“All My Ex’s Live in Texas”
This is not such a perfect wedding song, unless you’re cool with polygamy. But it’s all in good fun, with Strait rhyming names of girlfriends with Texas towns. Our favorite: “Dimples who now lives in Temple’s got the law lookin’ for me.”
“Forever & Ever Amen”
Not all songs in country are about leavin’, cheatin’ or murderin’. Take this warmhearted, I’m-so-committed-to-you 1987 single. Perfect wedding song.
Hank Williams Jr.
“All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)”
A slightly depressing lament of the past disguised as a silly party song. This 1981 No. 1 is actually one of his most thoughtful moments, a reflection of the rambunctious lifestyles of his friends, as well as his own.
Hank III and the Damn Band version
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Ford genre-surfed from pop to gospel to country, leaving his mark on the third with this 1955 hit, written by Merle Travis, who based the song on his family’s experiences in the coal-mining industry.
“King of the Road” is, obviously, Miller’s best-known song, but “Dang Me,” released in 1964, was no slouch, either. It earned a whopping five Grammys.
“Friends in Low Places”
The ultimate go-to-you-know-where anthem from Brooks’ excellent 1990 album, “No Fences.” The song is so good, in a raunchy, vengeance-is-mine sort of way, you almost forgive Brooks for that whole Chris Gaines thing. Almost
“For the Good Times”
No slight to Kris Kristofferson, who wrote this song, but the lush, orchestral rendition by Price, released in 1970, surpasses all other versions. And there are a lot of them.
Hank Williams Sr.
One of the many, many songs Williams wrote that illustrated just how lonely life can be, even for a wooden Indian. It came out in 1953, shortly after Williams’ death.
Johnny Cash & Hank Williams Jr. version
Brad Paisley/Dolly Parton
“When I Get Where I’m Going”
Pint-size genius Paisley is usually at his best when he’s poking fun at something, but on this 2005 duet with Dolly Parton, a song about dying proves he can do much more than make you laugh. Who’s got a tissue?
If Brooks knew how to do anything, it was construct emotionally riveting ballads that touched a nerve with his audience. This is early proof from his 1989 self-titled debut.
“My Home’s in Alabama”
The leadoff, title track to Alabama’s 1980 album set the stage for all the band’s hits to come. But it also epitomized the group’s home-state love and simple approach to making music.
Hillbilly music made a huge comeback in the late `80s, when slinky Dwight Yoakam brought nasal distinction to a song about all the trappings.
Yes, we know about Ringo Starr’s version, but Owens’ 1960s cut was full of fun and irony, `cuz he could play the part so well.
June Carter Cash
Cash’s versions of her family’s timeless folk tale ranged from outgoing in her youth to pensive as she aged. Only a great singer, and a great song, can do that.
“Live Like You Were Dyin’”
A sensitive song about living well, wistfully delivered by McGraw, who can display a wide range of emotion.
Jerry Lee Lewis
“39 and Holding”
Boomers, this is your country song, delivered in honky-tonk style by a rockabilly pioneer.
“Make the World Go Away”
What a universal and timeless sentiment, not to mention a rich delivery by one smooth stylist. Makes you want to sit by a fireplace and cuddle.
“I Will Always Love You”
Parton’s at her best on sweet, sad ballads like this one.
“Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”
This sentimental folkish tune could’ve been a Carter Family song in the 1930s, but Nelson brought the gentle ballad into the outlaw movement with no sweat.
“On the Other Hand”
Temptation. Fidelity. Powerful themes, delivered in Travis’ weathered baritone, though he seemed too young for this in the late 1980s.