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The 25 best country rock songs of all time

From rock stars who’ve ‘gone country’ to country stars showing their rock side, we’ve scoured the countrified world for these 25 prime cuts


25) Elvis Costello And The Attractions – Good Year For The Roses

A star of the punk and new wave eras, Costello took a left turn with 1981’s Almost Blue, an album comprised entirely of covers of country songs, stickered with a warning to “narrow minded listeners”. Good Year For The Roses, first recorded by George Jones in 1970, gave Costello an unlikely Top 10 hit in the UK. It’s a desperately sad song, and he sang it beautifully. PE

24) The Jayhawks – Two Angels

Minneapolis’s alt.country pioneers The Jayhawks swam upstream through the 1980s before signing with Def American Records and scoring an unexpected hit with 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall album. Two Angels defines their sound: the Stones’ session man Nicky Hopkins plays spectral piano, while frontman Mark Olson serves up weeping harmonica and a spiky vocal underpinned by his bandmates’ sweet harmonies. Think: country music for Nirvana fans. MB

23) Kings Of Leon – Wasted Time

With their model looks and impeccable backstory, the Followill clan seemed too good to be true – until this third single confirmed there was substance behind the style.Bloodshot-eyed and malevolent, driven by a nagging shuffle beat and a frankly indecipherable vocal, this is country rock in skinny jeans, thrillingly rebooted for the post-millennium. HY

22) Whiskeytown – 16 Days

Before he set out on what became a prolific solo career, Ryan Adams was the frontman with alt.country types Whiskeytown. The band’s major-label debut, 1997’s Strangers Almanac, featured this wonderful treatise on romantic despair. Lead guitarist Phil Wandscher brings the twang, and a pedal steel sighs softly as Adams sings of sleepless nights and ribbons of the heart. RH

21) Todd Rundgren & Utopia – Forgotten But Not Gone

Introducing this track from Utopia’s self-titled 1982 album, Rundgren once said: “In the long history of Utopia, we’ve poked our noses into every musical nook and cranny we could find, and it looks like there’s only place left to go: Nashville.” Bakersfield would’ve been more accurate. The revved-up twang and two-part harmonies of Forgotten are pure Buck Owens And His Buckaroos. BDM

20) Pink Floyd – Country Song (The Red Queen theme)

Sharing the soundtrack for the film Zabriskie Point with the Grateful Dead and Jesse Colin Young nudged Pink Floyd toward a novel country flavour. Atop a horse-clop rhythm and cowboy chords, they conjure their own idiosyncratic desert moonscape: lyrics that reference mythology, blasts of Gilmour’s guitar and a chorus that plays like an early draft for Hey You. BDM


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