Timeless Songs in Country Music, Ranked by Critics
| LAST UPDATE 05/12/2022
From Dolly Parton's Jolene to Garth Brooks' Friends in Low Places, country music holds a special place in our hearts. However, critics have deemed these timeless hits as ultimate classics! Here they are...
30. Love Story - Taylor Swift
Naturally, Taylor Swift was going to make it to this list. The star has had her heart broken, put back together, and broken again more times than we can count - which has led her to pen massive hits.
Based on TimeOut's reviews, Taylor Swift's Love Story has landed at number 30 on our list of the greatest songs in country music. From her 2008 album, Fearless, Swift broke records - both in country and pop music charts -with her Romeo and Juliet-inspired classic.
29. Man! I Feel Like a Woman - Shania Twain
One of the most famous country songs to date, Shania Twain's Man! I Feel Like a Woman has a special place in our hearts. The legendary singer totally rocked the '90s with her fresh interpretation of country and young talent, so there's no surprise she made it to our list.
Per TimeOut's musings, Man! I Feel Like a Woman is an all-time country classic. The 1997 female empowerment anthem is a go-to for any occasion. "That song started with the title, then it kind of wrote itself. The whole expression is a celebration of being a woman these days," she explained in an interview with Billboard.
28. Goodbye Earl - The Dixie Chicks
There's just something about The Chicks, formally known as the Dixie Chicks. From their tight-knight bond, revolutionary songs, and groundbreaking style, these talented artists entered the music scene in the late '80s and made themselves known worldwide.
According to TimeOut, Goodbye Earl became a controversial yet classic country song due to the intense nature of the lyrics. But according to Natalie Maines, the song isn't saying to "kill your husband" and shouldn't be taken "too seriously.'" Noted. The song can be found on their 1999 diamond-selling record, Fly.
27. Whiskey Lullaby - Brad Paisley
This West Virginia native has been in the game a long time, with his debut album Who Need Pictures released in 1999 and eleven studio albums to follow. Brad Paisley is a country star phenomenon. And according to TimeOut, his hit song, Whiskey Lullaby, is right up there with him.
Originally recorded as a duet with country singer Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley's love song Whiskey Lullaby is quite possibly one of the saddest country songs ever. Despite the not-so-happy lyrics, the song was certified twice Platinum, making it a four-time accomplishment for Paisley.
26. Somebody Like You - Keith Urban
Keith Urban is considered one of country's heartthrobs, and we see why. The Australian country-rock artist released his third studio album, Golden Road, in 2002 with the hit song Somebody Like You as the first track. According to TimeOut, Somebody Like You is a country classic - and we agree!
Urban later revealed the song was written as a love song to himself while he was trying to work through some challenges he was facing. The country bop hit the U.S. Hot Country Songs for a few weeks and eventually hit 2x Platinum-certified and Gold-certified.
25. The Gambler - Kenny Rogers
This Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers was known as 'The Gambler' after his 1978 song, The Gambler, was released. One of the kings of storytelling, Rogers released this hit song that has become a country cult classic over the years, according to NME.
Although Don Schlitz initially wrote the song, Roger's rendition stole the show. So much so that the music was turned into a five-part movie series starring Kenny Rogers himself. The singer passed away in 2020 but will always be remembered for his contributions to the country world.
24. All My Ex's Live In Texas - George Strait
Known as the "King of Country" for revolutionizing the way country music is today, George Strait is considered one of the most influential and successful country artists to date. Per Trendchaser, Straits' number-one hit song from 1987, All My Ex's Live in Texas, lives on to be a country banger.
All My Ex's Live in Texas accounts for all of Strait's former flings who are all living in Texas! "Rosanna's down in Texarkana" and "Sweet Ilene's in Abilene" with "Allison in Galveston," and the list just continues on! Strait must have been quite the ladies' man back in the day.
23. It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels - Kitty Wells
Known as one of the most powerful women in country music, Kitty Wells paved the way for women in country music for years to follow. Being one of the first female country stars, Wells had many top hits. But perhaps her most memorable, according to Trendchaser, was It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.
Wells put out one of the first country revenge songs with It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels and set the tone for all those songs we now love. Recorded back in 1952, it was off-brand for a revenge track to be released, but she had a lot to say about the unfaithful men who crossed her paths! We love to hear it!
22. Mama Tried - Merle Haggard
Mama Tried was actually an autobiographical song written by Merle Haggard, accounting for some pretty tough times during his life. The artist was asked to write the song for a movie called Killers Three and landed up with one of country's top hits, according to NME.
When writing Mama Tried, the country star wrote about the pain and hardships he caused his mother after he was imprisoned in 1957 over a robbery conviction. The young artist at the time saw Johnny Cash as an inspiration and decided it was time to make a switch in his life.
21. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - Willie Nelson
How could this list exist without country legend Willie Nelson on it? The Texas native is one of the most recognized and celebrated artists of all time, and according to TimeOut, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain is one of his most memorable in the country world.
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain skyrocketed Nelson's career and became his first number one song as a singer in 1975 and the number one song of the year. However, it is quite a sad song as Nelson says goodbye to a great love knowing he'll never see her again…
20. Breathe - Faith Hill
Country artist Faith Hill has made her name known in the music industry since she first recorded Take Me as I Am back in 1993. This country gal has released hit after hit after hit - and according to TimeOut (and perhaps the whole country world), Breathe is a timeless classic!
Off of Hill's fourth studio album, Breathe is a love song that won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album the following year. The song took Hill to the top and became her seventh number one on the Hot Country Songs chart in the U.S - while the accompanying music video became the most popular of hers, with over 30 million views.
19. Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood
Talk about a classic. This country superstar, Carrie Underwood, began her career back in 2005 after winning the fourth season of American Idol - and from there, her career skyrocketed. Audiences all over the world praised her for his incredible vocals, catchy tunes, and lovable energy.
Before He Cheats is now known as the ultimate breakup anthem for all the brokenhearted people out there, according to TimeOut, and is Underwood's signature song. It was initially written for another singer, but once Underwood heard the track, she made it her own and had instant major success. Also, talk about a good karaoke song!
18. Fancy - Reba McEntire
Often referred to as "The Queen of Country," Reba McEntire has dominated the music scene for decades. The Oklahoma native has released countless top hit songs and award-winning albums, including the highly celebrated song Fancy - according to TimeOut.
Fancy was not originally a Reba hit, but she "always wanted to record it, so she did! It's a rags-to-riches story," the artist told CountryLiving.com. "I love rags-to-riches stories. Cinderella, Annie Get Your Gun, all poverty and then make it big in the world," she continued to explain.
17. Take Me Home, Country Roads - John Denver
Over 50 years ago, John Denver released his top song, Take Me Home, Country Roads, a classic country hit according to TimeOut. The iconic song has become a crowd staple at every country bar in the world, college tailgate, and good old BBQ - and we get why. It's just so catchy!
Although the song was inspired by Clopper Road in Gaithersburg, Maryland, John Denver has turned the song into an homage to good old West Virginia. Fascinatingly enough, the song was initially written for Johnny Cash, but Denver coined the classic lyrics, "Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong, West Virginia."
16. Live Like You Were Dying - Tim McGraw
Husband to another top country artist on this list, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw is one of America's most successful country artists from his catchy tunes, iconic cowboy hats, and charming looks! According to TimeOut, the singer's most famous song, Live Like You Were Dying, is a timeless country anthem.
Despite its sad lyrics, the song has won quite literally every possible country award there is to win, including a Grammy. In the opening lines, McGraw sings, "Sometimes we fall down, can't get back up, We're hiding behind skin that's too tough, How come we don't say I love you enough?" And from there, the tears just start.
15. I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
I Hope You Dance has become this country superstar's signature song with the ultimate inspirational and uplifting message behind it. Lee Ann Womack first released the top hit in 2000 from her album I Hope You Dance - but it has remained a top country classic since then, per TimeOut.
Since its release, the song has dominated the world with its uplifting and timeless message based on a parent's wish for her children to go out and love life. We don't often get such sweet songs like this anymore! But it definitely explains why this is a classic father-daughter dance song at weddings...
14. Where Were You - Alan Jackson
Regarded as one of the most highly respected songs in the country music scene, country star Alan Jackson touched the hearts of many Americans after he released Where Were You - just two months after the attacks of 9/11. According to TimeOut and many Americans worldwide, Where Were You is one of country's finest.
The song elicits a mix of emotions from listeners regarding the day "the world stopped turning." Jackson asks the hard-hitting questions in the song with lines such as "Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor" or "were you teaching a class full of innocent children?" The song ended up topping charts and nabbing many awards.
13. Coal Miner's Daughter -Loretta Lynn
With over six decades worth of prestige attached to this artist's name, no wonder this song has scored the thirteenth spot on our top country hits. According to TimeOut, Loretta Lynn's song Coal Miner's Daughter has a legacy that is almost unmatched by artists today.
Known as her signature song, Coal Miner's Daughter, pays tribute to her life as a coal miner's daughter. The autobiographical song reflects her journey growing up in rural Kentucky, singing, "We were poor, but we had love." The successful hit was later adapted into a movie in 1980.
12. Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
This classic country song, according to NME, was written for country legend Glen Campbell back in the 60s. The song describes a lineman who is yearning for home and his absent lover. "I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time," he tells her. "And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line," he famously sings.
Songwriter Jimmy Webb expressed his vision behind the song, saying, “This song is not just about a lineman. It is about anyone who can think about other things while they work—a truck driver, for example, or a farmworker. It is a song about an ordinary person who has extraordinary thoughts.”
11. Concrete Angel - Martina McBride
Martina McBride's powerful and emotional ballad, Concrete Angel, has maintained a country classic per TimeOut since its release in 2002. The song was off of McBride's Greatest Hits album, and reached number 5 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs Chart and got the number one title of Saddest Country Songs of All Time per Rolling Stone.
Concrete Angel tells the story of a young girl who went through physical abuse by her parents and was completely neglected by all those around her. "But her dreams give her wings. And she flies to a place where. She's loved. Concrete angel," the song goes. This is definitely one of the saddest songs we've ever heard!
10. Jackson - Johnny Cash and June Carter
There is no way country music would exist without the dynamic duo that is Johnny Cash and June Carter. The husband and wife told stories of love, life, and heartbreak with their timeless tunes, including Jackson, an unforgettable country classic according to NME.
Recorded by Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1967, the song reached instant success at #2 on the U.S. country charts and eventually got the duo a Grammy the following year. The song still carries a lot of speculation around which Jackson the song is actually about - but allegedly, Cash interpreted it as Jackson, Tennessee!
9. These Boots Are Made For Walking - Nancy Sinatra
It seems like music ran in this family's DNA! Daughter of music legend Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, released her hit single These Boots Are Made for Walkin' in 1996, and since then, it has maintained a top country song per NME. No wonder there are over 200 versions of the original song!
These Boots Are Made For Walkin' tells the story of someone who has put up with bad behavior in a relationship for a long time and is over it! The iconic lyrics, "These boots are made for walkin', And that's just what they'll do, One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you," simply took over the music world.
8. Kiss an Angel Good Mornin' - Charley Pride
Charlie Pride is remembered as one of the most successful country stars to date, with his record-breaking accomplishments breaking the color barrier in the country music scene. Pride's 1971 top song, Kiss an Angel Good Mornin', will always be remembered as a country classic according to TimeOut.
The singer was the first black member of the Grand Ole Opry since DeFord Bailey, who was inducted decades before, as well as the first black artist to have a number one country record. Pride paved the way for great artists after him with his iconic songs and trailblazing energy.
7. Choices - George Jones
Internationally known for his unique voice and terrific song-telling abilities, the Texas superstar George Jones was one of country music's greatest artists. One of Jones' most popular songs, Choices, according to TimeOut, will always be remembered as one of his most meaningful songs.
The autobiographical song of George Jones discusses his journey overcoming substance abuse, which later got him a Grammy. "I was tempted, By an early age I found, I liked drinkin', Oh, and I never turned it down, There were loved ones, But I, turned them all away, Now I'm living and dying, With the choices, I made" he sang.
6. Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks
This one goes deep in the country community. Garth Brooks has embedded himself in the country world with his pop-rock influence over the genre. Friends in Low Places became Brooks' anthem, which later secured him a spot on TimeOut's list of top country songs of all time.
It became an instant success and was re-recorded 25 years later to celebrate the success of his No Fences album, released a quarter of a century prior. The track came after the songwriter forgot his money at a restaurant, and when asked to pay, he responded, "Don't worry. I have friends in low places. I know the cook." And voila!
5. Stand By Your Man - Tammy Wynette
Tammy Wynette was one of country's top-selling female artists during the '60s and '70s and stirred the pot with her 1968 hit, Stand By Your Man. Even though she was married five times, Tammy sang, "You'll have bad times, and he'll have good times, Doin' things that you don't understand, But if you love him, you'll forgive him."
Per NME, the hit song came out during the time of the women's liberation movement. However, Wynette emphasized it had no political motive, and it really was "just a pretty love song." Regardless, the song became the most successful of her career and hit number one on the country charts for ages.
4. Crazy - Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline's hit song Crazy was actually written by fellow country legend Willie Nelson. At the time, he was a struggling star and got his big break when Cline recorded the song, and it shot up on the country shorts. The artist even re-recorded the song for his own album …And Then I Wrote the following year.
Per Trendchaser, Cline was iffy about recording the song at first but crushed it after her first recording session. Fast forward a few decades later, and Crazy has successfully become part of the Great American Songbook and the artist's most memorable tune.
3. Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson
He's just that good that, of course, his name is going to appear more than once on our top country songs of all time list! The one and only Willie Nelson released Always On My Mind in 1982, and per NME, it's regarded as one of country's top timeless hits of all time!
However, Elvis Presley released the song in the '70s, and Nelson got ahold of it ten years later. Nelson added his personal country touch to the heartfelt song and released an acoustic version of the song with the iconic lyrics, "Little things I should have said and done, I just never took the time, You were always on my mind."
2. Jolene - Dolly Parton
From her funky style to her larger-than-life blonde hair and distinct voice, Dolly Parton is one of country music's greatest gifts. The Tennessee superstar pioneered the crossover between country and pop music styles and is forever known as The Queen of Nashville.
With Jolene taking the number two spot on our list, per NME, it's no surprise that it's one of the most re-recorded songs of all time! The song came out in 1973 and is based on real events from Dolly's life after a bank-teller flirted with her husband, who "had all that stuff" that she didn't! Who would want to mess with Dolly?!
1. I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
Coming in at number one on our greatest country songs of all time list is none other than Johnny Cash's classic song, I Walk the Line! According to TimeOut, this catchy country classic was Cash's first number hit on the Billboard chart -and soon after became his signature tune.
The song was a proclamation of fidelity to his first wife, Vivian Liberato. "It was kind of a prodding to myself to, 'Play it straight, Johnny,'" Cash said of the song, despite the many "temptations" which surrounded the young star. Country singers today continue to praise the artist for his many achievements and musical talents.