I was raised on country music, so while my tastes have broadened greatly beyond the genre, I still love it, and I see people talking a lot of bull when they clearly haven’t listened to country. One thing I love? There is no music genre that consistently tells a story better than country does. So in honor of country music day, I put together a list of the best story-telling songs. (And the entire playlist is here.)
This song is so amazing, and you really have to listen to get the full story (and track down the complete song – one verse is cut in the radio version). “Fancy” tells the story of a poor girl named Fancy whose mother essentially pimps her out in the hopes of improving her station. Controversial but still powerful, I can’t blame the mother, who wants her daughter to have more and doesn’t know of another way to help her get it.
The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia – Reba McEntire
Reba’s an amazing storyteller. In this song, she tells the story of a murder, a wrongful conviction, and a killer who was never caught. It’s powerful, calls out a lazy justice system, and features all the key elements – heartbreak, betrayal, deceit. It’s an entire movie in 4 minutes.
Two Black Cadillacs – Carrie Underwood
Don’t ever mess with Carrie Underwood – she will take you all the way out. She sings about retribution towards a cheating husband in this song, and correctly places the blame on the man who cheats, rather than the other woman – I really appreciate seeing that because how often in media do women forgive the cheater or try to win him back while blaming the other woman for being a homewrecker? The man (or person in the relationship) is the one who made the promises – the other party owes you nothing. I digress. Anyway, the song is dark and intriguing, made more powerful by Underwood’s flawless vocals.
Alyssa Lies – Jason Michael Carroll
You’ll need a box of tissues for this song. I’m not even going to tell you anymore about what the subject matter is. Just know Carroll’s deep, rich voice sets the scene perfectly as the story unfolds.
Don’t Take The Girl – Tim McGraw
It only takes Tim McGraw three minutes to tell the story of a boy’s whole life. From childhood through marriage and kids, hear about Johnny and the trials he endures. You’ll smile at the beginning and by the end, you’ll be so invested, you’ll be in tears.
The Greatest – Kenny Rogers
This is one of my absolute favorite Kenny Rogers songs. It tells the story of a boy who knows he’s the greatest baseball player ever. That’s it. There’s not really anywhere for the story to go from there – there’s no struggle, the boy is already the greatest. But you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time.
Riding With Private Malone – David Ball
This song is so beautifully done, and one thing I really like is how it personalizes the people who go off to war, giving them dreams and aspirations aside from military life. The song’s about a car and a soldier, and once you hear it, you’ll never forget it.
Three Wooden Crosses – Randy Travis
In so many situations, we don’t know why things work out the way they do. I’m not particularly religious, but regardless of your spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, this song reminds you that the obvious answer isn’t always the best answer.
Independence Day – Martina McBride
Like Reba, Martina McBride is another great storyteller, with any number of ridiculously amazing songs, but I went with this because…well, today is Independence Day, and it’s been my favorite song of hers for 20 years. It’s powerful and tells the story of a woman who is finally done with being abused.
The Thunder Rolls – Garth Brooks
Another song where you have to search for the missing final verse, Garth Brooks tells the story of a woman who’s been cheated on and beaten down (if not physically, then emotionally) and has reached the end of her patience. It was actually a nice twist to hear a guy singing about this kind of subject matter – these songs most often are sung by women.
Goodbye Earl – The Dixie Chicks
One last song, and like many others in country music, it’s about abuse, though you wouldn’t know from the bouncy, upbeat music. Really, I think this is an anthem for abused women – get out however you can because you do deserve to live your own happy life, and once you get out, once you’ve succeeded in that, you can succeed in anything.
Do you listen to country music, or are you willing to give it a chance? Tell me what you think after you’ve listened to these songs (especially “Alyssa Lies”, that song isn’t talked about enough).