A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #760-#751

Early hits from Alabama, Eric Church, and the Dixie Chicks are among this batch of entries.



Dixie Chicks, “Tonight the Heartache’s On Me”

#6 | 1999

JK: I love this trad-country romp, which shows the Chicks’ facility with diverse styles of country music, but this placement makes no sense. Too High

KJC: Knowing that the Dixie Chicks rocked out to Joy Lynn White albums was the first thing that endeared them to me.  If this and “Am I the Only One” were their first two singles, I’d have come on board a lot faster. About Right



Darius Rucker, “This”

#1 | 2010

KJC:  Let me give credit where due.  For a guy who came from the nineties college rock scene, he’s made music that is far more identifiably country than most of his peers.  That being said, the way his mother’s death is tossed off in the bridge of this song, as if it’s in the same league of missed stop signs and nights of too much partying, is a deal breaker for me.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: I have no recollection of this at all, which has been the case with far too much of Rucker’s solo output. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)



Crystal Gayle, “Talking in Your Sleep”

#1 | 1978

JK: The drama of Gayle’s phrasing makes her a one-of-a-kind song stylist. Many of her singles have aged poorly, though, because of how lacquered-down the production was. Too High

KJC:  Another legendary female vocalist who is woefully underrepresented on this list, with only two solo hits and a glorified harmony vocal presented as a duet. Inexcusably MIA: “Half the Way,” “Till I Gain Control Again,” “The Sound of Goodbye,” “Ready For the Times to Get Better,” and “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For,” for starters.  This hit does belong here, but below all of the songs that I just listed. Too High



George Strait, “Wrapped”

#2 | 2007

KJC: I love that George Strait covered Bruce Robison on more than one occasion.  That still doesn’t make this a classic single, though. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: Nah. Kelly Willis’ soulful version of this terrific song is the best one. It wasn’t a proper single for her, though,  so I’d swap this out for her “Not Forgotten You,” a cover of another of her husband Bruce Robinson’s brilliant songs. So Wrong (This Song)



Trisha Yearwood, “How Do I Live”

#2 | 1997

JK: Yearwood is woefully under-represented on this list. It’s no surprise that they selected this massive hit, but it’s far from her best. Give me “Wrong Side of Memphis,” “The Song Remembers When,” “On A Bus to St Cloud,” “Where Are You Now,” or another dozen others. So Wrong (This Song)

KJC:  I will happily co-sign for all of those Yearwood singles. I’d probably feature her as much on a 1,000 song list as Kenny Chesney features on this one.   I do think this is a classic, however, and that it belongs here. Singers looking to master their craft could save themselves four years at a music college and just play this cut and the LeAnn Rimes version back to back.  Yearwood benefitted so much from that contrast that the industry stopped taking her for granted for a couple of years. About Right


Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson, “Because of You”

#2 | 2007

KJC: Among country music’s greatest missed opportunities: Recasting this song as a duet between two women of different generations, and not rewriting it so that Reba was the abusive mother.  So Wrong (This Song)

JK: I adore Clarkson and cannot wait for her eventual proper country album, which she will absolutely kill. But this remake simply doesn’t work well as a duet, though she and Reba sound great together. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)



Oak Ridge Boys, “American Made”

#1 | 1983

JK: As we said with their prior entry, the selections for the Oaks are strange. I’d swap this for, say, “Gonna Take A Lot of River.” So Wrong (This Song)

KJC:  They made a whole lot of novelty songs.  I found this one to be the most entertaining.  About Right



Gene Watson, “Farewell Party”

#5 | 1979

KJC:  Watson at his very best, and that’s saying something.  Too Low

JK: … And now I’m furious again. I’d put this single alongside “El Paso” and “Chiseled in Stone” as the three finest male vocal performances in country music history. This is a top 50 record, at least. Too Low



Eric Church, “Smoke a Little Smoke”

#16 | 2010

JK: Church is over-represented, and this single deservedly stalled outside the top 10. “Creepin’” would be a better inclusion, but he simply has too many as is. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

KJC: There is too much Eric Church, for sure.  But this isn’t one that I’d take off of the list.  It helped to make me a fan, actually. About Right



Alabama, “Tennessee River”

#1 | 1980

KJC:  A middling Urban Cowboy record…until it hits that two minute mark and goes full hoedown.  What a twist! About Right

JK: It’s Alabama, and I don’t hate this one, so… Too High

Previous: #770-#761 | Next: #750-#741


  1. Re. “How Do I Live?”: In a lot of ways, I can understand how this one sneaked in here, given that it was Trisha’s biggest pop crossover hit (#23 on the Hot 100); but it is a rather atypical record for her (a Diane Warren-penned ballad from a standard-issue late 1990s action film, CON AIR). I’d also add that, while it would do good for aspiring singers to learn from Trisha, she herself would probably also urge them to start with her spiritual role model Linda Ronstadt’s classic 1970s country-rock albums first.

    Re. “Tonight The Heartache’s On Me”: It’s funny, but when I first heard about the Chicks at the end of 1997 (22 years ago, YIPE!!), I heard them described as a hayseed version of the Spice Girls (say what??!). Of course it turned out that they were far more than that, as I think this song demonstrates (as a sidenote, “Am I The Only One” is not a Joy Lynn White composition, but one written by Maria McKee, she of the 1980s cult alt-country group Lone Justice, and a terribly underappreciated vocalist herself).

  2. While I do not regard “Farewell Party” as being Gene Watson’s best single, it would be within his top five singles, all of which would belong somewhere in the top 100. Some years ago classic pop standards legend Tony Bennett issued an album titled THE ART OF EXCELLENCE. Somehow the concept of excellence has been lost in country music or we would be seeing a lot more Ray Price, Gene Watson and Jim Reeves on this list

  3. i’d take “How do I live,” “Talkin’ in your Sleep” (which suffers from not having a real second verse, see “I wish You Couldve Turned My Head….”) and “Because of You” completely out of the top 1000.
    “This” and wrapped” are about right.

  4. This list continues to disappoint. It’s like cleaning out your attic. You realize it’s full of useless junk but every so often you come across a wonderful gem that gives you a smile and brings back wonderful memories.

    I agree with Kevin’s assessment of Crystal Gayle and the songs that were left off the list that should’ve made it. I would add one more – her first #1 hit “I’ll Get Over You”. I’m glad she was acknowledged three times on this list, but she should’ve had several more songs here for sure.

    I personally like “Talking In Your Sleep” more than Kevin and Jonathan do. It has to do with her amazing vocals on the song. Crystal was actually offered the song while recording her We Must Believe In Magic album but she turned it down. She changed her mind when she began recording her next album When I Dream. I’m glad she did.

  5. Agree with Caj – “I personally like “Talking In Your Sleep” more than Kevin and Jonathan do. It has to do with her amazing vocals on the song. ” Other favorites: Chicks “Tonight the Heartache’s On Me” and Gene Watson’s “Farewell Party”. I’m a Yearwood fan but i think the lyrics to “How Do I Live” are a bit over the top.

  6. “Tonight The Heartache’s On Me” is one of my favorites on here, as well, and it’s one of my favorite singles that The Chicks have released. If only we were still getting good ol’ honky tonk shuffles like this as mainstream radio singles. 1999 doesn’t really seem that long ago….

    As a big fan of Crystal Gayle, it’s pretty disappointing that there’s so little of her on this list. Agree with all the songs Kevin mentioned, especially “The Sound Of Goodbye.” I also do happen to really like “Talking In Your Sleep,” though. Sad that they couldn’t toss out some of the unneeded FGL and Aldean to make room for more Crystal, and at least one friggin Suzy Bogguss song.

    I personally really enjoy George Strait’s version of “Wrapped.” I just love the fiddle and steel featured throughout the song. Admittedly, I’ve never heard Kelly Willis’ version, but I’ll have to change that soon!

    I agree with Kevin’s assessment of Trisha’s “How Do I Live.” To me, it’s one of her classics, and it most definitely belongs on here. Also totally agree that her version clearly outshines LeAnn’s because Trisha brought much more emotion and maturity to her performance. Not to mention, it makes me nostalgic for the summer of 1997, and suddenly I want to watch Con Air again. BTW, did I read correctly that “The Song Remembers When” is not on here at all? Sadly, I’m not too surprised since this list already lost a lot of its credibility with me a long time ago.

    The Reba and Kelly duet version of “Because of You” never really worked for me, either. It’s not one of the essentials in Reba’s catalogue, imo, and I’d gladly swap it out for another one of her 80’s or 90’s singles.

    I’ve always enjoyed “American Made” by The Oaks, but I also would’ve liked seeing “Gonna Take A Lot A Lot Of River” on here, as well. Both are very fun songs.

    Agree with Paul that this list would be much better with more Gene Watson, Ray Price, and Jim Reeves (Absolutely love Jim’s voice!). My personal favorite single of Gene’s is “Don’t Waste It On The Blues.”

  7. Two songs here matter: American Made and Tennessee River.

    Am I so old that I am imagining that Barbara Mandrell sang on a pro-union commercial about “look for the union label”? Maybe so. But if I am, I always associate that “memory” with the Oaks and “American Made”.

    And “Tennessee River”. When it came out, our Garth and Shania were Alabama and Dolly. And the breakdown at the end was crazy live.

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