Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton arriving to "Joyful Noise" Los Angeles Premeire on January 19, 2012 in Hollywood, CA (Credit: DFree on Shutterstock)

From the honky-tonk roots to the tunes that speak directly to the heart, the best country songs foster a profound sense of connection, reminding us that we’re never truly alone in our feelings. Paying homage to small-town values and everyday heroes, country songs tell tales of love, family, loss, and the universal journey of life. Emotionally healing, country music has entwined deeply with the tapestry of American culture. 

In every way, country songs are more than just melodies. They serve as a reminder that no matter the trials you face, there’s someone who understands your journey. They even have the power to ease your burdens and lift your spirits. Perhaps most interesting would be how a new study found that listening to music can relieve pain. Ultimately, the experiment revealed that participants who felt they had some control over their music experienced stronger pain relief than the other volunteers. The study team also notes that those who engaged more actively with music in their day-to-day life enjoyed even better pain relief linked to having a sense of control over their music.

However, the benefits of music don’t stop there. Let’s dive deeper. A recent study found that listening to your favorite songs makes medications more effective. Additionally, researchers noted that patients listening to pleasant music experienced the lowest levels of serotonin release, indicating the serotonin stayed in their blood and was not released. Meanwhile, after listening to unpleasant music, patients dealt with greater stress and increased levels of serotonin release. Another study found that listening to music can even lower stress and improve mood. Surprisingly, individuals reporting higher levels of chronic stress experienced the most benefit associated with music listening in terms of improved mood and energetic arousal. Previous studies suggested that the benefits associated with music might be limited under heightened stress.

No matter if you’re strolling down country roads or dancing in the moonlight, the best country songs keep us anchored to what matters most in life. With influence and impact that reach far beyond the airwaves, country music transports us ​​to places of nostalgia, introspection, and celebration. With roots deeply embedded in folk traditions, country hits strike a special chord within each and every one of us. To learn more about the best country songs, we’ve compiled the cream of the crop for you. Did we miss one? Tell us more about your favorite hit in the comments below! 

Artist playing country music (Photo by Blake Guidry on

The List: Best Country Songs, According to Experts

1. “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash (1956)

A timeless track, “I Walk the Line” has had an undeniable influence on country music. Its steady rhythm and soul-stirring lyrics embody the genre. As the Rolling Stone writes, “’I Walk the Line’ was the defining moment for country music’s most iconic figure.” Written on the road, “the tune is largely a reassuring love letter to Vivian Liberto Cash, his first wife.” However, what makes it a great country song? “It’s the fact that Cash wasn’t always walking the said line.” 

“I Walk the Line” is more than a country love song; it’s a window into the soul of Mr. Cash. Capturing the rawness of human emotions, this hit resonates with those longing for connection. As The Tennessean recaps, “Cash released his ode to temptation in 1956, cementing words in musical history that still hold true today.” Standing tall, this song is a beacon of devotion and an enduring testament to Johnny Cash’s profound musical legacy.

Released in 1956, “I Walk the Line” is a declaration of fidelity that resonates with authenticity. In a way, it’s a promise to stay true to one’s values and the ones they hold dear. As Prevention says, “’I Walk the Line’ is perhaps his most iconic song, being his first big hit that lingered on Billboard’s Top 200 charts for 23 weeks upon release.” Then in 2014, “Rolling Stone gave it the number one spot on its list of the 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.”

2. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver (1971)

Released in 1971, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” captures the essence of longing, nostalgia, and following the tug of our hearts. It paints a vivid picture of a serene and idyllic countryside where we feel a deep-rooted connection. As Singers Room puts it, “This classic country song by the late John Denver captures the beauty and nostalgia of rural life with its catchy tune and heartfelt lyrics.” Having been covered by various artists, “this song has become one of his most iconic pieces, inspiring a sense of belonging among those who long for simpler times.” And for those of you who haven’t experienced the magic of “Take Me Home Country Roads”, “you’re missing out on an essential piece of country music history.”

This hit taps into the innate human desire for a sense of belonging and the warmth of familiar surroundings. To this day, its universal themes shine through, resonating across cultures and generations. As The Top Tens states, “’Take Me Home, Country Roads’ is a song that brings back memories of my childhood.” From the “first time I heard it, I fell in love with it.” All-in-all, this “song must be at the top.” 

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a testament to Denver’s artistry. And over the years, the song’s impact has transcended far beyond musical boundaries. As Hello Music Theory summarizes, “It can’t get any more country-er than this classic song…Take Me Home, Country Roads became West Virginia’s official state song and highlights everything beautiful about the state, from its majestic mountains, scenic views, and timeless country life.” It has also been covered by other notable artists, “like Olivia Newton-John, and found itself featured in a video game called Fallout 76.”

3. “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks (1990)

“Friends in Low Places” is a reminder that the company of genuine friends, whether in high society or low places, is what truly matters. It’s an anthem of camaraderie and rebellion, a song that encourages us to break free from constraints and celebrate life‘s imperfections. As Parade describes, “’Friends in Low Places’ is another undeniable staple of the genre.” Shortly after being released, this “song hit No. 1 on the country charts and spent four weeks there before winning Single of the Year from both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association.”

It’s more than a country tune; it’s a testament to the power of authentic friendships. As Time Out recounts, “’Friends in Low Places’ was created by songwriting duo Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee, then handed to a then-unknown Brooks.” Through the success of the song, “Garth Brooks wound up making a fairly big name for himself in country music.”

Released in 1990, “Friends in Low Places” further secured Garth Brook’s place as one of the greatest country singers. And as the years pass, this country hit continues to help people find solace and joy in the most unexpected places. As The Top Tens depicts, “’Friends in Low Places’ is hands down one of the best country songs of all time.” Even people “who don’t like country music love this song.” So, raise your glass and sing along!

4. “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw (2004)

A heartfelt country tale, “Live Like You Were Dying” is a song about seizing the moment and embracing the beauty of life, even in the face of mortality. The song’s message serves as a universal reminder that life is fleeting and that every day is an opportunity to cherish the present and pursue our passions. As Singers Room writes, “The song tells the story of a man who receives devastating news and chooses to make the most of every moment he has left.” Its message of living in the present “inspires countless individuals to cherish their loved ones and pursue their dreams without hesitation.”

“Live Like You Were Dying” reflects our own aspirations, regrets, and urgency to create meaningful memories. Its legacy lies in its ability to prompt introspection and conversations about what truly matters in life. As Time Out sums up, “McGraw’s 2004 ballad reminds listeners to love deeper, speak sweeter, and give forgiveness that you’ve been denying.”

In the halls of country music, “Live Like You Were Dying” stands as a beacon of wisdom, urging us to experience life’s highs and lows with open hearts and minds. It encourages us to break free from routines, take risks, and nurture connections with those we love. As The Tennessean says, “This feel-good, hip-swaying tune finds McGraw waxing poetic over the ability to truly live life to the fullest.” Overall, “the track and video both cleaned up at the 2004 CMAs and ACM Awards, and it has some solid bucket list advice—just ignore the part about bull riding, maybe.”

5. “Jolene” by Dolly Parton (1973)

Released in 1973, “Jolene” is a country masterpiece that captures heartache, jealousy, and vulnerability. The song’s raw emotions shine through, taking us on a heartfelt exploration of human emotions. As Time Out depicts, “This Parton hit was her second chart-topper and even crossed into mainstream music’s territory.” To this day, “It’s one of her most covered songs, now being sung by artists who weren’t even alive when it came out.” More recently, in interviews, “she’s revealed that the real Jolene is a composite of her bank teller and a fan she met at a show.”

At its core, “Jolene” is a plea, a desperate cry to a perceived rival for the affections of a loved one. Its universal themes of love, longing, and the complexity of human relationships enable the song to resonate worldwide. As the Rolling Stone recounts, “’Jolene’ is inspired by the sight of her husband flirting with a bank teller and is Parton’s most heartrending triumph and the most devastating cheating song of them all.” Beneath the lyrics, “it’s heartbreaking to hear one of country’s most beloved matriarchs sounding so vulnerable.” 

“Jolene” is a testament to Dolly Parton‘s songwriting prowess and her ability to craft a narrative that taps into the human experience. Over the decades, it’s transcended its musical ancestry, becoming a cultural cornerstone that has inspired countless covers, reinterpretations, and discussions about love, jealousy, and vulnerability. As Singers Room points out, “’Jolene’ is a timeless classic and is considered to be one of the greatest country songs ever written, praised for its raw and emotional lyrics that resonate with audiences even today.” Overall, “the success of ‘Jolene’ not only cemented Parton’s status as a country music icon but also marked a turning point for female artists in general.” 

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About Tim Lanoue

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  1. DSS says:

    Garth and Tim do not belong in your top 5 country songs… Glen Campbell and Marty Robbins had many number 1 songs and top 40 hits.that have stood the test of time.

  2. Janice says:

    I have been a 100% country fan for 63 years and have seen several live performances. However, not one of those five songs listed comes even close to being one of the top songs ever. Why are the chosen from recent times only? You most definitely overlooked some some of the greatest artists and their truly great songs. What was your criteria?

  3. Linda Kemp says:

    consider Wildwood Flower and Can the circle be unbroken by the Carter Family

  4. Paul Castillo says:

    Any list that doesn’t have George Jones “He stopped loving her today”.as#1 is lame. I wouldn’t have placed any of you picks i top 50

  5. Tom clark says:

    Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams; Willy Nelson: Always on My Mind; Hank Williams: Hey, Good Lookin’; Marty Robbins: El Paso; Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter