Country Songs by Non-Country Artists

amigoNeil Young is a rock icon, but he is also known for a lot of folk influenced music. However, while recently listening to his 1992 folky album, Harvest Moon, I was amused to hear a song that is pretty much a country song. “Old King” is a silly ditty that is accompanied by rootsy instrumentation, including a prominent banjo. Furthermore, it’s about man’s best friend, which is a staple for a good stereotypical country song.

 Without being snarky about current mainstream radio (just this one time!), what country sounding songs have you heard on albums by artists that aren’t typically considered country?


  1. Oh, I think Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” (from his Harvest album, I believe, ) is a real Country song, complete with backing vocals from Linda Ronstadt.

    Also, John Fogerty’s “Southern Streamline” and “Rambunctious Boy” would certainly fit the bill, as well as Creedence’s “Looking Out My Backdoor”…I’m sure we could come up with some more from JC Fogerty and CCR.

    Also, The Eagles, “Tequila Sunrise, New Kid In Town, Lyin’ Eyes, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take It Easy, and most recently, “How Long”….Face it, Fogerty and CCR and The Eagles, they may as well ADMIT they are Country at heart, if not Country to the core!

  2. This’ll probably stick in people’s craws, but…

    “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow”, by Tom Jones, which was a #1 country hit (#15 on the Billboard Hot 100) for him in the spring of 1977. He may be from Wales, but the man has a way with American country (if his monstrous hit version of “Green Green Grass Of Home” from 1966 is any indication).

  3. And Leeann, do you mean of us to avoid such comments like:

    “Most of these folks we are discussing sound more Country than many who pass for country on today’s “country lite” radio’ ? Comments like that?

    OK, as you wish, I’ll try, but it won’t be easy!

  4. Thanks for mentioning Tom Jones’s version of “Green, Green Grass Of Home” Erik. I have always thought that he sounded very “country” on that song.

  5. @ Annie:

    From what I’ve read, Tom was inspired to do “Green Green Grass Of Home” after hearing Jerry Lee Lewis’ version. Tom’s version was a #1 hit in England for a whopping six weeks at the end of 1966 and the start of 1967, and didn’t do too shabbily either on this side of the Pond, getting to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1967. If one forgets his Vegas image for a second, Tom is really an incredible vocalist, both on country and R&B material (IMHO).

    Another country song by a non-country act is “The Girl With Faraway Eyes” by the Rolling Stones, although this is not so much a country song as it is a sardonic stab at the talking narrative style of folks like Red Sovine and Hank Williams, with Mick Jagger doing an extended English hillbilly impersonation, if that makes any sense (and chances are it doesn’t).

  6. Steve, hahaha! That’s exactly the comment I was hearing in my head when I was posting this!:) That’s why I said “just this time”. Thanks for putting it out there though…who am I to stifle what everyone’s thinking anyway?:)

  7. Crosby Still Nash and Young: “Teach Your Children”

    and speaking of the Stones, “Wild Horses” and “Honky Tonk Woman” have Country influences about them.

    This is a great topic, and I hope it gets a lot of responses, is so, it will really illustrate just how influential Country music has been to other genres.

  8. No problem Leeann, and your were probably hearing my voice saying it, right?

    Anyway, glad to help…I’ve always said that everyone has a purpose in life if only to serve as a bad example. Sometimes I think that’s mine. ;)

  9. How about “Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)” by R&B legend Solomon Burke, which I think he did in 1965?

  10. Steve,
    Ha, I actually heard many voices (including my own), which doesn’t bode well for me, I guess.:)

    I agree that Jones has a great voice, despite his reputation.

    I know Young’s hits and a couple of albums beyond them, but I’ve been working on getting better acquainted with his catalog. Your album suggestion here is where I’ll start.

    Great contributions so far. I can’t wait to check out the ones I don’t know already.

    By the way, Steve, I love “Teach Your Children Well” and you’re right that it’s dripping with country-ness.

    Those Stones songs too.

  11. Leeanne – after you check out the Neil Young record I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Most of my hard core country friends can’t stand him – that makes me sad. His entire catalog is definitely worth checking out. He, like many of the artists of his time have an obvious country influence that shows in their music. Also, would like to mention “Up On Cripple Creek” by The Band.

  12. Tony Joe White, “Polk Salad Annie” and “Willie and Laura Mae Jones”

    But then again, maybe TJW is considered Country anyway.

    @ Ann, I agree and I think a lot of The Band’s stuff sounds country.

    And here are a few obscure ones from the Outlaws (the Southern Rock band from Florida):

    Knoxville Girl, Freeborn Man, and Cold Harbor. Actually, I think these Outlaws sound more Country than their fellow Southern rock bands such as LYNYRD SKYNYRD (spell check had a field day with this one, lol) The Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet, ZZ Top etc…Generally speaking.

  13. Anne,
    When I first heard him, I don’t think I was much of a fan either. However, it’s been years since then and I can hardly remember feeling that way anymore. I love his “hits” and the other albums I have, but I know he’s got a lot of other great stuff that I need to hear. I’m kinda surprised, in a way, that your hard core country fans hate him. At least Willie loves him.

  14. Sorry, Anne, I meant “friends”, not “fans”…though maybe they’re fans too.


    Wasn’t Henry Paul from Blackhawk the lead singer for the Outlaws at one point?

  15. The first time I heard Metallica, I thought they were a country band. It was their covers of Turn the Page and Whiskey in a Jar. Then I heard stuff like Master of Puppets and thought otherwise. ;)

  16. Tom Petty&the heartbreakers; southern accents ( and so much of his other stuff). Also listen to Celine Dion “think twice”; she’s so over the top most of the time but that song is country ( check out the guitar solo)

  17. Anything from that genuinely country, yet suitably tagged Southern Rock group, The Marshall Tucker Band…orginally from my hometown, Spartanburg, South Carolina. One of their better known singles, “Fire on the Mountain” especially oozes that country influence.

  18. And while we’re at it, how about the Beatles’ take on “Act Naturally” from the soundtrack of their film HELP? If the Fab Four’s covering a Johnny Russell-penned song that had been immortalized only two years earlier by Buck Owens isn’t genre-hopping, then what is? Then there’s “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, which warrants a cover by the Dixie Chicks (IMHO).

  19. Yes indeed Leeann, (good call) he was one of the leads along with Hughy Thomasson, and Billy Jones…and when Henry Paul joined the Outlaws, he brought them an even more Country sound if memory serves me….so I guess it wansn’t a huge crossover leap for him to go from the Outlaws to form the country group Blackhawk. Kinda like a Van Zant type move, though Henry Paul did it earlier.

    And how could I have forgotten them Rodney…The Marshal Tucker Band. They brought the flute to country like Tull brought it to Rock and Roll! Yeh, the MTB has a great country sound for sure…Heard it in a Love Song..

    Which brings us to CDB…Charlie Daniels whose stuff can often be found in both the Country and Rock sections of your local record stores. I saw them in concert at the Cape Cod Coliseum back in the seventies, and was very impressed that he was an equally proficient virtuoso on both the fiddle and lead electric guitar. I think Mr. Daniels has duel musical citizenship, and both camps proudly claim him.

    Yeah, Long Haired Country Boy, and Georgia (not to be confused with the Devil went to, lol) are only two examples of his Rock songs which sound really, really country. I think there’s even some dobro in both those songs as well.

    Yeah, I guess that brings the list to really Country sounding country rock bands to at least three, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker, and Charlie Daniels band. The connection between Southern Rock and Country is so close, that it almost seems too easy to include them in our discussion here. ;)

  20. I saw someone mention Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and I second that one. I think “Free Fallin'” is a very country song, for one.

    In terms of pop vs. pop country, I’d argue Gavin DeGraw’s “Follow Through”, and The Thorns’ “Blue” and “I Can’t Remember” are good crossover candidates.

  21. I saw CCR two weeks ago in concert and I leaned to my husband and said “besides the extensive guitar solos, the majority of their music has alot of country influence to it, especially with what is supposed to be a southern accent”. They rocked for almost two hours.

  22. I guess I’m not really talking about crossover candidates as much as a random country song from a non-country artist. I understand that the delineation is kind of unclear from my post though.

  23. Annie,

    Excellent example, I forgot all about Cotton Fields….


    Did you see CCR as in Creedence Clearwater REVISITED, which includes former members Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, or did you see John Fogerty?, The modern CCR ain’t bad…but Fogerty is the real voice and genius behind Creedence Clearwater Revival..But either way, it sounds like a great concert you attended..

    It’s awesome that John Fogerty can finally perfrom Creedence classics again, but why he had to fight for the right to sing his own songs, I’ll never understaind.

    I think John Fogerty with his soulful, swampy sounding voice could have easily gone pure Country from the start, or maybe Blues as well as Rock and Roll. Instead, he wisely chose to blend all three!

  24. Revisited and they rocked, I saw Deirks the week prior and CCR blew him out of the water. Deirks was good and entertaining, but he performed for an hour and three minutes it was a blip or a concert, where CCR performed for and hour and forty minutes and they are like 60, even when I saw Jewel last month she stood on stage just her a table and two guitars not even a chair for an hour and fifty minutes she is very entertaining.

  25. I have a few of their records, and they really are pretty good…not like the original CCR, but probably as good as a tribute band can get. (It really helps that the band includes two founding CCR members, however)

  26. Well, to answer the actual question (since my half-awake self messed up the first time), I will still vouch for some of the music from the Thorns, and I will add that Sting’s original version of “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying”, done before Toby Keith’s, is a pure country song, while Toby’s rendition pales in comparison.

  27. Poco’s 1970 version of the Dallas Frazier-penned “Honky Tonk Downstairs” (a hit for George Jones in the 60s) probably could fit the bill as well.

    For those who don’t know, Poco was formed by Richie Furay and Jimmy Messina out of the ashes of Buffalo Springfield in 1968. They were one of the most important country-rock outfits of the 70s, even though they were often overshadowed by the Eagles (in fact, both Randy Meisner and, later, Timothy B. Schmit, were both in Poco first, then joined the Eagles).

  28. Oh Erik – I looove Poco! One of the first albums I bought with my own money as a kid was their 1st one. Some really awesome artists passed through that band for sure! Off topic, I know – but, I’m so glad I found this site! You and several other bloggers on this site, and a few other sites as well, have really impressed me with your knowledge of country music. Often after reading some of these posts, I find myself searching for songs and artists that I had forgot all about. While I don’t always agree with your observations, I definitely appreciate your commitment to country music. We’re never to old to learn something new, I have learned to never be a “rigid” thinker when it comes to music – to me that would be like staying indoors and never opening the curtains. Music is definitely personal to us all, don’t you think? Maybe that’s why we all get a little heated about it sometimes. However, I can’t imagine life without it. So, blog on all you little bloggers – I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  29. Annie, I’m so glad you found us. I’ve already thoroughly enjoyed what you’ve added here and I look forward to more.

    Stephen, I’ll have to check Sting’s version. I actually like his version with Toby, but I’m interested to hear Sting’s own take on it.

  30. Oh, and let’s not forget Brother Ray Charles and the whole of his 1962 album MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY & WESTERN, notably his version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” What he did back then, being a black R&B legend doing country music classics, was considered outlandish–so much so that the album sold in excess of seven million copies!

  31. A couple of Patty Lovless songs..

    “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” by the late Laura Branigan.

    “The Party Ain’t Over Yet” by Status Quo

  32. Taylor Swift – “Our Song,” oh… wait…

    Hahaha, all jokes aside, everyone should check out Avenge Sevenfold’s “Dear God.” Great song that could fare well on country radio given the chance.

  33. @ Kevin J. Coyne:

    Good choice with the Lennon one (it’s George Harrison, incidentally, that does the Dobro there). I always fancy the Dixie Chicks doing this one, especially now that Natalie has a little more in common with John nowadays (IMHO).

    Anyway, how about Dylan’s two Nashville album excursions of the late 60s, JOHN WESLEY HARDING and NASHVILLE SKYLINE–the latter of which has him duetting with Johnny Cash on his “Girl From The North Country”, and also contains what is still, to date, his last Top Ten hit, “Lay Lady Lay” (featuring Pete Drake on steel, and the late Kenny Buttrey on drums).

  34. Keith Urban and John Anderson do versions of “Country Comfort.” I believe McGraw covers “Tiny Dancer.”

  35. Speaking of the Beatles, I think their song “Two of Us” from their Let it Be album, has a country feel to it.

  36. And there is a song by Chicago that sounds really country to me…I forget the name, but it was an album cut and the opening lyrics went something like this;

    “You are, you are on a plane now, and on your way up north…

    Canada, is so far from where, you want to be, want to be, be in California …”

    Flight # something or other…ring a bell anyone?

  37. The Byrds’ “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man”, their little riposte to Ralph Emery, who dissed them in 1968 when they became the first rock band to play on the Opry (they got the cold shoulder because their hair was twice as long as anyone else’s). In response, Roger McGuinn and Gram Parsons wrote this scathingly hilarious comeback to Mr. Emery, rent with the pedal steel guitar mastery of Lloyd Green. It’s on their 1969 album DR. BYRDS AND MR. HYDE, for anyone ambitious enough to try and find it.

  38. Blue Sky, by the Allman Brothers…

    Also, Sweet Baby James, by James Taylor…there’s some steel in it and added to his folk style, it sounds very close to country…I’m sure there are some other JT songs that’d fit this bill as well, but my brain’s fadin’ fast at this hr….

  39. How about “Cheatin'” from the Gin Blossoms, “Secret of the Bottle” from Jackyl, “Half Your Age” from Kid Rock, and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” from Poison?

  40. James Taylor’s version of “Bartender’s Blues”. While I do think George Jones version is really the best – JT wrote the song and it’s on his cd “JT”. Definitely worth checking out. Also, Elton John “Texan Love Song”. It’s a trip to listen to him “attempt” the twang!

  41. John Kay released a pair of albums with quite a bit of country flavour on them when Steppenwolf split up in 1972 – apart from a rock version of Hank Snow’s “Movin’ On”, “You Win Again” on his first solo LP was definitely country, and “Moonshine” on his second solo LP was certainly country-flavoured…
    Also, what about “Poor House” by the Travelling Wilburys from their Volume III CD? And (digging into some really obscure stuff) Paul Revere and the Raiders did some country stuff on a pair of 1969 LP’s – from the album “Hard’n’Heavy (with marshmallow)” the song “Five String Soul Banjo”, was kind of a country-flavoured rock song and “Louisiana Redbone” on the LP “Alias Pink Puzz” was pure country.

  42. Just had another thought … in addition to “Green, Green Grass of Home,” Tom Jones’ “Detroit City” had a country sound to it, especially with the twangy guitar in it…

  43. “Hot Rod Lincoln”, which had been a hit twice before, in versions by Tex Ritter and Johnny Bond, but became a large Top Ten smash in 1972 for Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen.

    “Panama Red”–New Riders Of The Purple Sage

    “Don’t Bogart That Joint”–Fraternity Of Man (on the soundtrack to the classic 1969 movie EASY RIDER).

    “Wasn’t Born To Follow”–The Byrds

  44. In 1972 the LP “Goldie” was Goldie Hawn’s foray into music, included on the album were Dolly Parton’s “My Blue Tears (recorded in Nashville) and Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” backed by The Buckaroos. (arrangement by Buck Owens and recorded at Buck Owens Studios, Bakersfield)
    Overall it’s a very well sung and diverse album.

    Jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux’s cover of “Walkin’ After Midnight” was a standout on her debut CD “Dreamland” in 1996, her follow up 8 years later “Careless Love” dabbled with country again taking on Hank Williams “Weary Blues”.

    There have been numerous tribute albums over the years with non country artists covers. One of my favorites is Beck’s take on “Your Cheatin’ Heart” from “Hank Williams Timeless” 2001.

    “Up Front and Down Low” by Teddy Thompson 2007, son of renowned folkies Richard and Linda Thompson, with a rich twangy voice he takes on a dozen classic country tunes and it’s a good fit, the sterling melodies such as Earnest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You” are given a masterful makeover, polishing them up with an all-star cast of players that includes Iris Dement, Tift Merritt, and Marc Ribot.

  45. This minght sound surprising, but ‘Not Fair’ by Lily Allen. The lyrics are definatley not something you normally hear country songs, though.

  46. Numerous tracks from the early 70’s onwards by Britsh rockers Status Quo; Break The Rules, Fine Fine Fine, Lonely Night, Dirty Water etc. Much of their material written by Francis Rossi & Bob Young has a huge country influence – the country knobs turned up to 11 on “In Quo Country”, Young’s solo album of Quo covers

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