Sent in by Bobby Peacock
Nov 17, 2020
Oct 6, 2020
By Bobby “Ten Pound Hammer” Peacock
The first album I ever owned was Pickin' on Nashville by the Kentucky Headhunters. After a long time having forgotten about them outside that album, a chance encounter with "Louisianna CoCo" on the radio in 2000 inspired me to go back and buy all of their other albums to that point. Through this, I found that they had made lots of mostly good music in that time frame. Then I kept finding new albums of theirs at Walmart, and was thrilled to find that they were still making good music. I keep up with their music to this day, and have even had some correspondence with them (they even helped me improve their Wikipedia article!). In short, if you want to know anything about a fine Southern rock band that most people only know for one song, then I'm your man. By far the hardest part was narrowing this list down to ten!
10. Lonely Nights
One of the true tests of a rock group is their ability to carry a ballad. And the Headhunters prove more than able on this one. Lyrics like "Lord have mercy on this broken heart / And forgive her for tearing me apart" may seem direct on paper, but Doug Phelps sings them with absolute conviction. And the instrumentation -- including not only the powerful rhythm section provided by Fred Young and Anthony Kenney, but also the horns and Hammond organ prominent on the corresponding album -- just enhance the mood even more.
9. My Daddy Was a Milkman
I think I'm partial to this song because it was the endcap to Pickin' on Nashville and always gave me that sense of finality. But it's also a damn fine song in its own right. A mostly straightforward guitar groove underlines a story you've probably heard before -- the husband is off to war, so the wife cheats on him with the milkman. But then two more details twist the story even further: the husband stayed in Vietnam with a woman he dated there, while the narrator, the sole heir to his dad's milk company, is now fabulously wealthy. It's a testament to their unconventional and humorous storytelling.
I've been a longtime fan of Roger Miller, and apparently so have they. Their take keeps all of the goofy charm of his tales of underage drinking -- even the scatting! -- and adds to it their distinct country-rock energy. They also have the advantage of actually being old enough to convey the story credibly, but still feisty enough to keep you interested and entertained. The Heads were no strangers to cover songs, and this song -- itself the centerpiece of a covers album -- is a testament to their ear for covers that are distinct and enjoyable.
7. Louisianna CoCo
As I mentioned in the intro, I heard this song once on the radio late at night and couldn't believe what I had just heard -- the Kentucky Headhunters? With a new song? I was immediately so taken by the novelty that I rushed to buy the album at Kmart, and I'm glad I did. Though unknown to me at the time, this was rhythm guitarist Richard Young's first turn on lead vocals, and he makes an exceptional first impression. His low growl and Doug's high howl combine with a maddeningly catchy guitar riff and a few unusual references (it's not often that you hear marijuana called "left-handed cigarettes") to make this far, far more than just your average "rock song about a hot girl."
6. Dry-Land Fish
As part of my "Louisianna CoCo"-driven reintroduction, I found this gem on the very same album. The only song to feature drummer Dale Gribble... I mean, Fred Young on lead vocals, it matches his goofy delivery perfectly to its laid-back, pseudo-psychedelic tales of incense, Led Zeppelin albums, and magic mushrooms. No, not those kind. The kind sung about in this song are morels, a perfectly edible strain and a childhood favorite. And this song is every bit as rootsy and tasty as the mushroom in question.
Yet another off-kilter story. You'd think it'd end when he reveals that Diane's dumped him for another man, but instead, the story continues with the narrator being robbed (which fails because Diane took everything he had), and goes even further with him contemplating suicide in his living room. The dark, moody groove, especially the ringing end chords and even a gong, are just further proof of their ability to find something different and run with it. This is probably one of their furthest ventures away from country-rock, but they more than have the chops to pull it off.
4. Everyday People
The opening track on the aforementioned Soul finds the Headhunters with their only featured vocalist to date (outside two full-on collab albums with Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson); namely, Louisville-based R&B singer Robbie Bartlett. Open-ended but timely observations like "The workin' man just can't win / No one's on his side" are sung by Doug with unbridled passion and sincerity, and Bartlett matches her own soulful, gritty tone flawlessly to the content. Some fine drumming and a layer of Hammond organ certainly don't hurt in elevating this fine working-man anthem.
3. Dumas Walker
Even if you don't know who the eponymous Dumas Walker was (for the record, a marbles champion who owned a convenience store that the Headhunters frequented in their youth), it's that distinct detail that adds to the often-used country trope of just having a good time with your friends. And it's probably for that reason that this one is such a cornerstone of '90s country playlists in spite of its low chart peak -- it's just a damn good country party song with an infectious energy that still holds up 30+ years later. Also, I've actually had Ski (a local brand of citrus-flavored pop), and just like the Headhunters themselves, it's a local favorite that I want more to discover.
2. Crazy Jim
Another in the ever-increasing number of songs sung by Richard, this one tells of an eccentric man who was not loved by the community, but still "was from a land where they never learned to hate". One of his eccentricities was handing out rocks to people as a reminder of being rich in spirit, not in money. The portrayal of this unusual yet angelic character is touching enough on its own, but when you realize that "Crazy Jim" was Richard and Fred Young's own father, who died shortly before the album's release, that's when the absolute emotion in Richard's grainy voice really hits you.
1. Great Acoustics
I always cap these lists off with odd picks, don't I? But there's just something about this song that seems to hit all of the band's strengths at once. A gentle memorable melody with a soaring chorus. Martin's impeccably sharp, bluesy guitar tone. The warmer, yet no less gritty soft end of Doug's vocal range. Subtle flourishes of mandolin and Hammond organ that slot seamlessly into the punchy Southern rock surroundings. But best of all is the revelation that the narrator's woman is cheating on him with another woman, and it's treated no differently than if it were just another man. It's just that one little extra touch that turns this song from merely great to outstanding, and makes this the kind of song that I would love to see find a wider audience.
Honorable mentions: Dixie Lullaby, Jukebox Full of Blues, Big Mexican Dinner, Skip a Rope, Jessico, Take These Chains from My Heart, Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line... I could go on
Feb 13, 2020
By Bobby “Ten Pound Hammer” Peacock
A while back, I mentioned a few Eddy Raven songs on Twitter, and Trailer admitted unfamiliarity with most of his catalog. Having just done enough research on Eddy Raven to have gotten his Wikipedia article ranked as a "Good Article" (thanks to his wife, Sheila, for her help!), I put together this top ten list.
10. "I Got Mexico"
If you know an Eddy Raven song at all, it's probably this one. It seems to be the one I hear most on classic-country formats. And for good reason: its carefree, "get away from it all" theme about escaping your broken heart with a trip to Mexico is quite hard to resist. It's a perfect fit for Raven's Caribbean-Cajun sound and gently rolling delivery, and it's hard not to see why this was his first #1 hit.
9. "Operator, Operator"
A cover song twice over. Co-writer Larry Willoughby (Rodney Crowell's cousin) and the Oak Ridge Boys both cut in 1983: the former as the lead single for a little-known Atlantic album, and the latter as the B-side of "Love Song." While Larry's version has a similarly laid-back vibe, Raven escalates the song with a Caribbean-influenced production that somehow manages not to clash with the theme of trying to call her up and apologize. I especially like the end, where the chorus continues underneath him as he shouts at the operator.
8. "Right Hand Man"
Although Raven didn't write this one, it still shows his attraction to exceptional lyrics. The connection between being a woman's "right-hand man" and then getting dumped for someone who puts a ring on the left hand -- sure, it may have been done before, but it's just such a natural transition into the line "don't let your right hand know what your left hand's doing." The jangly, acoustic guitar-driven production really adds to the simple but effective story of getting dumped for another guy.
7. "Joe Knows How to Live"
All of Joe's coworkers are jealous of his trip to Mexico, which Joe himself sums up in a laid-back carpe diem observation: "Women are made to love / Money is made to spend / Life is something, buddy / You will never live again". Raven's spoken-word ad-libs at the end help further the tone ("Think Joe's wife knows about that yet?"), and his laid-back delivery fits the song far better than the original Nitty Gritty Dirt Band version. I wonder if this was intended to be a perspective-flip of sorts to "I Got Mexico?"
6. "I'm Gonna Get You"
The obligatory Dennis Linde pick. I'm a sucker for a good accordion song, and a song about playfully stalking your lover (a common theme for many Linde songs -- remember "What'll You Do About Me?"). Yet another song originally cut by another artist -- Billy Swan, whose version just sounds like "I Can Help" with an accordion -- this one feels like a natural fit for Raven, who brings more energy and flavor to the proceedings without stripping the lightheartedness away.
5. "Dealin' with the Devil"
Yes, a lot of country music songs have done this exact same trope: finding the right woman has finally saved a wayward man from his cheatin' ways. But this one shines with its alliterations ("dancin' with those demons," "dealin' with the devil") and its delightful Merle Haggard-esque vibe (to the point that Merle himself actually cut the song a few years later), it was clear even before his major-label days that Raven had a knack for songcraft.
4. "I Could Use Another You"
Maybe it's those jaunty "no no no’s,” but there's just something I really like about this song from a melodic and production standpoint. It really lends an upbeat, maybe even optimistic air to the song's central theme. He's broken up because she left, and wants to reclaim those same good feelings from the past. Simple on paper, but just like so many of his songs, the individual elements -- sharp lyrics like "now that we're through, I could use another you," the catchy melody, and Raven's voice -- really elevate the material.
Raven's last top-40 hit before the "Class of '89" flattened him and his peers, and a great song to go out on. The underlying sailing metaphor is extremely well-done ("I might sail forever and never find that island again"), leading to some creative references such as the Southern Cross. The moody production and Raven's emotive voice are given plenty of room here, allowing for a very distinct song. It kind of reminds me of an even better take on the already exceptional "Second Wind" by Darryl Worley.
2. "Who Do You Know in California"
Even at this early point in his career, Raven showed an unusual way with lyrics. Uncommon phrases like "hiding behind the morning paper" and "trying to find a real good answer, one that wasn't too absurd" set the tone for a man who's been outed in an affair after the mistress calls. (Raven said that this song was inspired by a story he had heard from a fan.) Even more interestingly, the song never resolves the scenario, a move that certainly helps the replay value: does he ever answer her question? How does she react?
1. "Sooner or Later"
A bit of an oddball pick, I'm sure. But last year, I heard this song on Prime Country for the first time probably since I was 3, and I could immediately remember everything. Nostalgia aside, I just love everything about this song: that incredibly catchy synth riff, quite possibly the only country song to use an orchestra hit (outside the dance mix of "Boot Scootin' Boogie"), and more "playfully stalking" lyrics courtesy of the ever-underrated Bill LaBounty ("Either way, honey, you're gonna be mine / If it's got to be later, then how about later tonight?"). This song just has so many ingredients that make me feel happy every time I listen.
Honorable mentions: "Bayou Boys," "You're Never Too Old for Young Love," "Peace of Mind"
Jan 31, 2020
By Bobby Peacock a.k.a. TenPoundHammer
With its cheesy "dog" metaphors beaten into oblivion (including "throw me a bone" twice) and its off-key shouted vocals, this one is just painful to listen to. Orville Reddenbacher has made product less corny than this. (Fun fact: One of the writers of this song has no other entries on BMI.)
"Black Velvet" by Robin Lee
I actually liked this song until I heard the original by Alannah Myles. Then I realized that Robin Lee's version is just a cheap karaoke knockoff with none of Myles' smoldering passion. Why didn't Atlantic Records just release Myles' version to country radio instead of this version that's watered down to the point of losing all its flavor?
"Breathe" by Faith Hill
Overwrought, overplayed pop sludge without any flavor, country or pop. I was never the biggest Faith Hill fan, but this is the point where she pretty much lost me for good. Literally the only good thing to come of this was my favorite Cledus T. Judd parody, the absolutely hilarious "Breath."
"Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle
Another bombastic, strident CCM entry with an overly saccharine set of father-daughter lyrics. What makes this even worse is that, while Carlisle's version is utterly unlistenable, the Raybon brothers somehow managed to salvage it by the strength of Marty Raybon's voice alone. Can you believe this is the same guy who wrote "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That?"
"Daddy's Little Girl" by Kippi Brannon
Not bombastic, not strident, not CCM, but still overly saccharine father-daughter lyrics. This song has one of the most disjointed meter and rhyme schemes imaginable. Even its timeline is off -- it jumps from little girl to wedding, then back to teenager. At least Kippi had a good voice, but she just never really managed to match it with anything worthwhile.
"Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard" by Alabama
Overly repetitive melody that goes nowhere. Verses that are too damn long. Excessive name-dropping at the expense of a story. The whole album proved that Alabama can't pull off any soulfulness whatsoever (okay, "Sad Lookin' Moon" was good). If you want this song done right, just listen to "Tar Top."
I took "American Boy" by Eddie Rabbitt off this list because I felt it was sincere enough. This, on the other hand, is just a clueless right-wing anthem shouting at Saddam without knowing what he's talking about ("take your poison gas, stick it in your sassafras"?!). I feel that this laid the ground work for all the MURICA songs that came out after 9/11. It's basically the "Iraq and Roll" of the 1990s, except easier to find.
"Don't Laugh at Me" by Mark Wills
One of the frontrunners in the late 90s-early noughties "Chicken Soup for the Soul" movement. Saccharine and manipulative as all get out, this song did nothing but infuriate me even then with how over-the-top it was. And I was "a little boy with glasses / the one they call the geek" at the time it was released.
"Easy as 1, 2, 3" by The Spurs
Never heard of this one, huh? Well, it got to Top 20 in Canada. Literally the only place you can listen to it is the lead singer's Soundcloud ( https://soundcloud.com/user-897794179 ). Cheap bar-band sound, clashy and off-key lead vocals, dopey lyrics, and a husband-and-wife duo that nobody remembers. I get why CanCon laws exist, but man did they turn up some stinkers now and then.
"Forever Love" by Reba McEntire
Reba tries to get her Celine Dion on and misses big time. That's really all I can say, because every time I listen to this song, I forget it again about 10 seconds later.
"Holes in the Floor of Heaven" by Steve Wariner
Another song with a saccharine metaphor that's easy to, forgive the pun, poke holes in. If there are holes in the floor of Heaven, does that mean the angels will be constantly falling through the holes and crash-landing back on Earth? Why do the writers of these kinds of songs never think their metaphors through?
"How Do I Live" by LeAnn Rimes or Trisha Yearwood
Just like any other Diane Warren song, this is just cliché after cliché. How do I live, how do I breathe, I can't go on without you, blah blah blah, I've heard this exact song 600 times before. Unlike "Butterfly Kisses" above, I feel that neither singer is able to rescue the material in any way and both versions just come across as flat and dull.
"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Mark Chesnutt
The one exception to the Diane Warren rule is "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith, because come on, it's freaking Aerosmith. But giving a hard-rock song to a honky-tonker like Mark Chesnutt is one of the most mismatched cover songs this side of the Oak Ridge Boys doing "Seven Nation Army." Chesnutt sounds uncomfortable and heavily Auto-Tuned, and just plain doesn't work. And to his credit, he admits this was a mistake.
My 2000s list has a lot of Martina-bashing, I know. This one I hate for the opposite reasons: her twee, childish lisp (supposedly based off how the demo singer sang it) is unbearably cutesy, and actually makes me wish this song had been a belt-fest for a change. Also, if your hook is just "baby, I love you", you might wanna try just a little harder.
"I Will Stand by You" by Corbin/Hanner
Corbin/Hanner's "Work Song" is one of my favorite lost treasures of the 90s. But this is just a syrupy and uninspired pop love ballad that sounds like a very, very poor-man's Bryan Adams. I guess I should have expected some cheese from one of the guys who wrote "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good", but man was this ever a letdown after something so enjoyable as "Work Song."
"It's Your Love" by Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill
Yet another cheesy, boring, cliché love ballad the likes of which propagated in this era. As the song that celebrated their marriage, I never understood why it was just a backing vocal and not a full-fledged duet. That at least might have given it some dynamic, but instead it just feels dull, with no spark whatsoever in the lyrics or performance.
"Kiss the Girl" by Little Texas
I like The Little Mermaid. I like the songs from The Little Mermaid. I even like Little Texas. But doing such a lifeless and dull take on such a colorful and catchy song? No thanks. I suppose it could have been worse: they could have tried to mimic Sebastian the crab's accent...
"Love Can Build a Bridge" by The Judds
That cheesy, overwrought metaphor (walk all the way across the desert to give someone a crumb of bread) sets the bombastic and hyperbolic overtones for the rest of the song. (Also, how do you "whisper love so loudly"? After a certain volume level, it's not whispering anymore.) Didn't we leave this kind of overly cheery feelgood cheese back in the 70s?
"Mama's Little Baby Loves Me" by Sawyer Brown
Sawyer Brown at their most insipid. Take the obvious mama's little baby/daddy's little girl tropes and do nothing with them except establish that mama's little baby loves you. (Also, danger/saving is not a rhyme.) I gotta give credit where credit is due: I thank god that Mac McAnally discovered these guys and salvaged them.
Damn it, Bob Carlisle, I didn't want you to be on here twice. But yeah, he came up with this doofy joke of a song full of good ol' boy tropes. Daddy works the farm, Mama works the Dairy Queen, the narrator wears a Stetson and kissed Mary Lou Macadoo behind the barn. Oh, and let's not forget that pitiful hook, "I'm a redneck son of a redneck son." Just another one of the dregs of the "hat act" era.
"Romeo" by Dolly Parton and Friends
Not one, but four women slobbering hornily over Billy Ray Cyrus. How did Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis, and Mary Chapin Carpenter -- three women who rarely if ever went for the cheese factor -- get roped into this? It's actually quite hilarious in how God-awful it is.
"Somebody Slap Me" by John Anderson
A runner-up to Miss Oklahoma who likes chili and does her own plumbing, huh? Could you get any more cartoonishly corny? This was the last single written by the legendary Bob McDill, and the last top-40 hit for John Anderson to date. What a way for both to go out.
Ray Stevens is one of my childhood favorites. But this is just flat-out offensive: it uses the Oriental riff, women singing "ah so", and the "Japanese mix up L's and R's" pronunciation to drive home an over-the-top message about the influx of Japanese content in the US in the early 90s. It all seems too straightforward to be satirical, and judging from his political material in the 21st century, I fear there may actually be a racist old man under the comedic exterior.
Jan 24, 2020
The Worst Country Songs of 2000-2009
By Bobby Peacock a.k.a. TenPoundHammer
"Bob That Head" by Rascal Flatts
If Gary LeVox screeching "BOB THAT HEAD!" at full blast doesn't scare you away immediately, then you must be the most stoic person alive. Not that the rest of the song is any better. Even after the label wisely sent out an edited version, it still didn't change the dopey, meatheaded proto-bro-country lyrics about riding around town with a hot girl in your car -- a theme that fits Gary LeVox about as comfortably as a pair of size 36 slacks from Ross Dress for Less.
"Bonfire" by Craig Morgan
Like I pointed out in the 2010s list, this is the point where Craig decided that screaming everything in an over-exaggerated drawl was the same thing as singing. To be fair, "party in the woods" songs weren't nearly as omnipresent as they would be in later years, but the harsh sonic surroundings do nobody any favors. Can you believe Kevin "That's Just Jessie" Denney wrote this?
"The Bumper of My SUV" by Chely Wright
As the AV Club once pointed out... how does Chely in the song know that she's being flipped off because of her bumper sticker? Why does she act so bluntly defensive over something she's only assuming? Why does she turn around and make such broad assumptions about that person? Maybe that person doesn't go to a private school. Maybe they don't give two shits about your bumper sticker. Or your stance on war. Or that fact that this song just drones on and on without any melodic changes.
"The Christmas Shoes" by NewSong
Most CCM is just too slickly produced and stridently sung for my tastes. But rarely can I hate it on message alone -- if you find something like "I Can Only Imagine" (which I took off this list at the last minute) uplifting, then I won't fault you for it. But what exactly is uplifting here? We've all heard the Patton Oswalt routine so we all know what's wrong with its message. But the sterile production, the pompous lead vocals, and the zombie children singing on the last chorus just really send it over the top, don't they?
"The Climb" by Miley Cyrus
I hate motivational songs. I hate pop songs being sent to country radio for no reason. I... actually don't hate Miley at all. But this is just a mountain of motivational clichés with no real narrative thought or emotion, and it certainly feels like a climb to listen to.
"Concrete Angel" by Martina McBride
I would never make light of child abuse. But like so many of Martina's songs, it feels like it was inserted into the song just to manipulate a bleeding-heart fanbase instead of tell an actual story. Every second of this song is bombastic and overwrought and, as I've said before, it's like watching a Lifetime movie where everyone is screaming their dialogue.
"Country Boy" by Alan Jackson
When the first thing a 50-year-old man says is "I'm not a stalker", and then he follows it up with a blatant innuendo like "climb in my bed, I'll take you for a ride", all I can ask is why Herbert the Pervert got to record a country song. Not that the clunky melody, God-awful slant rhymes (asphalt/red dirt, help you/take you), and overlong verses (why does the song have two bridges?) do it any favors.
"Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith
Spoiler alert: this list will have a lot of 9/11 and Iraq War songs on it. I have no problem with love of country. I have no problem with anyone who is pro-war or anti-war. What I have a problem with is over-the-top jingoism. (You do know that the Statue of Liberty would have to set down either the torch or the tablets to shake her fist, right?) But what really sent this song over the top for me was the "boot in your ass" line. It just promotes an aggressive, violent, xenophobic mindset and to me, reinforces all the negative stereotypes of the "MURICA" crowd.
"Girls Lie Too" by Terri Clark
I ultimately took the cringeworthy Gretchen Wilson knockoff "Dirty Girl" off this list (come to think of it, "Gypsy Boots" was pretty dreadful too). I decided that two factors make this song even worse: 1.) uninspired attempts at battle-of-the-sexes humor that are either trite or misandristic, and 2.) the blatant chart manipulation that got this song to #1 in the first place.
"God Bless the Children" by Wayne Warner and the Nashville All Star Choir
This guy's slick, strident, overly touchy-feely delivery makes the lead singer of NewSong sound like Leonard Cohen. He both looks and sounds like that child counselor that ends up flashing you. The song was done for an adoption charity, and as my sister is an adoptee I have no issue with his support. But as a musical product, this is cringeworthy in how unlistenable it is.
"God Only Cries" by Diamond Rio
"God only cries for the living 'cause it's the living that are so far from home." So He doesn't cry for the dead because they're no longer with their loved ones? He doesn't cry for the living because He wants them to be comforted in their loss? Does He want everyone to die so the angels can all be happy and no one has to cry anymore? The more I look at that one line alone, the more problematic it comes off.
"The Good Lord and the Man" by John Rich
I was way too soft on this song when I reviewed it for Roughstock in 2009. Where do I even begin? Describing Pearl Harbor as a "sucker punch"? Or how about saying that we'd "all be speaking German / livin' under the flag of Japan" if not for our soldiers? Maybe it wouldn't be too bad from another singer, but from someone who released a song called "Shut Up About Politics" and never managed to follow his own advice, this seems like a fine line between pandering and trolling.
"Have You Forgotten?" by Darryl Worley
Tired of hearing me rant about political songs yet? Just about everyone's picked this one apart for how much of a wrongheaded straw-man argument it is. And I agree -- regardless of the intentions, the song just adds up to a confused mess of patriotic rah-rah lines. And WHY IN GOD'S NAME am I still hearing "You say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden" on the radio in 2020?!?
"Here for the Party" by Gretchen Wilson
I actually kind of liked Gretchen Wilson. Her grit was refreshing even if a bit calculated at times. But this song was easily the weak link in her debut. It was one of the only times that she sounded forced and over-the-top, instead of letting the fun come naturally, and the whole song just fell flat. And it's probably also her shrillest vocal performance.
"I Ain't No Quitter" by Shania Twain
"My man does literally everything wrong, including excessive womanizing and infidelity. But I'm not getting rid of him because... uh, I'm stubborn?" What a wonderful positive message to send out. Especially when Shania gives one of the most deadpan, lifeless deliveries of her entire career.
"I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack featuring Sons of the Desert
I hate songs that consist entirely of motivational platitudes with no narrative or through line of any kind. This is one of the biggest, and one of the most infuriating simply for how antipodal it is to the rest of her discography. Even if I weren't as vehemently opposed to this kind of song, I would still find it as out-of-character as I would if George Strait suddenly started recording gangsta rap.
"I'm a Survivor" by Reba McEntire
Starting off the song by declaring yourself to be a premature baby when you clearly weren't absolutely smacks of manipulation. It's the only thing that even gives this song any semblance of flavor, as the rest is sub-Jo Dee Messina level "you go girl" empowerment the likes of which does not fit Reba at all.
"I'm Already There" by Lonestar
Usually in the "when you coming home, Dad?" kind of songs, the father actually does come home at the end. But instead, this one just has the father coldly dismissing the family's valid pleas to come home. (At least I can see how "My Front Porch Looking In" could be uplifting...) Add some of Dann Huff's most bombastic, string-drenched power ballad production and Richie's overwrought singing, and you're just left wondering how this is the same band that did "No News".
"In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride
In my daughter's eyes, everyone lives in peace and harmony with puppies and sunshine and rainbows. My daughter is going to be so sheltered and doe-eyed when she becomes an adult, because she thinks such syrupy drivel is the truth. Maybe her daughter in this song is actually RaeLynn? This explains so much. At least this one wasn't an ear-splitting belt-fest.
"Iraq and Roll" by Clint Black
Yeah, you probably don't remember this song. It was only on his website for a short time. But lucky for you, the Wayback Machine saved it: Link... if you dare
The song actually starts off inoffensively enough, but then launches headlong into some absolutely laughable lyrics ("If they won't show us their weapons, we might have to show them ours / It might be a smart bomb, they find stupid people too") that seem like the insane ramblings of someone who's been locked in a pod watching nothing but Fox News since 2002.
"Jeep Jeep" by Krista Marie
What would happen if you made a bro-country song before bro-country was even a thing, but flipped the sexes? And gave it a really dumb dumb hook hook that repeats repeats words words for no reason reason? You'd get "Jeep Jeep", of course course. At least she ended up making far better music in The Farm.
"Kiss My Country Ass" by Rhett Akins
Country pride songs are a dime a zillion. Most of them are inoffensive enough, or sometimes even guilty pleasures. Some are even quite well-written. But this is infuriatingly dismissive from its title alone, and it only gets worse with the overly MURICA second verse. It's okay to be country; just don't be a dick about it.
"The Little Girl" by John Michael Montgomery
Nothing good can come from a song based on one of those sickeningly manipulative e-mail stories that got circulated in the early 2000s (nowadays it'd be on Facebook). Even at the time, I read Snopes enough to know how manipulative (both parents get murdered!) and unrealistic (how does he know that's Jesus?) the story is. In the words of Weird Al, "Stop forwarding that crap to me."
"Love Is" by Katrina Elam
Getting back to the subject of ear-splitting belt fests... how about an oversung, over-the-top power of love anthem that brings literally nothing new to the subject other than awkwardly shoehorning in the word "bling"? This sounds like the kind of Celine Dion/Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey knockoffs my mom used to listen to back in the late 90s, only at least 10-15 years too late.
"Loud" by Big & Rich
Horse of a Different Color is one of my all-time favorite albums for how balls-to-the-wall madly creative it was. But as early as the second album, I could tell that Big & Rich were starting to run out of ideas. And by "Loud", they were reduced to a bunch of party-hearty clichés without any semblance of creativity other than a couple of interesting guitar textures. Even their voices sound strained and off on this.
"Mr. Right Now" by Povertyneck Hillbillies
Hey, remember that time you heard what sounded like a local bar band that somehow got on your radio? No, not "I Loved Her First". That one's actually okay. This one, however, just sounds like an utterly uncreative bunch of guys who somehow snuck onto a few playlists. From the unoriginal title to the groan-worthy dance/chance/romance rhyme to the name-drop of Popeye the Sailor Man, this song just screams "not ready for prime time".
"One Voice" by Billy Gilman
Yet another entry in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" country song movement sparked by "Holes in the Floor of Heaven". Lyrics about as subtle as a ten-pound hammer to the face (mom won't watch the news, meaning she's sheltered and oblivious), all sung by a kid too young to even know what's going on in the world as it is. Maybe an adult singer could have made this at least palatable, but Gilman just wasn't ready for prime time yet.
"Sideways" by Dierks Bentley
One of the most atonal guitar/banjo intros I've ever heard, a chunky melody that flows like a year-old container of cottage cheese, a weaksauce hook, and one of Dierks' dullest deliveries. Maybe on the surface it just sounds mediocre, especially considering how phoned-in the entire Feel That Fire album was, but this song just has that extra degree of not caring that sends it over the top for me.
"Streets of Heaven" by Sherrié Austin
Another song with a perfectly valid topic: a mother's grief about possibly losing a child. But where it fails is in its attempts to browbeat God ("Don't you know one day that she'll be your little girl forever / but right now I need her so much more"). I'm an atheist and I still know that's not how you talk to God. Also, I thought Heaven's streets were made of gold. Not exactly the kind of thing that has a lot of traffic.
"Then" by Brad Paisley
This is actually one of Brad's better vocals and it has a good arrangement. Shame that the lyrics are absolutely unimaginative pap. (No lie, I correctly predicted nearly half the chorus, down to the insipid whole life/whole world/without you, girl rhyme on the first listen.) Even "When I Get Where I'm Going" had some flavor to it, but this is just beyond bland. What makes it worse is that overplay of this one kept the massively superior "Welcome to the Future" from going to #1.
"This Ain't Mexico" by Buddy Jewell
"You can call me a closed-minded, old-fashioned, flag-waving gringo". Yes, because that's what you are. By stapling on stereotypical mariachi sounds to your xenophobic rant against immigrants, along with head-scratching namedrops like Johnny Rodriguez (who was born in Texas, by the way). Oh yeah, and your desire to have that wall built... how's that working out for you 12 years later? I'm surprised you didn't work the word "wetback" in there somewhere.
"This One's for the Girls" by Martina McBride
Can I nominate "living on dreams and Spaghetti-Os" for one of the worst lyrics of all time? If not, then that still doesn't help this song's case. Messina had already beaten girl-power anthems into the ground by this point, and Martina makes it worse with some of the cheesiest lyrics I've ever heard, combined with a gaggle of girls on the obnoxious chorus.
"Troubadour" by George Strait
No, that's not a typo. Everyone hypes this up as one of his best, but I really, really don't get it. This song just feels like it barely exists. Like they just came up with 10% of an idea and left it at that. So you're a troubadour -- what does that mean in this context? Why doesn't the mirror tell the whole truth about you? Why did you rhyme "mirror" with "mirror"? What's your backstory? Why are you telling us so very little?
"The Way You Love Me" by Faith Hill
"If I could grant you one wish / I wish you could see the way you kiss." Um, that's not how wishes work. How did nobody involved in the creation process catch this? While there is an admittedly very clever use of key change on the chorus, that is instantly snuffed out by the bubblegum-pop lyrics (baby/crazy, never seen that one before) and the incessant "ooh"ing to stretch out the meter.
"What I'm For" by Pat Green
Yay, a list song of stock country-boy tropes. Never heard that one before. Let's see: technophobia? Check. Jingoism? Check. Random regional food and drink name-drops? Check, twice actually. Respecting your elders? Check. God? Check. And this is the song you pulled "Country Star" for?
"What If She's an Angel" by Tommy Shane Steiner
One of the last waves of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" movement and one of its worst. Ripping off "Don't Laugh at Me", a song I already dislike, in its first verse, and then somehow also forcing in abuse and cancer. It's like a genderflipped Martina McBride.
"When It All Goes South" by Alabama
Hey, who wants to hear a band of middle-aged men strain for cred by doing a G-rated ripoff of Kid Rock's "Cowboy"? Nobody, that's who. Not even their collab with 'N Sync was this embarrassingly bad.
"Who I Am" by Jessica Andrews
I tore this one when I wrote about Jessica Andrew forRoughstock back in 2013. It's always felt like two men writing what they think teenage girls think about because they haven't seen any teenage girls in 20 years. No teenager is going to be upset about not seeing the Seven Wonders or not winning a Grammy. Jessica did have good songs in her, but she just sounded dull and lifeless on these facepalm-worthy lyrics.
"You Are" by Jimmy Wayne
When it comes to cliché storms, this is Hurricane Katrina. (Too soon?) "It breaks my heart in two". "You are my love, you are my life." "Heart and soul." "My fantasy, my reality." It's like if you tried to write a country wedding song with a random number generator.