The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [August 1996]


This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from August 17th, 1996. As some of you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I asked if there were any charts you’d like to see me feature here. Last week’s chart was dedicated to Scotty J, and this week goes out to commenter Amanda! (It’s not exactly the date you said but it’s the closest I could get!)

  1. George Strait – “Carried Away” +3
  2. Wade Hayes – “On A Good Night” +3 (Pretty fun song)
  3. Brooks & Dunn – “I Am That Man” +1
  4. Neal McCoy – “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” +2
  5. Clay Walker – “Only Days That End In “Y”” +3 (Corny sure, but that’s what made the 90’s so great!)
  6. Tim McGraw – “She Never Lets It Go To Her Heart” +3
  7. James Bonamy – “I Don’t Think I Will” 0 [Least Good Song] (More because I just really couldn’t get into this guy’s voice)
  8. Garth Brooks – “It’s Midnight Cinderella” +1 (See Clay Walker)
  9. Mindy McCready – “Guys Do It All The Time” +3
  10. Diamond Rio – “That’s What I Get For Lovin’ You” +1
  11. Ricochet – “Daddy’s Money” 0 (Fun, but creepy lyrically)
  12. Lee Roy Parnell – “Givin’ Water To A Drownin’ Man” +4
  13. Bryan White – “So Much For Pretending” 0 (See James Bonamy)
  14. Rhett Akins – “Don’t Get Me Started (On Why My Son Would Ever Record That Dumb “Vacation” Song)” +2
  15. Lonestar – “Runnin’ Away With My Heart” +3
  16. Rick Trevino – “Learning As You Go” +3
  17. Ty Herndon – “Living In A Moment” +4
  18. Shania Twain – “No One Needs To Know” +3
  19. Billy Dean – “That Girl’s Been Spyin’ On Me” +1 (Props for some hard hitting production but it’s a little creepy lyrically…)
  20. Blackhawk – “Big Guitar” +3 (See Clay Walker)
  21. Pam Tillis – “It’s Lonely Out There” +3
  22. Faith Hill – “You Can’t Lose Me” +2 (A little sappy but easy to enjoy)
  23. Tracy Byrd – “4 To 1 In Atlanta” +3
  24. Randy Travis – “Are We In Trouble Now” +4 [Best Song] (Probably his most underrated single)
  25. Mark Wills – “Jacob’s Ladder” +3
  26. Vince Gill – “Worlds Apart” +3
  27. Trisha Yearwood – “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” +3
  28. Jo Dee Messina – “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore” +3 (Again, I like the production here)
  29. Collin Raye – “Love Remains” +2
  30. Toby Keith – “A Woman’s Touch” +3

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +72

Well it appears we have another good chart this week! I have to admit, there’s a lot of corny songs but hey, it was the 90’s. They all were delivered with heartfelt sincerity that made them easy to enjoy. I’m not quite sure there was a song here that really blew me out of the water except for Randy, but still we have a good chart here.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

13 thoughts on “The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [August 1996]

  1. Amanda September 9, 2016 / 12:03 pm

    Thanks for the shoutout, Zack! 🙂 And this is a pretty great chart, as well. I’d have to say my favorite song on this chart is Mindy McCready’s “Guys Do It All the Time”. Probably the least good song for me would be the Billy Dean one, it is kinda creepy. And “Don’t Get Me Started (On Why My Son Would Ever Record That Dumb “Vacation” Song)? Haha! 🙂 It seems as if Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett are worlds apart in their perception of country music. I can actually enjoy Rhett Akins’s music. Thomas Rhett, on the other hand, uggggghhhh. 😦 Aside from Beer With Jesus (which was decent) and, to a lesser extent, The Day You Stop Looking Back, he does not have a single song that I enjoy.


  2. OlaR September 9, 2016 / 12:52 pm

    “Well it appears we have another good chart this week!” Yes!
    “I’m not quite sure there was a song here that really blew me out of the water…” The Randy Travis song is good but Jo Dee Messina is still one of my favourite female artists & “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore” is a great song. (+4).

    Wade Hayes: love his voice & a couple of songs. But the albums…filler after filler.
    James Bonamy: his one & only Top 10 hit. Gone & forgotten.
    Mindy McCready: “Guys…” is meh. Much better songs on her albums. Heartbreaking.
    Bryan White: before i listen to Tucker Beathard or Thomas Rhett i listen to a Bryan White cd for 24 hours.
    Rick Trevino: will release a new single 09/19 (“Cowboys Like Me”).
    Ty Herndon: produced a duet album with Kim McAbee(-Cooper). Good album. Released 08/01/2016.

    Jo Dee Messina, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, Mandy McCready even Shania Twain…now Kelsea Ballerini.

    Worst song(s): “Daddy’s Money” & “Guys Do It All The Time” are close. But both tracks are a 0.


  3. southtexaspistolero September 9, 2016 / 1:10 pm

    LMAO on the Rhett Akins bit.

    I never got Bryan White, period. He was by and large the Chuck Wicks of the 1990s to my ears.

    I bought the Tracy Byrd album (Love Lessons) because of that song, and “Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes.” He had such a good voice. It’s a shame he was forced to waste it on so many novelty songs.


  4. Amanda September 9, 2016 / 1:30 pm

    Hi Zack! I have another suggestion of a past pulse you should cover: March 15, 2003.


  5. Raymond September 9, 2016 / 5:00 pm

    I love “No one Needs to Know” by Shania Twain (love to hear what everyone else thinks)


    • Ron September 11, 2016 / 6:37 pm

      I love that whole album. Much better than almost anything on come on over or Up


  6. AndyTheDrifter September 9, 2016 / 7:54 pm

    Man, I’m actually not familiar with a handful of these songs offhand, including Randy’s. Got some work to do!

    There’s a lot to love on this list, but also a good deal of blah. Thankfully, the lesser stuff is more forgettable rather than something to outright dislike.

    “Daddy’s Money” is my ultimate guilty pleasure nostalgia song. Cheesy as hell, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t randomly remember it about once a year, listen to it and sing along.

    I concur with southtexaspistolero with regards to Tracy Byrd. His voice was outstanding, but he was saddled with weak material all too often. He did have some outstanding cuts, though.


  7. petemarshall724 September 10, 2016 / 12:57 am

    thanks Zack! I really enjoyed country music of 1996.I really like Ricochet “Daddy’s Money” +3 and I have 2 James Bonomy cd’s both are very good. You can buy Bonomy’s cd’s at Flea Market or thrift stores. anyway I really like all top 30 songs. Mindy McCreedy’s song Guy’s do it all the time” is the only song I like from her. World’s Apart is one of my favorite Vince Gill’s song I would give it a +5. Best country song is tied with Randy and Vince.


  8. Frank the Tank September 10, 2016 / 9:08 am

    This is a good one. A very solid 90s chart – there are no outstanding songs, but I agree that none of the songs deserve to be ranked below zero. Even the cheesier songs are enjoyable.

    I agree with the other posters regarding Tracy Byrd. I owned “No Ordinary Man” and “Love Lessons” and while there were some very good songs, there were also some forgettable ones.

    A few other quick thoughts:
    – Clay Walker was my favourite artist when I first got into country music in the early 90’s, so I quite enjoyed this song.

    – Wade Hayes – I really liked this song at the time and it’s still a good listen. He had some really good songs and was also very good live.

    – James Bonamy – I didn’t mind his voice and this songs was pretty decent +1

    – Rhett Akins – this was probably his best song. I was a fan for a while as he had some good songs.

    – Bryan White – I didn’t care too much for his stuff in general, but this song was decent – this would be my pick for least good song on this list.

    – Shania Twain – I know she gets a lot of heat around here (much of it deserved), but she did have some really good songs, this being one of them. I think “The Woman in Me” album was country-pop done right as it had a good mix of songs – some more traditional-sounding (such as “Home Ain’t Where His Heart is Anymore” and “The Woman in Me);” some much more pop-leaning; and some in between. Her first (self-titled) album was much less pop and had a few really solid songs.

    – Jo Dee Messina – this was probably her best single. She had an interesting career. Some of her songs were quite good (this one and “Heads Carolina,” for example), some were not very good (“I’m Alright” – although I just noticed that it was written by Phil Vassar, so that explains why it’s not a very good song) and there wasn’t much in between.


    • Scotty J September 10, 2016 / 1:27 pm

      I agree about the Shania Twain songs ‘Home Ain’t Where His Heart…’ and ‘The Woman In Me’. I think of those songs sometimes when people rightfully attack her for the pop fluff that she put out but it needs to be remembered that when ‘The Woman In Me’ album came out she was a complete nobody that had one flop album with no top 40 hits under her belt so this was not like the ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Up’ albums that were far more poppy/crossover sounding and not very good really.

      Phil Vassar actually wrote both ‘I’m Alright’ and ‘Bye Bye’ for Jo Dee Messina which were big hits for her and took her career to it’s peak.


      • Frank the Tank September 10, 2016 / 1:58 pm

        I became a fan of Shania Twain when “The Woman in Me” came out so I dutifully purchased “Come on Over” and “Up” when they came out. At the time, I thought they weren’t bad, but I didn’t enjoy them as much since they weren’t country. Looking back objectively, they aren’t actually very good, even as pure pop songs (primarily due to the weak lyrics).

        At some point, I purchased her self-titled album as was satisfied with it.

        I haven’t purposely listened to any Shania Twain in many years, but if I were to, I would avoid “Come on Over” and “Up” completely.

        “Bye Bye” isn’t bad, but I’m not really a fan of Phil Vassar at all. The worst was when he actually released his own songs. They all annoyed me.


  9. Scotty J September 10, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    For some reason I find this chart really uninspiring. Seems like lots of songs that are far from the performers best like McCready (‘Ten Thousand Angels’ is such a great song), Collin Raye, Blackhawk and Tracy Byrd.

    Maybe it was the fact that this is a summertime chart but the fluff is all over the place here. That can be fine in moderation but there needs to be a little substance and grit mixed in I think.


  10. Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2016 / 7:40 pm

    I haven’t had the time to review this chart in earnest and re-listen to some of the tracks I’m rustier on…………..but from what I did absorb at first glance, this is definitely a mostly solid chart where Jo Dee Messina, Randy Travis and Mindy McCready would get the Gold, Silver and Bronze most likely, with Ricochet, Billy Dean and Faith Hill getting the dishonorable mentions.

    That said, I can’t remember Blackhawk, Rick Trevino and James Bonamy, so will do so when I have a while.


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