The 90s were an amazing decade for country music. It was the decade that gave us Garth, Shania, Tim and Faith. But beyond the sold out stadium tours and the diamond selling albums, 90s country was filled with radio gems that may never have gone to No. 1 or inspired a dance craze, but had a lasting impact on the genre and the artists that followed. Here are the 15 most underrated 90s country songs.
15. Daryle Singletary, “I Let Her Lie”
“I Let Her Lie,” written by Tim Johnson and recorded by traditionalist Daryle Singletary, is about what we let ourselves believe to avoid losing a love. The song went to No. 5 in 1995.
14. Carlene Carter, “I Fell in Love”
The daughter of June Carter and the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, Carlene Carter was practically destined to perform. But Carlene carved out her own way in the music world, staying true to her own sound with the rockabilly-inspired “I Fell in Love.”
13. Mark Collie, “Even the Man in the Moon is Crying”
This 1992 song, written by Mark Collie and Don Cook, follows a heartbroken man who seeks solace in a lonely drive. But everything around him, from the night winds to the looming desert moon, tells him that his relationship is doomed.
12. Suzy Bogguss, “Outbound Plane”
Suzy Bogguss‘ 1991 album Aces spawned three top 10 hits on the country charts, including her cover of Nanci Griffith’s “Outbound Plane.” The breezy song about unstoppable love went to No. 9 in 1992. Bogguss continues to tour regularly and has inspired and collaborated with artists like Texas troubadour Jamie Lin Wilson.
11. David Ball, “Thinkin’ Problem”
David Ball schooled everyone in Honky Tonk 101 with the clever and unbelievably catchy “Thinkin’ Problem,” which rose to No. 2 on the country chart in 1994.
10. Trisha Yearwood, “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)”
Trisha Yearwood exemplified the 90s American woman in “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl),” written by Matraca Berg and Alice Randall. No matter what society throws your way — TV diet gurus, little to no pay for your hard work — the song is a reminder that you can get through just about anything with Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline.
9. Pam Tillis, “Maybe it Was Memphis”
Pam Tillis‘ “Maybe it Was Memphis” tells the story of a summer romance in a southern saga filled with William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and singing katydids. “Maybe it Was Memphis” went to No. 3 on the country charts in 1991.
8. Vince Gill, “When I Call Your Name”
“When I Call Your Name,” written by Vince Gill and Tim DuBois, follows a man who comes home to find his wife gone. With chilling harmonies provided by Patty Loveless, the song was an integral part of the neotraditional country movement of the early 90s.
7. Wynonna, “Tell Me Why”
Wynonna ruled the country charts in the 80s as one-half of the mother-daughter duo the Judds, but by the time the 90s rolled around the powerhouse singer had set out on her own. “Tell Me Why,” the title track to her second album went to No. 3 in 1993. One part 60s girl group and one part country shuffle, “Tell Me Why” is a standout single of the decade.
6. Lucinda Williams, “Right In Time”
Lucinda Williams‘ 1998 album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road combined country, folk and swampy blues-rock and made her an icon of the alt-country and Americana circuit. The dreamy opening track, “Right In Time,” solidified Williams’ as one of the best and most original singer-songwriters of the decade.
5. Mary Chapin Carpenter, “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”
Carpenter got her start in folk music and never had much use for neatly categorizing her music into any one genre. She infused folk into country music with her 1991 single “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” which told the story of an under appreciated woman leaving an unhappy marriage. Written by Carpenter and Don Schlitz, the song went to No. 2 on the country charts in 1992.
4. The Mavericks, “What A Crying Shame”
The Mavericks introduced a wholly original sound when they arrived on the country scene in the early 90s, combining Latin music with a neotraditional country and rockabilly sound. “What A Crying Shame,” written by Raul Malo and Kostas, peaked at No. 25 in 1994. But it remained a defining song of 90s country.
3. Lee Ann Womack, “The Fool”
Lee Ann Womack‘s 1997 self-titled album announced her arrival as a fiercely traditional, golden-voiced force to be reckoned with. “The Fool,” about a dejected woman who confronts her partner’s old flame at a bar, is country storytelling at its finest.
2. Dwight Yoakam, “The Heart That You Own”
Dwight Yoakam burned up the country charts in the late 80s and early 90s with his brand of Kentucky-born high lonesome and Bakersfield shuffles. But perhaps Yoakam’s greatest and most under appreciated contribution is “The Heart That You Own,” a tear-in-your-beer anthem for heartbreak and loneliness. The song peaked at No. 18 in 1992.
1. Patty Loveless, “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”
Patty Loveless‘ incredible career was a mix of fun loving honky tonk and heartbreaking country story songs that shone a light on the human condition. “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” from Loveless’ 1994 album When the Fallen Angels Fly falls into the latter category. Written by Gretchen Peters, the unflinchingly honest and heart-wrenching song tells a story about one day in the life of two people who decide to end their marriage.