For a city so laden with Western stereotypes — the cowboy hats, the boots, the big hair — Dallas isn’t necessarily a city of country music fans. But it's a city that has richly contributed to the history of country music, so at least a basic understanding of the genre is pre-requisite for living here. These 10 country songs should be an essential part of any Dallas music fan’s repertoire.
10. “A Bitter End” - Deryl Dodd
Deryl Dodd had a ridiculously promising career as a solo artist before being sidelined by a serious illness. He was a fixture of the Texas music scene before moving to Nashville for his seemingly inevitable success as a smooth-voiced balladeer. This track is Dodd’s highest-charting release, peaking at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot Country Charts in 1999. It’s a sort of nostalgic taste of what could’ve been, and perhaps a metaphor for, as Dodd intended, that other "Big D" that ain't Dallas. AM
9. “Northeast Texas Women” – Willis Alan Ramsey
Country music, especially from the 1970s, has never been too concerned with political correctness. Written by Dallas native Willis Alan Ramsey, this tune has been covered by a host of greats, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Ed Burleson, Jimmy Buffet and even Houndmouth. This 1972 gem features a whimsical, laid-back rhythm and don’t-take-too-seriously lyrics such as, “You better run tell the world/You gotta have a Lone Star Girl/With her cast iron curls/And her aluminum dimples.” Ramsey even shouts out the Trinity River, which, unlike singing about Texas women, is actually pretty rare. KD
8. “Attitude and Driving” – Jack Ingram
Though Ingram has been an Austin guy for a decade or so, he’ll always be the SMU grad who started out playing Adair’s Saloon in the '90s. This roots-rock tune recalls early-days Steve Earle and will likely be one that gets shouted for at Ingram concerts forevermore. It can be found on the two live albums he recorded here in North Texas, Live at Adair’s (1995) and Live at Billy Bob’s (2003). In those early Adair’s days, Ingram found himself to be the object of hard-partying frat boy musical desires, but this song, among many others, is a showcase for an artist that’s never fit neatly into any of the category that folks have tried to pin him in. KD
7. “Crazy Girl” – Eli Young Band
This isn’t the best song in Eli Young Band’s catalog, but it may be the most commercially successful country single to come from an artist that calls North Texas home. Of course, it was also written by former Dallas resident and hit-writing machine Liz Rose (“Girl Crush,” anyone?), so that only ups the urgency on why a Dallas-dwelling country fan should have this one committed to heart. It’s safe to say that many already do since in 2011 it was Billboard’s No. 1 U.S. country song for the entire year, and in 2012, the song was awarded Song of the Year honors at the 2012 ACM Awards. KD
6. “The Back Side of Dallas” - Jeannie C. Riley
Hailing from Anson, Texas, nearly 200 miles away from Dallas, Jeannie C. Reily is undoubtedly one of Texas’ most influential women. She’s best known for “Harper Valley PTA,” the 1968 anthem that eventually spawned a film and TV series, but “Back Side of Dallas” is a deep cut that any Dallasite should know. It’s sort of nostalgic, really, for all those nights that you’ve spent in Deep Ellum contemplating your bad decisions. AM
5. “Crazy Arms” - Ray Price
A Dallas native and East Texan until his death, Ray Price endures as one of country’s most distinctive voices. Before that, though, he was playing the Big D Jamboree on KRLD in 1949. Price’s place in Dallas’ musical history is well-staked, which means that anyone who calls themselves both a local and a country fan should know his work. “Crazy Arms” is decidedly his most well-known track, and it’s also a damn fine place to start. AM
4. “Why You Been Gone So Long” -Eleven Hundred Springs
Given that there may not be a better hell-raising honky-tonk band to have come from Dallas in the past couple of decades, we could just tell you to get acquained with the Matt Hillyer-led outfit’s entire catalog. But we’ll suggest you start with this outlaw-flavored gem, written by the great Mickey Newbury. Not only does the song ask the question many of the great sad country songs do (where the hell did my woman go?) but the boys squeeze in mentions of Thunderbird wine and getting stoned, which are classic 1100 staples. But it's the inclusion of the “Waxahachie Wildman,” Ronnie Dawson, that's makes this such essential Dallas listening. The Rockabilly Hall of Famer died in 2003, just before Bandwagon, the album this song is featured on, was released in 2004, which is an especially big deal. KD
3. “Faded Love” (The Longhorn Recordings) – Bob Wills
It’s Bob Wills, the man who inspired Willie, Waylon, Merle and countless others, and it was recorded in one of Dallas’s legendary halls. “Faded Love” is iconic in its beauty and simplicity and has been covered by Patsy Cline, Doug Sahm, Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty. The song had been a hit for many years by the time The Longhorn Sessions was recorded in the 1960s, and the album didn’t see an official release until the 1990s. As young honky-tonkers now discuss how Pat Green influenced them, it was Wills who influenced the artists who influenced the artists that influenced guys like Green, Jack Ingram and Eli Young Band. KD
2. “Dallas” - Willie Nelson
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From his 1968 Texas in My Soul, Willie Nelson’s “Dallas” is sort of about what we all wished Dallas was. “Would you believe she named her airport Love?” he sings. “Just a symbol of what she’s got plenty of.” Considering that this was written just a few short years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Nelson was attempting to rebuild the world’s perception of what had been designated the “City of Hate.” There are certainly plenty of other country songs written about Dallas, but this is the one that sounds sweetest. AM
1. “St. Ignatius” - The Old 97's
As much of a fixture as the Old 97's are in Dallas, we’d be remiss to not include them. You’re going to see Rhett Miller and his merry band of alt-country troubadours probably 50 times in your lifetime of living in Dallas (if you’re lucky), and “St. Ignatius” is one of those songs you’re going to need to know all the words to. Otherwise, you're bound to look like an outsider. If you’ve been living here a while, you already know what it’s like to have had it with Dallas and a deep desire to burn down the palace. KD