Everyone says that country music tells a story. It’s one of the main things that differentiates it from other musical genres. Sure, all genres of music talk about love. But with country music it is different.
The songs tell the story of love, from lots of different perspectives and lots of different end results, usually in great detail. It tells of new love, of old love, of heartbreak and of loss. This is what the best country love songs do so well. It is a very emotive genre of music.
For country love songs, the lyrics seem to take precedence over the melody. With other genres, such as pop or rock, the lyrics aren’t always at the forefront of what makes the song good. With a country song, and country love songs, in particular, the story and the lyrics seem to trump all else.
This is why many of us treasure country songs because they remind us of our experiences and history. They are not just latching onto the latest musical trends, the words and the depth of storytelling actually mean something to us. And therefore, there will always be a place for country music in people’s hearts.
The History of Country Love Songs
The country music genre has a strong history of melodies that are romantic, coupled with those aforementioned powerful lyrics that tell us the story of falling in (and falling out) of love.
There are the classics (such as ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline or ‘Have I told you lately that I love you’ by Hank Williams) but there are also modern country love song hits too.
It is a genre and style that is frequently accompanied by strings with their roots lying in the Southeast American folk music as well as the old school Western cowboy music. The songs are generally simple in their structure and harmonies and are characterized by those melancholy ballads.
In terms of their accompaniment, you can usually hear the sounds of the banjo, guitar, and harmonica, in addition to the strings.
Today, the phrase country music encompasses many subgenres and unique styles. Its origins, of folk and working-class American music, has been blended with popular music, Celtic tunes, cowboy songs and traditions from varying immigrant groups largely from Europe.
Older country love songs
Since the 1920s, country love songs have been featured in weddings, parties, and have helped people to say goodbye, fall in love, fall out of love and move on. They’ve caused tears to be shed, both of joy and of sorrow.
Country love songs have that infallible way of singing exactly what many of us feel in our hearts, and this is the precise reason why so many of us connect with and are touched by the songs. The best country love songs definitely stir something in us and are relatable to many of our life-defining moments.
Country Music through the Decades
What would a Best Country Love Songs list be without mentioning Dolly Parton? Dolly Parton has been a successful country artist since the 1960s but later crossed into the pop genre.
Her song “Here You Come Again” in 1977 topped the country singles chart in the US as well as coming in at number three in the pop chart too! Kenny Rogers did the opposite, having his sights set on the country chart from the pop chart.
They both continued to have success in the pop and country charts right up until the mid-1980s, eventually collaborating their styles together.
Perhaps Dolly’s most famous country love song is “I Will Always Love You”, written and recorded by Dolly in 1973.
The Best Country Love Songs
We have attempted to put together the best of all the country love songs out there in this rich and romantic genre, from the old to the new, from him and from her.
There are the sad ones, and the happy ones but most of all, they are true to the country love song style are right from the heart.
The Best Country Love Songs of the 1980s
The 1980s saw many country artists continuing their success in both the country and pop charts. Willie Nelson was one such artist who had the famous hits “Always on My Mind” (1982, No. 5) and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” (1984, no. 5, a Julio Iglesias duet). Indeed, out of the Billboard’s Hot 100 of the decade, four country songs featured.
- “Lady” (Kenny Rogers, 1980)
- “9 to 5” (Dolly Parton, 1981)
- “I love a Rainy Night” (Eddie Rabbitt, 1981) and
- “Islands in the Stream” (Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, 1983, a country-pop crossover song written by the Bee Gees.
- “When You Say Nothing At All” (Keith Whiteley, 1987).
If you’re anything like me (or perhaps of a similar mid-30s age!) you might not have realized that the last of those songs was originally recorded as a country song.
It was made famous much later (at least in my world!) by the film Notting Hill and recorded by 2000s artist Ronan Keating. I can still picture him sitting on that Notting Hill bench! Indeed, the best country love songs often have a resurgence by a pop artist years later – just look at the example of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” above!
In the later years of the 1980s, there was a noticeable decline in the number of pop-country crossover hits thanks to the Country scene’s move toward the neo-traditional styles. To conclude the 1980s, the successful group Alabama won The Academy of Country Music’s award of “Artist of the Decade”.
The Best Country Love Songs of the 1990s
This was also when “Hat Act” first arose as a term in reference to the number of country singers that were beginning to don cowboy hats. Let’s have a look at some of the best country love songs from the decade:
1. “I Can Love You Like” That by John Michael Montgomery
“I Can Love You Like That” by John Michael Montgomery. I really like the lyrics “I’ll be holding nothing back when it comes to you. You dream of love that’s everlasting. Well, baby, open up your eyes”.
2. “If I Didn’t Have You” by Randy Travis
“If I Didn’t Have You” by Randy Travis. He sings, “If I didn’t have you I’d long ago been left in the dark, out in the cold, blowing around from town to town, like a feather in the wind”. Simply beautiful!
3. “This Kiss” by Faith Hill
“This Kiss” by Faith Hill. In this song, she tells her man how she feels as if she’s flying and floating when he kisses her: “I love the way you love me. It’s a feeling like this. It’s centrifugal motion. It’s perpetual bliss”.
4. “I Swear”, by John Michael
“I Swear”, another of John Michael Montgomery’s hits. He sings, “For Better or worse, Till Death do us part, I’ll love you with every beat of my heart, I swear”. Simply stunning lyrics!
5. “Amazed” by Lonestar
“Amazed” by Lonestar. I love this song. In fact, it was mine and my ex-boyfriend’s song of our love (until he broke my heart, but that’s another story!).
The artist sings,
“Every time our eyes meet, this feeling inside me, is almost more than I can take. Baby, when you touch me, I can feel how much you love me, and it just blows me away. I’ve never been so close to anyone, or anything.
I can hear your thoughts, I can see your dreams. I don’t know how you do what you do, I’m so in love with you, it just keeps getting better.
I wanna spend the rest of my life, with you by my side, forever and ever. Every little thing that you do, baby, I’m amazed by you.”
Aren’t they just the most beautiful lyrics?
Even though I clearly didn’t amaze my Ex enough for him not to cheat, I still love this song (as sad as that is!) because it’s just so pure. This one is last in the 1990’s list because although it was released in 1999, its success mostly spanned the early 2000s.
The Best Country Love Songs of the 2000s
The turn of the century didn’t mean a reduction in the number of country love song hits. There became an increase in the pop-country mix with Faith Hill and Shania Twain taking center stage. There were also some more traditional country hits as well. Let’s have a look at the best country love songs from this decade.
1. “Forever and For Always” by Shania Twain
“Forever and For Always” by Shania Twain. With this song, she sings of spending forever in the arms of the man she loves.
2. “Breathe” by Faith Hill
“Breathe” by Faith Hill. Another one about guys’ arms, this time sang about how the world stops when she’s in his arms. This song was a bit of a record breaker as it didn’t actually get to number one yet became the best-selling hit of 2000. This is the first time that this had happened in 35 years.
3. “Love Story” by Taylor Swift
“Love Story” by Taylor Swift. Isn’t the title exactly what the best country love songs should be about? She gets her happy ending, unlike Romeo who features in her song:
“And I said, ‘Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone. I’ll be waiting; all there’s left to do is run. You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess. It’s a love story – baby just says ‘Yes'”.
I still hear this song on the radio today, it’s that popular!
4. “Raining on Sunday” by Keith Urban
“Raining on Sunday” by Keith Urban. Keith sings about enjoying a rainy Sunday with the person you love.
5. “Making Memories of Us” by Keith Urban
“Making Memories of Us” is another Keith Urban noughties track. He sings “And I’m gonna make you a promise if there’s life after this. I’m gonna be there to meet you with a warm, wet kiss”. Sweet!
It wouldn’t be the best country love songs list without this one: Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One”. I can hear the electric guitars in my head just at the mention of the title!
This is one of the most popular country-pop ballads. Hands up, who knows someone who had this as their wedding song? I do! (No pun intended!).
This song is actually a cheat song as it came out at the very end of the 1990s but really became huge in the early nineties. It’s known for being one of Shania’s biggest hits as well as being one of the greatest love songs ever, country or not!
It won two Grammy award in 1999. It was co-written by Twain and her then-partner Lange who became romantically involved despite a 17-year age difference. She sang “Looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come, my baby. It might take the long way.
We knew we’d get there someday. I bet they’ll never make it but just look at us holding on”. It’s a shame, then, that Lange eventually left her for her best friend!
The Best Country Love Songs of the 2010s
This decade isn’t over yet, yet the 10s have already seen many amazing country songs appear.
We have not only seen the return (or continuation of) veteran country artists, such as Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban remain on the scene, but also the appearance of new country artists like Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett.
There are some real heart-tugger ballads as well as some that you just want to get up and dance to. It’s safe to say that country music has certainly not had its day yet. It goes from strength to strength with each passing decade.
Let’s have a look at what the 10s have given us so far:
1. “That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan (2013)
“That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan (2013). This is a multiplatinum single from the artist’s third album. This tune is a true feel-good tune and its name became the signature of Bryan’s second tour, confirming his superstar status.
2. “Nobody to Blame” by Chris Stapleton (2015)
“Nobody to Blame” by Chris Stapleton (2015). This track was Stapleton’s first ever hit to reach the Top Ten. In it, he sings of the mistakes that he made that ended up in a break-up.
With this track, people really began to take notice of Stapleton and see him as a recording artist in his own right, rather than just a songwriter for other artists. He had previously written many hits for others including George Strait, Josh Turner and Kenny Chesney.
3. “Something In The Water” by Carrie Underwood
“Something In The Water” was Carrie Underwood’s 2014 hit. This is a song about a second chance after baptism.
It is an inspiring song, which is even more powerful thanks to Carrie Underwood’s vocals. She even earned a Grammy for the Best Country Solo Performance because of it!
4. “Life Changes” by Thomas Rhett (2018)
“Life Changes” by Thomas Rhett (2018). According to Rhett, this song is the most personal of all of his songs. He describes how it talks of his college years and marrying his wife, Lauren, before becoming a dad to his adoptive and biological daughters (indeed, he even altered the lyrics after his second daughter was born).
5. “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town (2014)
“Girl Crush” by Little Big Town (2014). Almost everyone loves this song pretty much, despite having some controversy surrounding it. The lyrics are honest beyond measure:
“I want to taste her lips, Yeah ‘cause they taste like you. I want to drown myself in a bottle of her perfume.”
These lyrics are unique because a woman has sung the lyrics. The song, despite being so beautiful and raw, was pulled on some radio stations because listeners protested!
It clearly didn’t affect just how successful the song would become though. It became a number 1 hit and also got into the Top 30 in the pop charts too!
2019 and Beyond…
It is safe to say that we haven’t seen the end of the popularity of country love songs yet, and for good reason. But what does the future of country love songs have to offer? This year there will hopefully be more new music from Thomas Rhett and even Carrie Underwood too.
There are sure to be more country love song hits that strike us in the same way as the hits that have gone before. But, there’s nothing better than returning to the old favorites, is there?
Indeed, there’s nothing better than country love songs; listening to a song that tells you something. No, that’s not quite right: a song that lets you feel something. Some of the best country love songs ever cause us to do exactly that: to feel something.
“It feels like the first time, every time” (“Amazed”, Lonestar). What isn’t there to love? It does constantly amaze me how much I can love a good country love song. I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about the best country love songs of all time. Let us know which one is your favorite?