When Collin Raye bust onto the scene in the early ’90s, he made an instant impression with his combination of heartfelt love ballads and seamless, smooth and refined vocal delivery. Songs like “Love, Me” and “One Boy, One Girl” were earnest and soaked with pleasant melodies and effortless slow-dancing rhythms. Even while Raye certainly packed them out on the dancefloor, it wasn’t as though he was delivering repackaged or cookie cutter love songs.
He had a keen ear and was intent on offering hits that focused on real romance, being socially conscious and give you something to think about while out on the dancefloor or driving around town. Though he rarely wrote any of the songs that appeared on his albums, he found songs that resonated and often were jampacked with lines and narratives that jumped from the page.
Still, not every song Raye recorded was a power ballad. He’d cut loose on rocking ramblers that were callbacks to his rockabilly roots of his home state of Arkansas. Songs like “That’s My Story,” “Every Second” and “Any Old Stretch of Black Top” were bold and armed to the teeth with chugging guitar licks and subtle winks.
Through it all, one thing was for certain and constant throughout his catalog no matter style or intent—his powerhouse vocals. Even though they were certainly country, Raye had a range that could rival that of any performing on the pop or rock charts. It wouldn’t matter. Often, he’d deliver lines with a powerful fury that soared higher than most would dare attempt. Still, there was an effortless quality to them all the while.
During his music career, Raye has released 21 Top 10 Singles and 12 full-length albums. Here, we count down 15 of his best.
15. “That’s My Story”
Though we typically think of Raye’s career as being filled with only love ballads and heartbreakers, he snuck in his fair share of rowdy anthems. Written by Lee Roy Parnell and Tony Haselden, “That’s My Story” is a classic “I was out with the boys” tall tale. Raye’s delivery is ornery, bold and fearless. Armed with a choir of beer chuggers on the chorus, it’s a perfect rambler that plays to Raye’s playful side.
14. “On The Verge”
Found on Raye’s 1995 effort I Think About You, “On The Verge” is prime Raye. Built around a twangy acoustic guitar and sugary melody built for two-stepping, “On The Verge” plays to Raye’s wheelhouse of songs about falling in love. Still, where we typically see Raye oozing with confidence and intent on displaying his love for whoever, as the title alludes, we see the moments before that on “On The Verge.” He’s not quite head over heels just yet—but he’s getting there.
13. “My Kind of Girl”
Here again, we get Raye letting loose. As a foundational piece of Raye’s Extremes, “My Kind of Girl” had a chugging and daring electric guitar that matches Raye’s powerful whirlwind vocals. “My Kind of Girl” topped the Billboard U.S Hot Country Charts in early 1995, making it his third Number One single of his career.
12. “Anyone Else”
Though “I Can Still Feel You” was Raye’s final Number One single from The Walls Came Down, “Anyone Else” was the album’s best song and Raye performance. Originally written by Radney Foster, “Anyone Else” combined Raye’s knack for intimate love ballads with a touch of that charming playful side we’ve seen throughout the years. He admits his faults and thanks his significant other for sticking around despite them.
11. “Couldn’t Last A Moment”
In 2000, Raye released Tracks, his sixth full-length of his career. With “I Couldn’t Last a Moment” as its lead single, Raye would not only have another Top 10 hit on the country charts but would also find some relative success on the Billboard Hot 100 as well. Armed with a shimmering guitar lick, smooth keys and a timely spoken word, “Couldn’t Last a Moment” found Raye stepping in a new direction while still holding onto those foundational sounds we grew to know from him.
10. “Somebody Else’s Moon”
“Somebody Else’s Moon” is a prime example of Raye’s silky smooth delivery. Even though it’s a lonesome heartbreaker, Raye’s vocal approach doesn’t venture into “tears in my beer” territory. Rather, he finds the space to stretch out those powerful vocals on the soaring moonlit chorus.
9. “Man Of My Word”
Even though “Man of My Word” was a Top 10 hit for Raye in ’94, it still feels like one of the most under-appreciated songs in his catalog. Like many Raye songs, it’s a timeless love ballad filled with heartfelt lyrics that are straight and true. Written by Gary Burr and Allen Shamblin, “Man of My Word” was one of five singles on Raye’s Extremes, possibly the strongest album of his career.
8. “If I Were You”
Not to be confused with another “If I Were You” found on his debut, “If I Were You” was Extremes fifth Top 10 single for Raye. Built around a dreamy piano melody, “If I Were You” very well may be Raye’s best vocal delivery of his career. It’s sweet and smooth and incredibly focused. Every word is direct and heartfelt. Lines like “I won’t promise the moon, but I promise to be here” are rooted and give “If I Were You” a healthy dose of realism.
7. “Little Red Rodeo”
“Little Red Rodeo” is one a handful of singles delivered by Raye that aren’t found on any studio albums. Rather, the rollicking “Little Red Rodeo” is part of Raye’s first Best Of compilations. Here we see Raye looking to hold on to a relationship that’s on its last legs. But you have to give Raye’s narrator some credit for attempting to track down his belle, even if it means chasing her clear across the map. And it’s even more impressive knowing it was in a world without GoogleMaps and iPhones.
6. “That Was A River”
What can only be described as one of the most interesting analogies in country music, Raye’s “That Was a River” peaked at No. Four on the charts making it Raye’s sixth consecutive Top 10 hit. Again, it’s right in Raye’s wheelhouse. Much like Garth Brooks‘ “Unanswered Prayers,” “That Was a River” finds the narrator running into an old flame while with his significant other. “Yes, there was a time, I thought she had it all. She meant the world to me back when the world was small,” sings Raye. Rarely do we see an already established couple fall deeper in love in a song, but here, we do.
5. “I Think About You”
In a bit of a turn, “I Think About You” sees Raye deliver a different kind of love ballad. Much like the music video reflects, Raye isn’t singing about a wife or prospective girlfriend—he’s singing about a daughter. As he sings throughout, every woman he sees, he thinks about her. As the title track of his fourth full-length, it would be one of five Top 10 singles released.
4. “One Boy, One Girl”
Much like “Love, Me,” “One Boy, One Girl” finds Raye delivering one of ’90s country’s favorite song devices–a chorus that remains the same while the circumstances of the verses shift over the chorus of time (think Tim McGraw‘s “Don’t Take the Girl” as well). Though it’d become a cliche trope as the decade wore on, “One Boy, One Girl” doesn’t feel tired or cheesy. Again, we see Raye’s silky shimmering vocals and heartfelt lyrics work in tandem delivering one of the ’90s best love songs.
3. “In This Life”
“In This Life,” the title track of Raye’s sophomore album and follow-up to his breakout debut All I Can Be, finds the Raye further going down the road of soft rock-tinged love songs and country power ballads. Released in ’92, it’d be Raye’s second No. 1 hit. Much like his first, “Love, Me,” we see Raye delivering tender lyricism with his vibrant and commanding vocals with a universal appeal.
2. “Love, Me”
For a while, “Love, Me” was a staple of funerals across the United States. “Love, Me” was the perfect combination of qualities we’d become accustomed to expect from Raye. Heartfelt and earnest lyrics with a delivery to match. It wasn’t Raye’s first single. That honor goes to “All I Can Be (Is A Sweet Memory).” But it was his first No. 1 of his career. Written by Skip Ewing and Max T. Barnes, it’s easy to see why “Love, Me” is such a seminal song in ’90s country balladry. You’re introduced to a young narrator retelling the love story of his grandparents. He continues applying their simple, yet profound farewell throughout. It’s an everlasting love that transcends time.
1. “Little Rock”
Since the beginning of country music, barnburners about getting blitzed have dominated the airways. Every so often though, there’s been a breath of fresh air that’s pressed the restart button. When everyone was delivering party songs, Raye gave us “Little Rock,” a sobering account of addiction, the struggle for sobriety and its heavy toll on family life and relationships. It’s as vulnerable a moment in country music. Lines like “You know your daddy told me when I left ‘Jesus would forgive, but a daddy don’t forget'” cut deep and are as real as they come.
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