I never promised you a Rose Garden ….. Garden I Pod Country Play List

This my current I Pod country music Garden  Play List  together with  personal notes on the songs as to why they feature  . I have borrowed the title from Lynn Anderson’s 1970’s hit as it gives the right gardening vibe but have not included the twee song itself  as that would be a vibe too many !  

  1. Don Gibson – Oh Lonesome me  …. always a favourite of mine recorded in the 1950’s , written by Gibson , a two hit wonder as he also wrote and recorded Sea of Heartbreak and with those two legendary songs to his credit why bother anymore !
  2. Alabama – Speed of the sound of loneliness …. Recorded in 2007 , an old song from the 80’s but one which they have updated and given a funky sound to . Alabama are not a live performing group but hit the big time with the theme song from the Sopranos .
  3. Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra – Summer Wine … from their album of 1967 written by Lee Hazelwood and all songs from this are classics . Hazelwood is brilliant while Nancy is just along for the ride having got the gig through her Dad  … Hazelwood , a notorious eccentric,  famously told the up tight sheltered Nancy to “sing these songs like you are  being f..ked by a trucker ” .. she had a great voice but no personality and never really had solo success whereas Hazelwood , an oddball character had iconic status as a singer / songwriter.
  4. Waylon Jennings – Six White Horses … my all time favourite country singer and I have all his recorded material . Funnily enough , my Father , who was in the showband business but had no sense or appreciation of country music , brought me two Waylon Jennings albums from London in 1968 that he had picked up in some promoters office . I had never heard of Jennings who at that time would have been a local alternative country artist from Austin, Texas , way outside the Nashville main stream and I remember as if yesterday putting the first album on to play called Just to satisfy you and being electrified by his voice when it rang out . Jennings is the one artist whose songs I can listen to all day and this song from his 1972 album The Taker struck a chord with me from the first time I heard it … I used to buy all his albums on release something I have never done for any other artist and have never heard a dud song from him . Jennings was the real deal , genuine been there done that  , an understated tough guy in an industry  of fakes when the rest of them including Johnny Cash were making a commercial career of being tough .
  5. Slim Witman – Rose Marie … from 1956 . I used to hear this in Kilmallock Cinema when staying with my uncle Danny & his wife ( for some unknown reason known always as Baba Howard and never by her married name ). Baba was a tough formidable lady , the only person who was not intimidated by our Grandmother Nonie in Ballintaw , Co. Limerick , she owned the cinema in Kilmallock and one of the highlights for me when I stayed with them in the 50’s as a ten year old was I got into all the films for free every night with my cousin , Patsy  . I loved  Baba who was very good to me and she was a big Slim Whitman fan and  before the film started each night she played a selection of the popular songs of the day  but Rose Marie featured each night and I still associate Rose Marie and Cattle Call with her to this day !
  6. Tex Ritter – High Noon …  words put to the Dimitri Tiomkin theme music from the Gary Cooper film High Noon  mid 50’s , when men were men !
  7. The Evelry Brothers – Ebony Eyes … 1958 ish great melodies from the two brothers and an affecting song , Don & Phil who fell out after their hits ended  in 1962 and rarely spoke afterwards apart from making a comeback live album in 1984 .
  8. Billy Ray Cyrus  — Achy breaky heart ….  perennial favourite from the early 90 ‘s , great foot tapper of a song from a singer who was tipped to be bigger than Elvis but who was a one hit wonder and who is now more famous as Miley Cyrus’s Dad !
  9. George Jones – Just someone I used to know …. a great weepy which shows what country music does best …. tell a lonesome story… and haven’t we all had that experience  . … the bitch / the bastard ( take your pick !) .
  10. Guy Mitchell – Singing the Blues … from the mid 50’s and the original cross over hit which topped both the country and pop charts when such an event was unknown … another one hit wonder singer but an ageless classic song .
  11. Allison Krauss – Dreaming my dreams …. a cover version from someone who is better known as a blue grass singer & fiddle player  but a song I love in all its many versions and covers . Waylon Jennings does the best male version but then again I am biased when it comes to Waylon but in my view the definitive version , male or female , is by Marianne Faithfull as you feel we are in on the sercret that she is singing it for Mick Jagger but this is a country collection so Allison Krauss gets the nod  here.
  12. Anne Murray – Snowbird …. hum the opening bars .. beneath this snowy mantle and everyone anwhere can follow you …. an instant classic when released in the late 60’s and covered by everyone from Elvis onwards.
  13. Kenny Rogers – The Gambler … another classic from the late 60’s  which has become a karaoke caricature much laughed at now like his Coward of the County but a really great story song .
  14. Beausoleil – Kolinda … a classic Cajun song , the Louisiana equivalent of our own  Danny Boy , recorded by almost every modern Cajun singer but this version by the Cajun supergroup is the best .
  15. Billy Jo Spears = Blanket on the ground …. corny feminist karaoke standard but I just love the swing of it which harks back to the early 60’s when none of us had cars and in Ireland the method of transport for your female companion of choice was on the cross bar of the bike !
  16. Bobby Darin .. If I were a carpenter …. huge instant hit of the late 60’s and the first song written by Kris Kristofferson to break through … Johnny Cash’s version with June Carter is the classic everyone listens to now but this version by Bobby Darin who was a lounge singer in the Sinatra mode topped the pop charts first and even though not strictly country it is the version I  prefer  and you know it could easily have been If I were a Gardener !
  17. Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias  – Iko Iko …. Cajun or swamp music and probably my favourite song of all time …. a version by the Belle Stars , a manufactured girl band ,is on the original Shrek movie CD and is more famous albeit preppy and sanitized for the middle of the road market ( but a good version nontheless and I have included that version later in the list ) . I heard the black author in a radio interview just before he died last year and apparently Iko is a coloured joke on whitey radio stations as it means kiss my ass in creole patois .
  18. Buck Owens – Tiger by the tail …. Owens was a one off singer , the last of the embroidered suit singers from the 50’s with a great band , the Buckaroos … huge in the late 60’s early 70’s but who lost his motivation to perform when his best friend and lead guitarist in the band , Don  Rich , was killed in a car crash … I saw him live in 1989 in Dublin where dressed in a cow hide boot length coat he sang for two hours , all his hits and never , not once , addressed the audience  and this from a guy who originally was the flamboyant showman of his time  and his Live at Carnegie Hall show  and subsequent album took New York by storm in 1968 .
  19. Bobby Goldsboro – Honey … huge cross over hit in 1969 but a one hit wonder of a song which caught the zeitgeist of the late 60’s .
  20. Charlie Daniels Band – Norfolk , Virginia …. A bit of a pseud is Charlie Daniels who rose to fame as a singer popular with bikers in the US and who played the part of your basic red neck singing dixie rebel songs for the Southern white trash brigade BUT he does a great song here !
  21. Willie Nelson – Blue eyes crying in the wind …. I am not a fan of Willie Nelson apart from his early work as a singer/ song writer in the 50’s with Four walls etc. and I find his outlaw image to be rather contrived and annoying  but when he stops the pretentious blues style and sings straight as in this song he is terrific , no one better .
  22. Alabama – Woke up this morning …… The song used as the intro to every episode of the Sopranos , great song .
  23. Boxcar Willie – the Wabash cannonball … probably the most famous song from the Dixie South , the anthem for farm boys returning or wishing to return home from the North . Willie , former hobo who got a break in country music in the 70’s as a bit of a novelty singer in the Jimmy Rogers tradition wearing a train conductor’s uniform . I have always liked the traditional Tennessee mountain song and this version serves it well . 
  24. Burl Ives – Funny way of laughing …. Burt was in his 70’s in the mid 50’s when he recorded the two songs that were his legacy in country music , this is the first one and the second , Mary Ann regrets , is the second . No special genre or niche for Burl , just nice songs sung in his unique way and he always has a place in the 100 Best Country collections in the American Billboard Hall of Fame .
  25. Charlie Pride – Crystal chandeliers ….. the only black singer in country music , an industry based in the South around Nashville where Old Dixie is still flown , home of the Klu Klux Klan and notoriously racist yet Charlie by dint of a great voice and probably a perverse sense of humour from the red necks , became an overnight success when his first album came out in 1967 . Two knock out cover songs , this and Bobby McGee , gives him a place in the all time list . OK some say  Charlie kept his head down and knew his place and most would say he became an Uncle Tom figure for the southern whites however these two versions have always been favourites of mine although I stopped listening to his albums from 1972 onwards as he rarely did original material .
  26. Claude King – Wolverton Mountain … Claude who ? a real one hit wonder but I first heard this on the radio in 1959 while in Ballintaw staying with my Garndmother for an annual stint in the chain gang with my cousins from Limerick , Pat & Gerry  , and have loved it ever since .
  27. Conway Twitty … Only make believe …. Conway was only popular on the country circuit in the 50’s , 60’s and never made it in the pop cross over market but had 20 No. 1 country hits although most were covered by other artists for the pop charts , he was what was called a torch singer and a very distinctive voice although never had any warmth about him in his performances .
  28. Cowboy Junkies – Dreaming my dreams … a second version of one of my favourite songs this time by Cowboy Junkies  featuring lead singer , Margot Timmins, whose breathy ghost like voice is haunting on every song she does . Cowboy Junkies were and are legendary performers who have risen above country music so distinctive is their sound and ethos , they avoid the media spin and got their first record deal on the strength of word of mouth and a home made tape of their songs recorded around a camp fire in California . Unusual group who have never gone after commercial success and I have been a fan since first hearing them in the mid 80’s  , Margot and her two brothers are the core of the group .
  29. Garth Brooks – Friends in low places … I gave up collecting current american country artists in 1993 when the trend of what is called “ the hats “ started i.e. young good looking guys with chest hair and cowboy hats all sounding the same but who were all manufactured and styled to be cool , hip and have a look and all the old values of good tunes and melodies stopped being important . Garth Brooks would have been the first of the hats and seemed to have a great career ahead of him but in New York and Los Angeles not Nashville … he was huge for 2/3 years and spawned an entire generation of male country singers all looking and sounding the same  …. His first few songs were great and this is the one I include in most play lists .
  30. David Houston – Almost persuaded …. Basically another one hit wonder but a great ballad from the early 60’s .
  31. Dean Martin – Born to lose  …. Who doesen’t like Dean Martin .. at least the persona he wished us to see and although his natural style is for his Italian roots songs , Volare etc. however in the late 60’s he released a series of country albums which are fabulous , nothing ground breaking just a relaxed Martin style take on the standard ballads which are hugely popular with country fans even still and of course he had one world wide pop & country hit from this collection in Little Ol Wine Drinker Me . 
  32. Tanya Tucker – Blood red and going down …. A country star at 14 with this in the late 60’s and the country bad girl of her day , booze, drugs , wild affair with Glen Cambell who left his family for her . A raunchy singer who never fulfilled her promise and now she is wheeled out regularly on BBC 4 programmes lamenting that the wild childs of today are only pussy cats compared to herself and Janis Joplin . A great song though .
  33. Dolly Parton – Coat of many colours … that my mama made for me …needs no introduction does Dolly and this is her self penned song which although in my view milks the coal miners daughters angle of Loretta Lynn and her own Tennessee mountain dirt poor  upbringing  , it is still fresh and a great great song . At least Dolly laughs at herself which is her great redeeming feature … you think it is cheap to get this thrashy look is one of her best quotes.
  34. Don Gibson – Sea of heartbreak … his second great hit which along with Oh Lonesome me  are on every country greatest hits play list .
  35. Don Williams – Amanda … his deep voice became the housewife’s favourite from 1976 for the next ten years and this song is one of his most famous .
  36. Dr. John & Mardi Gras – Iko ….. another version of my favourite song this time by a roots music artist from New Orleans
  37. Elvis – Faded love … people always get confused … Elvis country ? But Presly started as a pure country artist in 1954 in pre Blue suede shoes rock ‘n roll days appearing low down on a  bill on the Louisiana Hayride show with Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash and he remained a country artist at heart and always sang country songs for relaxation with friends . In 1970 he cut a famous double album in Memphis with the cream of country session musicians “ From Memphis to Vegas “ and in my view he was a marvellous interpreter of the classic country ballads . This song is the old Ray Price hit from the 50’s and from the 1971 album “ Elvis Country “ and I just like Elvis’s version the best .  
  38. Faron Husky – Wings of a Dove …. Another one hit wonder but a lovely song .
  39. Waylon Jennings – Just to satisfy you … the first song I ever heard Waylon sing back in 1968 and that opening guitar riff jolted me from Hank William’s mode into alternative outlaw country and I became a life long Waylon fan for the next 43 years ! Waylon was a tough hard living man , went through the 70’s and 80’s on cocaine and wild partying and went bankrupt in the late 80’s but kept working to pay his huge debts  … I saw him live in Dublin in 1989 just 4 months after a quadruple heart by pass operation where he delivered  a two hour set of all his major hits . Always laconic at the best of times and on stage that night ( I was one row back ) he said nothing between songs but as he was leaving the stage he took off his hat , bowed and then asked “ how many of you are surprised I still have hair “   … huge roar from the audience and then Waylon says “ how many of you just don’t give a  f..k “ !! He died in 2006 , very ill in his last years from the years of drug abuse but he had to keep working to the last to pay off his bills but performed his last gigs on stage in a wheel chair .
  40. Guy Clark – Desperados …… a highly regarded but commercially underated singer / song writer ,a very low key type of song writer and this is his most famous one covered by among many others including the Eagles but this is the original recording .
  41. Bobby Bare – Streets of Baltimore …. A 60’s favourite of mine and Bare’s version is the best . I know this is the type of story line that non country hip people mock us country fans for , man brings woman to bright lights , man loses woman to bright lights , man goes back to the farm ..alone …. but I still love the song !
  42. Dean Martin – Little Ol Wine Drinker me … a huge hit world wide in 1967 when I was stationed on the border we regularly danced to it amid the bright lights of Swanlinbar ! My favourite song by Dean Martin , no one else has even attempted to release it since as he made it his own and it seems uniquely tailor made for his bar stool image .
  43. Don Williams – I recall a gypsy woman … huge hit in the 70’s and his best known hit beloved of karaoke fans !
  44. Glen Cambell – Rhinestone Cowboy …. originally made his name as one of the best recording session guitarists in Nashville , as backing guitarist on 100’s of major hits including Elvis , he then recorded this Jimmy Webb song and it launched him as an overnight country star …. toured the UK in 2012 as his last appearances in public as he has early stages alzheimers .
  45. Waylon Jennings –Good time Charlie’s got the Blues ….. his first breakthrough album in 1971 , Lonesome Ornery & Mean , now recognized as a classic album , produced a series of hits including this .. god how gay is that title now ?!
  46. Johnny Allen – Promised land …. A one hit wonder in the 70’s but a classic country rock driving sound .
  47. Hank Locklin – Please help me I’m falling … huge hit in the early 50’s along with Fraulein   and a very popular Nashville country star renowned for his niceness and ordinariness , only had the two hits but issued a lot of albums on the strength of those . I saw him live in Dromkeen Ballroom in 1969 with Margaret O’Donnell  – but she thought Larry Cunningham was better  !
  48. Hank Snow – Movin on …. Famous train song again from the 50’s . Hank Snow was a huge country star in the 50’s about 5 ft high with a famously awful wig and legend has it he was about 105 years old as he seemed to have been around forever , very distinctive sound but apart from this song popping up on country compilations rarely heard today .
  49. Georger Jones & Tammy Wynette – Golden rings … great duet and one of their most famous … they had about 25 marriages between them and this song is from when they were married to each other …. George was a lovely guy but a helpless alcoholic and once was so drunk she hid his car keys so he couldn’t drive into town about ten miles away for more booze and he escaped from the house and was picked up by police driving a ride on lawn mower into town along the motorway . I  don’t collect Tammy W. apart from her duets with George Jones as I always thought the lyrics of her two famous songs, Divorce and Stand by your Man were ridiculous  but saw her live in Dublin in 1989 where she performed with a 13 piece backing band , each of whom was a top class  entertainer / musician in their own right  and she put on a two hours show , one of the best live shows I have seen .
  50. Jeanne Frickette = Your hearts not in it …  one hit wonder which I liked on release in the 70’s .
  51. Kris Kristofferson – Me & Bobby McGee …. From Kris’s demo album which he used to tout his writings around Nashville hoping for a sponsor or a major star like Cash to record one of his sings and of course within a year he was the new star in Nashville with artists queuing up to record his material . The record company rush released the demo album in its unfinished state and I remember being mesmerized when I first heard Me & Bobby McGee on the car radio driving into New Ross to take over duty from Dick Ellis  in September 1969  . Kris never replicated the success of that first album and has never had a hit song since after the initial success of Me & Bobby McGee , Sunday morning coming down with Cash , Help me make it through the night .. with every singer around and If I were a carpenter   with Cash and Bobby Darin and on every karaoke machine for the next 40 years . Kris’s father was a general in the US army and Kris himself was an army helicopter pilot in Vietnam . He is better known now as an actor .
  52. Jim Reeves – Adios Amigo … the greatest country ballad singer of the late 50’s with a string of hits,. Reeves went by the name Gentleman Jim Reeves but was notoriously difficult to work  with , Enda used to tell the story that in 1962 when Reeves was touring Ireland doing up to three halls a night and getting more bad tempered as the tour went on having to suffer the usual Irish ballroom lack of even basic facilities at the time although attracting crowds of up to 2000 people at each gig ( 6000 paying punters each night ) … he arrived in Buncrana at 11 pm and on his way up to the stage through the crowd ( typically no back entrance ) with his entourage flapping around him he barked is that piano tuned pointing up at the stage at a dilapidated looking piano “ Jaysus it is yousirr  we got it tuned only 15 years ago  . .. at which Gentleman Jim turned around said “OUT “ and marched straight out to the tour bus and on to the next gig leaving 2000 paid customers people standing in the hall !
  53. Olivia Newton John – I know , where is my street cred .. Olivia Newton John in a serious country play list but this is a great performance of Take me home country roads !
  54. Creedance Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising … John Fogarty at his best and this is the definitive driving country rock song .. from 1968 .
  55. Johnny Cash  – I still miss someone …  although the live albums from Folsom  and San Quentin in 1968  are his most famous  I am not a fan of them as I find Cash’s so called identity with  prisoners as fake and commercial and  the contrived chats between songs are cringe inducing trying to make Cash sound tough like an ex prisoner himself  . Cash was a nice man who didn’t need the tough guy image but his management probably felt he needed a new image as the Man in Black as by the mid 1960’s he had wasted himself with booze and drugs .This song from his 50’s writing period with the pared back  bass sound and the Luther Perkins guitar licks , is one of my favourite Jonnny Cash songs before the commercialism and TV shows took over …of course recorded during his Sam Phillps Sun Records period and when he was at his most unhappy troubled personal stage of his life , just beginning with the amphetamine pills and the booze before he met June Carter . Funny thing is Cash in my opinion was at his best artistically during his bouts of depression and drug dependency and before June Carter … after he cleaned up his act commercialism and Nashville took over and he became The Man in Black and brought out the cute novelty records like a Boy named Sue and the live albums … just a personal opinion   .
  56. Kitty Wells – Making believe …. Called the Queen of Country Music …. The Nashville music scene was very sexist in the 40 ‘s 50’s and 60’s and there were no female solo singers . Female singers were vocalists with country bands or part of the group accompanying male artists on stage along with clowns , jugglers etc. almost vaudeville  but not headliners in their own right i.e Dolly Parton started professionally as  the girl singer in Porter Wagoner’s group and like a good little girl would be summoned by Porter to sing a duet with him and then go back to her place in the line up . Kitty Wells was an exception in the early 50’s in that she became a headliner so they invented a nickname to slightly demean her in the same way as Loretta Lynn became the Coalminer’s Daughter never Loretta Lynn . Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette broke the mould in the early 70’s and from then on female stars were out of the closet !
  57. Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra – Ladybrid … another of the hits from their one and only collaboration . Hazelwood only took her on as a favour to her father as his song writing talent and unique gravelly voice didn’t need a  singing partner . Afterwards Nancy never found a style although she did make a very good solo country album later singing standards but never original songs again like with Lee Hazelwood … she was in an embarrassing cameo role in the Sopranos in 2006 where she was the guest singer at a Mafia function .
  58. Dolly Parton – Jolene … her first major hit as a singer when she broke away from the Porter Wagoner Show after seven years with the band . She was seen as a major talent from her first year with the show and she has always acknowledged her debt to Porter Wagoner and had hoped he would let her go gracefully from her long term contract … he took it badly and sued her for a million dollars ( in 1970 !) and she had to pay a hefty part of the demand and afterwards wrote the song “I will always love you “ as a goodbye letter ( I saw in a BBC 4 programme recently that he kept the original  hand written words framed in his study … but I suspect he cashed the cheque  ) . I was a big fan of his albums from the early 60’s and saw him live in Wexford in 1978 … wearing his trademark sky blue rhinestone suit .. a great performer but he is not played or remembered now at all . I will always love you was of course later recorded by Whitney Houston for her 1992 film , the Bodyguard , with Kevin Costner and became a mega hit . Elvis wanted to record it in 1974 but his manager, Col. Parker ,  like with all songs Elvis recorded demanded that Dolly sign over half the publishing rights to the song as a condition … Dolly was the only artist to refuse Parker’s demand request although as she says she would have loved Elvis to record a song of hers .. Elvis’s management  refused to allow the recording and Dolly has made millions from the song ever since . Jolene is one of her most famous hits and I suspect will be the one that defines her and by which she will be remembered
  59. Don Williams – Gypsy Woman … most famous of Don’s recordings along with Amanda and a great quick stepping melody . Don Williams was and remains huge in the UK and Ireland but was never popular in Nashville and his 70’s hit songs have gone out of fashion , his deep voice became the housewife’s favourite from 1976 for the next ten years .
  60. Elvis – Blue moon of Kentucky …. Elvis was and remained a country boy at heart and this was an up tempo version he recorded in the mid 50’s  of a Bill Monroe & his bluegrass boys classic from the 40’s , when Elvis was still doing country shows around Memphis and Louisiana such as the Louisiana Hayride , a popular country music radio station show . Elvis became worried that Monroe whom he admired as a country legend  would think he had ruined the song by the heresy of tampering with the original tempo and making it rock’ roll but Bill Monroe was a generous man secure in his own fame  and told him he would be delighted if it helped his fledgling  career … no one knew then that Elvis would go on to be one of the all time  greats .
  61. Emmylou Harris – Queen of the Silver Dollar … a Shel Silverstein written song from the late 60’s which first became a minor hit for Silverstein himself ( a satirical writer with Rolling Stone and Playboy ) and later a major hit for Dr. Hook , a group that Silverstein mentored and wrote many hits for including Sylvia’s Mother . Marianne Faithfull recorded a terrific version in the late 70’s probably the best version but I have included Emmylou’s version here because Marianne is not strictly country . I love this song which apart from its great tempo has a sad theme of a woman descending into mental illness .
  62. Jim Reeves – Distant Drums … this is one of his biggest hit records released posthumously in 1964 after he died in a small plane over Texas . A lovely song made all the more poignant as the words and tone seem to suggest that he knew his death was near .
  63. Patsy Cline – I fall to pieces …. who could categorise Patsy Cline and from an early stage in her career the country scene realized she was unique with a voice  instantly recognizable even now 50 years after her death at 30  years of age in 1963 , killed in a light airplane crash .
  64. Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special …. This song with I walk the Line and Ring of Fire  are Johnny Cash’s best known songs record and  he first recorded all three of them in the late 50’s his most creative period but then  started on the booze and pills , left his wife & family to convince June Carter to live with him in the early 60’s… got  caught in drug addiction , became a huge TV star in the US with his Johnny Cash Show and only finally  got clean in the late 80’s but his health was gone , his voice weakened , his record company CBS dropped him and he was reduced to touring with the Highway Men ( Kristofferson, Willie Nelson , Waylon Jennings … all guys with money and addiction problems ) but then in 1993 he met Rick Rubin , a rock producer, who introduced him to a younger audience and gave him a new career with the American Series until he died in 2003 .. I choose though to remember Cash from the 50’s and 60’s .
  65. Lefty Frizzel – Saginaw Michigan …. a major Canadian country star of the 50’s , very popular in the Nashville scene of the early 60’s but hardly heard of in Europe and this was his major hit .
  66. Leonard Cohen – Tennessee Waltz .. one couldn’t put old Lennie in a country context but he does a definitive version of the old Eddie Arnold 50’s hit … not his style at all but he just always loved the song and put this live version almost as an afterthought on the Dear Heather  album in 2004 . I  have been a fan since his first album in 1968 and saw Leonard live in Dublin at the Royal Hospital ,Kilmainham , show in June 2008 with my son, Kevin , and Cohen although in his late 70’s was mesmerizing and although they say you should never see your favourite artists live but Leonard Cohen live was a real treat .
  67. Emmylou Harris & Mark Knopfler – If this is goodbye .. as you can see from these notes so far I am not a great lover of modern country music as represented by what comes out of Nashville these days and in fact I stopped collecting country music generally after 1994 when the “ hats “ artists developed and the image became more important than the song  … in the early 90’s I remember a TV interview that Chet Atkins , the great country guitarist and record producer of the 70’s , gave to Hank Wangford , a Brit country music writer  , in which he was asked what is the sound of Nashville today and Chet put his hand into his pocket and cupped a bunch of loose change and shook it … this is the sound of country music today he said , money . That said there are exceptions and this collaboration from 2012 between Mark Knopfler , the former lead singer with Dire Straits , and Emmylou Harris is one of them … a beautiful song written by Knopfler , one of the greatest song writers and featuring the best female country voice of all time .
  68. Marty Robbins – Big Iron …. Robbins had been searching for an identity in Nashville throughout the early 50’s , had a lovely voice and could sing anything but in 1958 he hit on a theme from El Paso the Tex  Mex town he was from and recorded an album called Gun Fighter Ballads which made his name and career … this song with Devil Woman  and El Paso were his huge hits .
  69. Merle Haggard – Today I started loving you again … I was a big fan of Merle Haggard when he made his break through in 1968 with the Mama Tried album . He was in the audience at San Quentin Prison when Johnny Cash recorded the live show there but Haggard was a prisoner ! For a few years Haggard sang alternative  anti establishment type country but then made a huge world wide hit with Oke from Muskogee which wrapped the American flag of anti hippie and pro Vietnam around him in an almost republican party anthem ,,, in fact I think Nixon used the song in his 1972 presidential campaign for re election … and I went off Haggard for good for his new dogoody style  but this song predates that and he is at his best here .
  70. Nancy Griffiths – From a distance …. started as a sweet sweet young girl and has ended up as a sweet sweet 70 year old … too sweet and politically correct for me but hit the big time with this song in the early 70’s that became an classic and which although another one hit wonder artist gave her a long career ,
  71. Ray Charles – Born to lose … from his 1962 album of country songs which upset both the negro blues world and the Nashville purists but Charles , a great interpreter of  other peoples songs , got away with it and remained the darling of both black and white audiences .
  72. Ram Jam – Black Betty … this version is the most famous released in 1977 but the song has been around negro music since Leadbelly in the 30’s . The title refers to the name black prisoners gave to the bull whip used by the white prison guards in the US penitentiaries who supervised the chain gangs working outside the jails on horseback  and who were called bulls and as such has an ethnic rebellious air about it , almost a secret code about the brutality of whitey . One of my favourite songs and although  not strictly country at all as is the case with Iko  I think we can slip it under the radar .
  73. Olivia Newton John – Banks of the Ohio … I know I know  , street cred and all that but she also does a great version of this old delta song !
  74. Leroy Van Dyke – Walk on by …. I have always loved this song since Leroy van Dyke had the original hit in 1959 .
  75. George Jones – He stopped loving her today.. This song recorded in 1980 has become George’s most enduring hit and I think it is a fabulous fabulous song . It has been voted best country song of all time . George who died at 80 earlier this year  famously hated the song at first and had to be forced to record it and as he left the studio said “ that morbid son of a bitch won’t sell “ .. now the song defines his career .
  76. Johnny Cash – Walk the line ….  probably the song that defines his career and the title of the Cash film biopic .
  77. Nancy Sinatra – These Boots are made for walking … Lee Hazelwood wrote this for her and it was a major solo hit for her 1966 and following that she teamed up with Hazelwood for their 1968 album where each song , written by Hazelwood , was a hit but he never worked with her again …. working with Hazelwood would have been a tough gig .
  78. Ray Charles – Crying time … a country classic from his 1962 country flavoured album that as I said kicked up a storm with both his black roots and the white blues audience neither of which felt he should be singing hillbilly songs ! However once Ray Charles put his distinctive twist on the song it became the standard version accepted by all music genres .
  79. Rednek – Cotton eyed Joe … a one hit wonder which swept the charts in the late 90’s and sparked a huge interest in line dancing … a great song and difficult not to hop up and dance to   it !
  80. Iko Iko – the Belle Stars … a one off band recorded this version for the movie soundtrack of Shrek and very good it is too … not sung with any flavor of its original roots , in fact stripped of any emotion or sense of blues or its Cajun / Louisiana background but a great thumping version nonetheless .
  81. Steve Earle – Copperhead Road …. Steve Earle  was the bad boy of country music in the mid 80’s , a genuine talent with a unique hard driving sound , writing all his own material , then went into a nightmare of 20 years drug addiction . This is his signature song about moon shining whiskey along southern mountain roads … Nashville stayed well clear of Earle , he never conformed to the commercialism or sold out . In the 2000’s  he went on an anti death penalty , anti american policy on Iraq  , anti everything as far as I can  see but Steve went on and on …and I prefer my singers to entertain not preach either religion or politics … I admire entertainers who have principles but don’t need to know about them  so I stopped being a fan but I include this song as a testament to the awesome singer and performer he once was . In New York recently I was walking past a theatre off Broadway and the bould Steve was appearing for a single concert two nights later but I could not depend on which Steve Earle would turn up and there was no way I was going to that broadway expense to listen to songs about Iraq  … shallow person that I am !
  82. The Band – Not fade away … Led by Robbie Robertson the Band started life as Bob Dylan’s support musicians but left in the late 60’s to perform on their own and this is their version of the Buddy Holly classic . Their eventual break up in 1976 was marked by the wonderful Last Waltz film by Martin Scorsese … his break through movie and their goodbye album . Robbie Robertson is part Mohawk American indian on his mother’s side  and went on to huge success with his series of Native American Indian albums and scored many of Scorsese’s later films while the drummer, Levon Helms , who died last year , also had success as a Delta blues singer .
  83. The Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall… this is one rarely played nowadays from the early 60’s but everbody recognizes the deep voice and I have always loved it and it has aged well !
  84. Elvis – Moody Blue … this song was rush released immediately after Elvis’s death in 1977 and became a posthumous hit world wide . Not a song that springs to mind when you think of Elvis but I have always liked it  and in fact it is one of my favourite Elvis songs.
  85. George Jones – She thinks I still care … one of his great songs recorded in 1962 and by coincidence was recorded by Elvis and released on the B side of Moody Blue in 1977 .
  86. Marty Robbins – Devil woman … a major hit in 1962 when everyone was humming it in Barron Park as we cycled over to the High School … we hardly knew what a woman was let alone a devil one !
  87. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Pancho & Lefty …. The original buddy song and one of the great story songs which has everything  … damm those federales !
  88. Ray Charles – I can’t stop loving you … another classic country song that Ray Charles has made his own and ruined it for other singers .
  89. Steve Earle – Guitar Town .. This is from his live album of 1988  Shut up & die like an aviator … is now a frequent visitor to Ireland where he regularly jams with traditional Irish musicians …. He wrote and recorded Galway Girl with Sharron Shannon .
  90. Coyboy Junkies – Misguided Angel …. My favourite of their songs and all of us have a misguided angel in our past !
  91. Tom T Hall – I took a memory to lunch …. Another of his self penned hits from the early 70’s , a real bitter sweet song and again we have all had that lunch at one time or another … god these last few songs have brought me back to when I was 14 years of age and I thought every new Elvis torch song at the time …. it’s now or never … are you lonesome tonight ( could never quite manage the drawl I wunner if your lonesome tonite  ) were written for me & Margo Griffin who lived in No. 3 Barron Park !
  92. Tom Russell – Blue Wing … Russell is an unusual eccentric singer from Texas who has never fitted into a pure country genre as he veers off on a blues / folk / social kick every now and then .. I have seen him live in a Kilkenny pub in 2009 , just him and a guitar and he only sings his own songs and always his current work , never falls back on his catalogue of over 20 albums . I love the wishful escapisim of this song .
  93. Shania Twain – Man I feel like a woman …. A contradiction there somewhere for the uber female sexy singer but a great song and I think the MTV video of Shania singing this in thigh high leather boots is burned into the consciousness of every  fifty year old male of the time and probably quite a few females who saw it !
  94. Jim Reeves – Four Walls .. classic Reeves hit from 1960 .
  95. Tom Jones – Green green grass of Home … I was on a bus from Cavan to Clones in 1967 to take up duty at the road station from Peadair Cassidy  when I first heard this song and was immediately grabbed by it …. had heard about this Welsh singer who had a pop hit  earlier that year with it’s not unusual and was quite surprised a pop guy would record such an out and out country song . The song has been recorded many times since by a huge number of singers including Elvis but  the Tom Jones version is still the best
  96. Ray  Charles  & Willie Nelson – Seven Spanish Angels .. another of the great story songs  and was a huge hit in 1984 . On the surface a simple story of an outlaw and his lady on the run and caught by the law  and when he is shot she opts to die with him . The song has created a huge interest in what inspired the writers with their reference to angels, the throne, altar of the sun etc. and conspiracy theorists see the Book of Revelations , an Aztec  sacrifice myth all featuring … me I think it is the federales catching up all over again with Pancho & Lefty  only this time Lefty is a woman ! In any event it is a great song with a fabulous chorus .
  97. Waylon Jennings – Ladies love Outlaws … Ol Waylon … the BEST !! This is his anthem popular with all us old  outlaws … don’t say it ain’t so please !!!!
  98. Waylon Jennings – Good Hearted Woman … I HAD to find room for Waylon’s other anthem … again one for us old sentimental chauvinists !   
  99. Terry Allen – Red Bird..  an acquired taste but I have loved his records since the early 80’s and this is a very athmospheric song from his best album “ Smokin the dummy “ in 1980 . I remember my first time hearing Terry Allen when in 1981 Mick Campion lent me a double album of his to tape … “From Lubbock & Smokin the dummy “ and was hooked on West Texas music ever since .
  100. Johnny Cash – The Man comes around …. Johnny Cash made this in 2002 the year before he  died , he had lost his wife , June Carter , the year before , was suffering from emphasemia and was almost bald – far from the swaggering black coifed brooding guy in his pomp . This pared back song was cut with Rick Rubin as the last of his America series and made the hair stand up on my neck when I first heard it .. my son Dave had been so affected by it that he went out and bought the single for me  in 2003. This song is a unique farewell look back at life by a highly religious man raised in that extreme apocalyptic Appalachian mountain religious tradition and was Johnny Cash’s last record .




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