A whole lot of classics in this batch, from early George Jones to peak Toby Keith.
George Jones, “Why Baby Why”
#4 | 1955
JK: I know it’s not the consensus “correct” pick, but this has always been my favorite Jones single by miles. Too Low
KJC: Pure hillbilly, through and through. Too Low
Frankie Ballard, “Sunshine & Whiskey”
#5 | 2014
KJC: It’s fine that this is on here, given its his signature hit. But I’d swap this in a minute with #1,000 “I Don’t Call Him Daddy.” #JusticeForDougSupernaw. Too High
JK: He’s more talented than some of the other men who broke through bigger around the same time, but Ballard struggled to stake a clear identity. This single is fine enough radio fodder, but how in the hell do you think this is better than something like “When I Call Your Name”? So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Collin Raye, “Little Rock”
#2 | 1994
JK: Raye’s performances always felt like musical theater to me: His flair for melodramatic line readings probably play well live, but they sound affected and insincere on record. This is one of the best songs he recorded, and it suits his style of delivery better than many others. Too High
KJC: I’d rank this as one of the most important records of its time, reflecting a new way of capturing both the addiction of alcoholism and the growing accountability expected of husbands and fathers. He would go full McBride with the topical songs in the aftermath of this hit, but this remains the best of his social commentary records because it’s the one most grounded in reality. Too Low
Tracy Lawrence with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are”
#1 | 2006
KJC: A nice sentiment that is clearly recorded by actual friends. I guess country music was ready for its own “That’s What Friends are For.” Too High
JK: One of the few “vocal events” of the past two decades that actually felt like a true collaboration and significant event. Too High
Bobby Bare, “Tequila Sheila”
#31 | 1980
JK: I love Bobby Bare, but come the entirety of Hell on with this pick. They already included “Drop Kick Me, Jesus,” and among his lesser hits, that was 100% the way to go. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: This is one of those oddities that could only come from the warped mind of Shel Silverstein. Points for creativity, but this slot would have been better served by “(Margie’s at) The Lincoln Park Inn” or another of his bigger hits. So Wrong (This Song)
Dierks Bentley, “Settle For a Slowdown”
#1 | 2006
KJC: This is a good one. I remember really liking the video, too. He’s not as overrepresented as many of his contemporaries. I’d have this one lower, but I’d also have made room for “Long Trip Alone.” Too High
JK: Bentley is one of his generation’s most reliable hitmakers. This one’s solid, but I’d still say it’s ranked Too High.
LeAnn Rimes, “One Way Ticket (Because I Can)”
#1 | 1996
JK: Other than the precocious “Blue,” I wasn’t at all on board with Rimes until her This Woman album, but she’s been one of my favorite modern country artists from that album onward. This is catchy and still gets decent recurrent airplay, but give me “Nothin’ Better to Do” for uptempo LeAnn. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: It’s a little shocking to me that one of the biggest record sellers of the nineties is only on this list once. This is the laziest of entries, too. “We need a LeAnn song! Hey, this is her only #1! That must be the one to include!” No, it was “Blue” or “Commitment” or “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” or “Nothin’ Better to Do” or “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” or “What I Cannot Change” or… So Wrong (This Song)
Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss, “Whiskey Lullaby”
#3 | 2004
KJC: Such a classic that I couldn’t even be mad when it won CMA Song of the Year over my favorite of that entire decade, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” This was an opportunity to recognize two legendary talents at one time with one hit, and they should’ve given it the top one hundred ranking it deserved. Too Low
JK: One of Paisley’s absolute best singles, made just that much better by Krauss’ gorgeous collaboration. Too Low
Tanya Tucker, “The Man That Turned My Mama On”
#4 | 1974
JK: Not one of the singles I’d have picked for early Tanya Tucker. “(Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand) Another You” would have been a better choice. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: They just flat out ignored all of the hits from the late eighties and early nineties, which was her most successful run at radio. The Grammys have already stepped in and honored Tucker since this list came out, but since it was published before they could include “Bring My Flowers Now,” I say find room for “Down to My Last Teardrop,” “Strong Enough to Bend,” or “Soon.” So Wrong (This Song)
Toby Keith, “As Good as I Once Was”
#1 | 2005
KJC: My initial review of this was not positive, but after hearing it repeatedly afterwards, it eventually made my year-end list. Now, I consider it his finest single of the Dreamworks years. Too Low
JK: Keith’s very best of this era, it undercuts the braggadocio with some effective self-deprecation. Too Low
Tanya Tucker circa 1991-1993 totally ignored? “Some Kind Of Trouble” “If Your Heart Ain’t Busy Tonight (“uh-HUH!”) even “Tell Me About It” her duet with Delbert McClinton. “Walkin’ Shoes” etc. Lots of big hits right when new country exploded. One of two should have been there.
if They’re going to include ‘One Way Ticket”, they should’ve included “Blue,” and “The Light in Your Eyes.” If they’re going to include Tanya, it should’ve been “Strong Enough to Bend.”
Collin Raye is one of my favorite male country vocalists. Saw him about a year and a half ago at the Nashville City Winery and he still sounds great. While not a songwriter, I think he’s chosen quite a few great songs to record. Besides “Little Rock”, a few other favorites of mine include “Someone You Used to Know”, “Time Machine”, “On the Verge”, “That’s My Story” , “Love Me”, “Anyone Else”, “Heart Full of Rain”,
Re Leann Rimes, favorites include “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” and “On the Side of Angels”
Definitely an improvement over the last group of songs.
I’ve been digging back and enjoying a lot of 50’s and early 60’s country lately, and I’ve especially been loving a lot of George Jones’ early stuff. “Why Baby Why” is one of the many fun little ditties from that time period. Love hearing how much higher his voice was back then, too!
Also really like “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” though I actually prefer the solo version with only Tracy singing. I understand why he decided to include Tim and Kenny on the other verion, though, given the subject matter. One of his better latter day efforts, overall. Just wish it didn’t have to be his very last hit.
“Little Rock” is another one of my favorites here. Still gives me chills now and then when I hear it. Agree with Bob on other favorite Collin Raye songs such as “Someone You Used To Know,” “On The Verge,” “Anyone Else,” and “Love, Me.” “Every Second” is another old favorite of mine. Also agree that he was pretty good at selecting songs from great songwriters. “Latter Day Cowboy,” “On The Verge,” and “Heart Full Of Rain” were all written by one of my favorite songwriters, Hugh Prestwood.
Also always loved “One Way Ticket (Because I Can).” It’s such a feel good, upbeat song, and I especially like it now for nostalgic reasons. Though I also don’t know why they included this one but not “Blue.”
Also love “Settle For A Slowdown.” I consider it to be one of Dierks’ best singles and also one of the strongest singles from the otherwise boring mid 00’s.
Are you kidding me on this list not including any of Tanya’s late 80’s and early 00’s classics?! Wow, what a shame. That’s actually my favorite era of her career. “Love Me Like You Used To,” “Strong Enough To Bend,” “If It Don’t Come Easy,” “My Arms Stay Open All Night,” “Don’t Go Out,” “Down To My Last Teardrop,” “What Do I Do With Me,” “Some Kind Of Trouble,” “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” “It’s A Little Too Late,” and “Soon” are all worthy, imo.
“As Good As I Once Was” has also grown on me over the years, and the video always gives me a laugh. I actually consider the Honky Tonk University to be one of his stronger albums, and he redeemed himself for a little while with that record before slipping back into the endless barrage of mindless drinking ditties.
Most of Collin Raye’s songs didn’t age well for me, but “Little Rock” is still a really good one. If I was gonna pick one of his songs to be on this list, it would absolutely be that one.
I actually liked “The Man That Turned My Mama On” quite a bit, but I won’t argue with Jonathan or anyone else who quibbles at its inclusion here. Assuming they don’t make appearances here, I could think of several other TT songs that could have taken its spot, among them “Jamestown Ferry,” “Lizzie and the Rainman,” and “Blood Red And Goin’ Down.” (“(Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand) Another You” was another really good one, Jonathan!)
The Dierks song is great; that entire album was solid, really. I remember hearing him sing that song and several others from the album a few months before Modern Day Drifter came out, and getting good and excited about that album because of them. I still listen to MDD every so often.