A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #150-#141

If only Sirius had tried as hard as Mama.



Tim McGraw, “Where the Green Grass Grows”

#1 | 1998

JK: I’d say this, by a hair over “Just to See You Smile,” is McGraw’s best single of the 1990s. Which is to say that this ranking is still quite Too High.

ZK: See, if this had been “Just to See You Smile,” I wouldn’t have quibbled with the placement. This is fine, and McGraw sells it with an easy, likable charm. But … Too High 

KJC: For me, “Please Remember Me” and “Live Like You Were Dying” are Tim’s Top 100 singles, and I would definitely swap the ranking of “Where the Green Grass Grows” with “Just to See You Smile.”  Too High



Willie Nelson, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”

#1 | 1980

ZK: Right within my personal wheelhouse of things to like, but this is far from an essential Willie Nelson single, and he’s represented just fine here. Too High

KJC:  This list’s preoccupation with yesterday’s Outlaws is causing me to get tired of Willie Nelson, which is no small feat.   Too High

JK: Great single and performance that’s wildly overranked here. Too High



Kenny Chesney, “Don’t Happen Twice”

#1 | 2001

KJC:  This was such a blatantly obvious rewrite of Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That” when it was released, and it hasn’t aged any better since then.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: I’m so goddamn tired of writing about Kenny Chesney, y’all. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

ZK: The irony of the title is that we’ve said the same thing about this artist twice, thrice, and so on and so forth. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)



Toby Keith, “Wish I Didn’t Know Now”

#2 | 1994

JK: A strong testament to Keith’s artistry before he devolved into self-parody post-9/11. But this ranking is ludicrous. Too High

ZK: Can’t argue with ’90s-era Toby Keith as far as quality goes, but the only singles of his I’d even think of having this high up are “Who’s That Man” or “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Too High 

KJC:  A worthy entry, but with another song from his debut album in the top 100, there was no need to rank this one quite so high.  Too High



Merle Haggard and the Strangers, “Mama Tried”

#1 | 1968

ZK: Mama tried, Sirius failed, and I blew a gasket. Too Low

KJC:  Sirius apparently prefers political Haggard, since his only top 100 entries are “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me.”  Both of those songs belong on the list, but not above “Mama Tried” and “Workin’ Man Blues.”  Too Low

JK: To quote Ralph Wiggum: Teacher says she’s tired of trying. Too Low



Sara Evans, “Suds in the Bucket”

#1 | 2004

KJC:  One part “She’s in Love With the Boy,” and one part “Walkaway Joe,” there wasn’t a better “teen girl falls in love” record than “Suds in the Bucket” this century, and this century included Taylor Swift.   About Right

JK: I love this single. It’s Evans’ best moment on record by miles, three and a half minutes of twang and fiddle and the rare instance of Evans’ playing to her actual strengths. I’m annoyed to see it ranked ahead of “Mama Tried,” but I honestly think this is About Right, especially for a single released this century.

ZK: For as much as the 2000s get overshadowed for discussions like these, if there’s an act that feels underrated even within that context, it’s Sara Evans. Her 2000s run is super solid, with this being her crowning achievement. Won’t quibble with the ranking. About Right 



Tammy Wynette, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”

#1 | 1968

JK: God help me, I just hate this song and always have. It’s one of her signature hits, but I’d put it back in the 800s somewhere on its merits. Too High

ZK: Case in point of why this should be her gold standard over “Stand By Your Man.” I’m cynical like that. Too High 

KJC: Wait, what? We’re second guessing “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”?  To borrow from another sixties songstress, that’s C-R-A-Z-Y.   During an era when divorce was an unspoken taboo, Wynette drove home the painfulconsequences of a broken home. Little Joe is blissfully unaware of how his heart is about to be broken, and all we can do is watch. This belongs in the top 100.  Too Low



Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Fishin’ in the Dark”

#1 | 1987


ZK: Oh, this is one of those songs where you see the title and immediately start singing it. Its only crime is that it overshadows (most of) the rest of this band’s discography. One of the best sing-a-longs in country music. “Cruise” could never. Too Low

KJC:  A deliriously fun record that has only grown more popular with time.  I’d personally rank it higher on my own list, I think, but #143 is About Right

JK: They took the corniest of song structures– the goddamn round, like they’re in elementary school music class– and translated it into a single that’s iconic. One of the 80s’ best. Too Low



Charlie Rich, “The Most Beautiful Girl”

#1 | 1973

KJC:  So the genius behind this record is that any man can send it to a woman he wronged, and come off sorrowful while flattering her at the same time.  “Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?”  Good God, it’s great.  About Right

JK: Rich sings the hell out of this one, giving depth to a song that, in lesser hands, would likely have come across as purely manipulative. About Right

ZK: I first learned of this from the Seinfeld bit. Unlike Kevin and Jonathan, I do think this comes across as corny and condescending to the woman in question, but talk about going overboard with the vocal and somehow wind up sounding sincere by putting in the extra effort. Too High 



James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You”

#1 | 2007

JK: Somewhere in East Tennessee, Holly just felt a disturbance in the Ottosphere and dusted off her keyboard to answer the call to action to defend her Sweetheart, James. Too High.

ZK: And God bless you and him always, Jonathan!!! Too High

KJC: I have no idea what’s going on above me, but I agree that this is Too High

Previous: #160-#151 | Next: #140-#131



  1. Re. “Mama Tried”: Well, The Hag was always brutally honest with people in his songs, most especially with himself. He blew it in his youth, though he obviously recovered after two years in the can at San Quentin, with, as he said, a little help from Johnny Cash.

    Re. “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”: The apex of the Silver Fox’s career, and maybe of the Countrypolitan style (a.k.a. Nashville Sound 2.0) of the 70’s, since this also topped the Hot 100 for two weeks (keeping another piano player named Elton John [“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”] out of #1).

  2. I would easily put Mama Tried and DIVORCE in my top 50. Both are essential country. DIVORCE seems to push buttons in people but to me it is the PERFECT representation of classic country telling the truth.

  3. Ok can someone explain the Holly joke for the “Just Got Started Loving You” entry? Is it like some inside joke or something?

    • The best advice I can give is google James Otto reviews from country blogs, including this one, and you’ll see the comment thread appearances by Holly from East Tennessee. That’s how they explained it to me!

  4. Holly in East Tennessee, there’s a name I haven’t heard in some time.

    For those who haven’t been around country blogs forever, she was an over the top James Otto super fan who used to show up in the comments of anything that had any mention of him at all.

  5. Every time James Otto was mentioned on this site, a commenter named James Otto Sweet Heart (Holly from East Tennessee) commented how much she loved James Otto, and ended with “God bless you and James always!” or something to that effect. Sort of an early meme of the site.

    Just look up any James Otto single review on this site and go to the comments section.

    She’s on Twitter – giving it a non-zero chance that she shows up here.

  6. Holly was literally the purest soul to post on the internet in the mid-2000s. She was on most any and all country music discussion fora and blogs, and her responses were always so refreshing in their sincerity. And I cannot ever see James Otto’s name pop up now without thinking of her posts about him because they were *everywhere*.

  7. Largely agree with the panelist comments. “Mama Tried” is one of five or six haggard songs I can make a case for being worthy of being in the top 50 (“Okie From Muskogee” isn’t one of them nor is “Fighting Side of Me” although I like both songs).

    Personally, I think “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “The Most Beautiful Girl” are placed about right

  8. …i should have never thought of hearing about “holly from east tennessee” ever again in my life, great one jk (memory). 2007/08 james otto’s “just got started loving you” was the coolest song on country radio. that would put it (very) roughly calculated into the top 100, in a simple placement on merits relative to the existence of popular country music. then again, if it came in at, say, no. 293 or so, it wouldn’t be too wrong either, i guess. “the most beautiful girl” whould be higher up in my book and “d-i-v-o-r-c-e” on the top spot – if the kenny chesney entry was used as a benchmark.

  9. I like “Just Got Started Loving You”. Agree with Tom that it was the coolest on country radio – but not my favorite from Otto. That would be Where Angels Hang Around which Otto co-wrote with Monty Criswell. Heard him sing it at the Bluebird Cafe. The man sure can sing.

  10. Every One of these are Too High, except “DIVORCE” (deliberately leaving out the hypens for easier typing), which is definitely top 30, probably top 10 and maybe top 5

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