23 Of The Best Country Songs Of The ’90s

Last updated

The 1990s were a great decade for country music. A new generation of artists emerged, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary sounds.

The result was a more diverse and exciting genre that was able to appeal to a broader range of listeners.

Nineties country music also had a significant impact on the way the genre is structured today. Artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain introduced pop and rock elements into their music, paving the way for the meteoric rise of crossover artists like Taylor Swift.

But which songs ruled the airwaves of that time? Here are 23 of the best country songs of the ’90s. Let’s get started.

1. “Chattahoochee” By Alan Jackson

“Chattahoochee” is a song by Alan Jackson. It was released in 1992 from Jackson’s album A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love).

The song—about fishing, swimming, falling in love, and enjoying life on the river—became one of Jackson’s biggest hits, spending seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and #46 on the Hot 100.

Alan Jackson and Jim McBride wrote “Chattahoochee.” Jackson said that the song’s inspiration came from his childhood growing up on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.

2. “Independence Day” By Martina McBride

Co-written and recorded by Martina McBride, “Independence Day” was released in May 1993, being the lead single from her album Wild Night.

The song reached only #12 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) chart, but was certified Platinum and received two Country Music Association Awards for Song and Video of the Year.

The song tells the story of a woman’s reflection of mother’s her life and how it was rife with abuse yet nobody came to help. In the end, on the Fourth of July, her mother broke free of domestic violence, hence the dual meaning of the song title.

3. “The Dance” By Garth Brooks

Considered his signature song, “The Dance” by Garth Brooks was released in 1990. The song was a huge commercial success, spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Song chart.

It is about making the most of life, even when things are tough. The lyrics are inspired by the idea that we only have one life to live, so we should make the most of it.

Because of its message, “The Dance” has been described as an anthem for anyone who has ever faced adversity.

4. “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” By Brooks & Dunn

“Boot Scootin’ Boogie” was released in 1991 as part of Brooks & Dunn‘s debut album, Brand New Man. It was an instant hit, and by the end of the year, it peaked at #50 in the Billboard Hot 100, while the album itself went on to be certified 6x Platinum!

But what is the song actually about? According to co-writer Ronnie Dunn, it is a “tribute to line dancing” and was inspired by a trip to a honky-tonk in Los Angeles. However, some fans have interpreted the lyrics as a commentary on the changing face of country music.

5. “You’re Still The One” By Shania Twain

After its release in 1997 as one of the tracks in Shania Twain’s album Come on Over, “You’re Still the One” quickly became a country music classic.

From the title, one can tell the song is a celebration of enduring love, and its positive message resonated with fans worldwide.

“You’re Still the One” spent nine weeks on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at #2. Internationally, it was also a hit, charting in Australia and reaching top 10 in Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, and UK.

In addition, the song was nominated for four Grammy Awards and won two—Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.

6. “She’s In Love With The Boy” By Trisha Yearwood

Released in 1991, Trisha Yearwood‘s song “She’s in Love With the Boy” was a huge hit when it was released in 1991. After topping charts, it became Yearwood’s first of five singles to reach #1.

The song is about two young lovers, Katie and Tommy. The girl’s father, however, does not approve of their relationship. Just as he is about to confront the boy, Katie’s mom steps in and reminds him of their love when they were young and how similar the start of their own relationship was.

“She’s in Love With the Boy” will truly remind you of your own first love. If not, it will have you sighing at the sweetness of the story.

7. “Strawberry Wine” By Deana Carter

The 1996 hit single “Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter was a massive success. The song spent two weeks at #1 on the country charts and was certified double Platinum.

The song is a nostalgia-tinged tale of young love, comparing it to strawberry wine—intoxicating and sweet, but bittersweet afterwards. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of summertime innocence, and the simple yet catchy melody helps to make the song a radio favorite.

In addition to its commercial success, “Strawberry Wine” also earned Carter a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

8. “This Kiss” By Faith Hill

“This Kiss” by Faith Hill was released in 1998 and quickly became a huge hit, selling over a million copies in the United States. It peaked in both Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs and Hot 100.

The song is a catchy, upbeat ballad that celebrates the simple pleasures of love and the feelings one has when in love.

Perhaps “This Kiss” was inspired by Faith Hill’s love with her second husband, country singer Tim McGraw. The couple met while recording a duet for Hill’s debut album, and they were married just a few months later.

9. “Go Rest High On That Mountain” By Vince Gill

Written and performed by Vince Gill, “Go Rest High on That Mountain” was released in 1994 as a single from Gill’s album When I Call Your Name.

This tear-jerking eulogic song was a huge success, winning CMA’s 1996 Song of the Year and BMI’s 1997 Most Performed Song, as well as Grammys for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.

In an interview, Gill said that he was inspired to write the song after attending his brother’s funeral and seeing how much peace and comfort his faith had brought his brother in the face of death.

10. “Check Yes Or No” By George Strait

King of Country George Strait‘s song “Check Yes or No” was a massive hit when it was released in 1995. It topped of the Billboard country charts and was certified double Platinum.

The song is a cute story of love that started way back when the narrator was in third grade. He describes how the girl—now his wife—passed him a note asking if he loved her; his answer was to check either yes or no on the paper.

In an interview, Strait said he wanted to write a song that would capture the innocence and simplicity of young love. Based on how this song was received, he certainly succeeded.

11. “How Do I Live” By LeAnn Rimes

“How Do I Live” is a country song written by Diane Warren and recorded by LeAnn Rimes. It was released in 1997 and became a huge hit, spending a record-breaking 69 weeks on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

In addition, the song sold more than three million copies in the United States and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

“How Do I Live” is a ballad about the fear of losing someone you love. The lyrics express the narrator’s anguish at the thought of living without her partner, and she asks how she would survive if he were to leave her.

12. “Friends In Low Places” By Garth Brooks

The song “Friends in Low Places” was written by Earl Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell. Liking the song, Garth Brooks created and released his own version in 1990.

It was partially inspired by Brooks’ own experience of being unemployed and having to rely on the kindness of friends, though Lee’s and Blackwell’s experience also played a role as they wrote the song.

The song became a massive hit, spending four weeks at number one on the country music charts. Its success helped launch Brooks’ career and established him as one of the most popular country music artists of all time.

13. “Blue Clear Sky” By George Strait

Another song by George Strait, “Blue Clear Sky” was a huge hit when it was released in 1996, charting in Billboard‘s Top Country Albums and selling over three million copies.

The lyrics tell about being disappointed in love and just about giving up on it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, true love appears.

The title of the song is unique in that it was initially argued to be backward—it should be “clear blue sky.” However, writer DiPiero and Strait decided to retain it, copying what Forrest Gump said in the movie.

14. “I Like It I Love It” By Tim McGraw

Released in July 1995 by Tim McGraw, “I Like It, I Love It” was the lead single from his album All I Want. It is McGraw’s 3rd #1 single on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs and peaked at #25 in the Hot 100 chart.

It’s quite an upbeat, danceable song of love, of how the singer couldn’t care less if he lacks sleep from catering to the love of his life. He’d do anything for her since he absolutely loves the feeling of being in love with her.

“I Like It, I Love It” became so popular that a version of it even became Nashville Predator’s goal song.

15. “Achy Breaky Heart” By Billy Ray Cyrus

One of the most popular songs of the 1990s is Billy Ray Cyrus‘s signature song. “Achy Breaky Heart” was released in 1992. Though sometimes considered to be one of worst, it still quickly became a massive hit and achieved triple Platinum in Australia.

The song charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and reached #4 in the Hot 100 charts, which helped to launch Cyrus’s career.

“Achy Breaky Heart” is not a song about losing love per se. It is more about what would happen should the love of his life tell him it’s over; if she did, he feels his heart would explode.

16. “Meet In The Middle” By Diamond Rio

Released in 1991, “Meet in the Middle” was the lead single from country group Diamond Rio‘s self-titled debut album. The song became the first single of a country band to reach #1, staying two weeks in the position.

It is about two young lovers who live quite a ways from each other, but they always endeavored to get together by meeting halfway between their homes under a pine tree, where they eventually said their vows.

“Meet in the Middle” is a song that teaches the importance of working together for love. Those in long-distance relationships will certainly relate to this.

17. “Dust On The Bottle” By David Lee Murphy

When “Dust on the Bottle” was released by David Lee Murphy in August of 1995, it soon became a country music sensation, reaching #1 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. But what is the song about?

Murphy sings of a man about to go on a date; he stops by a friend to ask for help on what to treat his special girl. He is given a dusty bottle of wine, with a sage advice that it “gets sweeter with time.”

This song is basically an ode to long-lasting love, which is likened to fine wine. A bottle aged to perfection might have a bit of dust on it, but inside is a liquid unlike any other. And like the man’s friend said, it—true love—just gets sweeter with time.

18. “I Swear” By John Michael Montgomery

Written by Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers, “I Swear” was sung by John Michael Montgomery in 1994. It was the lead single of his album Kickin’ It Up.

The song peaked at #1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Singles & Tracks, spending four weeks in the spot. The following year, a cover was also made by R&B group All-4-One.

As you may have gathered from the title, “I Swear” is a solemn promise to always be there for your significant other. To love and cherish him or her and never break their heart. So if you want to assure your partner of your love, this would be the perfect song to listen together.

19. “Fancy” By Reba McEntire

“Fancy” was originally written and performed Bobbie Gentry in 1969. Being one of her favorite songs, Reba McEntire made a cover in 1990. The song only reached #8 in the charts, but despite this, it was a huge hit and became certified Platinum.

In the song, McEntire sings of a young woman named Fancy. She is dolled up by her mom and sent out into the world on her own. But don’t get the mom wrong—she only did it so Fancy could escape the hovel they lived in.

And escape Fancy did. She rose up to her mom’s expectations and was soon living comfortably in her own New York townhouse—a huge step up from the shack she called home when she was younger.

20. “Any Man Of Mine” By Shania Twain

Next we have another hit from Shania Twain. “Any Man Of Mine” was the singer’s first #1 single, which stayed two weeks in Billboard‘s country chart. It received Single of the Year awards from Country Music Radio and Canadian Country Music.

In the song, Twain lets listeners know how any man of hers (or any other woman’s, for that matter) should be—an agreeable, loveable man who knows how to toe the line and show her a good time, whether she be ugly or having a bad day.

“Any Man Of Mine” is certainly one of the edgier songs by Twain with hoedown feels that one can dance to.

21. “Every Light In The House Is On” By Trace Adkins

From the slightly paced song of “Any Man Of Mine,” we now move to the slower tempo of “Every Light in the House Is On.”

The song was the second track from the debut album of Trace Adkins, released in 1996. It wasn’t his #1 song of that decade, but it did peak at #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs.

“Every Light in the House Is On” is the type of song that’ll jerk your heartstrings. Adkin’s bass-baritone voice sings of his significant other leaving him, yet he still yearns for her. To show this, he leaves all the lights in his house on—a beacon of his love, so to speak—in hopes that she would soon return to him.

22. “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” By Toby Keith

For our penultimate song, we’re going to veer from love songs predominant in this list.

“Should’ve Been a Cowboy” was released by Toby Keith in his eponymous debut album (1993). It was the most-played song on country radio during that decade and was #1 on two charts: Billboard Hot Country Songs and Canadian RPM Country Tracks.

The song romanticizes the cowboy lifestyle as the narrator sings of adventures he could have had if he had become a cowboy, like having a sidekick, sleeping under the stars, and joining the Texas Rangers.

23. “What Part Of No” By Lorrie Morgan

Lastly, we have “What Part of No” by Lorrie Morgan. It was released as the second single of Watch Me, Morgan’s third studio album.

Considered Morgan’s greatest hit, the song charted Canadian Country Tracks and Billboard Hot Country Single, staying in the position for three weeks in the latter.

Women who have had experiences with unwanted advances from men could relate to the song’s lyrics. Here, the narrator sings of a woman just enjoying her night out alone when a man approaches her. Despite rejecting his attention, the man does not quit, and so she questions, “What part of no don’t you understand?”

Summing Up Our List Of ’90s Country Songs

The ’90s was a golden era for country music. Looking at these country music hits from the decade, it is no doubt they were highly successful commercially and artistically.

Some of the decade’s biggest hits came from country artists. Its influence can still be felt in the genre today and many of these songs are still beloved by fans.

Did we leave out a favorite ’90s country song? If so, let us know so we can add it!

Photo of author
Written by Laura Macmillan
Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.