The greatest country duet of all time arrives as we’re barely past the lowest quarter of entries.
Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, “After the Fire is Gone”
#1 | 1971
JK: Not just their best duet, but arguably the best duet, and another classic that is entirely Too Low
KJC: Possibly the greatest country duet of all time. Too Low
Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream”
#1 | 2008
KJC: I’ve always loved this ballad, particularly because it captures how grief can be so disorienting. One of her best singles from the early years. About Right
JK: Overwrought and underwritten. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Mark Chesnutt, “Bubba Shot the Jukebox”
#4 | 1992
JK: Had the titular “Bubba” been given a different name, I don’t know that this would qualify as a novelty song to the extent that it does. As was the case with most of his non-Aerosmith-covering material, Chesnutt’s performance and the production are unassailable. Too High
KJC: Chesnutt sang this with too much grit for it to be a mere novelty song. I would’ve loved to have seen a few more entries from him. “Almost Goodbye,” in particular, would deserve to be this high on the list. Too High
Ray Charles, “Crying Time”
#6 (Pop) | 1966
KJC: A beautiful rendition of a classic country song. About Right
JK: One of the best showcases for Charles’ interpretive gifts. About Right
The Band Perry, “Better Dig Two”
#1 | 2012
JK: Who would have figured that, between this and “If I Die Young,” that The Band Perry’s best singles would foretell their career arc? Too Low
KJC: An excellent song with innovative production, “Better Dig Two” seemed like a good omen for the band’s future. It ended up being an anomaly. Too High
Holly Dunn, “Daddy’s Hands”
#7 | 1986
KJC: Dunn’s signature song is dated, given its references to corporal punishment, but it’s still a heartwarming listen and the best song to represent her on this list. Too High
JK: The approach to discipline is problematic– albeit authentic to its era– but the overall sentiment of the song is one of gratitude and genuine love. I can’t be mad at it. About Right
Luke Bryan, “Kick the Dust Up”
#1 | 2015
JK: As with so many of these songs I cannot tell apart, I would love to get an honest answer from country radio programmers and whoever compiled this list to a simple question: Why this? So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Reducing these soundalike rave ups by even 50% would open up space for so many worthier entries on this list. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Tanya Tucker, “What’s Your Mama’s Name”
#1 | 1973
KJC: It was a bold choice to feature only early hits from Tanya Tucker on this list, though they still managed to exclude the most compelling of her southern gothic classics (“Blood Red and Goin’ Down.”) I’d have made room for some of her later hits, but not at the expense of this one. About Right
JK: The Tanya Tucker Renaissance of 2019 did not extend to this list; she’s woefully under-represented. This one’s a keeper, of course. About Right
Tim McGraw, “Red Ragtop”
#5 | 2002
JK: He can emote all the livelong day, but he’s so inconsistent with his song selection that, when he gets it right, it feels more revelatory than perhaps it should. This is one of his best, though I’d still argue it’s ranked Too High.
KJC: At his best, McGraw is a storyteller, picking material that has enough detail to be specifically memorable while also appealing to emotions universally felt. This three act story of a young love gone wrong is vivid and visceral, and it’s hard not to feel the ache as he recalls “the day she stopped loving me.” About Right
Alan Jackson, “Wanted”
#3 | 1990
KJC: He’s still honing his songwriting craft here, and the conceit gets stretched a little thin by the end. At least it holds up better than “Single White Female.” So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: God, “Single White Female” was shrill and badly dated from its first notes. This one’s biggest crime is overstaying its welcome. Lesser Jackson, and a baffling ranking. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Love “Just A Dream” and always found it Carrie Underwood’s best single by a longshot.
I will say that while I personally hate “Kick The Dust Up”, I do get why that song was on the list as that song was one of the biggest hit songs in 2015 and I imagine the commercial impact of it helped carry it this high. Or at least that is the only reason I can come up with.
“Just a Dream” and “Daddy’s Hands” are both too low. I think the references to corporal punishment just make it that much better. The next line says it nest: “Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand…” The references are not outdated either.
Not a bad Tanya tucker song, but her best single would come about 25 years later–Strong Enough to Bend.
“Bubba” is just a fun now as it was then. Too Low.
Re. “Crying Time”: Brother Ray’s rendering is just one the seemingly endless reasons why he was an American treasure (though that’s not putting any shade on Buck Owens’ original).
Re. “Better Dig Two”: Somehow, The Band Perry, outside of this and “If I Die Young”, are unquestionably among the biggest disappointments in country music during this decade. But it isn’t just their wacky flirtation with EDM/pop that’s the problem. It’s that Kim Perry isn’t that great a vocalist. She’s more than adequate on the two aforementioned songs; but on “Done”, her attempt to “rock” comes off as painful (IMHO).
While I do not agree that Conway & Loretta were the best country duet of all time (I would place the Louvin Brothers at the top with Dolly & Porter second and the Delmore Brothers third), I do agree that “After The Fire Is Gone” is an all-time great classic and worthy of being at least 500 places higher on this list
I admit that Feelins’ is my favorite Conway/Loretta duet but After The Fire Is Gone belongs in the Top 100 or maybe even the Top 50 of this list.
Love Mark Chestnut and ‘Bubba’ is one of my favorites that he ever did.
Huge fan of Tim McGraw and love many, many of his songs. However, Red Ragtop is my very least favorite song he ever put out.
So glad to see Holly Dunn represented on this list. Daddy’s Hands is a great song as well.
Love Tanya Tucker but never cared for What’s Your Mama’s Name. However, I do think it deserves to be on this list because it’s one of her signature songs from her early days.
If “After the Fire is Gone” isn’t the best country duet ever recorded, it’s pretty damn close.
I really liked Mark Chesnutt back in the day. But BSTJ was the weakest of the singles from that album. I hope that either “Ol’ Country” or “I’ll Think of Something” are higher on this list.
Even for as meh as I thought the Chesnutt song was, though, it was still a better song than “Kick The Dust Up.” I swear, it’s like Luke Bryan is the Tracy Byrd of the 2010s — a fine voice completely wasted on subpar material.
I’m with pistolero on “Bubba” being the weakest single from Longnecks and Short Stories. Still a fun listen, though. “Ol’ Country” is my personal favorite single from that album, and I also hope it shows up on this list, though I’m not holding my breath. I actually prefer most of his ballads over his upbeats, as far as Mark Chesnutt’s singles go.
As for Tracy Byrd, I agree that he recorded too many novelty tunes, though according to Byrd that was more the label’s fault. I was reading in one of my older magazines about him growing angry and frustrated with MCA because they were always wanting him to record the next “Watermelon Crawl” instead of more straight ahead traditional tunes. Like Chesnutt, I prefer his ballad side. Songs like “Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes,” “Someone To Give My Love To,” “Keeper Of The Stars,” “I Wanna Feel That Way Again,” and “Put Your Hand In Mine” are my favorites from him. He also has a ton of great album cuts that never made it to radio.
It’s great to see Holly Dunn on here, though this is probably her only entry, sadly. “Daddy’s Hands” is always a favorite, and it always takes me back to my early childhood. “Only When I Love,” “Love Someone Like Me,” “That’s What Your Love Does To Me,” “There Goes My Heart Again,” and “Heart Full Of Love” are some of my other favorites from her.
Never been a Loretta Lynn fan so that’s probably part of the reason I don’t share the enthusiasm for “After the Fire is Gone”. Here’s a few of the duets I’d rather listen to:
Something Up My Sleeve – Suzy Bogguss & Billy Dean
I’m Not Gonna Do Anything Without You – Jamie O’Neal & Mark Wills
A Bad Goodbye – Wynonna & Clint Black
Heart Half Empty – Stephanie Bentley & Ty Herndon
Helping Me Get Over You – Lari White & Travis Tritt
Not Too Much To Ask – Mary Chapin Carpenter & Joe Diffie
Somewhere In The Vicinity Of The Heart – Alison Krauss & Marty Raybon
We Can’t Unmake Love – Wynonna & John Berry
Maybe Not Tonight – Lorrie Morgan & Sammy Kershaw
Nobody Loves Me Like You Do – Anne Murray & Dave Loggins
Squeeze Me In – Trisha Yearwood & Garth Brooks
If I Could Find The Heart to Love Again – Gina Jeffreys & Billy Dean
Agree with both writers on Ray Charles’ take on “Crying Time”.
Re The Band Perry, I like “Better Dig Two” but I love “Double Heart”, my most frequently played BP song in my i-tunes library by a wide margin. I guess it’s more of a pop song.
Listening to Holly Dunn’s “Daddy’s Hands” with her reference to hands hard as steel reminded me of Joe South’s “Children” with it’s line “to spank you when you’re bad” – but I still could do without the “hard as steel” line. (JS wrote “Rose Garden” and “Games People Play”.)
Other than “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” by Anne Murray & Dave Loggins and “Somewhere In The Vicinity Of The Heart” by Alison Krauss & Marty Raybon, I would consider any of Bob’s suggestions worthy of this list
I would certainly add at least one Loretta Lynn – Ernest Tubb duet to this list. I think “Sweet Thang” is the most fun of any of their songs but it barely charted (it had been a huge hit for writer Nat Stuckey a few months earlier), so I’d go with “Mr. & Mrs. Used To Be”
Mark Chesnutt’s cover of “I’ll Think of Something” has got to be one of my favorite country songs ever. As for Tracy Byrd, I was not a fan of most of his material. He did have some great moments though (Walking to Jerusalem, Don’t Take Her She’s All I Got, Just Let Me Be in Love…). The weakest material of artists like Byrd and Chesnutt is not necessarily better than the best output of today’s Bryans, Aldeans, etc. but when those artists of today put out bad material, it’s REALLY bad and far worse than anything the 90s B-listers ever touched.