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					                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
                         Country Songs of All Time



1. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hank

2. Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny

3. Love's Gonna Live Here, Buck Owens
I'm going to do things a little differently this year, because I can. For my money, 3 men irreversibly
changed the genre. Hank Williams modernized it. Johnny Cash personalized it. And Buck Owens
electrified it. If there were cute graphics and org charts and crap like that associated with this list,
these 3 men would be at the top, and everyone else would be flowing out from under them, with sharp
cutbacks and squiggly lines in between. That's not to say that I'm ignoring everything that came
before them in a chronological sense; rather, I think these 3 men did more to shape and finely tune
what we think of as country music than most of the stuff that came before them. So if you have your
banjo in the back of your Honda Hybrid on your way to the bluegrass festival, don't send me an angry
email about all the hillbilly jugband stuff, I don't think I'm making all that outlandish of a statement.
As for the songs themselves, they embody 3 very different themes and stories in the Genre. Williams'
song is the ultimate pastoral cry of isolationism in a post-WWII overly industrialized world; Johnny's
song is the ultimate song of personal suffering and regret; and Buck's song is the kind of misery-
laced, in-your-face dance number that made honkytonks blossom like wildflowers for a short time in
this country.

4. Walking the Floor Over You, Ernest Tubb
This is a terribly desperate song, which belies it's soft sweet recording. It's a beautiful example of a
simple idea, made more complex through a highly skilled recording. Tubb was literally walking the floor
over his wife who had temporarily walked out on him.

5. Crazy, Patsy Cline
I moved this song way up this year. Patsy Cline's recording is certainly a home run, but the song itself
deserves this high of a ranking. Willie hit the bull's eye 3 times in 1961 with 3 of the most important
and beautiful songs ever written in any genre. "Crazy" is such a little throwaway lyrical idea, too, very
sparse and simple. But the multilayered recording makes it explode and seer your noodle with the pain
and regret of the author. Unless something has changed recently, this is far and away the most played
song on Jukeboxes in the history of America.

6. Dead Flowers, Rolling Stones
A lot of people in Country Music did booze and pills and heroin. So there ought to be a song in the Top
10 about that. Five honkies from England put the tonk back in things.

7. Together Again, Emmylou Harris
I don't know if my metaphor holds, but Emmylou has a kind of musical Virgin Mary quality to her when
it comes to Country. Luxury Liner, Elite Hotel, Pieces of the Sky, these records helped SAVE country
music during a very strange period; they held their own against the first ripples of a growing tide of
commercialism, and have served as beacons for anyone seeking a source of inspiration for some
authenticity and meaning in what they're doing...in other words Kenny and Shania have never listened
to them.

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                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
                         Country Songs of All Time

8. Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again), Tompall Glaser & the Glaser Brothers
Here's another one I moved way up, mostly because of the song. This is an amazing poem, thick with
well used language and beautifully rendered in a chorus of Marty Robbins-esque vocals by the Glaser
Brothers. If you put a gun to my head, I would tell you this is my favorite Country Song of all time.

9. Portland, Oregon, Loretta Lynn
Garth Brooks got out because he had too much money, his former marriages was in a shambles, his kids
didn't know him, and there were probably days when he didn't know himself; but I also like to think
that he got out on some level because he saw cannons like this pointed at the side of his boat. After
Cash and Rubin created the masterpiece that was the first American Recording, it was only a matter
of time before a few more classic-current hookups happened that produced fireworks. In five years,
Van Lear Rose is going to be on everybody's list of all time greats, especially if clowns like Gregg
Swedberg aren't just talking out of their pieholes about going after the suburban housewife as
Country's core demographic. Loretta has always been the Country Joan of Arc for the modern
housewife, true to her man and family, but not afraid to take a swing at the SOB, or the barfly that
led him astray, if she has to. This tune with its bombastic guitars and rhythm, and deceptively tame
storyline, re-serves the notice that Loretta laid on everybody a little less than 40 years ago: mamma
just ain't to be messed with.

10. Blue Suede Shoes, Carl Perkins
Mystery Train aside, people really DO get into shouting matches about Carl Perkins. He's one of the
first guys to take one for the team on a personal fame level, even though he probably had more talent
in his pinky than about 90% of everybody he ever worked with. There are probably only 3,459,286
recordings of Blue Suede shoes out there, but, his is the only one where the guy singing it really means
it, every word of it. This is a sweaty, bloody song, and it's Perkins' sweat and blood on it.

11. That'll Be the Day, Buddy Holly & the Crickets
It's hard to believe that West Texas Mysticism is best embodied by a skinny kid in a dark suit and
horn-rimmed glasses, but that's just the way things are. You have to go sit in an old beatup truck at a
gas pump at a station in Lubbock to truly appreciate what an absolute freak this man and everything
he did truly were.

12. It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, Kitty Wells/The Wild Side of Life, Hank
Thompson/Great Speckle Bird, Roy Acuff

13. Lovesick Blues, Emmitt Miller
Every list like this needs to meaty historic BS in it. There are some east coast jazz snobs who think all
of country music is just one song re-recorded 6 million different ways. They point to 11 and 12 as their
proof. Midwest and Deep South Country snobs point to 11 and 12 as the primordial veritas of Country
in American history.

14. Help Me Make It Through the Night, Sammi Smith
Read what Cantwell and Friskics-Warren wrote about this song as they ranked it Number 1 all time.
It's hard to add much to that, besides the fact that I like Willie Nelson's recording much better.
Kristofferson, if he was anything, for a few years at least, he was the Country voice of the social and
sexual revolution in America.

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                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
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15. Knoxville Girl, The Louvin Brothers
He takes the woman he loves down to the river and kills her, and they sang it in soaring two party
harmony, and roughly 3 gazillion people cover each year at State Fairs and folk festivals around the
world.

16. Blue Eyes, International Submarine Band
The source of alt country has always been the competing stream of young people who stayed dialed
into edgy rock and/or roll while picking their little hearts out to their favorite old timey records. The
pioneer of this ethos was Gram Parsons, and "Blue Eyes" is the signature tune of a disaffected and
disenfranchised, yet happy culture of hillbillies who picked it out their own way on their own terms.

17. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, Bob Dylan
Dylan this, Dylan that, yada yada yada.

18. Screen Door, Uncle Tupelo
We had about 9 years in there when we all had jobs and mountain bikes and a cold case of beer in the
fridge. Everybody had a little more respect for each other and their differences, and there wasn't
some bobble-headed puppet in a suit telling everybody what was right and what was wrong. Then all
hell broke loose on or about Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. Oh well.

19. This Land is Your Land, Woodie Guthrie
We had about 9 years in there when we all had jobs and mountain bikes and a cold case of beer in the
fridge. Everybody had a little more respect for each other and their differences, and there wasn't
some bobble-headed puppet in a suit telling everybody what was right and what was wrong. Then all
hell broke loose on or about Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. Oh well.

20. Blue Yodel (T for Texas), Jimmie Rodgers
The singin' brakeman, yada yada yada.

21. He Stopped Loving Her Today, George Jones
What I really love about Nashville is things like the tribute to George Jones on PBS a while ago, where
all the little Nashville turds trotted out and told the man to his face how much they loved him and
appreciated his music and how much it inspired them, then promptly sang everything reading the lyrics
off of teleprompters. What BS. You're telling me you can't remember the lyrics to this song? "He
said, 'I'll love you, til I die...'" This song ought to make you feel uncomfortable about your own
mortality and make you screw the cap off of a GOOD bottle of wine and climb into it, never to return.
Give me the lawn mower keys baby, I'm drivin' to town.

22. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Willie
Nashville STILL hasn't figured out what to do with this recording. It's STILL treated like a great big
anomaly. Five million copies, scratching their heads...

23. Hello Walls, Faron Young
A pristine example of why jazz singers dig Willie, his poppy Blues hillbilly schtick that translates
across all borders. Young's lunch-pail vocal adds just the right everyman quality this song needs.



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24. Ring of Fire, Johnny Cash
June loves Johnny, yada yada yada.

25. Coat of Many Colors, Dolly
I vacillate on Dolly. On the one hand, you have one of the most important songwriters fo the 20th
Century, especially from the feminine viewpoint. On the other, you have one the biggest preachers of
the cult of "Success," akin to an Amway salesman, on the level where as long as YOU'RE happy and
YOU'RE making money, nothing else matters. I'm oversimplifying things to make a point, obviously, but
a lot of these phoney baloney Barbie Dolls singing about disabled kids and mascara in Country these
days chant the mantra of Dolly like it washes them of all their sins, when the very obvious counter is
that they haven't plumbed any of the depths her songwriting has. Whatever.

26. Stand By Your Man, Tammy Wynette
Burning bras, peace, love, dope, women's shelter, yada yada yada.

27. Sing Me Back Home/Mama Tried, Merle Haggard
You know I took Bruce Springsteen out of this year's list because something was bothering me and I
figured out that he and Merle represent a lot of the same things in American music. When you see the
two of them do it, you can imagine yourself doing, singing the same words about the same stuff. They
represent us, whoever we are; you just get the feeling they'd blend in in your backyard barbecue.
Bruce doesn't belong in a Country list, Merle does. Merle is Country's Bruce, Bruce is Rock's Merle.
These are big epic tunes of simple men gone wrong bemoaning their loss of place in life's line, not at
the front, not at the back, somewhere in the middle.

28. Husbands and Wives, Roger Miller
Roger Miller was so damned genius he could repeat two phrases twice, wrap it in some music, and blow
your head off:
Two people lonely
Lookin' like houses
Where nobody lives
Blam! Just stop and paint that picture in your head. Nine words! Nine words!

29. Lookin' Out My Back Door, CCR
I first heard this song as a kid when my oldest brother would play it for me on his record player.
Everything it meant to me then always comes flooding back over me when Dude gets his car back in
"The Big Lebowski." The Cohen Brothers should be given a medal for that scene.

30. El Paso, Marty Robbins
This isn't a country song, it's an aria in the middle of an opera written by Verdi or some other dead
Italian guy. The three greatest male voices in Country Music history were/are Ken Curtis (aka Festus),
Larry Gatlin, and Marty Robbins. I'm not joking when I tell you if this song comes on my radio on a
warm summer day when I'm tooling down the highway in my little pickup, I damn near drive off the
road, howling at the passing traffic. Think about that cowboy singing "I, Pagliacci" at the cows in those
old Texaco/Metropolitan Opera commercials.



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                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
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31. Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin
Recorded just before she died, the first time Kristofferson heard it, he started to cry and told the
guys in the studio, "she did that to me on purpose."

32. There Stands the Glass, Webb Pierce

33. Always Late (with Your Kisses), Lefty Frizzell
You don't have to listen to a whole lot of Pierce and Frizzell music before you realize that country has
ALWAYS been about boozin' and screwin'.

34. I've Got a Tiger By the Tail, Buck Owens
One of Country's greatest failings of the last 40 years or so is that Nashville has never had an answer
for the combination of Buck, Don Rich and Doyle Holly when they were tuned up and plugged in and
pouring kerosene all over everything. As loud and as fast as you want it. It's kind of like, no matter
what Metallica does, Led Zeppelin still did it just as loud and creepy as anybody wanted it. The
difference is, there hasn't been a Metallica for Country.

35. Good Hearted Woman, Waylon Jennings
(imagine you're standing in some 3 acre sized bar outside of a minor Texas city, blue jeans and boots
soaked in beer, peanuts, and vomit, shouting over the music)
"Man!.....crap....Waylon....#$%!?...Man...#$%!?-A man...#$%!?-A Waylon..."

36. Your Cheatin' Heart, Hank Williams
My favorite story from the American Masters bit on PBS was the story where Hank was laid up in his
bed because of his back and he was getting drunk and shooting a pistol randomly out into the house.
It's the kind of story I carry around in my pocket so I can bristle when some Nashville turd reminds
me that it's a business. "Music is a business," they say. Yeah, I know you now.

37. I Never Go Around Mirrors, Lefty Frizzell
I just love this song. The ultimate Country self-deprecation song.

38. When You Say Nothing At All, Alison Krauss & Union Station
The reason Alison and Union Station get standing ovations when they perform at all the awards shows
these days is because they're better than everyone else there.

39. Windfall, Son Volt
Number 38. Here's where I make my point about all this phoney baloney stuff that I do on here and
on the radio. Right now, the money grubbing losers in Nashville are trying to sell us a bill of goods
called Big & Rich under the guise of the whole thing being an edge to embrace the edginess of hip-hop,
punk, grunge, whatever. It's all pretty sad and ad hoc, mind you, but it's an attempt nonetheless. The
point is, they had a very natural and organic opportunity back in the 90's with the music of Jay Farrar
in both Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt. The man was and is a real bridge between the musical types and
cultural phenomena, and they flat out fart-frig missed it.



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                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
                         Country Songs of All Time

40. Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, Tom T. Hall
I'm going to quote myself from last year, I can't do any better:
39. Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, Tom T. Hall
About five minutes after I posted the last bit of the list, last year, I was really embarrassed by the
dearth of words on Tom T. Hall. He's another one of those artists who's enjoying a renaissance of his
work right now, and the chief reason is the bedrock truth and reality to the things that he wrote. I've
written about this part of Country music that's been lost by pursuit of demographics and meaningless
record sales, but it's a simple idea: unique experiences, when written about thoughtfully, evoke
common experiences, that play to common emotions. I don't know anything about old dogs, I hate
children, and I've never drank watermelon wine, but somehow, I know exactly what he's singing about.
Screw you Kenny Chesney.

41. The Ghosts of Hallelujah, The Gourds
I put this here last year as a big middle finger to tradition and the old guard. I think something
they've done has to go somewhere on this list. They get labelled as a jam band all the time, which
really chaps my butt. I defy you to find albums full of 18 minute mandolin fugues in any part of their
catalogue. This is a beautiful, up-tempo, hillbilly, faith song of sorts. Hallelujah brother!

42. Great Balls of Fire, Jerry Lee Lewis
Pure, unadulterated, devil music. Hallelujah brother!

43. Illegal Smile, John Prine
John Prine is probably the King of indirect mention on this list. There's probably 20+ places on this
list where his direct influence is part of the song listed.

44. You're Still On My Mind, Byrds
Another close call where Country could have embraced something a little different and simply didn't.

45. Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town, Kenny Rogers and New Edition
I think it's a rule, or a law, or an actual Amendment to the United States Consitution, that you have to
sing this at top volume, drunk, somewhere. You don't just flip this on at a Sunday brunch or
Wednesday afternoon tea party, say.

46. Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, Charlie Walker
I think this is the best honkytonk dance song ever. Charlie Walker is vastly underrated as a singer.

47. Up Against the Wall Redneck (Mother), Jerry Jeff Walker
Hillbilly hippies cling viciously to their visions of the man from upstate New York who reinvented
himself as a Texas Hobo singer. As such, their favorite song is always his best song. I have a great
weakness for most of the performances on Viva Terlingua, but I just don't know how you say anything
he's ever done is better than this performance. Maybe better is the wrong word; maybe imprinted on
the genre's conscience is the proper phrase. He wrote "Mr. Bojangles," but I'm fairly certain that he
spent the next twenty years of trying to perform it by falling off the stage into the front row. This is
a song one can sing drunk.


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48. If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time, Lefty Frizzell
We'll go honkytonkin' and we'll have a time, bring along your Cadillac, leave my old wreck behind, if
you've got the money honey, I've got the time.

49. Galveston, Glen Campbell
HERE is a GREAT example where Country embraced something different. Desert southwest
psychedelia, cleverly masked in the songs of Jimmy Webb, peformed by a hillbilly guitarist by way of
Los Angeles. Give it to me baby. See, what I'm talking about all gets back to a seemingly disconnected
place: Nat King Cole recording "Nature Boy." It was a massive gamble and a crazy overlap, but hey,
we're all smart people, we can handle a little musical stimulation, give it to us!

50. Heart of Gold, Neil Young
The first grunge album, a fantastic Country record, a beautiful song. I love the chord crescendo
married to the harmonica.

51. Me and Billy the Kid, Joe Ely
It was just my way of gettin' even, with the man who shot my horse. August fricking 10th baby,
August fricking 10th!

52. I Ain't Never, Webb Pierce
My friends ask the thunder what's wrong with me.

53. Hey Good Lookin', Hank Williams
Let me tell you something, the girl in this song gets nailed in the end. I hate being crude adn sexual
sometimes, but Lord all Friday, if the shoe fits. This is the wolf in Chuck Jones' "Little Bad Riding
Hood" getting lucky.

54. Sixteen Tons, Tennessee Ernie Ford
Country Music is filled with this Saturday afternoon Walt Disney Cowboy puppet stuff about coal
mines and rootin' and tootin' all sung in an almost omniscient baritone. This song has a sort of gritty
realism that sets it apart, but be careful you don't divorce it from the pile of BS underneath.

55. Sing a Sad Song, Merle Haggard
This song should bring a tear to your eye. If you can get a hold of a live version, it will.

56. Flowers on the Wall, Statler Brothers
I swear to God this song got recorded and on the radio before anyone knew what it was about. This
song would NEVER get made today, especially by the Statler Brothers.

57. Absolutely Sweet Marie, Jason and the Scorchers
Another opportunity missed. What's the count at now? Three, four?

58. Postcard, Uncle Tupelo
This song really describes some of the simmering aimlessness in my age group. Confusion and sensory
overload, intertwined with loud, grungy guitars and ethereal pedal steel.

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                             Jack Spark‛s Top 100
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59. Lyin' Eyes, Eagles
And yer smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile is a thin disguise...c'mon, we all like the Eagles. It's okay.

60. Farewell Party, Gene Watson
The ultimate Country self-pity song.

61. Detroit City, Bobby Bare
I don't say much in this blog at the end of the day, but Bobby Bare's kid really made me consider a
theory. If we kooky, hipster, doofus alt country kids are anything, we're the children of the men who
by day made the cars, and by night, made the bars.

62. Before the Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender
I think pure immigration numbers, and inroads by acts like Los Lobos and the combo group Los Super
Seven is going to inject a whole of Tejano and Conjunto into the Country into the coming years. So Big
& Rich are probably going to have to switch their midget to a Mexican one at some point. Freddy
Fender is a GIANT of American music, if for no other reason than he was always just Freddy doing
Freddy stuff. The best part of this song is the Spanish language part. He feels more comfortable
singing those words and they're the ones that get you in the gut.

63. Coal Miner's Daughter, Loretta Lynn
Do you get that Loretta Lynn represents everything that is strong and real about women in this world
and that all that stuff coming out of Nashville represents just that, a bunch of crap? Lewis Grizzard
wrote reams about how it's okay to ogle the "flat-bellies," but at some point, they just weren't real
anymore, but somehow we all forgot that.

64. Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley
There's no denying Elvis a spot somewhere on this list. I think we all hold hands and hold our breath
that this was his truest and purest Country moment. I can live with that.

65. Behind Closed Doors, Charlie Rich
If you don't like this song, there's no hope for you.

66. Concrete and Barbed Wire, Lucinda Williams
You just have to get to that first "konkreet and barb'd wore" to get it.

67. Oh Yeah, Poco
A destroyed opportunity. I can't for the life of me understand what happened here. So much promise,
so much waste. Oh well. Stay with the early stuff.

68. La Despedida, Terry Allen
This album changed the way I look at Country music. There's no reason to compromise with those dogs
from Nashville. We don't need their shallow lies about change and innovation and this and that. It's all
blah blah blah when you listen to crap like Kenny Chesney, then get yourself a heavy dose of Terry
Allen.

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                            Jack Spark‛s Top 100
                          Country Songs of All Time


69. Pocket Full of Gold, Vince Gill
Vince Gill is one of those Nashville guys who gets a pass because he can write, he can sing and he can
choke the crap out of a guitar. And, he made the very honorable move of getting the hell off of that
CMA Awards Show.

70. Hands on the Wheel, Wille Nelson
"...and fishin' for whales..." A mystery to Nashville still.

71. If We Make It Through December, Merle Haggard
I'm pretty dumb. I never really thought about this as a Christmas song until I started hanging around
my friends in Trailer Trash, but it really is. It's a fantastic example of fear and hope.

72. Kiss An Angel Good Mornin, Charlie Pride
Charlie Pride is no less important than Jackie Robinson or Rosa Parks. He took great risks and bore a
great burden. This song is simply fantastic from start to finish. If you aren't shaking your butt at the
end, you're dead.

73. Lucille, Kenny Rogers
In a bar in Toledo, across from the depot. You know it, go on.

74. Tear-Stained Eye, Son Volt
Jay Farrar, yada yada yada.

75. Guitar Town, Steve Earle
Here's a situation where Nashville actually did try to embrace something a little different, and the
vehicle let them down. That's not to say that Steve Earle didn't produce exciting and vibrant music
when given the opportunity. But, had he lived just a slightly cleaner lifestyle, he might have kicked up
some real dust.

76. One Road More, The Flatlanders
Just a good hippy country song. Embrace it man, embrace it.

77. Hot Burrito #1, Flying Burrito Brothers
Gram Parsons, yada yada yada.

78. Uneasy Rider, Charlie Daniels Band
I reached out and kicked ol' Green Teeth right in the knees. I think I wrote before that it's amazing
how different Charlie Daniels appears to be from this version of himself. Oh well.

79. Amarillo By Morning, George Strait
This is a real rodeo song.

80. I've Been To Georgia on a Fast Train, Billy Joe Shaver
Thank God for Billy Joe Shaver. He belongs in his own Hall of Fame.

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                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
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81. White Freightliner Blues, Townes Van Zandt
Everybody in Country Music spent 30-some years saying how great Van Zandt was without ever really
giving him a genuine opportunity at the big time. Then he was dead.

82. Elmo Lincoln, Jack Ingram
A fantastic bit of storytelling.

83. I've Always Been Crazy, Waylon Jennings
Waylon's ultimate song of flawed indifference.

84. Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts), BR5-49
Another opportunity missed, then recaptured, then messed up.

85. Drive (For Daddy Gene), Alan Jackson
Here's a great example of what Country music does well. It takes a simple idea and builds a complex
web around it, then leaves you with nothing more than an after-taste of that simplicity.

86. Laredo Rose, Texas Tornados
Crumpled bills on the dresser
Father confessor
Knows the wages of sin

87. El Cerrito Place, Charlie Robison
Charlie hit the ball out of the park on his latest album with this song. It's everything "My Hometown"
was, with about ten more layers. He might be the most underrated Country songwriter living today.

88. Lucille, Fred Eaglesmith
Convert to the religion of FRED.

89. Indianapolis, Bottle Rockets
Boy, did I ever get some crap for criticizing the Bottle Rockets recently. This is one of the greatest
Country songs ever. It speaks of desperation and cars and roads and America and it's fantastic.

90. Gringo Honeymoon, Robert Earl Keen
There's only one REK.

91. I Was Drunk, Alejandro Escovedo
There's only one Alejandro.

92. Passenger Side, Wilco
More of that aimlessness of Generation X going on here. Brilliant.




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                           Jack Spark‛s Top 100
                         Country Songs of All Time

93. La Grange, ZZ Top
I've never been sure what to think of ZZ Top. You just know deep down inside that there was a period
of time when being around these guys was a serious of life or death decisions.

94. Amos Moses, Jerry Reed
Any song that has "alligator bait" in it gets my vote.

95. Good-Bye, Good Lookin', Robbie Fulks
Another opportunity missed, number 6? Fulks' virtuosity and irreverance could have added so much.

96. Amy, Pure Prairie League
I'm going with the email above. Bustin' Out was a fantastic album and there's a blinding combination
of lyrical and musical talent on this song.

97. Backsliders Wine, Michael Martin Murphy
I've rediscovered this tune in the last year or so. What a great song about booze and regret.

98. Tampa To Tulsa, The Jayhawks
A terrific terrific tune.

99. Where the Devil Don't Stay, Drive By Truckers
Hopefully, this is a song that serves notice that things are going to change soon. This is all the
bombast of Lynyrd Skynyrd, coupled with the thoughtfulness of Waylon, Willie, and Tompall.

100. Play a Train Song, Todd Snider
The greatest song about trains that's not about trains ever recorded.




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