What would you say makes a great country song? Would you say it has to tell a story? Draw a line? Or have a twang that you can feel down to the soles of your feet? Some country hits will get you mad, some will make you weep, and some will make you want to stop driving your car and start dancing on the side of the road. These are the best songs that map out the story of country music.
1. Johnny Cash, ‘I Walk the Line’ (1956)
This song was a defining moment for country music’s most iconic figure. What makes it such a great song? Johnny Cash’s baritone voice, the rhythms, the lyrics. But what makes it such a great country song? The mere fact that Cash wasn’t always walking the line.
It was written on the road and released in 1956. The song is essentially a reassuring love letter to Vivian Liberto Cash, who was his first wife. Robert Hilburn’s 2013 biography quotes Johnny Cash acknowledging that he was partly singing to God, as well: “Sam never knew it, but ‘I Walk the Line’ was my first Gospel hit.”