During the month of May, Sirius XM Radio tackled the ambitious task of ranking the 1000 Greatest Country Songs of All Time…with, shall we say, some very interesting results.
In the coming weeks, we are going to discuss the entire list in detail, providing commentary and one of five ratings for each track:
- TOO HIGH: A worthy entry to the list, but is ranked too high in relation to its worth
- ABOUT RIGHT: A worthy entry to the list, and is ranked about right in relation to its worth
- TOO LOW: A worthy entry to the list, but is ranked too low in relation to its worth
- SO WRONG (THIS SONG): An entry that has no place on this list but could be replaced by a worthy song from the same artist
- SO WRONG (DOESN’T BELONG): An entry that has no place on this list and cannot be replaced by a better entry from the same artist
Please join us in the comment thread to share your thoughts as we go along.
Doug Supernaw, “I Don’t Call Him Daddy”
#1 | 1993
Kevin John Coyne: Doug Supernaw was C-list at best during the nineties boom, but he released a handful of great tracks, and this one was his best. It improves significantly on the Kenny Rogers original. About Right.
Jonathan Keefe: Songs like this can so easily skew maudlin, but “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” strikes the right tone. There are plenty of songs on this list that I’m mad about, but this isn’t one of them. About Right.
Patty Loveless, “Timber, I’m Falling in Love”
#1 | 1989
JK: Loveless is woefully under-represented on this list. While I enjoy this single, either “Hurt Me Bad (In a Real Good Way),” “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” or especially “Here I Am” would be better choices for her and better choices than a hell of a lot that’s still to come. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: It took three albums for MCA-era Patty Loveless to hit the big time. This breezy, joyous song would be a disaster in lesser hands, but her pleading vocal keeps one foot in traditional country while the pop-flavored arrangement provides contrast to her pure mountain voice. About Right.
Keith Anderson, “Pickin’ Wildflowers”
#8 | 2004
KJC: Granted, it barely made the list, but I’ve never understood the fuss over this song and would’ve left it off entirely. If Anderson needed to be represented, it should have been with “XXL” or “I Still Miss You.” So Wrong (This Song)
JK: I love a good hard-rock influence in a country single. This single is just loud for the sake of being loud. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
David Lee Murphy, “Party Crowd”
#6 | 1995
JK: “Dust on the Bottle” is an obvious all-timer, and we’ll get to it in due time. That’s plenty of representation for Murphy. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: His best song is further up the list, and David Lee Murphy definitely doesn’t need two entries in the top 1000. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Brantley Gilbert, “One Hell of an Amen”
#5 | 2014
KJC: There is a lot of recency bias on this list, and the inclusion of this mediocre track is the first of many unfortunate examples. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Gilbert has a fiercely devoted fanbase, and I have never once understood his appeal. This isn’t a well-written song, thought it’s often touted as one of his best, and his mouthful-of-fiberglass voice doesn’t make it any better on its own merits or more essential an addition to the country music canon. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Lefty Frizzell, “I Never Go Around Mirrors”
#25 | 1974
JK: An absolute classic whose low ranking here is indicative of how this list went wrong almost immediately. Too Low.
KJC: One of the most jarring things about a list like this is when a stone cold classic is surrounded by much lesser songs from recent times. Then again, on a list where Lefty Frizzell only has one more entry than David Frizzell, the problems go beyond ranking. Too Low
George Strait, “It Ain’t Cool to be Crazy About You”
#1 | 1986
KJC: The first of 25 entries from George Strait on this list. They did a pretty good job of picking his best tracks, but this one is definitely superfluous. So Wrong (This Song)
JK: Heresy to say aloud, but I think 25 entries for Strait is completely excessive, and I have no idea how someone would make a case for this song in comparison to about 20 of the others that were chosen or about 20 other Strait songs that weren’t. So Wrong (This Song)
Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown”
#4 | 2014
JK: There’s a mean streak of entitlement in the lyrics of this song that has never sat well with me, though I’m definitely a fan of Church’s, and he’s represented by better material farther up the list. A much higher spot for him should’ve gone to “Creepin’.” So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: I understand the instinct to hold on to Eric Church for dear life if you’re trying to make a case for today’s country music holding up against the genre’s storied history. They did a terrible job picking which songs to include from him. This is the best of the five songs he has on the list, and it’s somehow ranked the lowest. Too Low
Porter Wagoner, “The Cold Hard Facts of Life”
#2 | 1967
KJC: They just don’t write murder ballads like they used to. All of Wagoner’s five entries are worthy. I’d argue this particular one deserved a higher ranking than it got. And that album cover! Too Low
JK: I agree that the five songs chosen for Wagoner are good picks. If I’m thinking about the full history of the genre, I might bump this one up a little bit higher, but not by a whole lot. About Right.
Rodney Atkins, “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)”
#1 | 2007
JK: A baffling and indefensible choice for a discussion about the 1000 greatest songs in country music history. I can see a case being made for exactly one of Atkins’ singles, and I’m honestly annoyed that I wasted 4 minutes listening to this again. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: The toxic masculinity of recent country music is on full display on this list, and this is one of the more egregious examples. The first of six insufferable entries from Atkins. Yes, that’s right. One more than Porter Wagoner and twice as many as Lefty Frizzell. Buckle up. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
i’ll comment from time to time on this list, but keep in mind that I have not heard the entire list by a long shot (and if anyone knows herei could get a quick list of the top 1000 in order, it would be much appreciated) so any number I throw out especially this early should be taken only as a point being made and not as a specific ranking.
The Patty Loveless song is Much Too Low. I could see it being as high as number 300.
I’d give Rodney’s song a ranking baed on these categories of About Right
This list really does seem so random! I don’t understand how some of them were even remembered (They certainly weren’t forgotten gems!), let alone put on a list of Top Anything!
The cardinal sin and recurring theme with the many issues with this list was Sirius XM’s need to make it “listenable” for their radio audience. The list almost without fail follows a strict rotation of classic song followed by a contemporary song which results in significant over-representation and over-ranking of contemporary songs.
I would have found it much more enjoyable and less frustrating as a listener had Sirius XM dispensed with the ranking portion of the list and simply chosen their top 1000 songs and then assembled them into a radio-friendly rotation.
I saw the forum post. As someone partial to older country, especially ftom lower listers, there’s some choices that surprise me. “All the Gold in California” behind “This is How We Roll”?! “Grandpa” well behind “Dirt Road Anthem”?! There’s someone called Brennen Leigh on there with a Lefty song?! “Yes!” is on there?! Three entries from Barbara Mandrell, somebody I consider underrated, and none of them are “Standing Room Only”?! Doesn’t SiriusXM know “Who’s Cheatin’ Who” was a Charly McClain hit first?! (Among other cover songs on there, including “Jose Cuervo”, which was actually done first – and way better – by its writer, Cindy Jordan.) And they actually consider “American Made”, probably the WORST single the Oak Ridge Boys ever released, over literally any Suzy Bogguss song?! (Seriously, I don’t even see “Drive South” listed among the 1,000.)
Then again, I’m delighted to see “Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music” on there – love that song. Just as fortunate is the fact that Tim McGraw’s horrendous “Truck Yeah” isn’t on there. Thinking about offering my own takes on these songs later.
Now for me to weigh in on these myself, now that I’ve had the chance to hit up YouTube and fill in the blanks. Tunes I have heard before this are marked with an *.
I Don’t Call Him Daddy: I like it. I’ll have to hear Kenny’s version for myself to see how it compares, but this is a good rendition. It tells a good story, and Doug isn’t a bad vocalist either. About right.
*Timber I’m Falling in Love: I can’t imagine this being a disaster in lesser hands because I can barely imagine it falling into lesser hands. Nonetheless, Patty and Vince do a great job here.
Pickin’ Wildflowers: You’re not kidding. It really is loud just to be loud. In fact, I think it would have been better served as a rock single. Heck, the third line is “I got Tom Petty playin’ in my Silverado.” (Not surprisingly, Tom’s own “Wildflowers” was among the related videos in the YouTube search.)
Party Crowd: Before the video started, there was an unskippable ad for Thomas Rhett’s new album. I’d rather hear this, which is radio filler anyway, so you’re spot-on. Of the few non-“DOTB” DLM songs I’ve heard, give me “The Road You Leave Behind” any day.
One Hell of an Amen: He really does sound ugly. I expected something more akin to a chainsaw, but we’ll probably get that with Tyler Farr. As the actual song goes… eh, I’ve heard worse mainstream country songs.
I Never Go Around Mirrors: I approve!
*It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You: To quote from the Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists piece, “If Frank Sinatra had ever made a country record, it would’ve sounded just like this.”
Give Me Back My Hometown: Maybe it was just me passively listening to it, but it aiight.
The Cold Hard Facts of Life: No wonder people like country music. That’s some storytelling, right there. My only problem is, the arrangment is unusually upbeat for a murder song. But ehh…
Cleaning This Gun: Middle of the road. I didn’t expect Rodney’s voice to sound like that considering in the only part of his music I’ve heard (a snippet of “Take a Back Road”), I remember him singing in a higher, thinner register. But even if he did sing that way, I’d still not find it to be anything special.
I await your comments on Nos. 990-1.
I’m looking forward to the roll out of this feature. The ranking on the overall list definitely seems arbitrary… like they just randomized the only songs they had in their library. How jarring is it to see “Dirt Road Anthem” sandwiched between “King of the Road” and “El Paso”? We’ll get to some of the bigger head scratchers (nothing from the second half of Tanya Tucker’s career, no K.T. Oslin, Reba’s “Take It Back”, only one song each from Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan and on and on) in time, but there were some nice surprises too (John Conlee, something other than “He Stopped Loving Her Today” at #1, etc.).
I wonder how many people worked on the list of a 1,000. I would never attempt such a thing – and I’m retired. I took a look through the whole list and it failed my SB HK test. I made up a 40 best female and a 40 best male country music artists lists about 10 years ago. My #1’s were Suzy Bogguss and Hal Ketchum. (Sad to hear that Hal has had to retire.) No Suzy songs on the list of 1,000 and only 1 Hal song (Small Town Saturday Night at 355). Are there really 6 Rodney Atkins? Yikes.
For the 10 songs here, I liked “I Never Go Around Mirrors”. I played the Gene Watson version on you-tube. I actually never heard the song before.
This should prove interesting. I agree that “I Never Go Around Mirrors” is too low – in fact I would have it in my top 100 (I also liked Keith Whitley’s version with its added verse)
“The ranking on the overall list definitely seems arbitrary… like they just randomized the only songs they had in their library.”
That about says it. I had a chance to review the whole list, and could’ve stopped at the top ten. When you are throwing “Dirt Road Anthem” in the top ten, a song that arguably shouldn’t even be in the top 1,000…you pretty much lose all credibility. And it certainly extends to the rest of the list…I seem to recall Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl” somewhere in the top 100. Unlike “Dirt Road”, I can’t even rip that song because I don’t remember it.
Again, though…I think lists like this, particularly those done by a company in a “countdown fashion” are just done to get attention, and aren’t meant to be taken seriously. This is clearly meant to be “broad”, and despite some of the good choices on this list (and there are some)…this list is too slapdash to be taken seriously, or to think substantial effort was put in to ranking 1,000 songs.
Still, I’m interested in your opinions in the songs listed, if you go through with doing this (which is a big undertaking…I really don’t blame you if you bail on this). Plus, there is some intrigue in the thought process of the schizophrenic minds that put Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” between Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” and Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” on this list. Some of the randomness is so bizarre it’s actually quite funny.
Doug Supernaw may have been a C-lister, but that is a great song and a great performance. Also, to have him below Rodney Atkins is just insulting.
“Cold Hard Facts” and “Mirrors” are dreadfully low.
The disconnect for “Cleaning This Gun” is definitely a cultural one. It is a great tune that demonstrates the full prowess of a father’s concern for a daughter with elements of good-natured humor. The fading call out of 9:30 makes me laugh every time. Nothing toxic at all. There is a reason why it was a big hit. It resonated with people how the wild teenager turns into the responsible father and how the cycle will continue.