Angie Reynolds is a long-time opry.com staffer and a life-long country music fan. Some of her all-time favorite tunes are ones you might not have heard much on the radio. “I realize that some of you out there may have heard one or two (or maybe even all of these),” Angie says, “but to me, these are little gems that deserve to be heard by everyone. I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share your favorite songs that never hit the radio airwaves that you think should have and tell me what you think about the ones I selected.”
10. “Away Down the River” – Alison Krauss
The voice of an angel essentially singing about joining the angels. Pure Heaven.
9. “I Did” – Trisha Yearwood
I love songs about laying your heart on the line … just like this one “did.”
8. “I Must Have Done Something Bad” – Merle Haggard and George Jones
I have to admit that I had no idea that George Jones had also recorded this song, so that was a fun discovery while making this list. It’s written by Red Lane – an amazing songwriter. Like several of the songs on my list, this is written simply (only 148 words) … they don’t often write them that way anymore, but they should.
7. “Thanksgiving Song” – Mary Chapin Carpenter
A co-worker (who also happens to be a huge MCC fan) convinced me I really needed to hear MCC’s Christmas album, which includes this song. As a lover of simple songs, this one really works for me. It also reads beautifully if you wanted to say it before your Thanksgiving meal.
6. “Little Brother” – Vince Gill
Maybe I’m a little partial to this because of the Opry mentions, but really I’m just partial to anything Vince Gill does.
5. “The Part I Don’t Understand” – Mark Nesler
This song really struck a chord with me when I heard it. Mainly due to what I was going through at the time. I went back to it recently because Jerrod Niemann’s new song, “What Do You Want,” (which I LOVE) reminds me of it in theme. I’m not in that same place in my life, but I can still feel the pain of someone trying to keep you on a string (especially when I hear one of these songs).
4. “Back When We Were Beautiful” – Matraca Berg
Matraca is probably best known for penning the coming-to-age song “Strawberry Wine” (Deanna Carter). I worked at the Country Music Association in 1997, the year “Strawberry Wine” was nominated (and won) for Song and Single of the Year. If I remember the story correctly, the director of the award show fell in love with this song on Matraca’s album and even though she was not known to the masses as an artist, he gave her a much-coveted slot on the show to sing it. Entertainment Weekly raved, “Matraca Berg nearly stole the CMA Awards with her performance of ‘Back When We Were Beautiful,’ part of this Eudora Welty-ish song cycle of life in the small-town South. A soulful, sensuous pastiche of human loneliness.”
3. “You Take Me For Granted” – Merle Haggard
I loved this song from the very first time I heard a friend play it for me. It was written by Leona Williams, an ex-wife of Merle’s, and I get the feeling she was trying to give him a hint. She also wrote “Someday When Things Are Good” that he recorded. If you ever see me driving down the highway singing my heart out, chances are it is one of these songs.
2. “If It’s Gonna Rain” – George Strait
This song was co-written by a friend of mine (and the person who first introduced me to #3 on my list). I remember the day he came by my house to play the demo and told me George was putting it “on hold” for his next album. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to the song, but I listened to it again as I was creating this list, and it continues to move me just like it did that first day I heard it. I don’t know why this one wasn’t released as a single. I think it would have been a hit.
1. “We’ve Got A Good Fire Going” – Don Williams
This is actually one of my all-time favorite songs (from my all-time favorite country singer). Unfortunately for me, it is not on Don’s set list and for anyone who has ever been to several Don Williams’ concerts; you know that the set list rarely changes. But that hasn’t stopped me from yelling out this song title anytime there is a lull in the show! Maybe I’ll win the lottery one day, and I can offer him a stupid amount of money to play this song for me and my hubby. (To WSM listeners – I know they play this occasionally, so hopefully you’ve heard it. That’s what’s so great about the lunch time request hour!)