1. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones (1980)
If there was one country music standard it would have to be George Jones’ tragic 1980 classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which many critics and fans alike consider the greatest country song ever recorded. The song is the true essence of country music – heartbroken sadness and the truth. You throw in Jones’ smooth country vocals, which are considered the standard as well and you’ve got this true essential.
2. “Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis (1987)
Randy Travis’ 1987 hit “Forever and Ever, Amen” is simply one of the greatest love songs ever recorded, not only in country music, but any genre. The number one hit would also go on to win country song of the year at the Grammy Award and Academy of Country Music Awards in addition to the CMA. The tune tells of an everlasting love and Travis rich, traditional country vocals makes you believe it’s true.
3. “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” by Johnny Cash (1970)
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” as sung by Johnny Cash (one of the greatest singers ever) and written by Kris Kristofferson (one of the greatest songwriters ever) is truly country music royalty. The song details a down and outer with the hangover from Hell trolling around his town one lonely Sunday morning. Kristofferson has a way with words that few, if anyone, in the genre could ever top and his poetry is at full force on this one.
4. “In Color” by Jamey Johnson (2009)
Jamey Johnson is the greatest artist in country music today, hands down. But, you don’t hear him much on the radio and he’s popularity isn’t mass. Why? Because he’s true country music in a time and day when true country music doesn’t get played or sold. However, he did manage to breakthrough in 2009 with a picturesque tune about a boy and grandfather looking over old black and white photos with the grandfather exclaiming that “you should’ve seen it in color.”
5. “On the Other Hand” by Randy Travis (1986)
In the mid-‘80s country music was filled with simple, awful pop-infused songs (much like it is today) and some said the genre was dead (kind of like it is today). However, in 1986 a traditionalist named Randy Travis broke through with the “should-I-or-should-I-not cheat” classic “On the Other Hand” and country music had found the savior it so desperately needed. If only a Randy Travis-type could breakthrough today.