In my considered opinion, these are some of the finest country songs from the 90’s, when I was a kid. Some of these artists are still going strong, as with Lee Ann Womack’s acclaimed recent album, The Way I’m Livin’. Even Garth Brooks has released his long-anticipated comeback album, featuring the song that has brought every woman to tears: “Mom.”
“I Let Her Lie,” Daryle Singletary (1995)
I am a sucker for sad country songs, and this is one of the best. Just shy of reaching the top of the Hot Country charts (at #2), this proved to be the most successful of Daryle’s songs, alongside “Amen Kind of Love,” which also reached #2. You can find it on his debut album. His fame was short-lived, but he represents some of the best of 90’s country.
“Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up),” Garth Brooks (1993)
This was the lead single for Garth’s fifth studio album, In Pieces, which was released at the height of his fame and further solidified his legacy as a country legend. This album includes other favorites, such as “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and “Standing Outside the Fire.” Many of us will remember it as the lead track on his 1994 collection, The Hits, which eventually sold over 10 million copies. This song perfectly captures the high energy style of country music for which Garth Brooks is best known (and reviled among some purists). The instrumental breakdown for a whole minute, at the end, is icing on the cake. Since he forbids his music videos on YouTube, we will have to settle for a beautiful woman teaching line dancing steps:
“That Ain’t My Truck,” Rhett Akins (1995)
Rhett Atkins is the father Thomas Rhett Akins, Jr. (or, stage name, “Thomas Rhett”). I am not a fan of the latter. But the elder Rhett could hit the mark, and this is one of them. It captures the simple storyline of a jaded lover, arguably borrowed from Toby Keith’s hit single from the previous year, “Who’s That Man.” You can find “That Ain’t My Truck” on Rhett’s debut album, A Thousand Memories.
“I Watched It All (On My Radio),” Lionel Cartwright (1990)
Released in February of 1990, this is the earliest single on this list. Cartwright’s career as a country star was brief, but he left us with this gem of a song. He is currently the worship pastor at HopePark Church in Nashville.
“Too Cold at Home,” Mark Chesnutt (1990)
Mark Chesnutt was a staple of 90’s country radio, with hits like “Bubba Shot the Juke Box” and “Goin’ Through the Big D,” all of which you can find on his greatest hits collection. “Too Cold at Home” is the title track from his sophomore album, released in September of 1990. With the steel guitar and soft twang, this is an excellent example of 90’s country’s ability to keep the heritage of country music alive.
“Maybe It Was Memphis,” Pam Tillis (1991)
Pam Tillis was the greatest female country artist of the 90’s. I can say that without qualification, and I dare anyone to disagree! The daughter of country superstar, Mel Tillis, Pam was destined for greatness which she achieved through a string of hit songs in the 90’s. She never compromised her principles of great songwriting and classic country sound, although “Maybe It Was Memphis” is perhaps her most “pop” single. I love it, especially the lyrics. It was among several singles from her second album, Put Yourself in My Place.
I could easily have added Vince Gill and Alan Jackson to this list, but it would have been too hard to pick one song.
Other notable mentions include:
“She’s in Love with the Boy,” Trisha Yearwood (1991)
“Where the Green Grass Grows,” Tim McGraw (1998)
“I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” George Strait (1996)
“A Little Past Little Rock,” Lee Ann Womack (1998)
“Dust on the Bottle,” David Lee Murphy (1995)
And many more could be included.