The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 22

Today’s category is…

A Story Song.

Here are the staff picks:

Tara Seetharam: “The Dance” – Garth Brooks

I’m not sure if this song really constitutes as a “story”song, but its metaphor is so beautifully written that it feels as rich as the best country songs in this category. Regret is a funny thing; sometimes it’s easier to succumb to it than it is to own and embrace your memories – fleeting though they may be. Brooks takes this somewhat tried and true theme and spins it into a poignant, lovely tribute.

Kevin Coyne: “Lucille” – Kenny Rogers

Only Kenny could turn a song this dark into a sing-along.

Leeann Ward: “Here Comes That Rainbow Again” – Kris Kristofferson

Based on a scene from John Steinbeck’s book, Grapes of Wrath, this is a beautiful story of a simple act of kindness that affects me every time.

Dan Milliken: “Her Diamonds” – Rob Thomas

This may be more “progressive scenario” than “story,” but either way I can’t get enough of the theme. It’s about seeing someone you love suffer and realizing that, despite your best intentions, there’s nothing you can do to fix or even understand their particular pain. No man is an island, the saying goes, but on a certain level we’re fundamentally disconnected from each other’s experiences, limited as we are to our own. You can tell this couple communicate as authentically as they can, but he can’t fully inhabit her hurt, and she can’t fully know the depth of his caring. The best they can do – tonight, at least – is spend their respective alonenesses together.


  1. “Independence Day” has still got to be the best story song that I have heard. It’s hard not to feel for the abused mother and her daughter. It’s lyrics paint a vivid picture too. I also think Martina has got some of the best story songs in her catalog, “A Broken Wing”, “Concrete Angel”, “Strangers”.

  2. There is always Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” the greatest story song in country music history.

    But one my favorites goes along the lines of Tara’s choice:
    “That ‘Ol Wind” from Garth Brooks.

  3. Brad & Alison’s “Whiskey Lullabye” is one of the finest story-songs I’ve ever heard. Stunning song and video.
    Brad & Dolly’s “Wnen I Get Where I’m Going” is an excellent choice too.

    Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” is a great one as well. It captures the teenage years in such a personal (yet universal) way.

    The Dixie Chicks are some of the finest storytellers around.
    “Top Of The World.” “Wide Open Spaces,” “Heartbreak Town,” “Travlin Soilder.”

    Carrie Underwood’s “Just A Dream” is a stunning example, with an equally stunning vocal. Her interpetive abilites have grown in leaps and bounds since Idol.
    “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” “Before He Cheats, “The Night Before (Life Goes On), and “What Can I Say” are great as well.

    “These Days” & “I’m Movin On” from Rascal Flatts are two of my all-time favorite story songs. Vocals, delivery, production & everything in between is perfect.
    Tim McGraw- “If You’re Reading This.”

  4. Karly got a lot of the good DCX ones, but I’d add “Goodbye Earl”

    Billy Currington, “Lucille”

    Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue”


  5. Before I even had a chance to think of a story song on my own, my head was swimming with selections from Garth Brooks’s discography from “The Thunder Rolls” to “Belleau Wood.” I can say without much fear of contradiction that my brother would choose “Cowboy Bill” from Garth’s eponymous debut album as his favorite story song.

    Kevin, I can see “Lucille,” but my first thought as a Kenny Rogers recording would have been “Coward of the County,” another terrific choice. Another fine choice might have been “The Gambler,” which was so vivid it spawned a series of TV movies.

    As for me, I’m going with “He Walked on Water” written by Allen Shamblin and recorded by Randy Travis. It walks us through a relationship and two lives in three minutes, and the few details made known to us are more than enough for us to know both the old man and the narrator. We can fill in the gaps easily enough, and even if we don’t identify with each of the particulars, we have little difficulty connecting with the song.

    (As an aside, Randy Travis has re-recorded this as a duet with Kenny Chesney for his forthcoming Anniversary Celebration album. That song is currently available free from Randy’s website.)

  6. “Fancy” – Reba

    Always the first to come to my mind when I think of story songs. Reba can sing a story like no other.

  7. “Pancho and Lefty” is my favorite. Some ofthers that stick out for me personally are:

    “Little Man” – Alan Jackson
    “Anything But Mine” – Kenny Chesney,
    “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man” – Randy Travis
    “I Just Got Back From Hell” – Gary Allan
    “I Let Her Lie” – Daryle Singletary
    “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” – George Strait
    “Red Rag Top” – Tim McGraw
    “Greatest Man I Never Knew” – Reba
    “This is Me You’re Talking To” – Trisha Yearwood
    “She’s Gonna Make It” – Garth Brooks

  8. “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia,” hands down! I love how it plays like a mystery novel set to music, with little clues inserted in, like “some tracks too small for Andy to make.” Reba’s performance carries just the right air of mystery, with the swampy bluesy production complimenting it perfectly. And when you listen to the song for the first time, you don’t expect it at all when Reba reveals who killer really was. Man, that song is so awesome!!

  9. My choices in this area are:

    A RIVER FOR HIM–Linda Ronstadt
    IN THE GHETTO–Elvis Presley
    ODE TO BILLIE JOE–Bobbie Gentry
    SON OF A PREACHER MAN–Dusty Springfield
    FANCY–Bobbie Gentry
    POLK SALAD ANNIE–Tony Joe White
    COLORADO–Linda Ronstadt
    MAMA TRIED–Merle Haggard

  10. Virtually everything written by Tom T Hall fits here but I’ll go with his “Ballad of Forty Dollars” and his most famous composition (as recorded by Jeannie C Riley) “Harper Valley PTA” which in terms of global sales was one of the biggest story songs ever

    Ballad of Forty Dollars:

    The man who preached the funeral
    Said it really was a simple way to die …
    He laid down to rest one afternoon
    And never opened up his eyes …
    They hired me and Fred and Joe
    To dig the grave and carry up some chairs …
    It took us seven hours
    And I guess we must have drunk a case of beer. …

    I guess I ought to go and watch them put ‘im down
    But I don’t own a suit
    And anyway when they start talkin’ about
    The fire in Hell, well, I get spooked
    So, I’ll just sit here in my truck
    And act like I don’t know ‘im when they pass
    Anyway, when they’re all through
    I’ve got to go to work and mow the grass.

    Well, here they come and who’s that
    Ridin’ in that big ol’ shiny limousine
    Mmh! look at all that chrome, I do believe
    That that’s the sharpest thing I’ve seen
    That must belong to his great uncle
    Someone said he owned a big ol’ farm
    When they get parked I’ll mosey down
    and look it over, that won’t do no harm.

    Well, that must be the widow in the car
    And would you take a look at that
    That sure is a pretty dress
    You know some women do look good in black
    Well, he’s not even in the ground
    And they say that his truck is up for sale
    They say she took it pretty hard
    But you can’t tell too much behind the veil.

    Well, listen ain’t that pretty
    When the bugler plays the Military “TAPS”
    I think that when you’s in the war
    They always hide ‘n play a song like that
    Well, here I am and there they go
    And I guess you’d just call it my bad luck
    I hope he rests in peace, the trouble is
    The fellow owes me forty bucks.

  11. Some of my favorite story stongs are from Hal Ketchum:

    “I Miss My Mary”, solely written by Hal, tells about an alcoholic who abandons wife and child as his disease progresses.

    “Daddy’s Oldsmobile”, written with David Mallett, is about a family living out of a car, moving from town to town looking for work during the Depression.

    “Trail Of Tears”, solely written by Randy Handley, is about the plight of the American Indian.

    “Swing Low”, from Pete Wasner and Hal, is about a young girl and her baby abandoned by the baby’s father.

    None of these songs were released as singles.

  12. “carroll County Accident” Porter Wagoner
    Unanswered Prayers” Garth Brooks
    “El Paso” marty Robbins
    “Travelin Soldier” Dixie Chicks
    “Dont Take the Girl” Tim McGraw

    I could go on and on, this is a deep category

  13. … the charlie daniels band “the devil went down to georgia” is an all time great story song. but i go with travis’ brother, garth brooks’ “cowboy bill” would be my hands down favourite one.

  14. Lots of my favorites have already been mentioned, like the tracks from Tom T. Hall (the greatest story songwriter in country music IMO), Reba, Garth Brooks, etc. I will add “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine” and “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died” to the list of Hall’s best story songs.

    But my personal pick would be Waylon Jennings/Travis Tritt’s “Where Corn Don’t Grow”. (I prefer Tritt’s recording.) I’ve always been a big fan of that song, and I think it perfectly sums up the angst of young small-town hopefuls, and I really like that it has an open ending to let the listener decide if the son comes back home or not.

  15. “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins and “Riding with Private Malone” by David Ball were two that came to mind. There are so many fantastic ones to choose from.

  16. That Ol’ Wind by Garth is probably my favorite story song, though when you say story song, I instantly think of George’s I Can Still Make Cheyenne.

  17. There are few In the last couple of years I love

    Tumbleweed – Troy Olsen
    Awesome western story. You can see the video in your mind so clearly. Hope it’s a single. Troy needs a breakthrough hit because he is such a talented act . I would hate to see him get put aside.

    Colder weather- ZBB
    Just love the setting of this one and the harmonies

    In color -Jamey Johnson
    Describes my grandfather perfectly.

  18. Sara Evans – Suds in the Bucket, Roll me back in time.

    Martina McBride – Independence Day, Strangers, Wild Rebel Rose, Love Land

  19. While I agree with an above poster that Reba is pretty much the master of the story song- even turning songs that wouldn’t necessarily be story songs in the hands of a different artist (“You Lie” comes immediately to mind)- my personal favorite story song is and likely always will be “Strawberry Wine”.
    I was in High School when that came out and I’m thirty years old now- and it’s amazing how that song means something totally different to me now than it did then. Even thru massive overexposure during it’s peak, it still never lost the emotional impact for me.

    Honorable mentions to Matraca Berg’s “Back When We Were Beautiful”, Lorrie Morgan’s “As Good As I Was To You” & Bobbie Cryner’s all but forgotten masterpiece “You’d Think He’d Know Me Better”

  20. Can’t Cash My Checks by Jamey Johnson. The most depressing thing I’ve ever heard, as well as one of the most well written songs I’ve ever heard.

  21. “I’ll Be True to You” by The Oak Ridge Boys is a good one. Also SHeDAISY’s “A Night to Remember” and “A Woman’s Work” (both very similar in subject matter).

  22. Well, I might be gettin in late here, but I can’t help but think you missed some big ones:
    Willie Nelson\Ray Charles – Seven Spanish Angels,
    Willie Nelson – Red Haired Stranger, The rest of the Marty Robbins western catalogue, especially Big Iron and Cowboy in a Continental Suit,
    Jimmy Dean – Big John, Red Sovine – Phantom 309, Johnny Paycheck – Colorado Coolaid, David Allen Coe – The Ride, damn-near anything by Bobby Bare or Jerry Reed and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James.
    But my favorite story is still: Brooke Benton – Rainy Night in Georgia.

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