Every storm runs out of rain, just like we’re runnin’ outta patience for this list.
Little Texas, “God Blessed Texas”
#4 | 1993
KJC: Little Texas ballads >>>> Little Texas bangers. Replaces this with “What Might Have Been” or “Amy’s Back in Austin.” But not “My Love.” Never, “My Love.” So Wrong (This Song)
JK: Honestly? I always hated Tim Rushlow’s tinny voice, and Brady Seals got to sing lead on their worst material. Swap this out for any of the Blackhawk singles that aren’t on here. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: He obviously blessed it enough to make it have a bajillion and one songs written about it. So Wrong (This Song)
Dierks Bentley, “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)”
#1 | 2007
JK: One of Bentley’s best escapist hits, and a marvel of matching form to content. A great single, but this ranking is far Too High.
ZK: I love that it actually sounds free and easy and compliments the sly, hangdog personality that characterized Bentley’s strongest early work. Not one of his absolute best, but it certainly belongs. Too High
KJC: This record got Bentley back on track at radio after the outstanding “Long Trip Alone” underperformed. It’s a breezy, charming delight that belongs in the bottom quarter of the list. Too High
Tanya Tucker, “Texas (When I Die)”
#5 | 1978
ZK: A bit repetitive by its end, but a classic is a classic. It’s a lot of fun, and I’d probably have it just somewhere out of the top half. Too High
KJC: Seventies Tanya Tucker is well-represented on this list, and this certainly belongs here. I would have it a few hundred entries lower. Too High
JK: Love Tanya Tucker. Love 70s Tanya Tucker. Hate this maddeningly repetitive song with a passion. It’s her worst hit. Give me “(Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand) Another You” any day. So Wrong (This Song)
Zac Brown Band featuring Jimmy Buffett, “Knee Deep”
#1 | 2011
KJC: I love the sound of this record and it seemed fresh at the time, before they ran this formula entirely into the ground. I can’t get my head around the fact that the folks at Sirius thought we needed twelve songs from the band on this list. I’d drop eight or nine off of it completely, and bump this down to the 900s. Too High
JK: As Zack says below: If they included “Toes,” they really didn’t need this poor attempt to replicate that hit. “The Wind” is my favorite of their singles that didn’t actually connect well at radio, but it’s a far better example of what ZBB could do before they derailed. So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: Of their beach-inspired efforts, this is one of their better ones. But it’s no “Toes,” and if I wouldn’t have that song this high, I certainly wouldn’t have this one, either. Picking only this band’s big singles for inclusion was also a wasted opportunity. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Faith Hill, “Wild One”
#1 | 1993
JK: Giving Kevin’s blurb below some serious side-eye, but I’ll absolutely still go to bat for her debut single. I think she had better singles than this one off her first two albums, but the production on “Wild One” still sounds crisp, and Hill’s ebullient performance reflects the song’s youthful rebellion. Still, in the grand scheme of things, this ranking is Too High.
ZK: As someone who just finished an essay on women in country music who stood out for being different when, ultimately, “being different” was just them being themselves … of course I like this. One of Hill’s best. Too High
KJC: I love this song. “She thinks they’re too old, they think she’s too young” applies to just about every parent-child relationship once it hits adolescence, but what’s particularly powerful is the contrast here. When she was three years old on Daddy’s knee, he didn’t hesitate to tell her she could grow up to be whatever she wanted to be.
But now that the actual agency of a budding woman is manifesting itself, the instinct to put fences around those dreams undermines the message that she took to heart as a little girl. They think that she’s not listening to them, but her confidence to be herself dates all the way back to the lesson they taught her a decade before.
A perfect introduction to an artist who, despite/because of her commercial success, has never quite gotten the critical respect that she deserves. About Right
Johnny Paycheck, “I’m the Only Hell (My Mama Raised)”
#8 | 1977
ZK: An I surprised they included more than just the obvious big Paycheck hit? Sadly, yes. Am I surprised they just went for the big hits? Nah. But this is one of my favorite eras in country music, where the swaggering machismo either came with a darker subtext and demons that needed subduin’ or just didn’t take itself too seriously and ended up being more fun because of it. This is a little bit of both and somehow just works. About Right
KJC: A bit overrated in terms of ranking, but credit to Paycheck for stripping the romanticism from the typical country crime ballad and zeroing in on the specific details, like the pain of having handcuffs clamped to your wrist and the reality that even Mamas who tried eventually get tired of doing so. Too High
JK: It belongs on the list, obviously, but I’m still salty that “A Mighty Thin Line (Between Love and Hate)” isn’t still ranked ahead of this one. Too High
Gary Allan, “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)”
#1 | 2012
KJC: A beautiful late career hit built around a powerful sentiment. It could be easily dismissed as fluff, but not with the grizzly vocal of a man who has ridden out quite a few storms in his day. About Right
JK: This is fine enough, but I’d have his “Songs About Rain” ranked hereabouts. So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: I’m careful to throw around descriptors like “authentic” or “sincere” when describing music. There’s a way to use them, and a way to overuse them negatively, and the latter bogs down a lot of otherwise good music criticism. So when I say I truly believe every word Allan is singing here, it comes from teenage me, who took that deep-dive into his career around the time this came out and really connected with an artist who wasn’t putting his misery on display for pure show. It’s a reason I gravitated heavily toward country music, and I remember being ecstatic when this became his first No. 1 in over a decade. Granted, this isn’t even among my favorite Allan songs (though I might include it in a revised list, depending on the day), but on weight and impact, I’d say it’s About Right
George Strait, “You Look So Good in Love”
#1 | 1983
JK: I tend to like early and late Strait the best, but this one never connected for me, and this ranking is just baffling. He’s got plenty of songs on here, so this is an easy cut. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: Like most of Strait’s material, it is, at the absolute very least, pleasant to hear. But a good lyric here just doesn’t have the performance to match its sadness. I agree with Kevin below. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: George Strait wasn’t quite George Strait yet when he recorded this. It’s one of those songs that he would’ve knocked out of the park five years down the road. He’s just not quite there yet as a stylist. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Merle Haggard, “Big City”
#1 | 1982
ZK: I’ve always appreciated how Merle Haggard managed a commercial comeback at a time when some of his contemporaries were starting to lose their commercial luster. And then I hear those ’80s records and I’m like, “I get it.” About Right
KJC: The simmering rage against city living permeated many big hits of this era, and this is the best of those records. Even as a native New Yorker, I can’t take this one personally. About Right
JK: Hell, at this point, I was worried this was going to be another Haggard classic that turned out to have been a B-side. I’ve said elsewhere that country music has to stop with the divisive and inaccurate rural piety versus urban vice narrative, but leave it to Haggard to mine that tension in a way that feels personal. About Right
Randy Houser, “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight”
#3 | 2013
KJC: Indistinguishable from any given Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan record, which is annoying because Houser is a better singer than both of them combined. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Such a great voice wasted on such nothing. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: Runnin’ outta things to say about generic material. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Previous: #340-#331 | Next: #320-#311
You would think that the songs would be getting better as we got closer to the top, but not so. While I like most of these songs, they mostly belong between 600 and 1000 (if they belong at all)
I agree with most of the reviewer comments – really only the Merle Haggard and Gary Allan songs belong in this group.
While I am a big Johnny Paycheck fan, I think it was terribly derelict of the compilers not to include a few of his pre-Epic classics like “A-11”, “Loving Machine” and “(Pardon Me) I’ve Got Someone to Kill”
Pretty much agree with the panel, although I think Tanya’s effort is too low. I’m never ready for that song to end. I have a bit higher opinion of Little Texas, but nothing they did strikes me as essential. FWIW, Brady wrote this about Ohio, but the meter and rhyme didn’t work, so he changed it to Texas.
I just discovered one of my Top 10 isn’t on this list. I thought no John Denver was bad, but the single best female performance ever? My, my, my.
I pretty much agree with all of Paul’s first two sentences. None of these are personal favorites of mine from any of the artists, but there are a handful of good songs here.
I actually happen to like a lot of Little Texas’ music, but I personally wouldn’t have included “God Blessed Texas.” I’ve just kinda grown tired of it due to overplay over the years. If it HAD to be here (it’s one of their most recognizable hits) I would’ve put it somewhere closer to the bottom. Otherwise I agree, “What Might’ve Been” and “Amy’s Back In Austin” should be here instead. I’ve always had a soft spot for “Some Guys Have All The Love,” and most all the singles from their first album, as well. And yeah, I’ll even admit that “My Love” is a guilty pleasure.
Like Jonathan, there are other early Faith Hill singles I like more than “Wild One,” but it’s still a pretty enjoyable tune that still sounds good today. Always loved that little growl she does on the last “She’s a wild one” near the end. I actually really like her first album and love the twangier voice she had then. I’ve always really liked “Take Me As I Am” and the underrated “But I Will.”
“Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go)” is the kind of escapist country song I can get behind, and it’s one I’d definitely include on a road trip playlist. It’s absolutely perfect for driving with the windows down. It’s too bad songs like this eventually gave way to bro-country party songs in the next decade.
While I’m glad to see Tanya (well, 70’s Tanya, at least) represented well here on this list, I would’ve liked seeing a little more 90’s Tanya, as well. I’ve always liked her version of “Texas (When I Die),” but my favorite version is actually the original by one its writers, the late Ed Bruce.
I’ve always enjoyed the honky tonk shuffle style of Haggard’s “Big City,” and that it goes much deeper than the country vs. city songs of today. Heck, as someone who lives in a suburban area that’s seemingly becoming more congested every year, I find myself also wishing I was somewhere in the middle of Montana these days.
I’ve always liked “You Look So Good In Love,” but I agree that it’s one of the least “George” sounding George Strait hits. To my ears, it has more in common with the typical early 80’s Urban Cowboy sound than it does the straight (no pun intended) ahead traditional country sound he would be known for in most of his career. Still an enjoyable tune though, especially when I’m in the mood for the smoother, more contemporary side of 80’s country.
While I’m a pretty big Gary Allan fan, I have to admit that I haven’t been as crazy about the more pop/rock direction he’s taken his music since the Living Hard album. Though I probably would’ve swapped out this song for “Smoke Rings” or almost any of his other earlier hits, I can definitely see how “Every Storm” became a big hit, as it has a good message, and as already mentioned, it has the authenticity factor going for it, as Gary himself has certainly been there.
It’s absolutely crazy still seeing these random bro-country tunes like “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” this high up the list, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by now.
Forgot to mention how sad it is to learn that no Blackhawk songs made it. Figured at least the classic “Every Once In A While” would’ve been here. Dang.
“Wild one is a great song” that perfectly describes adolescence from diferent points of view. it’s easily still Faith’s best single. a Little Too Low.
Little Texas, Randy Houser and Gary Allan dont belong on this list, except for Tough Little Boys and Right Where i Need to Be.
Love me some “Big City.”
Noting Steve’s comments, if you can totally omit John Denver – and I’ll add, Suzy Bogguss, – there is no song in this group that would prompt me to object even a little if it failed to make the select 1,000. Only got to see Denver once, at MSG in Nov of ’76. Great show. Saw SB about a dozen times beginning in ’92.
Wow, I thought I was the only one who remembered “Amy’s Back in Austin.” It would’ve been a good replacement for “God Blessed Texas.” You’d think I liked that song, being in the most Texan part of Texas (San Antonio), but no. I never did, really. And yes, “My Love” rather sucked. Really, Little Texas was one of the less essential groups of the ’90s, if they even were at all.
It may not have been evident on YLSGIL, but I really thought George was hitting his stride with the Right or Wrong album. “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together” is to this day my favorite GS song. I agree with y’all’s assessment of Too High.
’70s Tanya Tucker was great. If I never heard the song mentioned here again I wouldn’t miss it the least little bit though. “Lizzie and the Rainman” is my personal favorite of her hits from back then.
I would have loved to see “Amy’s Back in Austin” in place of “God Blessed Texas” as well. I never really thought too much of Little Texas other than “Amy’s Back in Austin.”
I find “Texas When I Die” to be enjoyable, but it could do with another verse, so it’s not so repetitive at the end, so it’s probably too high for this list.
In regards to “You Look So Good in Love:” Mickey Gilley’s You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me album, released around the same time, featured a rendition of it. It’s decidedly inferior in my eyes, and leaves off the spoken-word verse to boot.