstream Country radio generates more quarter hours from female listeners at the rate of 70 to 75%, and women like male artists. I’m basing that not only on music tests from over the years, but more than 300 client radio stations. The expectation is we’re principally a male format with a smaller female component. I’ve got about 40 music databases in front of me and the percentage of females in the one with the most is 19%. Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”
Tossed salad imagery aside, in what other professional setting would such blatant gender discrimination be openly advocated? The breathtaking condescension toward female listeners in country music is nothing new, but it’s been more than twenty years since any such case could be supported by sales numbers.
Suggested by longtime reader Erik North:
What are your top five train songs?
Here’s my list:
- Rosanne Cash, “Runaway Train”
- Pam Tillis, “Train Without a Whistle”
- Dwight Yoakam, “Train in Vain”
- Whiskey Falls, “Last Train Running”
- Clint Black, “There Never Was a Train”
We haven’t done a Daily Top Five for a few days, so the original post is going to be lengthier than usual.
Loyal fans of an artist usually love album cuts and rarities as much as they do the singles, if not more. Today we ask, what are your five favorite lesser-known tracks by your five favorite artists?
You don’t have to to pick five artists in the comments, of course. But for the artists you pick, try to avoid singles!
I’m cheating and using my iPod play counts to help me out here.
Here are my five favorite fan favorites from five of my favorite artists:
- Dreaming Fields
- Woman Walk the Line
- Standing Out in a Crowd
- Little Hercules
- Harmless Heart