The best Joe Diffie songs capture what was undeniably fun about mainstream country music in the '90s. After scrapping for attention as a demo singer and songwriter in the '80s, the Tulsa, Oklahoma native gained traction in Nashville right as someone with his mighty voice, light sense of humor and ear for dance floor favorites was pretty much a shoo-in for success.
The Grand Ole Opry member (and Grammy award winner) lived the full creative cycle of a veteran country singer. This, of course, includes memorable Christmas songs (see the silly "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" and the sincere "Silent Night" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from the Mr. Christmas album), a sincere bluegrass album and a Highwaymen/Old Dogs style supergroup with Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin.
Diffie's greatest hits aged well, allowing him to be a nostalgic choice for long-time country music fans and a worthwhile discovery for anyone curious about Jason Aldean's guitar heroes -- a journey that leads to party boy anthem "I'm Love With a Capital 'U'."
Here's 10 awesome cuts from Diffie's career heyday.
10. "Third Rock From the Sun"
Diffie spits out a long series of hard to follow calamities, all because the police chief lied to his poor wife. It's one of several white-hot takes on honky-tonk made back then by country singers raised on a steady diet of Hank Williams Jr. and Molly Hatchet.
9. "Honky Tonk Attitude"
This title track from 1993 captures Diffie in full rocking country form. It's simply a fun song, made for a night of boot-scooting fun at the local watering hole.
8. "Good Brown Gravy"
This dance floor filler, complemented by sweet fiddle and harmonica solos, looks back to Southern music's longstanding obsession with regional foodways.
7. "Just a Regular Joe"
Diffie pours one out for other common men and women who've escaped small-town doldrums and successfully chased their musical dreams in Nashville.
6. "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)"
When you're out traveling and searching for radio signals, this song's just as likely to come blaring from a classic country station as anything by George Strait or Alan Jackson-- and for good reason.
5. "Ships That Don't Come In"
While most of these songs are light-hearted, this early career classic takes a somber tone. It celebrates the American soldiers lost overseas, as well as veterans struggling on the home front.
4. "Pickup Man"
"I've got an eight-foot bed that never has to be made" is one of several clever lines spouted by Diffie's redneck Casanova when explaining how he met all of his truck-crazed ex-wives in traffic jams.
3. "John Deere Green"
Another cheeky tale told by Diffie tells of how Billy Bob chose something other than a seasonal red when spray painting a message of love to Charlene on the town's water tower.
2. "Bigger Than the Beatles"
The common folks in this rock star name-dropper have it all with each others' love, even if there's a low ceiling on their ambitions. It's from Diffie's 1995 album Life's So Funny.
1. "If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)"
Diffie's first number one on Billboard's country charts (a single off debut album A Thousand Winding Roads) remains his best song. His loose, fun sense of humor pairs almost perfectly with a mix of Southern honky-tonk and swinging Texas county music. For another song that follows that winning formula, consult honorable mention track "New Way (To Light Up an Old Flame)."
Honorable mentions: "So Help Me Girl", "Is It Cold In Here", "If You Want Me To", "In My Own Backyard," "A Night To Remember" (with Holly Dunn), "Not Too Much to Ask" (with Mary Chapin Carpenter), "It's Always Somethin'," "Next Thing Smokin'," "Somethin' Like This," "This is Your Brain," "Tougher Than Nails" and Diffie's debut single for Epic Records, "Home"
This post was originally published on May 11, 2018.