We’re closer to the end than ever. Let’s try to act naturally.
Garth Brooks, “Rodeo”
#3 | 1991
KJC: I never really understood the appeal of this single, which felt like a step down in quality from the No Fences hits. His oversinging starts to become an issue here. Too High
JK: Toss-up between this one and “Shameless” in terms of which of Garth’s vocal performances I find more grating. The way he mangles the vowels here, you’d think it was him and not a bucking bull that was bound with a flank strap. Too High
ZK: I … I … damn it, Jonathan. Let’s just go to the next one. Too High
Marty Robbins, “Big Iron”
#5 | 1960
JK: Robbins is one of the absolute finest vocalists the genre has ever known, and this is a well-written song that I would never have ranked ahead of so much of what we’ve already covered. Too High
ZK: I’m not saying it goes toe-to-toe with “El Paso,” or that Marty Robbins’ western-inspired material should completely define him; his versatility was his asset. But this is right next to it as a favorite of mine, and I’ve always found it incredibly underrated/overshadowed in the general scheme of things. About Right
KJC: Robbins put the western in Country & Western better than anyone, as far as I’m concerned. It’s no “El Paso,” as Zack notes, but then again, what is? Too High
George Strait, “Ocean Front Property”
#1 | 1987
ZK: Strait has such a comfortable style that it’s hard to tell if his straightforward delivery on the punchline is intentional or not. I don’t want to know; it’s perfect as is. About Right
KJC: Ocean Front Property produced two of Strait’s most evergreen hits. The title track isn’t even the best of the two, and to Sirius’s credit, they ranked them correctly. About Right
JK: Not my favorite of Strait’s 80s-era chart toppers, but one that seems to have had the longest shelf-life as a recurrent gold at radio. The easy-going arrangement and Strait’s mellow performance belie the song’s bitterness in the best ways. About Right
Tanya Tucker, “Delta Dawn”
#6 | 1972
KJC: This is a top 100 record, at the very least. Too Low
JK: I hate this list so, so much, you all. I hate it as much as the list itself hates women. Which [gestures wildly to the open air]. Too Low
ZK: I think I once said that this list doesn’t make that angry because it’s all in good fun and … I take it back. All of it. Too Low
Ronnie Milsap, “Daydreams About Night Things”
#1 | 1975
JK: Had the chorus to this stuck in my head for nearly three days about a month ago, and the song is older than I am. Which is a testament to staying power and just flawless construction. About Right
ZK: I feel like I’ve been harsh toward Milsap’s material through this list, when in reality I really, really like a lot of it. I feel bad saying this is a little Too High, but it’s not off by much.
KJC: “I’m having daydreams about night things in the middle of the afternoon.” Yes, it’s derivative of “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” It still earned its slot. About Right
#2 | 2007
ZK: Sugarland’s best, and one of country music’s best of the 2000s. Not a high bar to clear, but this is legitimately great without any other qualifiers. Still ranked Too High, though. But not by much, honestly.
KJC: For me, a top 100 record. So it’s slightly underranked, but not offensively so. Too Low
JK: That third-act POV reversal is so earned thanks to Nettles’ vulnerable, evocative performance. She’s bettered this only once in her terrific career. About Right
Eddy Arnold, “Make the World Go Away”
#1 | 1965
KJC: This and “Cattle Call” are Arnold’s most essential records. Too Low
JK: Arnold’s performance on this brilliantly-written song is just sublime; a classic record, ranked far Too Low.
ZK: Possibly my favorite hook in country music … pretty much ever. This would be in my personal top ten. Too Low
Juice Newton, “Queen of Hearts”
#14 | 1981
JK: A terrific slice of pop-country by an underrated talent. No way I’d have it anywhere close to the top 150, but it’s a worthy entry. Too High
ZK: See, Jonathan had the Ronnie Milsap song stuck in his head, and I had this one stuck in mine upon seeing it here. This is the part of the list where I start to feel bad, because for what it is – a fun slice of pop-country that’s ridiculously infectious – it’s perfect. But we need the heavy-hitters at this point. Too High
KJC: This was more of a pop hit than a country one. Catchy as hell, though. Too High
Darius Rucker, “It Won’t Be This Way For Long”
#1 | 2008
ZK: I say the same thing about this list at this point. Yahoo! So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Can you call it a rip-off when co-writer Ashley Gorley is ripping himself off? Yes, you can, Mr. “I wrote ‘You’re Gonna Miss This’ then recycled the same idea with the Hootie guy because I didn’t think they’d actually play him on the radio.’” So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Honestly? I’d put “Only Wanna Be With You” on this list before this nothing of a hit. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Buck Owens, “Act Naturally”
#1 | 1963
KJC: I can’t get my head around the fact that there isn’t a Buck Owens song in the top 100, even if they got the two ranked at #101 and #151 in the right order. Too Low
JK: I think I said ages back that Owens has perhaps the most deceptively deep catalogue in the genre’s history, and he’s one of the artists Sirius did worst by. Grand scheme of things? This ranking strikes me as About Right; it’s the rest of his entries that are so egregious.
ZK: No. 151, so they didn’t egregiously screw up, but, like, come on. Too Low
Previous: #170-#161 | Next: #150-#141
Totally agree with the consensus comments, except that I think “Big Iron” is just a hair too low.
No Buck Owens in the top 100 – that’s criminal
Buck is a little too Low and Tanya and Darius are too high.
Re. “Big Iron”: Yes, Marty Robbins probably shouldn’t have his career defined so much by these Western-inspired songs (and realistically it isn’t, except by Sirirus); but it’s hard not to have that happen you’re from Arizona as he is. He did it fairly convincingly.
Re. “Make The World Go Away”: One of the great examples of the Nashville Sound in its mid-1960’s period by a true legend of the country genre. Not only did it get to #1 on the country chart, but it also got up to #7 on the Hot 100 in the fall of 1965, which is quite the achievement, given that the Beatles, the Stones, the Supremes, and the Beach Boys were ruling that particular roost.
Re. “Queen Of Hearts”: Yes, this was kind of a slice of pop/country; it would probably be considered way too “old school” these days. But this Juice Newton hit does kind of give us an idea of the approach that female country artists would be taking pretty much from this point on: less Nashville, and closer to the 70’s country-rock of Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.
Re. “Act Naturally”: Yes, this one is a bit too low on the ledger. The electric country sound of Buck and his Buckaroos was integral not only to the Bakersfield Sound, but also later elements of the L.A. country-rock scene, and, needless to say, Dwight Yoakam. Also, of course, two years after Buck’s recording, the Beatles did their version for HELP!, and got Buck’s seal of approval.
Favorites here include Sugarland, Ronnie Milsap & Eddie Arnold.
As a kid in the 50’s I watched and enjoyed many a western but rarely listened to any western songs other than the show’s theme song. I just listened to Big Iron for the first time. Impressive vocal by Robbins.
George Strait is great, but there’s nothing particularly special about this entry. Ditto Ronnie Milsap. Ditto Juice Newton. Ditto Darius Rucker. I really don’t like much of Sugarland. Jennifer Nettles’ voice strikes me as pretty good for the local high school revue level. I just don’t get why other people are so crazy about it. Make the World Go Away is easily the best of this bunch. I’d probably go top 50, but this is fine here. I think Act Naturally might be a touch too high, but no issues. And I don’t get Marty Robbins. Part of my shame for a traditional country lover.