Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 3: #20-#11

The consensus builds with the next set of ten singles. While there is still some lesser known singles and artists in the mix, more than half of these entries come from top-selling albums. Of course, radio still didn’t play all of those, either, but record buyers heard them anyway.


Emily West, “Rocks in Your Shoes”

A burst of country-poptimism that manages to sound both sunny and smart. Eat your heart out, “Red Umbrella.”  – DM


Sugarland, “Already Gone”

Perhaps leaving takes place in two stages.   The heart and mind go first, then the body catches up with them later on.   “Already Gone” explores this concept thoroughly, with keen attention to detail.   “Pictures, dishes and socks.  It’s our whole life down to one box.”   Months after my first listen, I still find myself playing that final verse over and over again. – KJC


Reba McEntire and Kenny Chesney or Skip Ewing, “Every Other Weekend”

Two divorced parents contemplate the unfulfilling aftermath of their split and the lingering feelings they have for one another in intimate detail (“First thing in the morning / I turn the T.V. on to make the quiet go away”). Neither Chesney nor co-writer Skip Ewing was able to match McEntire’s combination of technical and interpretive skill, but you don’t get this kind of song everyday.  – DM


Reckless Kelly, “Ragged is the Road”

A classic Texas road anthem. The theme of finding personal enlightenment through the consideration of a historical setting is hardly new – especially when that setting is the open road – but these guys manage to rejuvenate it with broadly poetic lyrics and a galloping chorus that sounds damn good coming out of your car speakers.  Crank it.  – DM


Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt”

Reunited and it feels so good.  After hitting a romantic roadblock, Urban and his lady love recapture the magic for one more night of mattress dancing.  Their undeniable chemistry may not conquer all, but at least for one morning-after moment, he’s relishing the relationship.  A killer guitar riff and a gloriously winsome performance from the Aussie seal the deal. – BB


Miranda Lambert, “More Like Her”

Miranda Lambert is best known for her tough, no-nonsense country-rock anthems. While she does those extremely well, it’s nice to hear her vulnerability in “More Like Her.” She sings this song with a sensitivity and gentleness that can only come from someone who has either lived the sentiments in the song or is a natural expert interpreter of heartache. I suspect Lambert fits both criteria. “More Like Her” has a simple melody and abstract lyrics, and the two combined with Lambert’s exquisite vocal performance make this song a gem. – LW


Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream”

Denial and anger are two of the most difficult stages of grief. On this powerful ballad, Underwood wrestles with both of them, lending her formidable voice to that of a widowed war wife. The second verse captures a military funeral down to the last painful detail, but all of those who have suffered a deep loss will be able to relate to feeling like you’re “looking from a distance” and “standing in the background.” You watch with numb and blurry detachment because if you fully let go of the idea that it’s not “just a dream”, you won’t be able to handle the reality you’re currently suffering through. – KJC


Del McCoury Band, “Moneyland”

A depressingly prophetic tale of government siding with big business while the common men and women are left holding the bill.  It could have been ripped from today’s headlines, had it not been released months before the recent economic free fall. “It’s a pity to see when the land of the free turns out to be nothing but a free-for-all.”   Indeed. – KJC.


Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read the Letter”

A remake of the Robert Plant/Jimmy Page collaboration from 1998’s Walking Into Clarksdale, “Please Read the Letter” is a gothic wonder.  The sense of urgency builds throughout this tale of romantic dissolution, with Plant yelping in pain as the final chorus comes to a traumatic close.  Producer T-Bone Burnett provides sparse production, and Krauss’ aching harmony delivers beautifully on this stunning dirge. – BB


Randy Houser, “Anything Goes”

Co-writing the divisive “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” was a career blessing for Randy Houser.  He deservedly rode that bit of fame to create his first solo album, named after the stunning first single. Houser inhabits the role of a barfly barely hanging on after a bad breakup.  He flirts with a pretty blonde, drinks from a cool bottle, indulging in this bad behavior because “anything goes when everything’s gone.” The slippery piano slides across the melody, the lyric shows sharp detail, and best of all, Houser’s desperate drawl echoes his unbearable pain. – BB


  1. Whew, that final verse of “Already Gone” is equally haunting for me too, one of my favorites for a while now.

    This list is shaping up nicely! I’ve been starting my own lust, and I’m worried it will be too much like this one, albeit mine is more mainstream.

  2. I’m lovin how good this list is turning out! Great to see Sugarland, Miranda, and Carrie in the top 20. Those were probably a few of my favorite singles of the year. Can’t wait to see the final ten!

  3. Love the Sugarland, Carrie, and Krauss/Plant tunes.
    All three are songs that really make me listen to the storyteller, wanting to hear what happens next.
    This is the kind of music that lasts… for me.

  4. Marc, I consider Keith to be more country than some of the other popular acts these days so he gets a pass in my book. That, and he has a good voice and is quite talented in the areas of songwriting and instrumentation, IMO.

    Overall I think this list is getting better and better. I’m interested to see what the rest of the list will look like!

  5. Gail, Keith will be on the Opry December 27th, and it’s definitely a performance I’m looking forward too. Though it’s rare that he makes Opry appearences, lately they have been more frequent than in recent years. It just shows you the kind of respect he has for country, as well as his undying love for the genre. I respect him, and other format superstars such as Carrie Underwood, who take the time to appear on the program whereas other big names don’t.

  6. I would not be surprised to see Keith Urban get an invite to become a member of The Opry.
    They are really on a tear to bring in “younger” acts and he certainly brings alot to the genre and Nashville.
    Just saying….

    Back on topic: That’s not necessarily one of my fave Keith tunes but glad to see him represented.

    Randy Houser sounds like Ronnie Dunn. (IMHO)
    I do like his music and am thinking Ronnie may have waited too long to put out that solo work.

  7. Matt, I can’t speak for anyone, but I really don’t think Chris was trying to make any sort of comment on your list. I think he was just making a comment about mainstream country as a whole (that being that much of it is bad).

  8. Although I wasn’t crazy over Urban’s tune, I thought it was extremely well done: catchy and full of exciting energy. I have similar feelings for Reba’s duet, that even thought I wasn’t in love with it, the attention to detail and powerful vocals helped it soar.

    I’m glad to see “Just a Dream” on the list, though I would have marked it slightly higher up.

    I have a guess as to what #1 will be, I wonder if it will turn out correct.

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