Help us make it through another ten entries of this endless list.
Mel Tillis, “Coca Cola Cowboy”
#1 | 1979
ZK: Bitterness mixed with some self-deprecation and humor. What’s not to like? About Right
KJC: Mel Tillis is pretty underrated for a Country Music Hall of Famer. For nineties and onward fans of the genre who only know him as Pam’s dad, this record is as good a window as any into his music. About Right
JK: A record I’ve always loved, and a great pick for Tillis. Pam should be on here a hell of a lot more, though. And this ranking feels Too High.
Blake Shelton, “Some Beach”
#1 | 2004
KJC: A tropical-themed novelty record from an era that had way too many of them. The play on words doesn’t work here. It never sounds like he’s cussing. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Not even Chesney would have tried with this one. It’s a stupid song, and Shelton’s not a strong enough singer to make it bearable. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)ZK: It’s funny; I consider Blake Shelton to be among country music’s most charismatic vocalists, yet I can’t name an early single of his that’s evidence of that. He was a better balladeer than anything else. This is the one where he tried for levity and humor, but it’s an “angry” song that gets subdued by the beach flair, rendering it tame and unexciting. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Ronnie Milsap, “Pure Love”
#1 | 1974
JK: Important in the arc of Milsap’s career, to be sure, but hardly one of his hits that is important to the genre as a whole. It’s possible I missed it when I scanned the rest of the list, but I’d swap this for “Smoky Mountain Rain.” So Wrong (This Song).
ZK: I wouldn’t necessarily call this bad, but it is rather tame and unexciting for a love song. It might belong here, but it doesn’t exactly belong here, you know? Milsap just had better cuts. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: It’s one of his breakthrough hits, but not one of his best songs. So Wrong (This Song)
Dwight Yoakam, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”
#2 | 1993
ZK: Nearly 30 years later, this still sounds as cool and progressive as it did when it debuted. Dwight Yoakam always was among country music’s most boldly creative acts, and this is one of his best examples of that. Too Low
KJC: Dwight Yoakam at his best, which makes it better than #467. Too Low
JK: Yoakam’s This Time album is the reason I never fully bought into the idea of “alt-country.” Seeing as how all of the album’s singles were huge radio hits, the country mainstream still had room for truly progressive, idiosyncratic singles like this one. It was brilliant then, and it’s brilliant now. About Right
Eric Church, “Talladega”
#2 | 2014
KJC: Church’s biggest radio hits aren’t necessarily his best singles, let alone his best work. But “Talladega” is an excellent record that also sounds great on the radio. Doesn’t need to be in the top 500, though. Too High
JK: I am generally pro-Church, but he is wildly over-represented in the top half of this list. “Talladega” is a solid single from Church, but no way does it belong this high… And it’s another entry of his that I would swap for the far more interesting “Creepin’.” So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: It really didn’t belong on the album it stemmed from, but it was a bright spot for this particular Church era. It’s nostalgia tempered with a somber reality check. Too High
Linda Ronstadt, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”
#20 | 1974
JK: It’s interesting that they correctly made room for some of Ray Charles’ crossover hits but didn’t do the same for some of Ronstadt’s iconic country-rock singles. I’m certainly not going to argue with this inclusion or placement, but there are still two Jana Kramer singles ahead of this. About Right
ZK: Both of her takes on this are some of my favorite versions of this song, even if I do prefer the first one. Speaking of, as Ronstadt’s first minor hit, it’s symbolic of how this Wanda Jackson tune has resonated with women in country music (or country-adjacent) throughout time. I’m just mad it’s one of only two Ronstadt appearances here. About Right
KJC: It’s not her best country single. That’s her cover of Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help it (If I’m Still in Love With You.)” It’s not even her best recording of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” That’s on her debut solo album, Hand Sown…Home Grown. Despite both of those facts, the hit version still totally belongs here. That’s how damn good Ronstadt is. About Right
Justin Moore, “‘Til My Last Day”
#7 | 2012
ZK: For Moore pre-2019, I suppose we should be thankful it’s not his southern-pandering schlock. That, however, really only makes this tolerable, rather than a great song. It’s so horribly basic. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Justin Moore has been successful enough to be represented at least once on this list. This would’ve been fine as his only entry, provided it was in the 900s somewhere. Too High
JK: I thought Moore’s most recent album showed some legitimate growth that, for nearly a decade, he had seemed utterly disinterested in thanks to songs like this one. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Anne Murray, “Could I Have This Dance”
#1 | 1980
KJC: One of the things I love about this record is that Murray recorded it with the intention that Kenny Rogers would sing it with her. Her performance here was supposed to be a guide track for Rogers, so she sings it in a much lower register. The producers of Urban Cowboy loved it just the way it was. One of the best wedding songs in country music history, and worthy of this ranking, as far as I’m concerned. About Right
JK: Murray has perhaps the most aggressively uncool catalogue in the entire genre. But there is just no getting around her exquisite tone and phrasing. She’s a wonderful singer of some truly maudlin material; I would have been just fine to have this hit back in the first 100 entries. Too High
ZK: A sweet wedding song that I wouldn’t have minded hearing a few hundred entries ago. Too High
Lady A, “American Honey”
#1 | 2010
JK: The song is built on an imagine that aims for poetic but ends up being under-thought nonsense, delivered with their usual dose of Melatonin and off-pitch singing. Real talk: “Love Don’t Live Here” and “Need You Now” are their only singles worth half a damn, and even both of those should be in the first quarter or this list. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: Interesting premise. Weird hook. Bland presentation. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: I hated this song when it came out, and had successfully blocked it from my memory since then. The genre going from the Chicks to Rascal Flatts to Lady Antebellum as leading vocal group throughout the 2000s was a descent from heaven into the lowest rings of hell. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Willie Nelson, “Help Me Make it Through the Night”
#4 | 1979
ZK: Love Nelson, of course, but the Sammi Smith version is the definitive one. So Wrong (This Song)
KJC: Completely unnecessary, given that Smith recorded the definitive version and every male take on this song feels a bit skeezy, anyway. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Heartaches By The Number, the far superior attempt at this exact ranking project, placed Sammi Smith’s exquisite rendition at #1. That it didn’t make this list’s top one hundred says so much about the entrenched misogyny and questionable genre knowledge behind this whole endeavor. So Wrong (This Song)
Previous: #480-#471 | Next: #460-#451
Are you saying Sammi’s version definitive “Help Me Make It…” isn’t on this list?
Side note, did you all know Mariah Carey covered “Help Me Make It…” for a small movie where she played an aspiring country singer?
Re. “Silver Threads And Golden Needles”: Linda was so unhappy with the acid fuzz-tone arrangement on her first recording of it in 1969 that she made it her business to do it in a C&W/rock hoedown fashion when she tackled it again in 1973. You just have to chalk it up to the fact that she was always fairly relentless, and arguably a perfectionist (the arts/entertainment euphemism for a “pain in the ass”). Still, without her pioneering efforts in country-rock like this song, let alone what she did with Dolly and Emmylou on the Trio projects, you arguably wouldn’t have had the wave of female country artists that came along in the 1990s and afterwards.
And truth be told, I am genuinely shocked that Siriux XM has Linda on this list at all, let alone twice, because she has virtually vanished from radio playlists in any format, satellite or otherwise, despite the number of fans and music industry peers she has had since 1967.
“A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” is my favorite here. It’s one of my all time favorite Dwight Yoakam songs, and it still sounds just as fresh and yes, just as cool, as it did in the 90’s. I so long for the days when an album like This Time could actually spin off a string of successful singles on the radio.
Second favorite goes to “Can I Have This Dance.” I remember reading that story about Anne originally recording it with Kenny Rogers in mind, which I thought was pretty cool. This is definitely one of my favorite songs of her’s, but I love quite a lot of her other late 70’s and 80’s singles, as well. I’ve always been a fan of smooth voices and love songs, so a lot of her music is right up my alley.
Eric Church is one of the better modern country artists out there, and “Talladaga” is one of his songs I’ve always liked. I agree that it shouldn’t be this high, though.
The Blake Shelton song gave me a chuckle or two when I heard it the first few times, but thanks to radio overplaying it, it wasn’t too long before I would groan every time it came on. Now, I just cringe whenever I hear it, and it definitely hasn’t aged well, imo. Not one of my favorites written by the otherwise great Paul Overstreet, either. Still, I guess I would take it over a lot of the stinkers and snoozefests he released in the next decade.
I don’t mind the Ronnie Milsap song, at all, though I agree that I would put “Smokey Mountain Rain” here instead (that one is actually not here?!). Ironically, I prefer most of his more pop & r&b influenced singles from the late 70’s and 80’s over this one. Thought it was cool to find out that Eddie Rabbitt wrote this one, btw.
Glad I’m not the only one who always really disliked “American Honey.” This song has never done anything for me, except make me roll my eyes at the usual southern cliches and buzzwords. Not a fan of Hillary’s vocals on this one, either. Totally agree with your assessments here!
Yeah, this is one of Justin Moore’s better singles (haven’t listened to his most recent stuff yet), but I still wouldn’t have put it anywhere on this list.
A Thousand Miles from Nowhere is by far my favorite Dwight Yoakam song should be at least 200 spots higher than where it is.
The drums after the chorus makes me smile everytime. Dwight as a whole gets severely overlooked.
Good Grief – the worst set of ten songs thus far – other than the Ronnie Milsap, Dwight Yoakam and Anne Murray songs, which I regard as “Too High”, the rest of this set is “So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)”.
I love Mel Tillis, but I can think of at least twenty better Mel Tillis singles than “Coca Cola Cowboy”. I think the best version of “Silver Threads and Golden Needle was by The Springfields (a top 20 pop hit in the US – the group included Dusty Springfield) but if I had to put the song on the list I would have chosen the Wanda Jackson version because of her historical significance and picked a better song for Ronstadt.
I love most of Anne Murray’s catalog. I have all of her albums produced by Jim Ed Norman from 1977 through 1984 and they’re all great. Her voice is as smooth as silk. While “Could I Have This Dance” isn’t particularly one of my favorites of hers, I’m happy with any representation she has on this chart.
Love Ronnie Milsap’s “Pure Love”. His first number one hit (of over 30 #1s) and it’s such a fun song and true to his sound in the early 70s.
Not really a fan of any of the other songs and like most everyone who’s commented, surprised that they made it this high on the list. The songs should be getting better. Instead, so many of them are very forgettable.
Agree with Caj on Anne Murray. A few of the songs I like better than “Could I have this Dance” include “A Stranger in My Place”, “Wrong End of the Rainbow”, “Son of a Rotten Gambler”, “Snowbird”, “Danny’s Song”, “A Song for the Mira”, “A Little Good News”, “You Needed Me” and “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” (w Dave Loggins).
While I’m a Ronstadt fan, I never cared much for “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”. Finally got to see her in concert at the Westbury Music Fair in the summer of ’06. She was 60 then but still sounded great.
The only decent song here is “Some Beach,” although I dont hate Pure Love or American Honey.
Mostly this set is Meh. “Some Beach” is good. “American Honey” and Pure Love” arent bad.
Dwight Yoakam is way too low. A misheard lyric on that one, and I think mine is better. What I had always thought he was saying:
“A thousand miles from nowhere, and there’s no place I’d rather be.”