All-Time Best Songs 40-21

by Shirley Jinkins and Malcolm Mayhew

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

18 September 2007

Here's a tribute to all of those artists and the many others who shaped country music -- a list of the 100 best country songs of all time. Today: 60-41... Check all this week for the rest of the countdown.


LeAnn Rimes


Rimes’ yodel-friendly delivery of this Bill Mack composition moved the darling of Dallas-Fort Worth into the national spotlight and helped revive a love of classic sounds.



Brad Paisley

“I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)”

Looky here, Paisley’s biting comment on female-versus-fish struck a nerve with millions of guys who’d trade a creek bank for a couch any day.
Watch video



Hank Williams Jr.

“Family Tradition”

Bocephus’ bit of rowdy genealogy gave country fans a sense of continuity as new artists moved in on the charts during the late `70s and early `80s.

(best available quality video)



Patsy Cline

“Walking After Midnight”

We promise we won’t list every Cline hit here, but can’t you picture her restlessly pacing in the dark on this one?



Kris Kristofferson

“Help Me Make It Through the Night”

It was recorded by many, but Kristofferson nailed the loneliness behind many a love tryst.



Merle Haggard

“Okie From Muskogee”

An anthem for many, mere irony for some, this song made a middle-America statement at the end of the turbulent 1960s.



Patsy Cline


One of Willie Nelson’s finest compositions paired beautifully with Cline’s conversational, why-am-I-doing-this tone.



Freddy Fender

“Before the Next Teardrop Falls”

Here’s Freddy’s signature, a rich bilingual dance favorite from the `70s that had everyone singing along, though not as distinctively as the crooning Fender.

(not Freddy Fender, alas, but a great version nonetheless)



Conway Twitty

“Hello Darlin’”

An intimate song that’s both a conversation and a romantic ballad, and it’s the one Twitty fans always remember first.
Watch video



Ernest Tubb

“Waltz Across Texas”

Tubb’s voice and the simple lyrics lent a spare, moonlit-night quality to this waltz, which makes Texans proud to be where they are.



Marty Robbins

“El Paso”

In 1933, A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter recorded this song of desperate hope during the deepest years of the Great Depression, and its simple optimism is still comforting today.



The Carter Family

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

In 1933, A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter recorded this song of desperate hope during the deepest years of the Great Depression, and its simple optimism is still comforting today.



Lee Ann Womack

“I Hope You Dance”

The hopeful advice of this heart-tugger from 2000 was the perfect sendoff for old flames, new college students, best friends and significant others.



Hank Williams Sr.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart”

Williams was already dead in 1953 when fans first heard this good rant about a bad woman. The song is loads better than the 1964 movie bio of the same name.

Hank Williams Jr. version from the Porter Wagoner Show



Ernest Tubb

“Walking the Floor Over You”

Though Tubb had a voice only a bullfrog could love, the straightforward lyrics and easy melody made this song a two-stepping favorite, and only Tubb’s version will do.



Conway Twitty

“It’s Only Make Believe”

Power ballads like this song, with its building crescendo, helped make the strong-voiced Twitty a staple on the country concert circuit until his death in 1993.



Johnny Paycheck

“Take This Job & Shove It”

Oh, come on, there isn’t a rank-and-file wage-earner alive who hasn’t committed Paycheck’s timeless working-class rant to memory.

David Allan Coe version from 1983



Charlie Rich

“Behind Closed Doors”

Sexy, sultry Rich was dubbed the Silver Fox when he recorded this sophisticated love song that pointed out the virtues of privacy.



The Statler Brothers

“Countin’ Flowers on the Wall”

Quirky on the surface and ultimately more sinister, this song lightheartedly danced into the mind of a cheerful man losing his grip on reality. Millions of fans embraced its split personality.



Kris Kristofferson

“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”

Everyone, including Johnny Cash, rushed to cover this portrait of despair and isolation after Kristofferson’s recording, but his own world-weary voice means that this remains the best version.

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