Sawyer Brown songs often pushed the already loosened boundaries of what it meant to be a country band in the ’80s and ’90s. Like Alabama before them, the group found success with both rowdy, rocking material and more sentimental country ballads.
Guitarist Bobby Randall, bassist Jim Scholten, drummer Joe Smyth, keyboardist Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard and lead singer Mark Miller first joined forces as the backing band for country singer Don King. After King’s retirement, the five-piece continued as Sawyer Brown–a name inspired by Nashville’s Sawyer Brown Road. Nowadays, Shayne Hill fills Randall’s old role as the band’s guitarist.
While the ’80s were kind to Sawyer Brown, the following decade brought even more success with the incorporation of love songs and moving ballads to an often light-hearted set featuring songs like the cheesy “Out Goin’ Cattin” and “Old Photographs.” That’s not to say that they stopped being a little silly, as “800 Pound Jesus,” “Superman’s Daughter” and “My Baby Drives a Buick” were yet to come.
This variety of song choices among Sawyer Brown’s greatest hits and deepest album cuts explain away how a band in country music could stay relevant in the changing landscapes of ’80s and ’90s country. Since then, the band had kept on releasing albums, including 2002’s Can You Hear Me Now and 2011’s Travelin’ Band.
If you’re looking to delve into the band’s variety-filled back catalog, begin with these 10 choice cuts.
10. “All These Years”
Gentle, singer-songwriter fare worked for a band known for its rocking arrangements and multi-part harmonies on this gorgeous song off the 1992 album Cafe on the Corner. If it’s your speed, check out the equally sentimental “Treat Her Right,” “Heart Don’t Fall Now,” “This Missin’ You Heart of Mine,” “I’m in Love With Her” and “This Night Won’t Last Forever.”
9. “Step That Step”
Sped-up country music and on-stage performance advice drives the band’s first number one single. It’s off their self-titled 1984 debut album, also featuring the hits “Leona” and “Used to Blue.”
8. “Betty’s Bein’ Bad”
More rockabilly than country, this song about the town hell raiser displays the band’s rock chops–even if the horn accompaniment hasn’t aged gracefully.
7. “The Boys and Me”
This fun, boot-scooting example of ’90s country energy is all about a night of debauchery in a little town, spent alongside your best friends. It’s one of the best songs to result from the band’s longstanding work relationship with songwriter Mac McAnally. For more high-energy pop-country, listen to “When Love Comes Callin,” “I Don’t Believe in Goodbye,” “My Baby’s Gone,” “Trouble on the Line,” “Puttin’ the Dark Back Into the Night” and “Hard to Say.”
6. “The Dirt Road”
This slice of small town wisdom about living at the proper pace suggests taking the rougher, proven path instead of the paved, smooth road to success.
Read More: ‘90s Country Artists You Forgot You Loved
5. “The Walk”
Sweet sentiments and multi-part harmonies make this tender trip down memory lane an example of fantastic storytelling about the irreplaceable love between a father and a son.
4. “Thank God For You”
The band took this catchy blend of country, pop and gospel choir vibes from its Outskirts of Town album to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1993.
3. “Six Days on the Road”
One of the most rocking selections in the Sawyer Brown arsenal was actually an old truck driving song from the ’60s, made famous by Dave Dudley.
2. “The Race is On”
At a time when NASCAR’s mainstream popularity made country music more cosmopolitan, Sawyer Brown had fun comparing raceway excitement to relationship drama in this cover. It’s the sort of wordplay that made “Small Talk” and “Like a John Deere” such clever songs.
1. “Some Girls Do”
“I ain’t first class but I ain’t white trash” became an iconic line and a defining statement from one of the era’s greatest creative forces and most talented bands.