While Garth Brooks changed pop crossover expectations forever as a Capitol recording artist, label mate Suzy Bogguss kept country music rooted in vivid story-songs. That's not meant to knock either approach. Instead, it's a reminder that while some associated with '90's country packed stadiums, less flashy stars like Bogguss and Kathy Mattea consistently set the bar high for every stylist to follow.
To celebrate the latter, here's 10 of Bogguss' best songs.
With one exception ("Someday Soon"), we favor Bogguss' chart hits and fresh album cuts over covers from the North American folk songbook (for that, look up her recordings of "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" and "Red River Valley"). Even with that limitation, this top 10 skips some old favorites, including "Eat at Joe's" and "Cross My Broken Heart," plus Bogguss' Grammy-nominated collaborations with country music legend Chet Atkins and her Lee Greenwood duet "Hopelessly Yours."
"Nobody Loves, Nobody Gets Hurt"
The title track of Bogguss' 1991 album tells a very different tale of heartache and fear from the perspective of a woman who's literally under the gun. Its magic lies in an arrangement built around piano, acoustic guitar and banjo.
This Gretchen Peters-penned cut from Bogguss' Something Up My Sleeve album pokes fun at the commercial side of America's top vacation spots, Nashville included, through the eyes of someone wanting to get away from the artificial facets of day-to-day life.
Cheryl Wheeler, one of the songwriters honored in song by Brooks' alter ego Chris Gaines, also wrote this card game analogy that became one of Bogguss' most gorgeous singles. It's the title track to Bogguss' 1991 album.
Bogguss is on the short list of artists in Emmylou Harris' stratosphere when it comes to milking all the emotion out of a well-written song, as proven by this coming of age story about an incoming college freshman.
"Just Like the Weather"
Bogguss and her husband Doug Crider wrote this top 5 hit about weathering life's storms and learning that these storms can still happen after changing your relationship status or zip code.
John Hiatt, an Americana songwriting legend and the father of Lilly Hiatt, wrote one of the most ideal songs for Bogguss' vocal style. Bogguss' version reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, making it the highest charting single of her career.
There's just one better way to advertise your classic country allegiance than naming your first major label album after a Merle Haggard song. You could also start that album with a career-making cover of said song, as Bogguss did in 1989.
Read More: The 15 Best Merle Haggard Songs, Ranked
While we're talking covers by all-time great songwriters, let's not forget "Outbound Plane," a top 10 single for Bogguss that was co-written and previously recorded by Nanci Griffith. The Griffith and Tom Russell co-write first appeared on Griffith's 1988 album Little Love Affairs.
This composition by Ian Tyson, the Canadian cowboy singer and folk artist best known for his role in the husband and wife duo Ian & Sylvia, got cut by the likes of Judy Collins, Chris LeDoux and Moe Bandy long before entering Bogguss' songbook. Once Bogguss got ahold of it, she once again nailed the old "make it her own" cliche.
Like Patty Loveless and Glen Campbell, Bogguss' greatness comes not as a songwriter but from her ability to breathe life into others' songs. One of the few exceptions for Bogguss might just be her greatest hit. She co-wrote "Hey Cinderella," a top 5 hit in 1993, with one of the best songwriting duos of the time, Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison.
Bogguss co-wrote other standout tunes, from the before-mentioned "Just Like the Weather" and Don Schlitz co-write "She Said, He Heard" to Berg collaborations "Give Me Some Wheels" and "Somebody to Love."
Enjoy all things country?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.