10 Towering Tunes From 2001

Country.com’s critics have assembled their year-end Top 10 lists. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we share them with you: Dec. 27, Michael Gray; Dec. 28, Ed Morris; Dec. 29-30, Chet Flippo; Dec. 31-Jan. 1, Jay Orr.

Give me your cute, your cogent, your glibly crafted yearning to bestir. These are the songs that spoke to me this year — or at least left a message.

“You Don’t Love God if You Don’t Love Your Neighbor” and “I’m Not Over You” from The Storm Still Rages (Rounder) — Rhonda Vincent
It’s not the religious sentiment but the absolute certainty with which it’s delivered that makes “You Don’t Love God” so feisty and powerful. “I’m Not Over You,” which Vincent first released as a country single in 1993, is the distillation of bleak, inconsolable sadness. And you gotta love that.

“Angry All the Time” from Set This Circus Down (Curb) — Tim McGraw
With great maturity, wisdom and sensitivity, this song plumbs the most corrosive element of a relationship going bad

“Careful What You Wish For” from Careful What You Wish For (RMG Records) — Ricky Lynn Gregg
Who knew that Gregg was such a dynamite vocalist? Listen and believe.

“Daniel Prayed” from Mountain Soul (Epic) — Patty Loveless
From the first torrent of mandolin notes, the music just surges and washes over you. Loveless and >Ricky Skaggs , who sings with her here, are more elementally Kentuckian than coal mines and race horses.

“One More Day” from One More Day (Arista Nashville) — Diamond Rio
A bittersweet reminder that we should appreciate the loved ones still with us.

“A Little Bluer Than That” from Simple Path (Relentless Nashville) — Irene Kelley
Simple, straightforward and irresistibly forlorn.

“What I Really Meant to Say” from My World (Capitol) — Cyndi Thomson
There’s nothing like a love-wounded lass with dewy eyes and a heaving bosom to animate my life-saving impulses. OK, so I’m mixing up the music with the music video. Shoot me.

“I Wanna Talk About Me” from Pull My Chain (DreamWorks) — Toby Keith
The worm turns — and the crowd goes wild.

“Alright Guy” from Alright Guy (MCA Nashville) — Gary Allan
A theme song for the slacker in all of us.

Top 10 Reasons I Like Garth Brooks and Hope This Isn’t His Last Year in Country Music

1. He has written and recorded some truly profound songs.

2. He has endured the criticism of lesser talents with grace and fortitude.

3. He still says “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am” like he means it.

4. He doesn’t travel with an entourage.

5. He remembers the people who were kind to him on the way up — and the ones who weren’t.

6. He uses his wealth, energy and imagination to transcend the constraints of time and space that shackle most of us.

7. He created Chris Gaines, a sensible invention for a man who’s too big to inhabit just one personality. The failure of Chris Gaines — who, let’s not forget, has sold nearly 2 million albums — wasn’t the weakness of the music but Brooks’ unwillingness to simply ignore the predictable ridicule and continue to build a separate life for his alter ego.

8. He exercises the kind of control over his record label that every artist secretly aspires to.

9. He never betrays his fans.

10. He was country when country wasn’t cool. So he made it cool.

— Edward Morris

10 for ’01: Top Country Picks of the Year — Michael Gray

Best of 2001 — Chet Flippo

O Brother, What a Year — Jay Orr

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.