Singer & songwriter Clint Black performs at the Ryman Auditorium on December 02, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.
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Clint Black Songs: 15 of the '90s Legends' Blue Collar Classics


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As part of the neo-traditional boom, Clint Black released some of the crowning achievements and finest albums during the '90s. Like Brooks & Dunn, Mark Chesnutt, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson and Randy Travis, Black's early albums highlighted the working man's blues with earnest detail and gritty determination. His combination of sharp vocals, clever hooks, and conscious lyrics continued to blossom as the decade passed.

Throughout his career, he delivered a mix of fun-loving honky-tonkers and incredibly stoic and intimate love ballads. It never really mattered what the subject was, Black always had an answer for it. His ability to play the heartbroken fool in one song and the sentimental and caring lover in the next was uncanny. He delivered each with an honest touch that resonates to this day.

Much of that can be attributed to the fact that Black's written the vast majority of songs he's recorded throughout his career. There's an unmistakable tone in Black's catalog that's uniquely Black. More often than not, there's a piercing warble and signature texture that helps create Black's dynamic moments.

Here's our playlist of Black's 15 greatest songs to date.

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15. "When My Ship Comes In" (The Hard Way, 1993)

Singer and songwriter Clint Black is shown performing on stage during a live concert appearance on July 11, 1993.

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So many of Black's songs are rooted in idioms and expressions. Right from the jump, Black sets the scene with a clear and defined expression with "When My Ship Comes In." Found on 1993's The Hard Way, it finds Black playful and laid-back. Like George Strait's "Ocean Front Property," it's partly built on a tongue-in-cheek pipe-dream comment. Where Strait's trying to sell you a piece of ocean front property in Arizona, Black's saying he'll be able to sail out of landlocked Colorado once he catches his big break. Listen here.

14. "Nothin' But The Taillights" (Nothin' But The Taillights, 1997)

Clint Black during The 25th Annual American Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (

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While so many of Black's successes came from powerful love songs and breakup ballads, Black delivered humorous up-tempo singalongs with the best of them. Written with Steve Wariner, "Nothin' But the Taillights" is chock-full of vivid imagery. With his thumb out in the wind and hitchhiking back into town, we hear Black's bewildered inner dialogue slowly turn into plotting his own revenge against his scorned lover. In all, it makes for good storytelling. Listen here.

13. "Killin' Time" (Killin' Time, 1989)

C & W star Clint Black singing w. guitar in field by fence near Freedom Fest concert.

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When Black finally scored a record deal in Nashville in the late '80s, he came out swinging with a run of Billboard chart-topping singles. "Killin' Time," the second from his debut album, was sharp and progressive while maintaining a healthy callback to traditional country moods. The opening lines of "You were the first thing that I thought of when I thought I drank you off my mind" exemplified both Black's clever wordplay and scene setting language. "This killing time is killing me" is incredibly simple, yet has an effortless barroom poetry quality to it that was reminiscent of sad ballad crooners such as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Listen here.

12. "A Good Run of Bad Luck" (No Time to Kill, 1993)

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 27: Clint Black receives Hollywood Walk-of-Fame Star at Hollywood Walk-of-Fame with wife Lisa Hartman-Black in Hollywood, California on July 27, 1996.

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Found on the Maverick soundtrack, Black scored yet another No. 1 hit with "A Good Run of Bad Luck," his eighth at the time. Armed with plenty of gambling metaphors, "A Good Run of Bad Luck" rolls down the table like a pair of tumbling dice-- imagery that'll be further implanted into your head by its music video. Black sings with blazing speed throughout the fun-loving number. A howling harmonica sets the pace throughout like a train chugging along in the sepia-toned Western backdrop. Listen here.

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11. "Nothing's News" (Killin' Time, 1989)

C & W star Clint Black sitting on back of pick-up truck playing guitar in field; near Freedom Fest concert.

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During the '90s, no one in country music quite pulled off the sad high and lonesome like Black. For a song steeped in nostalgia, "Nothing's News" doesn't find Black comforted by the good old days. Rather, he uses them to compare how unfulfilling the present is. He's missing a large piece of his identity, and as it turns out, it's because he's a not just a broken man, he's a heartbroken one too. Listen here.

10. "You Don't Need Me Now" (Nothin' But The Taillights, 1997)

Clint Black performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on October 8, 1993 in Mountain View, California.

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Written with long-time Black collaborator Shake Russell, "You Don't Need Me Now" again finds Black searching for answers. There's a sobering self-awareness to the 1997 song that barely cracked the Top 30 of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart . Black knows his relationship is on the rocks. He reads the writing on the wall. But what sets "You Don't Need Me Now" apart from similar heartbreakers is Black's exposed confession of acknowledging that one day, he'll need her and understanding she won't be around to help pick up the pieces. Listen here.

9. "Where Are You Now" (Put Yourself in My Shoes, 1990)

Portrait of American country musician Clint Black as he poses with his guitar, Chicago, Illinois, July 22, 1990.

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For the vast majority of his career, guitarist and bandleader Hayden Nicholas has served as the Lennon to Black's McCartney. The writing partners have produced some of the era's greatest songs. In many ways, "Where Are You Now" and "You Don't Need Me Now" occupy the same territory. Where "You Don't Need Me Now" finds an aware Black, "Where Are You Now" is him being blindsided by the turn of events. He's left searching for a way to put out that burning question after she's left him high and dry. Listen here.

8. "Loving Blind" (Put Yourself in My Shoes, 1990)

Fans Peeking at Clint Black

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A massive aspect to Black's stark and cold heartbreakers of the '90s was how he set the table for each song. He understood space and pacing perhaps better than any of his country crooning peers. Sure, "Loving Blind" is full of sorrowful piano, violin, and pedal steel, but it's the space between their short sobbing cameos that makes it so effective. He does it time and again throughout the '90s, but none are as haunting as the gothic tones of "Loving Blind." Listen here.

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7. "Still Holding On" with Martina McBride (Nothin' But the Taillights, 1997)

Clint Black and Martina McBride looking at pictures of Clint's children backstage at the Country Freedom Concert in Nashville, Tennesee on October 21, 2001 .

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"Still Holding On" is yet another classic Black song found on 1997's Nothin' But the Taillights. Martina McBride joins Black on the magical duet. The song received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 1998. While songs like "A Bad Goodbye," "Loving Blind" and "Where Are You Now" find Black in the midst of heartbreak, "Still Holding On" takes a spin on the subject. He and McBride acknowledge their eventual breakup as probably being the best way to handle the situation. Still, the two haven't fallen completely out of love. They're still holding out hope that they'll be able to rekindle the flame after a needed break. Listen here.

6. "Untanglin' My Mind" (One Emotion, 1994)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - October 3 Clint Black performing at Shoreline Amphitheater. Event held on October 3, 1992 in Mountain View, California.

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Though Black has primarily stuck with the same group trusted co-writers throughout his career, every once in a while, he'd score a hit with someone outside that circle. On One Emotion's "Untanglin' My Mind," Black collaborates with the legendary Haggard. As a classic divorce ballad, it naturally highlights some of Black and the Hag's finest points as songwriters. Here, they focus on the details of the busted up marriage. There's not a huge or blistering blow on "Untanglin' My Mind," but rather, it hits you hard due to those fine details. It's death by a million papercuts. Listen here.

5. "A Bad Goodbye" Feat. Wynonna (No Time to Kill, 1993)

ATLANTA, GA - 1994: Country singer Clint Black performs during the half-time show at the 1994 Atlanta, Georgia, Superbowl XXVII football game at the Georgia Dome.

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Much like "Still Holding On" and "Loving Blind," Black and Wynonna Judd create a dark, brooding atmosphere on "A Bad Goodbye." But rather than harkening on the pitfalls of their love coming to an end, the two take the high road. It's the classic "I love you, but I'm not in love with you." That sense of maturity is rarely mutual, but here, Black and Judd find a way. Like McBride before (and Lisa Hartman a few songs down), Black and Judd's chemistry is undeniable. It's both bittersweet and touching all at once.

It's from the same album as "State of Mind" and "Half the Man."

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Listen to Black and Wynonna's duet here.

4. "A Better Man" (Killin' Time, 1989)

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: NASHVILLE Photo of Clint BLACK circa 1990

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While many of Black's songs have iconic guitar licks that pop, one of Black's best-kept secrets is how often he returns to the piano to truly set the pace. "Loving Blind" and "A Bad Goodbye" may take the cake for creating the gothic ambiance, but even as far back as "A Better Man" from his debut album, Black was letting the piano help create the mood. On "A Better Man," another Hayden Nicholas co-write, Black takes a defined image to set the table--"I'm leaving here a better man for knowing you this way." Much like "A Bad Goodbye," Black offers a mature take on the breakup. He knows one effect of this relationship has been becoming a better individual, even if a heartbreak has been the cost.

Black's historic debut album also brought listeners "Walkin' Away" and "Nobody's Home."

Listen to "A Better Man" here.

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3. "When I Said I Do" Feat. Lisa Hartman Black (D'Lectified, 1999)

Artists Rights Foundation Honors Steven Spielberg with 1995 John Huston Award. Clint Black and Lisa Hartman were in attendance.

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Found on 1999's D'Lectrified, "When I Said I Do" is another robust duet by Black. This time around, it's with his wife, Lisa Hartman Black. Like many of Black's songs, "When I Said I Do" finds Black creating a dynamic atmosphere that rivals his mature and seasoned lyrics. While "When I Said I Do" is certainly country, it sees Black expanding his musical palette with elegant piano and sweeping string arrangements. Hartman's vocal contributions blend well with Black's crisp and crystalline vocals. Listen here.

2. "Something That We Do" (Nothin' But The Taillights, 1997)

(Original Caption) : 1994-Photo shows Clint Black as he signs autographs for fans in Nashvillle, TN.

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Like "When I Said I Do," "Something That We Do" finds Black as an experienced songwriter and matured voice. It's a love song that doesn't focus on the superficial and it's not chock full of cliched tropes of the day. "Something That We Do" isn't the romantic musings of a young man. Rather, Black fully accepts the lows with the highs in a relationship. While most often use love as a noun or short-sighted action, Black's "Something That We Do" focuses on the journey--"Love isn't something that we have, it's something that we do."

It's the fourth playlist pick off the same album as honorable mention pick "The Shoes You're Wearing."

Listen to "Something That We Do" here.

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1. "Like The Rain" (Greatest Hits, 1996)

Clint Black during The 22nd Annual American Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States.

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In 1996, Black released his first Greatest Hits compilation. On it, he added four new songs, one being the goosebumps-inducing "Like The Rain." It's another Black and Nicholas co-write. Again, Black utilizes the piano better than any of his '90s neo-traditional contemporaries. Like "Loving Blind," "Like The Rain" is paced by Black's use of space. It's not cluttered so when the thunder-clapping drums finally come with the chorus, it's a memorable moment. One of Black's best tricks as a vocalist is his ability to restrain and pull back. He's never over the top or overselling his lines. But like those drums, when he does finally let off an emotional wail, it's powerful. Listen here.

READ MORE: 'Austin': The Story Behind Blake Shelton's Emotional Debut Single and First No. 1

This post was originally published on December 12, 2018.

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