The Best Singles of 1994, Part 2: #30-#21

The list continues with big hits from Clay Walker, Neal McCoy, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, along with should’ve been hits from Carlene Carter and Merle Haggard.

confederate railroad daddy never was the cadillac kind

“Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind”
Confederate Railroad

Written by Dave Gibson and Bernie Nelson

KJC #10 | JK #22 | SG #39

Confederate Railroad made it big by balancing party anthems with thoughtful songs about growing up in the south.  This was their best “growing up” song, a thoughtful tribute from a son to his late father.  As tends to happen, the lessons taught to us in our youth aren’t fully appreciated or understood until it’s too late to truly say “thank you.”  – Kevin John Coyne

tanya tucker we don't have to do this

“We Don’t Have to Do This”
Tanya Tucker

Written by Gary Burr and Victoria Shaw

LW #4 | JK #36

This breakup song is a little different than most. It’s focus is right at the vulnerable time before the final goodbye is said. From Tucker’s point of view, their plan of ending their relationship isn’t “carved in stone.” Before doing it, she wants to be sure that it isn’t their pride that’s making them go through with it. – Leeann Ward


carlene carter i love you cause i want to

“I Love You ‘Cause I Want to”
Carlene Carter

Written by Carlene Carter and Radney Foster

BF #11 | JK #19 | SG #20

Carter could have easily made a career out of resting on her famous legacy. But, with impossibly catchy singles like “I Love You ‘Cause I Want To,” she forged her own distinct identity that combined heavy rockabilly and Bakersfield influences with a quirky, wiseass perspective; few artists have ever gotten both halves of “pop country” this right. – Jonathan Keefe


clay walker dreaming with my eyes wide open

“Dreaming With My Eyes Open”
Clay Walker

Written by Tony Arata

SG #11 | JK #25 | KJC #31 | BF #35

Walker’s third #1 single is filled with boundless optimism and energy, racing across the airwaves like a caffeinated puppy. To his credit, Walker has mixed in some heartache and pain songs to keep him from being typecast, but his voice is just so well-suited to happy, upbeat songs like this. The song was, appropriately enough, included in the “The Thing Called Love” soundtrack, a movie about aspiring, hopeful songwriters in Nashville. – Sam Gazdziak


john anderson i wish i could have been there

“I Wish I Could Have Been There”
John Anderson

Written by John Anderson and Kent Robbins

LW #9 | KJC #22 | BF #32

Like the iconic “Cats in the Cradle”, John Anderson’s “I Wish I Could’ve Been There” chronicles the regret of an absentee father who wasn’t present for the important moments in his children’s lives. However, unlike “Cats”, Anderson’s regret filled song displays a whole lot of tenderness. He vividly remembers all of those missed moments, even though his heart was always there, but working on the road kept him away. – LW


Neal McCoy Wink

Neal McCoy

Written by Bob DiPiero and Tom Shapiro

SG #13 | JK #18 | BF #31 | LW #40

There is only one singer in all of country music who could have pulled off “Wink,” and that was Neal McCoy. With showmanship and charm to spare, he took a silly little number from Bob DiPiero and Tom Shapiro and made it a monster hit. There is simply no one else out there who could convincingly sing lyrics that includes the only known of usage of “psychoanalyze” in a country song, and do it with a Texas drawl so thick that it turns “drink” and “wink” into “drank” and “wank.” – SG


The Mavericks What a Crying Shame

“O What a Thrill”
The Mavericks

Written by Jesse Winchester

SG #9 | JK #16 | KJC #40

As per usual, Raul Malo gives a standout vocal performance (with James House, who also recorded this song, on background vocals). The Mavericks had the musical talent to rock out as loud and as wild as anyone (still do, in fact), but they also knew when to reign it in and go for subtle and tasteful. Thanks to the addition of a string section, “O What a Thrill” is a beautiful, timeless classic. – SG


Merle Haggard 1994

“In My Next Life”
Merle Haggard

Written by Max D. Barnes

KJC #4 | BF #15

A poignant tale of a farm and a marriage.  One ends in ruin, the other stronger than ever, ’til death do them part in the second verse.   Haggard gives an award-worthy performance of an award-worthy song, probably the best thing he’d sent to radio in about a decade.   They had no interest in playing it back then, but it’s worth seeking out now, as it is just as good as those classic records that made him a legend in his own time.  – KJC


Lee Roy Parnell I'm Holding My Own#22
“I’m Holding My Own”
Lee Roy Parnell

Written by Tony Arata

KJC #8 | JK #21 | LW #25

Perhaps best known for his skill with a slide guitar, Parnell boasted an eclectic set of influences that made him a difficult artist to pigeonhole and an exciting presence on radio during his brief commercial hot-streak. On “I’m Holding My Own,” his nuanced vocal performance balances bitterness and disaffect with a hard-earned wisdom. – JK
Mary Chapin Carpenter I Take My Chances

“I Take My Chances”
Mary Chapin Carpenter

Written by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Don Schlitz

BF #8 | LW #14 | KJC #38

One of Carpenter’s most deliciously clever compositions. Its narrator is vividly drawn without a hint of caricature, coming across as bold and audacious, but vulnerable underneath. The song’s place on this list is secured by the line “I found a preacher who spoke of the light, but there was brimstone in his throat/ He’d show me the way according to him in return for my personal check/ I flipped my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette.” – Ben Foster

The Complete List:


  1. “Daddy Never Was” should be in the top 5 for that year and the top 15 or so for the whole decade. The LeeRoy Parnell song was his best, iMHO

  2. I was – and am – a big Clay Walker fan. ‘Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open’ is my favorite song he’s ever released. I’m glad it made the list but wish it was higher. It’s nice to revisit all these songs again.

  3. Too bad that radio had lost interest in Haggard by 1994 because even his weaker albums (those only worth a B+) always contained some great songs. “In My Next Life” would be in my top five for 1994

  4. “Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind” would make a best of list for 90’s country songs for me. It is one of the deeper, more endearing songs released in the 90’s.

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