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15 Best '90s Country Love Songs


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As country love songs go, the '90s had an embarrassment of riches, and narrowing this list down to 16 entries required more than a few tough judgment calls.

How, for instance, does one weigh the merits of something like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's "It's Your Love," against a song as plainly brilliant as Hill's own "This Kiss"? How does one decide whether "Maybe It Was Memphis" by Pam Tillis or "Cowboy Take Me Away" by The Chicks is the better song? What makes one love song better than another?

These are tough questions, and we don't have the answers. What we do have is this hand-picked list of the best love songs from country music's greatest decade, which we feel is definitive.

Here we go.

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 15. "Meet in the Middle," Diamond Rio

We could all learn a little from Diamond Rio. The group's signature song and a defining hit of the decade, "Meet in the Middle" is an ode to the only constant in every love story. Compromise.

14. "Carrying Your Love with Me," George Strait

If only long-distance love was as easy as George Strait makes it sound on song from 1997, in which he plays the part of the roving (but also extremely loyal) cowboy. Swoon.

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13. "Right in Time," Lucinda Williams

The yearning opener from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams' 1998 masterpiece, makes evocative poetry of its narrator's mundane desires.

12. "If I Could Make a Living," Clay Walker

One gets the feeling that "lovin'" has a double meaning on this essential Clay Walker bop from 1994. More power to him.

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11. "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away," Vince Gill

Not a love song in the traditional sense, "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away" nonetheless features some of Vince Gill's most impassioned vocal work. As it turns out, The Eagles are big fans as well.

10. "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane," Tanya Tucker

"The world says they'll never make it / Love says they will," Tanya Tucker sings in this sweeping and tender story song about a pair of teenage lovers who defy the odds and stay together into old age. It just missed the No. 1 spot at radio, but remains one of defining songs of her mid-career resurgence period. (See also: Alan Jackson's "Livin' On Love" from 1994.)

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9. "You're Still the One," Shania Twain

No karaoke bar was ever the same after Shania Twain released "You're Still the One," the platonic ideal of the crossover single, in early 1998. The fact that it never reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 simply defies belief. 

8. "Strawberry Wine," Deana Carter

Never, and I mean never, has the loss of one's virginity sounded as tender and beautiful as it does on "Strawberry Wine." The first of three No. 1 from Carter's debut, Did I Shave My Legs for This?, "Strawberry Wine" remains in many ways the standard by which country reveries are measured.

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7. "She's in Love with the Boy," Trisha Yearwood

30 years after the release of "She's in Love with the Boy" -- simply put, a perfect song -- Yearwood enshrined her signature hit into country music history by singing "She's in love with the girl," onstage at the Grand Ole Opry Opry with rising star Brooke Eden in honor of Pride and Eden's engagement to fiancée Hilary Hoover. Love does indeed win! 

6. "When You Say Nothing at All," Alison Krauss & Union Station

Recorded for 1995's Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album, Alison Krauss and Union Station's version of "When You Say Nothing At All" reinterprets Whitley's beloved original and reinterprets it as a pop-rock jam. Even as love songs go, it doesn't get much smoother than this.

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5. "Til' a Tear Becomes a Rose," Keith Whitley with Lorrie Morgan

After Whitley's tragic death in 1989, a bereft Lorrie Morgan added her own vocals to his demo version of Leon Everette's "Til' a Tear Becomes a Rose," in the process creating one of the most heart-rending love songs in country history.

4. "Maybe It Was Memphis," Pam Tillis

Dissertations could be written (and maybe already have been?) about the second verse of this towering Southern romance, which draws a clean line from William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams through Glen Campbell and straight to 90s country. A masterpiece.

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3. "Cowboy Take Me Away," The Chicks

It would be impossible to overstate the importance of this song to any queer person who grew up in the late 90s or early 2000s. God bless the Chicks. 

2. "This Kiss," Faith Hill

The latter half of the decade spawned numerous crossover hits, a few of which were even bigger smashes than Hill's "This Kiss." None, however, can boast that they rhymed "centrifugal motion" with "pivotal moment." No one will ever be able to take that away from her.

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1. "In Spite of Ourselves," John Prine and Iris DeMent

The brilliance of "In Spite of Ourselves," the title track from John Prine's iconic 1999 duet album, is that it does not glorify its subjects. Far too many love songs (including, ahem, a few entries on this list) lean so far into the romance of it all that they lose sight of what makes love so remarkable: Anyone, even the two strange narrators of this classic song, can find their "big door prize." I mean that.

READ MORE: Let's Go Girls: 40 Women Who Shaped '90s Country

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