Back when Foreman, Arkansas via Atlanta, Texas’ Tracy Lawrence was the toast of Nashville, Tennessee, he helped represent the ’90s trend of contemporary country singers with an appreciation for the genre’s rich history of detailed story-songs.
Like future collaborator Tim McGraw and other peers, Lawrence donned a cowboy hat to tell captivating stories (“Bobby Darwin’s Daughter,” “Her Old Stompin Ground,” “Cecil’s Palace”), pour out his heart (“From Here to Kingdom Come,” “The Coast is Clear,” “Hit the Ground Crawlin”) and bear his soul (“Jesus Come Talk to Your Children,” “Dear Lord”).
At the still young age of 50, Lawrence remains an active touring and recording act, with his most recent album being a 2017 collection of duets with current stars titled Good Ole Days. That album serves a similar purpose as this list, as it rounds up some of the singer’s best material for nostalgic fans and potential new listeners.
10. “When Daddy Was a Strong Man”
As the title implies, this nostalgic song looks back to childhood, when a lot of us legitimately thought our dad was stronger than Hulkamania and the Terminator combined.
9. “Better Man, Better Off”
This’d potentially be ranked higher it if wasn’t so thematically similar to Clint Black’s “A Better Man.” Like Black, Lawrence convincingly explains why the harsh end to a relationship helped him become a better person. It’s one of Lawrence’s best breakup songs, edging out such memorable guilt trips as “Can’t Break It To My Heart” and “Today’s Lonely Fool.”
8. “Stars Over Texas”
No artist as well-rounded as Lawrence gets a “best-of” list without at least one heartwarming love song. Is this played at Texas weddings still? It should be.
7. “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” (Feat. Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney)
Whether you’re religious or not, the Golden Rule is the simplest and best advice for making it through life. As this song points out, the best friends to have follow that familiar “do unto others” creed.
6. “If the World Had a Front Porch”
Country singers have always seemed to dial in on a part of their audiences’ longing for simpler times. Family values and a less busy world get magnified by one of Lawrence’s greatest songs.
5. “Texas Tornado”
Bobby Braddock wrote this mid-’90s standard about an aloof lover with an interest in chasing storms. Lawrence had the right voice and delivery to belt out a hit worthy of one of his Quantum Leap-inspired music videos.
4. “Paint Me a Birmingham”
It’s Lawrence painting a gorgeous picture on this single about a lost love. It’s from 2003, which proves that Y2K didn’t wipe out the singer’s trajectory to the top five.
3. “If the Good Die Young”
This fun honky tonk stomper about a hell-raiser straight out of a Merle Haggard tune shows off Lawrence’s cheekier side. For other instances of light-hearted story-songs from his catalog, revisit “God Made Woman on a Good Day” and “Between a Rock and a Soft Place.”
2. “Time Marches On”
Lawrence tackles an epic tale in the truest sense, following a married couple and their two kids over several decades. By the song’s end, the baby daughter is a single grandparent who’s outlived dad and witnessed her mom and brother’s health struggles. It’s detailed country music storytelling at its finest.
1. “Sticks and Stones”
This 1991 title track became the first of seven singles Lawrence took to the top of the United States’ Billboard charts. As often happens with these lists, it’s hard to argue against the song that proved a singer was a step ahead of the pack as being their best.