Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Steve Wariner, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”

“Holes in the Floor of Heaven”

Steve Wariner

Written by Billy Kirsch and Steve Wariner

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

May 22, 1998

Steve Wariner’s comeback peaks with an award-winning single.

The Road to No. 1

After I am Ready became Wariner’s first gold album, he released Drive, his second Arista set.  It produced the top ten hit “If I Didn’t Love You,” the top thirty hit “Drivin’ and Cryin’,” and the top twenty hit “It Won’t Be Over You.”  Wariner exited the label after completing one of his dream projects: the instrumental set No More Mr. Nice Guy.  Wariner came back big in the late nineties, appearing in this feature three times already in just the past few months: as duet partner on Anita Cochran’s “What if I Said,” as co-writer of Clint Black’s “Nothin’ But the Taillights,” and as both co-writer and harmony singer on Garth Brooks’ “Longneck Bottle.”  That last collaboration was influential in Wariner landing a deal with Capitol Nashville, and his most recent No. 1 single is his debut release for that label.

The No. 1

It was impossible not to get on board with Wariner’s big comeback. He’d been an underrated artist for years, and him having the biggest commercial success of his career on Capitol was amazing to watch.  I remember being fully on board with “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” and being so happy when he won Single and Song of the Year at the CMA Awards for it.

I also remember reading a review of The Essential Dottie West in New Country magazine in the mid-nineties, and the writer observing that nothing ages worse than yesterday’s sentimentality.  All these years later, this doesn’t have the same emotional impact.  It feels as cloying as “Don’t Take the Girl,” honestly.

However, an advantage of the Wariner track over that Tim McGraw hit is that Wariner was a studio veteran when he recorded it, and he gives an understated performance that doesn’t try to wring the tears out of its listeners.

So while the song’s conceit feels terribly clunky and dated, Wariner’s delivery of it still holds up, even if it isn’t the classic record it seemed like it could be back in the day.

The Road From No. 1

Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down became Wariner’s second gold album on the strength of this single, as well as the top thirty title track, which reunited Wariner with Brooks.  Wariner repeated that sales success with Two Teardrops, his third and final gold album to date.  It included the top five title track and a top five cover of one of his earliest singles, “I’m Already Taken.”  Wariner also had a big hit in 2000 with Clint Black, going top five with their duet, “Been There.”  He had two more top thirty hits for Capitol, both from his swan song from the label, Faith in You.  But his award show streak stayed hot well into the new millenium, as he picked up multiple Grammy awards in the now-defunct Best Country Instrumental Performance category.

Since leaving the major label ecosystem, Wariner has released multiple vocal and instrumental albums on SelecTone Records, the most recent being his third holiday release, 2021’s Feels Like Christmas Time.

“Holes in the Floor of Heaven” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Faith Hill, “This Kiss” |

Next: Tim McGraw, “One of These Days”


  1. I have to agree that this song didn’t really age too well, but the album it came from was absolutely KILLER. I remember hearing the title track, “Big Ol’ Empty House” and “A Six Pack Ago” and thinking it was pretty cool that SW could do stuff like that, even though I knew he could lay down a great country song when he really took a mind to.

  2. The country catalogue is filled with heart songs. Like recitations, listening to maudlin heart songs without becoming nauseous is an acquired skill, but, when the mood is right, nothing else will do. This song has its place in history. Warner is the perfect singer to sell this sentimentality. I still stand for these songs and this in one particular, especially given the juxtaposition of this classic sound with Faith Hill’s previous pop-country number one. It’s crazy. Now, where’s that box of Kleenex?

  3. As a 12 year old I’d never heard of him before. I had just thought he was some breakthrough artist with a few hits. Had nooooo clue about his earlier work.

    • I knew his Arista stuff because it was from my early CMT watching days. The clip I saw the most was “If I Didn’t Love You.” I was shocked to discover his best chart run was in the eighties on MCA.

      • Steve’s MCA stuff was indeed the best, IMO. In fact, I have noted before that “Some Fools Never Learn” is my all-time favorite song, from any artist in any genre of music.

    • Much of Wariner’s MCA singles and even some of his early RCA ones (“Kansas City Lights,” in particular) were still getting decent recurrent airplay in early 1991 when I started recording tapes off the radio regularly. “Where Did I Go Wrong” is also on one of my favorite tapes from the Fall of 1991, while “I Should Be With You” made it on the the very end of one I recorded in early 1993. :) And of course, some of his then current Arista singles made it on to some of those early 90’s tapes, too.

      I also remember loving both “The Weekend” and “Small Town Girl” as a little kid when they were still being played on the radio in the early 90’s. :)

  4. @The Pistolero, I recall you sharing that in a much early post in this feature. I remember it because “Some Fools Never Learn” is also one of my all-time favourite songs. I can’t even quite put a finger on why. I have always been under its spell. I would love to hear what makes it so special for you. In the meantime, I will reflect on why it has anchored so deeply in my bones and try to put it into writing.

    • I’m looking forward to discovering more of Steve Wariner’s eighties work. He had a lot of No. 1 hits in that decade, but the only ones that I remember hearing often are “Lynda” and “The Weekend.” And that song that goes “just when you need me the most, so does the coast.”

      • Just when you need me the most, so does the coast

        That was the title track to his 1988 album I Should Be With You. I liked that song too.

    • I may go into this more when our hosts do the No. 1 songs of the 1980s, but for now…

      The subdued noodling intro on the electric guitar. The quiet resignation with which Steve sings the lyrics, and the hint of the biting anger in particular when he sings the bit “Damn my eyes. Damn this heart of mine.” The steel guitar fills on the chorus, and the great solo between the chorus and third verse. It’s all perfect, just absolutely perfect.

      • The Pistolero, I totally hear you on “Some Fools Never Learn.” I absolutely love that one, for many of the reasons you’ve listed, and it’s one of my many favorites of his 80’s songs. I also love the imagery of the city at night time that it brings to mind during the final verse. I used to hear them play it at the Spotsylvania Mall in Fredericksburg, VA around the mid-late 90’s when Dad and I would stroll through there. :)

        I fell in love with “Some Fools…” all over again when I picked up a copy of his first MCA Greatest Hits album in 2000.

        My personal go to 80’s Wariner song is “Small Town Girl.” It just simply never gets old, and it hits the spot for me every time. Love the catchy melody, the 80’s synthesizers, and Steve’s crystal clear smooth vocals. Also, once again, I love the imagery it paints with the lyrics from being in the city during the winter to “Fifth Avenue dressed in a foot of snow.” :)

        Another one I really love is “You Can Dream Of Me.” I’m so excited that Kevin is going to do the 80’s for this feature, so we can also get to his excellent work from that decade!

  5. A big part of the excitement in listening to country radio during this time for me was witnessing the sudden comebacks of some of my early childhood favorite artists like Randy Travis and Steve Wariner, both of whom I had not heard from since the early 90’s. I would feel that same level of excitement and amazement when Kenny Rogers also made his comeback a little while later. In hindsight, it just seems right that Wariner made his big comeback in the late 90’s since country had once again taken a direction in the more smooth contemporary style that he had mainly been known for in the 80’s.

    I was already aware that Steve was back when “What If I Said” became a big hit, but hearing “Holes In The Floor Of Heaven” for the first time on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country countdown just made me smile and realize that yet another one of my old favorite artists was actually back for good. :) It was just so neat to suddenly be hearing from him regularly again after quite a few years of him being absent from the airwaves. Like Randy Travis, the only other time I had heard from Steve Wariner up to that point was if I happened to be listening to one of the tapes I recorded as a little kid off the radio in the early 90’s.

    Shortly after that while Dad and I were in his car one weekday afternoon after school, he was telling me about how Collin Raye has been known for singing a lot of sad songs, and just when I thought he was going to tell me about a new song from Collin, he mentioned the title of this new song he heard being “Holes In The Floor Of Heaven.” I hated to ruin the moment and his excitement about the song, but I informed him that the song was actually by Steve Wariner. “Holes…” still remained as one of my dad’s favorite songs as recently as the 2010’s.

    Like you, I was also so happy to see Steve back on the award shows in a big way, and I especially enjoyed seeing him perform “Holes..” on the CMA awards and him winning trophies for the song. I also remember my dad, step dad, and I all gathered downstairs watching him perform “I’m Already Taken” on the 1999 CMA’s. :)

    While I can see how it may not have aged well for some, it still works just fine for me today. Steve especially gives it a sincere, emotional performance that makes it impossible for it to ever grow stale on me. The second verse and the final verse and chorus still really get to me, especially. I still lose it whenever the daughter tells her sad father during her wedding that “I know Mama’s watching now,” in particular. And when he sings “Sometimes when you’re lonely, just remember she can see,” it always sounds like he’s singing to you personally, as well, if you are missing a loved one who has passed on. Sonically, it still sounds great to me, too. I love the beautiful melody and opening guitar, and the clean and crisp sound of the drums still sounds modern to my ears.

    “Don’t Take The Girl” on the other hand, sounds like it tries way too hard to be cutesy, clever AND pull at the heartstrings, and it just ends up coming across as cheesy in the end, imo. And on top of that, Tim’s unseasoned whiny vocals, the boring melody, and dated production make it a nearly unbearable listen for me these days. “Holes…” also has a predictable three part story, but it just always felt more genuine and sincere to me, and it doesn’t have annoying attempts at being too cutesy and clever that “Girl” does. Not to mention, Wariner is a much better singer than McGraw was in 1994.

    The following single, the western swing flavored duet with Garth, “Burnin’ The Roadhouse Down” is so much fun, and definitely deserved to be a bigger hit! Love their performance of it on the 1998 ACM’s, as well.

    My biggest favorite single of Wariner’s late 90’s comeback is 1999’s “Two Teardrops” which I’m surprised wasn’t a number one, since it zoomed so quickly up the charts during its chart run. I have it on a tape I recorded in early 1999, and I recently also found a Crook & Chase Country Countdown show that originally aired the first week of April where “Two Teardrops” made its debut all the way in the upper 20’s. Always loved that song’s beautiful melody and Sonny Garrish’s steel guitar on that one. I also love the beautiful imagery the ocean and the beach it brings to mind with its lyrics (The video also helped with that).

    2000’s “Faith In You” is also another one of my biggest favorites of his with it’s beautiful melody and Wariner’s sincere vocal performance. I even remember it being on the pre-movie playlist of latest tunes at the AMC Theaters during the summer of 2000. :) It’s another one that should’ve done a lot better than it did, imho.

    The Pistolero, I agree with you on the Burnin’ The Roadhouse Down album. I especially LOVE both “A Six Pack Ago” and “Big Ol’ Empty House.” A couple of my other favorites on it are “Smoke From An Old Flame” and “Every Little Whisper” (which also should’ve been a bigger hit, imo).

    His final Capitol album, 2000’s also titled Faith In You, is another of my personal favorites. Besides the title cut, I also love the Rodney Crowell co-written “Longer Letter Later,” “I Wish I Were A Train,” “It Wouldn’t Be Love,” “I Just Do,” “Make It Look Easy,” “Turn In The Road,” and the second fun duet with Garth he did, “Katie Wants A Fast One.”

    From 1999’s Two Teardrops album, my favorites are “Since You Walked Away,” “I’ve Been In That Movie,” “I’ll Always Have Denver,” “So Much,” and “You Be My Everything.”

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