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Rolling Stone's Ridiculous Top 100 Country Songs: The First Half

What would Johnny Cash think?
What would Johnny Cash think?

In further efforts to reassure us that it is still relevant, Rolling Stone magazine recently started a country clickbait section called most cleverly (drum roll, maestro) RS Country. I know, the heart pitter-patters in anticipation.

A brief perusal of the site finds basically the same crap, errr... nuts and bolts of most music blogs: lists out the ass. The most recent list that generated beaucoup clicks, errr...intelligent, thoughtful discussion was their recent mega-list, the "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time."

They actually didn't do too bad a job, as these things go, pieced together as they are like Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors." But the list didn't even make it through the first ten songs without tripping up on their own set-up blurb, which states a great country song has "twang you can feel down to the soles of your feet."

Pure poetry, huh? Those country folks over at Rolling Stone are pretty quick with their descriptions.

If a song has to have twang you can feel down to the soles of your feet, why is Ray Charles' over-orchestrated ballad "You Don't Know Me" at No. 8? While it's a killer tune and a brilliant move by Charles to cross-over, it comes closer to Percy Faith and Perry Como than to Hank Williams or Ernest Tubb.

Rolling Stone's Ridiculous Top 100 Country Songs: The First Half

Beyond such glaring contradictions, the list is highly suspect for other reasons. Over on his Facebook page, former Press music editor John Nova Lomax waxed less than enthusiastically for the list:

Taylor Swift is not country so she should not be in the top 25. "Goodbye Earl" is far from the best Dixie Chicks song. Picking "Setting the Woods on Fire" as Hank's second best tune is retroactive hipsterism. "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys" is a hideous choice as the best Waylon and/or Willie had to offer. ("Luckenbach" would have been even worse.) Snap judgment after reading only the first 25 of these.

My own take is similar. It becomes apparent rather quickly that the list is more about political correctness and spreading the interest over a wide age group so as to ensnare as many people as possible. For instance, let's face it, there hasn't been a country song since the '80s that should be in the Top 25. For the most part, country music is old people's music -- no matter what Blake Shelton or Eric Church say. New country, bro-country, hick-hop, it's all just pop crap with a twang, and comes fully equipped with less depth than a wading pool.

It's hard to argue with Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" as a contender for greatest country song ever, but here again, this is a calculated clickbait ploy. Obviously the youngsters at Rolling Stone compiling this list haven't heard Fred Eaglesmith's snarly, sarcastic sentiment to hipsters, "You sure do like Johnny Cash now."

Here in Texas, we could probably pick half a dozen Ray Price songs we consider greater than "I Walk the Line," not the least of which is "Crazy Arms," the classic 4/4 dance beat that became known as the "Ray Price shuffle." Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," Ernest Tubb's "Walking The Floor Over You," Bob Wills' "Faded Love," Willie's own version of "Night Life," Lefty Frizzell's "If You've Got the Money, Honey, I've Got the Time" or "I Love You a Thousand Ways" could easily be argued in place of "I Walk the Line."

And don't get me started about their inclusion of George Jones' schmaltzy "He Stopped Loving Her Today" as the fourth greatest country song ever. "White Lightnin'," "She Thinks I Still Care," "Take Me," "Things Have Gone to Pieces," "The Race Is On," or "The Grand Tour?" Bands in Texas dancehalls will be playing these when no one remembers "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

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As Lomax noted, using "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" as the best example of Willie and Waylon is a laughable tragedy. We can only assume they picked it to give a nod to two artists who couldn't be overlooked, but that pick is still dumber than dumb; "Good Hearted Woman" would work if they need a duet. Willie was such a great writer, I personally could put half a dozen tunes he wrote in the Top 25, although most of them were covered by others also: "Crazy," "Night Life," "I Never Cared For You," "Touch Me," "Half a Man," to name only a few.

Another huge oversight that insults and infuriates is some of the dreck they chose over Jerry Lee Lewis classics like "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye," "Another Place, Another Time," or even "What's Made Milwaukee Famous."

Another point that pissed me off: no Mickey Newbury tunes? Are you fucking kidding me?

And no Waylon, except that "Mamas" mediocrity? His version of Newbury's "Frisco Mabel Joy" makes a quarter of Rolling Stone's selections look like they were made blindfolded pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style. "Rainy Day Woman," "Suspicious Minds," "Storms Never Last," "The Wurlitzer Prize" -- none of these could edge out Kasey Musgraves? Moronic.

And another thing: No Johnny Horton? No Jimmy Martin? No John Hartford? Bogus.

Rolling Stone's Ridiculous Top 100 Country Songs: The First Half

Some early observations before we dig into the list: I love "Stand By Your Man," but I don't see it as greater than "D.I.V.O.R.C.E.," even. Dixie Chicks in the 100 greatest country songs ever? As Lomax noted, "Goodbye Earl" isn't even close as the best Chicks song.

You do have to give them credit for strategery: Rolling Stone really had to pull some magic out of their ass when it came to putting anything from the 21st century in the Top 100. Brad Paisley's 2009 hit "Welcome to the Future" clocks in at No. 100. It probably shouldn't be in the top 1,000.

The words Taylor Swift never need to be used in any relation to country music again. C'mon, Rolling Stone, your insincerity is showing.

The List:

100: Brad Paisley, "Welcome to the Future": Not even worth discussing

99: Harry Choates, "Jole Blon": Fantastic out-of- left-field inclusion

98. C.W. McCall, "Convoy": Just stupid, folks, just plain stupid. Not in the Top 1,000.

97. Gretchen Wilson, "Redneck Woman": Whatever. She came along at a good time and shook some things up briefly. But not top 100.

96. Ronnie Milsap, "Smoky Mountain Rain": Not even close to his best song, but glad he's in the list.

95. Bellamy Brothers, "Old Hippie": Maybe the dumbest song on the list. You dimwits think this is better than "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?" Sure.

94. Dwight Yoakam, "Guitars, Cadillacs": Probably should be rated higher.

93. Tom T. Hall, "Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine": He's got a dozen better than this. "That's How I Got to Memphis" for starters. "The Year Clayton Delaney Died."

92. Juice Newton, "Queen of Hearts": Cool tune, but doesn't belong on this list.

91. Garth Brooks, "Friends In Low Places": Of all Garth's output, I can live with this one.

90. Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Redneck Mother": WHAT??? Now this is the smoking gun that shows Rolling Stone has no business pontificating on country music. This NEVER got played on country radio until it was already old hat with people in the know. Absurdity abounds.

89. Gary Stewart, "She's Acting Single (I'm Drinking Doubles)": No argument here.

88. Jerry Jeff Walker, "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train": Stupid again. Country radio didn't play this. Another cosmic cowboy hippie radio hit like "Redneck Mother." But essentially ignored by straight country radio.

87. Lyle Lovett, "If I Had a Boat": Love Lyle, but in the Top 100 all-time? Nah.

86. Donna Fargo, "The Happiest Girl In the Whole U.S.A.": Kill me. Now.

85. O.B. McClinton, "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You": Top 100? Not in mine, although it's a great song. If O.B. is on the list, Stoney Edwards need to be on the list.

84. Neko Case, "People Got a Lotta Nerve": Yeah, I'm sure country stations were tripping all over each other to spin this. Great song, but doesn't belong in ten miles of this list. To call this a country song begs a suspension of reality..

83. Bobby Bare, "Streets of Baltimore": Solid.

82. Reba McIntire, "Fancy": Just no. Period.

81 Gary Allan, "Songs About Rain": Gary's one of the best of the modern breed, but this song does not belong on this list.

80. John Anderson, "Wild And Blue": Great song for sure, but not sure this is even Anderson's top cut.

79. Garth Brooks, "The Dance": Just kill me.

78. Roger Miller, "King of the Road": Miller's most highly visible song, his signature, but probably not even his best song. "Invitation to the Blues."

77. Martina McBride, "Independence Day": Ugh.

76. Jamey Johnson, "In Color": Another attempt to appeal to modern listeners. Good song, but doesn't belong in a list like this.

75. Charlie Rich, "Behind Closed Doors": If you say so, Rolling Stone. Wouldn't be in my top 100.

74. Lucinda Williams, "Passionate Kisses": Keeper all the way.

73. Dolly Parton, "Coat of Many Colors": Solid, although Dolly has a handful just as good.

72. D.L. Menard, "The Back Door" ("La Porte de Arriere"): Seriously great, but seriously, in the Top 100? Maybe the least-known song of the entire 100.

71. Alabama, "Mountain Music": >

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70. Lee Ann Womack, "I Hope You Dance": Maybe the best female country voice in Nashville of the past quarter-century. Amazing that Rolling Stone paired it right next to Tammy Wynette. .

69. Tammy Wynette, "D.I.V.O.R.C.E.": Should be in the top 50.

68. John Prine, "Angel From Montgomery": Oh, yeah, country stations just rioted to play John Prine. Great song, doesn't belong on this list. I don't even remember country radio playing Ronstadt's version. Revisionist history. Country radio wasn't nearly cool enough to push John Prine.

67. Loretta Lynn, "The Pill": An important song in its day, but not in my 100.

66. Roseanne Cash, "Seven Year Ache": Monster track that reached way outside the loop of jcountry radio.

65. Merle Haggard, "Okie From Muskogee": A very popular song, but Merle has a dozen that equal this one.

64. Patsy Cline, "I Fall to Pieces": Perfect in every way. Probably should be ranked higher if she didn't have half a dozen others of equal quality. "I Go Out Walkin' After Midnight"

63. George Jones, "The Race Is On": If it was in the top 25, I wouldn't quibble.

62. Emmett Miller, "Lovesick Blues": Monster Hank Williams hit. Wouldn't quibble if it was in the top 25.

61. Ray Price, "Crazy Arms": Should be in Top 25, if not Top 10.

60. Tennessee Ernie Ford, "Sixteen Tons": Didn't see this one coming. Props for this one, Rolling Stone.

59. Marty Robbins, "El Paso": Top 25 just for its universal global spread.

58.Jeannie C. Riley, "Harper Valley P.T.A.: Can't quibble with this.

57. Eric Church, "Springsteen": Sorry, Rolling Stone, out of your fucking minds. You will play Roy Acuff records 24/7 until you come to your little pea-pickin' senses. Get out of here.

56. Carrie Underwood, "Before He Cheats": Jesus wept.

55. The Flatlanders, "Dallas": Love these guys, love this tune, but this is not the list this belongs on. ("oh, let's throw the Americana audience a couple of bones and they'll click through this idiotic list"). I would go so far as to guess that this song has NEVER been played on a single "country"-formatted station.

54. Brad Paisley, "Alcohol": Monster talent with decent taste in lyrics, but this song doesn't belong in any 100 greatest country songs list no matter how many copies it sold or spins it got. (I'll bet fucking Blake Shelton is about to pop up here soon.)

53. Charley Pride, "Kiss an Angel Good Morning": Not even in Charley's top five. C'mon Rolling Stone, try harder. "Snakes Crawl at Night."

52. Flatt and Scruggs, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown": Perfect. (And we've got some clickbait for the bluegrass nazis. Nice market stratification.)

51. Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues": Glad this one made it, but he's got a dozen that could be on the list.

Tune in next week for the Top 50.

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