Sunday, May 22, 2022

Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ 2022 (Part 2)

 

I'm ambivalent. I don't have a strong opinion about Keith Whitley's induction. I will say that there are modern era artists who have a more substantial catalog, but I guess that's not his fault, considering.

Many, many fans are swooning over this choice, and don't get me wrong, Keith Whitley was an amazing singer. But as someone who was fixated on country music in the late eighties, I can tick off maybe three outstanding Whitley tracks. The Country Music Hall Of Fame induction process, clandestine as it is, is also quite political. No doubt Whitley's widow, Lorrie Morgan lobbied strongly for his selection. Conversely, guys from Bakersfield probably don't have anyone in Nashville petitioning on their behalf.

I'm not here to quibble, though. Instead, let's take a look at Whitley's legacy.

This is my favorite:


 Keith had five number one tracks (I honestly had no clue), and this was his first:

This was his second number one:

Any long-time fan of country music knows the sad tale of Keith Whitley's demise, so I'm not going to recount it here. I will say, though, boy, only thirty-five!

Let's end this post with a husband/wife duet released posthumously ~ a very sweet, very country track. Sorry, there is obviously no performance video available. 


There you have it, the 2022 Country Music Hall Of Fame inductee in the Modern category.


P.S. I finally realized who Whitley's voice reminds me of ~ Lefty Frizzell.


 



Friday, May 20, 2022

Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ 2022 (Part One)

 

I used to chirp incessantly about why Bobby Bare wasn't in the Hall Of Fame. Then at last in 2013 he was. Honestly, don't even get me started about dolts who have zero sense of history and lackluster taste in music. So because of me and me alone 😀 Bobby Bare finally got his due.

Then eventually it struck me like a bullet ~ Jerry Lee Lewis isn't in the Hall Of Fame? What kind of bizzaro universe are we inhabiting? And more significantly, who exactly comprises this super-secret cabal of decision makers? Even the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame puts its nominees up for a vote. 

I don't like it. These guys and/or gals are obviously not taste-makers. Do they get payoffs? We'll never know ~ it's a "secret".  And only three inductees per year, with one of them not even a performer? At this rate Dwight Yoakam will be inducted sometime around 2098. It doesn't matter to the HOF syndicate, though. They like waiting until someone is dead before inducting them. Ghouls.

Growing up, I paid scant attention to Jerry Lee. His rock and roll hits came before my time, but boy, when I heard them on the radio ~ WHEW! Jerry Lee wouldn't allow you to ignore him.

There are few true originals in music, any genre of music. It's true. In country, many would proffer Johnny Cash and I don't disagree, although I'm not about to spin Five Feet High And Rising anytime soon. Loretta Lynn, maybe. Willie? Okay. But, trust me, you ain't ever gonna hear anyone anywhere close to Jerry Lee Lewis in your lifetime.

What Jerry Lee had (has) other than celestial talent is attitude. A stylist? You bet your ass.

Can you envision another country singer delivering something like this?


 

 I can't find a decent live video of this, but man....


Have you ever seen someone so casual with so much presence? "Yea, here I am. I don't need to impress you. Just fuckin' listen."

There's a scene in that bad Dennis Quaid movie, "Great Balls Of Fire" in which Jerry Lee finds out he's not the headliner on a rock and roll package show that night and he says something to the effect of, "nobody outguns The Killer". And he proceeds to wipe the floor with Ritchie Valens or whoever the flavor of the month happens to be.


Confidence. Attitude. Sheer divine talent.


Note: I don't give a Goddamn about Jerry Lee's personal life. This isn't Emily Post ~ it's the Country Music Hall Of Fame.


Congratulations, Jerry Lee Lewis, who at the age of eighty-six has finally (finally!) been inducted into the hallowed hall.



Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From this Week In 1975


In my quest to review the top country singles from this week in years past, I realize I've neglected the seventies. Part of the problem lies with the limitations of available data. It seems the charts (the only historical charts I've found) only date back to 1975. Thus, as in previous posts, I will be reviewing the top ten singles as if I've never heard them before. As always, there are some I've never heard before or don't remember, so they will truly be new to me.

Given the fact that these singles are forty-seven years old, actual performance videos will be hit or miss.

Let's find out if today's hit are truly the worst ever created, by comparing them to yesterday's.

#10 ~ City Lights ~ Mickey Gilley

It's a bit unfair to throw a classic song into the mix. Obviously I've heard it before -- by a better singer. Staying objective is impossible when one is familiar with the original. I will say that, for Mickey Gilley the arrangement is fitting, highlighting his honky tonk piano. I'm not a fan of the female background singers. Clearly this is a solid song, written by Bill Anderson. It seems, however, that the singer could have given it the reverence it deserves.

MY RATING: B


#9 ~ Great Expectations ~ Buck Owens

Well, the first line is just ick. It immediately colors my impression of the song. That aside, the lyrics are pedestrian and the melody is overly familiar. I predict this track will be quickly forgotten, obscured by actual good songs recorded by Owens. This seems like more of a deep album cut than a single released to radio.

MY RATING: C-


#8 ~ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) ~ Linda Ronstadt

This is one of those instances in which a classic song can be improved upon. Obviously this is a Hank Williams hit, but I prefer this more updated sound. Ronstadt is a superb singer and she stays true to the country vibe. Great performance, nice harmonies from Emmylou, lovely steel guitar. I only deducted a half letter grade because this is a remake.

MY RATING: A-

 

#7 ~ Wrong Road Again ~ Crystal Gayle


I like the chorus. Allen Reynolds wrote this song, among many, many other hits. He was also Crystal's producer. The song is solid, the singer's voice still exudes country, without the machinations that will plague her later tracks. Props to the unencumbered arrangement.

MY RATING: B+


#6 ~ The Ties That Bind ~ Don Williams

While this song is not bad, there's something about it that's hard to get hold of. The verse has an elusive melody. This might simply be the way Williams chose to sing it or the simple acoustic arrangement. A drum beat might have helped. I would like the track more if it wasn't so frustrating. That's the drawback of acoustic songs. They allow for a bit too much introspection -- nice for the singer; annoying to the listener.

MY RATING: C


#5 ~ Rainy Day Woman ~ Waylon Jennings

Well. This is destined to be a Jennings classic. He has redefined country to his liking. Ralph Mooney is playing those classic Wynn Stewart steel licks, and the zydeco accordion is a nice touch. Waylon is one of the few artists of any genre who has a presence. He can't be ignored. Solid, classic track, written by the man himself.

MY GRADE: A


#4 ~ I Care ~ Tom T. Hall

What's worse than a recitation? A half recitation. Granted, this is a children's song, which leads me to wonder how it made the country charts, which are not normally determined by children. I forced myself to listen to the entire track, since those are the rules I've imposed. It was, however, nerve-grating. Now I'm a mom, so I know that if I'd ever played this for my kids, they would have retched into the toilet, then wandered away to pursue more mature interests. There's nothing worse than pandering to kids.

MY RATING: D-

 

#3 ~  It's Time To Pay The Fiddler ~ Cal Smith


Does this have the exact same melody as Country Bumpkin? I guess Cal is very attached to this particular chord progression. I like the singer, but Country Bumpkin has, at least, a more compelling story. This is, honestly, a country song any novice songwriter could pen. Cal can do better.

MY RATING: C-


#2 ~ Devil In The Bottle ~ T.G. Sheppard

 

There's something about T.G. Sheppard that's kind of insidious. Songs I really shouldn't like (because they're not great songs) I find myself liking. I give the artist credit for mostly choosing compelling songs to record. No, I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's not something I would turn off if it streamed out of my car's speakers. What is the mark of a good song? My theory (as a failed songwriter) is -- a memorable chorus. Other sins can be forgiven. Sheppard doesn't have the country cred that Waylon has, but he's actually pretty good.

MY RATING: B


#1 ~ Then Who Am I ~ Charley Pride


When one records scores of songs, it's inevitable that they all won't be winners. It's not that this song is bad; it's simply forgettable. I've certainly forgotten it. I just played it and it's already erased from my memory. The late great Dallas Frazier and A.L. "Doodle" Owens co-wrote it, but again, they all can't be winners. I would like to give this a "..." rating, because I don't want to be harsh, but I can't in good conscience elevate it. Thus ~

MY RATING: C-


It's impossible to recognize a classic song in real time. This particular chart wasn't the most brutal, but it was close. However, we found a Waylon track that will be with us forever.

Maybe that's all we can wish for.






 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From This Week In 1987

 

As someone who considers myself quite the country music aficionado, the number of successful country hits I've forgotten is mind-boggling. In perusing the country singles chart from this week in 1987, thirty-five years ago, only two (two!) of the top ten are familiar to me. 1987 was a rather seminal year for me in country, since that was the year I came back, after a several-year foray into rock. My leaving wasn't my fault; it was country's. Naturally, however, while I was away, country got good again and I had a lot of catching up to do. No regrets. With music it's a snap to play catch-up. It's not like music suddenly disappears. And everything is new, even if it's old! 

But I digress. Scanning the totality of the top forty for this particular week, a few soon-to-be classics were scratching their way to the top. That, however, is not my job here. My designated task is to review the top ten as if I've never before heard them. In most cases, that's actually true. 

The usual disclaimer: Performance or music videos may not be available on YouTube. All I can do is my best.

Let's begin.

#10 ~ You Still Move Me ~ Dan Seals


I love this guy's voice. It reminds me of that seventies pop group, England Dan and John Ford Coley 😀. Truthfully, however, his voice belongs in country, not pop. That said, this song is forgettable. It's a middling ballad that without the soulful voice would be something a wannabe singer would strum on an acoustic guitar in his basement bedroom. I'm going to boost it half a grade solely due to the singer.

MY RATING: B-


#9 ~ Mornin' Ride ~ Lee Greenwood


I'm not sure what to make of this. It has a comforting cadence that evokes the song's message. The chorus is relatively easy to memorize and thus is sing-alongable. But it's one of those tracks that doesn't say as much as the writers maybe thought it did. 

MY RATING: B-


#8 ~ I Can't Win For Losin' You ~ Earl Thomas Conley

This song should remind today's songwriters that the best lines are not twelve words long. Five words, if they're the right words, are the mark of great songwriting. GREAT songwriting. Shout out to Robert Byrne and Rick Bowles. HUGE shout out to the late master Earl Thomas Conley who made this track magic. A great song, a great, soulful singer; a track that will pull couples onto the dance floor (trust me). What dos that add up to? A classic.

MY RATING: A+++


#7 ~ Fire In The Sky ~ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band


This group is capable of so much more. I don't even know what this is, but it's a mistake. The track seems to have one foot in (bad) eighties pop and one toe in country. The key changes do nothing to improve it. And the Kenny G-type sax -- c'mon. Even Jeff Hanna's voice is buried in this rancid stew.

MY RATING: D


#6 ~ Right Hand Man ~ Eddy Raven

Never wear your boots outside your pants, but that has nothing to do with the track itself. I just felt a need to mention it after viewing the video. Hmmm, this is kind of a little nothing song, but it does have a pleasant melody. Surprisingly, this topped out at number three for Eddy. If I heard it once (which I just did now) I'd never care to hear it again.

MY RATING: C


#5 ~ Straight To The Heart ~ Crystal Gayle


While watching Crystal perform this song, my mind wandered. I wondered if she'd ever cut her hair (spoiler alert: no). A wandering mind is the mark of a bad song, which this most definitely is. They all can't be winners, I guess. But they all don't need to be this bad.

MY RATING: D


#4 ~ I'll Come Back As Another Woman ~ Tanya Tucker

It's near impossible for this woman to do a bad performance. This is but one of a ton of Tucker hits, and a minor one. In the hands of a lesser singer this song would be a mess. I would listen to it again, but it's not $-worthy. So, no, I wouldn't buy it. Or include it in a 1987 Spotify retrospective. Another half-grade bump based on the singer.

MY RATING: C+ 


#3 ~ How Do I Turn You On ~ Ronnie Milsap

It's a sad fact of show biz that 99.9% of artists have a shelf life (the other .1% are named George Strait). This track reeks of desperation. I would never play this again and would celebrate my superior taste in successfully avoiding it. Love ya, though, Ronnie.

MY RATING: D-

 

#2 ~ Half Past Forever (Till I'm Blue In The Heart) ~ T.G. Sheppard


See: "Shelf life (Ronnie Milsap)". The first thing Sheppard shouldn't have done was try to sing in a higher register. I think there's a reason I've never heard this track before. I'll just say it: this is putrid.

MY RATING: F


#1 ~ Leave Me Lonely ~ Gary Morris

A totally forgettable track. This makes me want to lie down and go to sleep. I don't know what this guy's deal is. I guess he performed on Broadway or something, and went slumming into country music and fooled some people. I don't get it and I don't get him. The only reason this track gets a bump is because T.G. Sheppard's song is so bad.

MY RATING: D-

 

This was a fun experiment. Was. Now I'm simply depressed. I happen to know that country music wasn't this bad in 1987 as a whole. Maybe it's just that the year was new and listeners didn't know how much wondrous music was yet to come. Or maybe if one sorts out the chaff, they're left with one classic track. Is there only one classic country song released each year? That can't be right. I might have simply stumbled on the wrong year.

I should be celebrating Earl Thomas Conley's A+++ instead of dwelling on the absolute drivel. 

Celebrate the good. Forget the rest.






Friday, February 4, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Hits From This Week In 1982

 

One wonders if the hits of yesterday can possibly be as bad as the dreadful chart toppers of today. I'm on a mission to find out. Looking at the top ten charts for a particular week is an eye-opener. I've made the point in a previous post, but most weekly top ten singles are utterly forgettable. Take the week of February 6, 1982, for example. Only one of the top ten immediately conjures a melody in my head. A few of the others have somewhat familiar titles, but the songs themselves are mysteries. The rest I've never in my life heard of.

Thus, as this experiment goes, I will review each song as if this is the first time I've heard it (which in some cases is true). Please note that since these singles are forty years old, finding performance videos will be hit or miss.

Let's go....

#10 ~ Diamonds In The Stars ~ Ray Price

 

Love the singer. The recording? Not so much. This may have been a decent country song with the proper arrangement. I prefer fiddles to violins and I prefer country to Jimmy Webb-style country pop. The song itself is inoffensive, though not terribly original. There's a fine line between "a little sophistication" (take, for example, a song like Burning Memories) and "a little too much". This is an entirely forgettable track; one that I wouldn't listen to again.

MY RATING: B- (points for the singer)

 

#9 ~ Midnight Rodeo ~ Leon Everette


This singer is so unfamiliar to me I looked up his discography, and I do not recognize a single one of his tracks. I'm not a fan of his voice, nor of the song. It's got that kick drum beat that seems to be prevalent in songs of the era, one that adds no nuance to the song. It's straightforward and dull. It might have gone over well on the dance floor just before closing time. From the YouTube comments this was apparently considered "racy" for its time. Meh. 

MY RATING: C-


#8 ~ I Just Came Home To Count The Memories ~ John Anderson

 


The singer has a unique, very appealing country voice. A country ballad should ramp up the emotion when the chorus hits, and this one does. The song itself is so-so, but the singer saves it. I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's solid, as country ballads go.

MY RATING: B


#7 ~ Shine ~ Waylon Jennings

While I definitely like the singer, it seems that all his hits have approximately the same melody; only the lyrics change. But if you find a winning formula, I guess why change it? I could listen to any Jennings hit and hear, in essence, the exact same song, so no, I wouldn't buy it. Like the Anderson track above, the singer saves this one.

MY RATING: B-


#6 ~ You're The Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had ~ Ed Bruce


The singer has a presence, reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot to a degree. The chorus saves the song. It's a singalong and sticks in your head after you've heard it. And that's what good songs should do. Though it's not a track I'd lay down money for, it's solid.

MY RATING: B 


#5 ~ Watchin' Girls Go By ~ Ronnie McDowell

It must have been easy to memorize the lyrics. Not sure what this is. Never trust a country singer who can't or won't play guitar. That only leads to embarrassing "dancing". It's unfair of me to base my ranking on a video, though, so I'll just say that the song is eminently forgettable. I've already forgotten it! There is really nothing to recommend this track.

MY RATING: D


#4 ~ Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good ~ Don Williams


Original message, pleasing melody, wonderful arrangement, comforting vocals ~ this seems like a track that will stand the test of time. There's a bit of gossamer that distinguishes a great song from most any of the ones referenced above. A guy named Dave Hanner wrote it and he has an interesting life, documented on his website (check it out). This is my top hit of the week.

MY RATING: A


#3 ~ Only One You ~ T.G. Sheppard


I probably shouldn't like this one, but I kind of do. Not every country song has to follow the same formula. And yes, he's a microphone-holder, but at least he's not "dancing". It seems to me, judging by his previous hits, that this singer has a keen ear for what works, or at least what works for him. A good track is really a melding of singer and song. I wouldn't buy this, but I give Sheppard props for staying true to himself.

MY RATING: B+


#2 ~ Someone Could Lose A Heart Tonight ~ Eddie Rabbitt

This is a disappointing effort from an artist who can do much, so much better. One wonders what he was thinking when he recorded this. This track is utterly forgettable and mercifully so. I didn't expect this one to be the worst on my top ten list, considering that I love the singer. But it is; it truly is.

MY RATING: D (and that's being generous)


#1 ~ Lonely Nights ~ Mickey Gilley


If I heard this for the first time on my car radio, I'd change the station out of boredom. Somebody obviously talked Mickey into abandoning his signature piano and adopting a Casio keyboard. I hate this. I hate Eddie Rabbitt's song for different reasons, but at least his is ambitious. This is paint-by-number pap. 

MY RATING: D-


It's actually serendipitous that from the top ten chart of February 6, 1982 I found one rare gem. So 1982's chart was only nominally better than 2022's. That kind of shoots down my theory that country music has gone to hell. Oh, it has, but it's eye-opening to know that the sum total of country music was always crap. Don't be deceived by the Haggards and the Yoakams. Those are the ones we choose to remember. To save our musical sanity. 

This experiment is a valuable wake-up.



 





Monday, January 31, 2022

Reviewing The Top 10 Hits From This Week In 2002

 

I more or less stopped listening to country music in the year 2000 (thanks, Faith Hill), but I still had a toe dipped in the world of country radio. It's only fair that if I review "new country" I apply the same standard to the country music of twenty years ago.

My rule of thumb is, I review the tracks as if this is the first time I've ever heard them, and in some cases, I actually haven't heard them before (or I don't remember them from merely their title).

What the weekly charts prove is that hits are fleeting. One would assume that if a track makes the top ten, the song will be memorable. That's hardly true. Often even the artist isn't memorable. And often the artist has since become a household name, but the song on the charts is subpar -- simply another notch in their belt of hits -- a minor notch.

I will state for the record that country began its downhill slide at the turn of the century and has not (yet?) recovered. I was right to abandon it.

So, without further a-DOOOO....

#10 ~ The Cowboy In Me ~ Tim McGraw 

 


This is not a bad song (the live concert video kind of ruins it). I will try to ignore the video and concentrate on the song. This is definitely country, in the vein of George Strait. In fact, George must have turned this one down, although his arrangement would have been more pleasing to the ear. I was curious and looked up the songwriters: Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson, and Craig Wiseman (thus ushering in the needless practice of requiring three people to write a song). Steele actually did write a Strait hit, the misspelled, Love's Gonna Make It Alright; while the other two writers have penned numerous hits. The message of The Cowboy In Me follows the time-worn tradition of the cowboy as a maverick, a loner.  It's a pleasant song, although I would not lay down money for it.

MY RATING: B

 

#9 ~ I Wanna Talk About Me ~ Toby Keith


This track was hard to get through, but I promised I would listen to the entirety of each song, so I did. It's not that I'm offended by the message, like some of a particular political persuasion no doubt are. It's just that it's boring and repetitive. It's a novelty song. And the rap does it no favors. Needless to say, I wouldn't purchase it, because I have better taste than that.

MY RATING: C-

 

#8 ~ The Long Goodbye ~ Brooks and Dunn

 
(no live video, apparently)

Immediately I'm struck by the awful arrangement. But aside from that, this is certainly not country, unless one considers a Jimmy Webb song country. I checked and neither Brooks nor Dunn wrote this, and it shows. I doubt that the duo includes this one in their concerts, but who knows? Apparently they like it or they wouldn't have slapped it on an album. The guys should stick with country music.

MY RATING: D

 

#7 ~ Bring On The Rain ~ Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw


See? This is how Faith Hill ruined country. She even got her husband to chime in on this track. I'm searching to find a hint of country in this, but not succeeding. The singer is pretty good, but she has a country voice and needs to find songs that fit it. As a song, it's passable. As a country song, it reeks of failure.

MY RATING: C

 

#6 ~ Wrapped Up In You ~ Garth Brooks

This track is inoffensive, like a marshmallow. It's more sixties pop than country, but maybe that's what the singer was going for. Certainly not a single that will stand the test of time. It's almost as if the singer is at the tail end of his recording career and is just throwing stuff against the wall, not caring if it'll stick.

MY RATING: C

 

#5 ~ Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly ~ Aaron Tippin
 


This song takes the award for the longest song title in country. The singer's heart is definitely in the right place, but this is no "God Bless The USA". I don't hate it; I don't love it. I would be satisfied only hearing it once and then forgetting all about it. An "A" for effort, but...

MY RATING: B- (and that's grading on a curve)


#4 ~ Wrapped Around ~ Brad Paisley


I like it. The chorus nails it. Apparently this is a singer who understand what country music is supposed to sound like. I have no quibbles with the song, the singer, especially none with the arrangement, which is kind of a mashup of Yoakam and Owens. Would I buy it? YES.

MY RATING: A

 

#3 ~ Run ~ George Strait


The singer's voice is definitely easy on the ears. Not the countriest country song I've ever heard, but the singer carries it. I prefer my country a bit more hard core. One thing that can be said about the singer is that he has a presence, almost like a king. Watch the reverential way the audience hangs on his every syllable. I wouldn't buy it as a single, but it makes a decent album track. I suspect he is capable of much more.

MY RATING: B

 

#2 ~ Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) ~ Alan Jackson

 


Again, not the best representation of what I suspect this singer is capable of, but as a touchstone, I doubt there is any song that better represents a particular moment in time. Clearly, this song is heartfelt. I wouldn't buy it, but I don't turn the station when my local radio station spins it. I predict a long career for this guy.

MY RATING: B+

 

#1 ~ Good Morning Beautiful ~ Steve Holy


Not crazy about this. And the singer somehow reminds me of Dwight Shrute (although one would only notice if they watched the video). This is one of those pandering ballads that pretends to know how men talk to women. This is the first and last time I've heard the name Steve Holy, but all the best to him, I guess. Would I buy this? LOL.

MY RATING: C-

 

So, there you have it. Country music wasn't completely dead in 2002 (witness Brad Paisley), but it was mostly dead. It still beats 2022, but that's a low bar. Even Dwight Shrute beats 2022.

This exercise helps to put country music in perspective. And helps us to know how it declined and who was complicit in its downfall.

Stay tuned for more retrospective reviews.



Friday, January 28, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Hits From This Week In 1992

I've done a couple of reviews of the top ten (modern) country singles from a particular week, in which I listened to songs I'd never before heard and reviewed them on the spot. It was eye-opening, to say the least. But is today's country so much worse than the country of thirty years ago? Let's find out, shall we?

To be fair, there are a couple of chart-toppers of which I have no recollection, so providing I can find them on YouTube, these will truly be "fresh" reviews. As for the others, I'm going to listen to them as if they are truly new, and offer on-the-spot commentary.

Here we go.....

#10 ~ Broken Promise Land ~ Mark Chesnutt

(no official music video to be found)

First of all, I really like this guy's voice. However, the song starts out too slowly and the first verse is whiny. The chorus does improve the overall tone, but it goes by so fast it's almost an afterthought. The track is short -- just three minutes and six seconds -- which in this case is actually a plus. I would not buy this, but I do believe that with better songs, this Chesnutt guy can definitely have a bright career.

MY RATING: C

 

#9 ~ You Can Depend On Me ~ Restless Heart

 

(again, no official video available)

 

I'm immediately drawn to this track, and the multi-part harmony seals the deal. The lead singer's (Larry Stewart, is it?) voice is so warm, the recording could succeed even without the harmony (but I'm glad they kept it.) This single is actually shorter (at two minutes and thirty-eight seconds) than the number ten song, but so much meatier. The piano interlude is also a nice touch. I would definitely purchase this. I wouldn't like all the group's singles to be up-tempo; their harmonies would really shine on ballads, but this is a welcome diversion.

MY RATING: B+

 

#8 ~ The Whiskey Ain't Workin' ~ Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart

The Tritt guy definitely dominates this track with his southern country soul, but Stuart complements Tritt's lead nicely. There's no mistaking that this is a real country song. The lead guitar, which I understand is provided by Stuart, along with the steel guitar riffs leaves no doubt that these two artists are seeped in country music. I like the beat (you can dance to it -- okay, not funny). In all seriousness, a modern country track needs some energy, and this song has it. The second chorus will definitely get couples out on the dance floor. I think this single will stand the test of time. Would I buy it? You bet.

MY RATING: A-

 

#7 ~ The Dirt Road ~ Sawyer Brown

 

The lead singer, who I'm told is Mark Miller, doesn't have a classic country voice, but it works here. This track has a bluegrass vibe (is that Earl Scruggs?), though it's not a bluegrass song. I like the message the song conveys; it's rather universal. The recording could have easily been mediocre, but the deft production really amps it up. And it's a nice singalong. I would buy this as a single, but I would have to hear more from this group before I laid down money for an album.

MY RATING: B+

 

#6 ~ Turn That Radio On ~ Ronnie Milsap

 


I guess this is what they call pop country. This song is a "little nothing"; inoffensive but completely forgettable. I do think the singer is great, though. I would imagine he's capable of doing so much more. I wouldn't buy it, because it's really a cliche, and says nothing. 

MY RATING: C

 

#5 ~ (Without You) What Do I Do With Me ~ Tanya Tucker


This is a nice little song, but it doesn't pick up steam until the chorus. It's almost as if the first half is a completely different song from the second. It surely requires the listener's patience. While the singer is fantastic, she needs to pick better songs ~ perhaps fewer ballads and more "in your face" rockers. I would not buy this single, but it's a pleasant listen on a rainy day.

MY RATING: B-

 

#4 ~ Cadillac Style ~ Sammy Kershaw

(the only official music video I could find was broken up in two parts, for some reason)

I'm not a fan of the singer's voice. I'm thinking he was a third-string signee, and thus didn't get his pick of the best songs. The song will be dated in no time due to the pop culture references, which are always a faux pas, unless one is referencing Haggard or Cash. Not only wouldn't I buy it, I find it annoying every time it assaults me through my radio speakers. This is the type of country music that a country fan disavows.

 

MY RATING: D

 

#3 ~ A Jukebox With A Country Song ~ Doug Stone


Watching this video, I find myself impatient to get to the meat of the song. This is a clear knockoff of Diamond Rio's Bubba Hyde, which truthfully is a much better track. If the singer can't find better, more memorable songs, I think his career will be short lived. This is one of those "blink or you'll miss it" tracks, which I predict will have no shelf life. I would not buy it.

MY RATING: C-

 

#2 ~ Love, Me ~ Collin Raye


I admit I do like the singer's voice, but this song is too treacly. Admittedly, I have a natural bias against songs that try to play on my heartstrings. Anything with "Grandma" or "Mama" are automatic turnoffs. This is probably a pleasant song to hear on the car radio while taking a long road trip, but I would never waste my dollars on it. If you've heard it once, that pretty much suffices. That said, I predict that if the singer finds one song ~ just that one song ~ he'll be immortalized in the annals of country music. All it takes is one.

MY RATING: C

 

#1 ~ Sticks And Stones ~ Tracy Lawrence


Well, here you go. I think this just might be the perfect country song. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this. The singer, the song (especially the song), the production ~ all sublime. I understand Lawrence wrote it, and it is a masterpiece. Would I buy it? I'd buy it four times and play it over and over in a loop. In thirty years I'll still be playing this and waxing poetic about it.

MY RATING: A+++

 

So, how does 1992's top ten compare to 2022's? Well, one D, a couple of C's, but a ton of A's and B's. And more importantly, two or three classics. I believe country is on a backwards roll, but I'm gonna document it.

Because it matters.