950 down, 50 to go.
Darius Rucker, “Alright”
#1 | 2009
KJC: Rucker’s had a pretty lengthy radio career at this point, so I understand him being represented on the list. But two singles would suffice, and this one’s not necessary at all. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: The thing about Rucker is that he’s never really had any one single that does justice to his actual vocal talent. This is such a nothing of a song that Rucker sings fine enough, but it is utterly inconsequential. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: All-wrong. There’s being happy with less, and then there’s just being a damn cheapskate. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Brooks & Dunn, “My Maria”
#1 | 1996
JK: I do think Ronnie Dunn’s badass falsetto, paired with Kix Brooks’ backing vocals, improves on the original version by a pretty huge margin. A massive hit that really did get people talking about Dunn as a tremendous singer in a way that they, unjustly, hadn’t before. I’d have a couple of their hits in my top 100, but I do think this is Too High, though it was a massive hit for them.
ZK: I, too, can actually think of a few singles of theirs that belong about here. And this is, undoubtedly, the best version of this infectious little number. But top 100? I really want to, but I can’t, and I want to apologize to Ronnie Dunn’s gorgeous falsetto for that. Too High
KJC: This was an enormous radio hit and helped power the duo to their first Entertainer of the Year trophies, even if its host album continued the trend of selling a million units less than its predecessor. Definitely belongs on the list, but this is Too High
Patsy Cline, “Walking After Midnight”
#2 | 1957
ZK: There are certain lists where one could largely debate the placement of certain classics as being too low or high, provided they get to all of the good stuff. It doesn’t discount the merits of the list so much as it encourages healthy debate and discussion. Here … well, look what the fuck got ranked ahead of this. Too Low
KJC: This placement is just fine, in my opinion. Even if it’s surrounded by lesser songs, #58 is About Right for a historical ranking of the record.
JK: What Kevin said: This seems pretty correct if you consider it in a vacuum. But that’s hard when so much of this list needs to be jettisoned into the empty vacuum of deep space. About Right
Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
#1 | 2008
KJC: Catchy as all get out, and indicative of a playful style that would produce plenty more entertaining hits. But it’s still Too High
JK: I’m not mad at this inclusion at all: This got their foot in the door with the mainstream and, for at least a couple of albums, they were as good as anyone in contemporary country. It’s so far from their best, though, and I’d have slotted it way back in the 800s or something. Absurdly Too High.
ZK: A classic bait-and-switch single of the better variety, and one that, awful as it is, led to one of the most commercially and artistically fruitful careers of the very early 2010s. Ain’t no way I like my chicken fried this much, though. Too High
Willie Nelson, “Always On My Mind”
#1 | 1982
JK: My second-favorite Nelson single– we’ve already covered the first, because of course we have– and a testament to his extraordinary and truly inimitable gifts as an interpreter. We’re closing in on the top of the list, and this is still a bit Too Low.
ZK: Voice has always mattered to a large degree in country music, and I don’t just mean in terms of technical abilities. Nelson’s offbeat charm and emotive subtlety has arguably never been as strong as it is here, and even this high up, this feels all Too Low.
KJC: I think this is his finest moment on record, even though he didn’t write it. So many had recorded this before, including all-time greats like Elvis Presley and Brenda Lee, but Willie Nelson was the first who fully understood that this song isn’t about a love that’s died, but a love in danger of dying, and presented it as the inner monologue of a man who truly does love his partner but simply doesn’t know how to say it or show it. Too Low
Eli Young Band, “Crazy Girl”
#1 | 2011
ZK: Crazier list.
(Wouldn’t have minded seeing “When it Rains” somewhere on this list, though). So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Another big hit that deserves inclusion, but it’s like they forgot the “9” before the “55.” Too High
JK: I like this band well enough, but I don’t think I’d have included more than one song of theirs in the top 1000, and it damn sure wouldn’t have been this one. My God. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream”
#1 | 1983
KJC: I’m old enough for this to have been on the radio when I was very young, so for me, it’s not campy or “so bad it’s good.” It’s just really good! Kenny and Dolly are simply magic together, and she makes this record come alive. Those trills when she coos, “No more will you cry. Baby I will hurt you never”? Those trills give me chills. A much beloved duet worthy of its classic status. About Right
JK: Like Kevin, this is a record I grew up with and have enjoyed for pretty well my entire life. Unlike Kevin, I don’t think I would put it this high. Top 500? Absolutely. Almost in the top 50? I can’t bring myself to do it. Too High
ZK: Campy as hell, but still so joyously hard to hate that it falls into the “so bad it’s good” territory. Which means we need to slot it waaay back yonder. Too High
Johnny Cash, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
#1 | 1970
JK: What should be Cash’s highest-ranked entry, without reservation, and of course they screwed that right up just like they did his entire oeuvre. Too Low
ZK: No. 53, and this list still manages to surprise me. This is a top 10 record, where Kris Kristofferson’s poetic depression meets Cash’s gruff demeanor for a transcendental sadness that is arguably their collective best effort. Too Low
KJC: As I’ve written already, I think the Cash rankings are a bit askew, even in the top hundred. I’d swap this with “Ring of Fire” at #18. Too Low
Taylor Swift, “Tim McGraw”
#6 | 2006
ZK: I’d have to concur with Kevin that “Mean” should be her highest-ranked song, especially as someone who thinks Speak Now is still her best album to date. I get including the hit that started it all, though, even if its absolutely the wrong choice here. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: I can’t think of any Taylor Swift song that should be in the top hundred of this list, though I can make a strong case for “Blank Space” on a list of the best pop songs of all time. Her highest-ranked song on this tally should be “Mean,” which was all the way down at #931. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: I recently covered Swift’s self-titled debut, and it’s easy to hear the potential in her early songwriting. The extent to which she’s developed her voice as both a singer and songwriter has made for a riveting career arc and some of the finest pop music produced this century. But that first album? It ain’t good. It wasn’t good then, and it doesn’t hold up in the rest of her catalogue. No way on God’s green Earth does this song need to be on this list at all, though I’ll say she’s yet another artist they really did not do right by. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
David Allan Coe, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”
#8 | 1975
KJC: Oh hey, the patron saint of Morgan Wallen, all the way up at #51. The inclusion of “The Ride” and of two of his songwriting compositions were more than enough David Allan Coe for this list. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: It’s such a damn good song– even more so without the last verse, though I get it– and the production is tremendous. Almost 40 years later, it still lands as a rousing singalong and gets a ton of recurrent airplay. I’m going to grit my teeth and say Too High but not egregiously so. But God, is he problematic.
ZK: Fine, if we have to include one by him. Ain’t no way it’s a No. 51 song just because it hypes itself up as such, though. Too High
Interesting set of songs – I largely agree with the consensus
Re. “Walking After Midnight”: This one really established Patsy on a tragically short-lived actual career, but very much an immortal influence on tons of female singers, country and beyond.
Re. “My Maria”: Brooks and Dunn’s cover of this does nothing for me, to be brutally honest. I do remember B.W. Stevenson’s original from 1973, so maybe my opinion is that of a 70’s sentimentalist, but it is what it is.
Re. “Always On My Mind”: Willie always brings something to the table, even when it’s not a song of his devising (as this wasn’t–credit Mark James, Johnny Christopher, and Wayne Carson Thompson). And it was his biggest hit on the Hot 100, peaking at #5 and making his place as an ambassador for country music permanent (IMHO).
Re. “Tim McGraw”: This one doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot for me; in fact, up until very recently, I can’t say Taylor has ever impressed me at all. Much of her songwriting has been juvenile, and her voice has been enormously irritating to listen to for even one song at a time. She has admittedly gotten quite a bit better, with stuff like “Betty”, though I don’t think I could ever be a fan of hers now.
Jeez, what a generally “meh” set of songs for being just outside the top 50.
While B&D’s version of “My Maria” is the version of the song I prefer, and it brings back some good mid 90’s nostalgia for me, I honestly think I’ve heard it nearly enough times to last a lifetime by now. No way would I have it this high either, or would it make my personal top 10 of B&D songs. Still, that falsetto is badass. No argument from me there!
“Walkin’ After Midnight” is surprisingly about right and is head and shoulders above most anything else here.
Same with Willie’s “Always On My Mind.” This is, by far, my favorite version of this song, and I especially agree with Kevin’s assessments. Always loved his performance on this one, along with the early 80’s production.
“Islands In The Stream” has been one of my favorites ever since I first heard it on one of my parents’ old mix tapes when I was about five. Kenny and Dolly obviously enjoyed doing this duet together, and they always seemed to be having the time of their lives whenever I’ve seen videos of them sing it together live. Definitely another one of my favorites from the Urban Cowboy era.
While I do enjoy much of Taylor’s country material, including the first album, I’m not sure I’d have anything from her this high, especially “Tim McGraw,” which never did too much for me either. I personally felt the title alone felt too gimmicky and sort of kicked off the annoying trend of naming songs after well known stars (Ex: Jason Aldean’s “Johnny Cash” followed not long after). I’d also be fine with “Mean” or most anything from the Speak Now era being her highest ranked song. “Begin Again” is a personal favorite of mine, as well.
“You Never Even Called Me By My Name” is still great for a fun party setting, and it deserves a spot here, though the novelty of the last verse has kind of worn out on me by now with how many times I’ve heard it. I definitely agree that it’s too high.
While “Chicken Fried” may have been charming and unique when it first came out, I’ve pretty much gotten sick of it by now. No way does it belong this high, either. There are better feel good songs that I can still crank up and enjoy no matter how many times I’ve heard it.
Once again, I’ll gladly take “Only Wanna Be With You” and most anything Darius did as Hootie over the majority of what he’s done in his country career thus far. I especially never got the hype over this particular song, and I always found the intro a bit annoying with him repeating the word alright over the token banjo. Once again, there are much better feel good songs for me out there that cover similar ground lyrically. Sigh…if only he was allowed make that hard core country album he actually wanted to make when he first signed to Capitol.
And just what the heck is “Crazy Girl” doing this high?!
“Sigh…if only he was allowed make that hard core country album he actually wanted to make when he first signed to Capitol.”
Yes, Jamie! This! ALL OF THIS!
“Walkin’ After Midnight” definitely belongs this high. I liked the 1957 version much better than the ’61 version, though.
“The Ride” needs to be the DAC entry this high on the list, or even his version of “Tennessee Whiskey” if Sirius insisted on the whacked out methods of ranking for this list.I think I like his version better than the Possum’s, and I like that one a lot.
Mixed bag here. Darius Rucker is a fine singer, but this single doesn’t rate a top 100. Ditto My Maria. Just an outstanding vocal performance, but not much more than that. Maybe in the 200’s.
I mean the next literally, not as hyperbole: If Patsy didn’t have 2 other legitimate top 10 candidates already, I think Walkin’ would be on most people’s top 10. It’s a shame she suffers from having too much good stuff.
Chicken Fried is a little high, but not much. A fun, well played song, as infectious as the delta variant. Always on My Mind is fantastic, I don’t mind people thinking it’s too low, but in the mid 50’s, who’s to argue? (Spoiler alert: I’m going to have a stroke over a song in the 30’s) Crazy Girl? Top 100?! Seriously?!? It for sure wouldn’t be in my top 1000, but in anyone’s top 100?!?! Unbelievable. Islands in the Stream is a bit high for my tastes, but not egregiously so. Sunday Morning Coming Down….I admittedly am not crazy about Johnny’s voice, and uhhhh, he has a top 10 I ummmm……sort of don’t like as much as most people, but this, THIS, is too low. One of the most emotionally enveloping songs I’ve ever heard. I probably should have had this in my top 10 list. I may revisit that list in the near future. I have no idea why I’m bothered by this in the 50’s and not Always on My Mind, but there you go. Tim McGraw is fine, but not top 100. I realize I’m not the only one doubly irritated by stuff that’s too low inevitably ending up in between 2 songs that are too high. Anyway.
I’m fine with You Never Even Called Me this high. But if I’d been writing it, he wouldn’t have used the word rain and crying in the chorus, and the things he missed would have been rain, crying, Texas, Tennessee, jukebox, and not a single tear jerking tragedy where someone dies. Then the payoff would have been:
Mama was drunk the day she got out of the Tennessee State Prison. And I was cryin’ when I went to pick her up in the rain. But before I left Texas with a jukebox in my pickup truck, she got runned over by a damned ole train.
This is about right. It’s just so good on a jukebox…remember those? Sort of like Gimme Three Steps. A bonus 100 spots or so just for how perfect it is for a full bar on a Friday night.