All-Time Best Songs 100-81

Shirley Jinkins and Malcolm Mayhew
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

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: 100-81... Check back next week for the rest of the countdown.



John Conlee

"Rose Colored Glasses"

The mortician-turned-singer struck gold in 1978 with this beautiful tear-jerker.

Listen on YouTube



Mel McDaniel

"Louisiana Saturday Night"

Don Williams wrote this ode to dancing in the kitchen till the morning light, but McDaniel skyrocketed with it.



Earl Thomas Conley

"Holding Her, Loving You"

One of countless country songs about being with one person yet loving another. Few are as moving as this 1983 hit.



Emmylou Harris

"If I Could Only Win Your Love"

Harris has dabbled in so many genres, it's easy to forget her honky-tonk background. This is a reminder from her incredible 1975 record, Pieces of the Sky.



Don Williams

"I Believe in You"

Williams' easygoing vocal style and poetic lyrics perfectly married on this 1980 hit.



Waylon Jennings

"Ain't Livin' Long Like This"

Ha! -- Jennings outsmarted this `70s staple by living a nice, long and extremely meaningful life.

Rodney Crowell version



Alan Jackson

"Drive (For Daddy Gene)"

If Father's Day had an anthem, it would be Jackson's 2002 nod to dear old dads.



Burl Ives

"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky"

This song rose only to No. 21 in 1949. Over time, artists and fans began to appreciate the strange tale of fire-breathing cattle getting chased by ghostly cowboys, and many singers covered it, including Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and, of course, the band Riders in the Sky.

Johnny Cash with the Muppets version



Sons of the Pioneers

"Tumbling Tumbleweeds"

This 1934 song, chugged out by the famous cowboy group that featured Roy Rogers, made such an impact that it inspired a Gene Autry movie.



Charley Pride

"Kiss an Angel Good Morning"

One of the few black male singers in country music had his profile heightened considerably with this insanely catchy 1971 chart-topper, which won Pride the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year award.

(best available video quality)



Johnny Cash

"I Still Miss Someone"

No other version of this song can match the haunting and emotionally numbing reading Cash gave it on his appropriately named 1958 album, The Fabulous Johnny Cash.



Merle Haggard

"My Favorite Memory"

Hag's sweetest, most melancholy song.



Bobbie Gentry

"Ode to Billie Joe"

This was a 1967 B-side, but DJs sniffed a hit and played it, catapulting it to No. 17 on the country charts and to No. 1 on the pop charts, turning the singer into a superstar.



The Oak Ridge Boys

"Ya'll Come Back Saloon"

The Oaks' official switch from gospel to country paid off big time with this 1977 hit.



George Jones & Tammy Wynette

"Golden Ring"

"Golden Ring" is NOT the song you want played at your wedding, despite its optimistic title.



Johnny Cash


You can't get grimmer than Nine Inch Nails, but Cash did in 2002, with his bare-bones reading of this NIN heartbreaker.



Alan Jackson

"Don't Rock the Jukebox"

Not exactly one of Jackson's more pensive moments but still a lot of fun.




Dixie Chicks

"Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way)"

The Chicks have marvelous taste in covers, such as their devastatingly believable cover of this Maria McKee song.

Video of Maria McKee version



Brooks & Dunn

"Neon Moon"

A wonderfully written ballad, with that unforgettable refrain, "watch your broken dreams dance in and out of the beams."



Dixie Chicks

"Travelin' Soldier"

This bittersweet tale of a young girl whose love is killed in Vietnam is one of the Chicks' finest moments.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller

18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr

17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr

16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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