Country gospel is a subgenre of music that combines gospel music and country music elements, and it is also known as Christian country music. While the music of this subgenre often follows the typical country style, the lyrics are often written to express Christian beliefs and lifestyles. Common themes of this style of music include God, Christ, praise, worship, and Christian values. Although when this style of music became popular varies from one country to the next, the 1950s are often linked to the rise in popularity of the genre. There are both solo artists and bands that have released country gospel songs, and there are also some artists linked to other genres who have released individual country gospel songs. Here are the 10 best country gospel songs of all time.
10. Randy Travis, Three Wooden Crosses (2002)
Randy Travis’ ‘Three Wooden Crosses’ is probably one of the best-known modern country gospel songs. Travis released the song in 2002, and it is a single from the album ‘Rise and Shine.’ It was written by Kim Williams and Doug Johnson and told the story of a roadside tragedy that claims three lives. The song was the first of Randy Travis’ singles to reach number one on the country charts since ‘Whisper My Name’ in 1994.
9. Vince Gill, Go Rest on That Mountain (1994)
Go Rest on That Mountain’ was a track from Vince Gill’s 1994 album ‘When Love Finds You.’ Vince Gill wrote the song, and it was produced by Tony Song. It is a tributary song to someone who has died. Gill started to write the song after the death of country music singer Keith Whitley in 1989. However, he did not finish writing it until 1993, when his older brother, Bob, died of a heart attack. Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs provided background vocals for the song.
8. Highway men, I Do Believe (1995)
The Highwaymen released the song ‘I Do Believe’ in 1995 and is featured on their reunion album ‘The Road Goes on Forever’ in the same year. ‘I Do Believe’ was written by Waylon Jennings, who provided the lead vocals on the track. The song was also sung by Kris Kristofferson on the Waylon Jennings tribute album ‘Lonesome On’ry & Mean. In 2008, Bonnie Bramlett covered this song on her album ‘Beautiful.’
7. Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around (2002)
Johnny Cash is probably one of the most successful artists associated with the country gospel genre, as he released various singles of this music type. One of his best country gospel songs is ‘The Man Comes Around,’ which was the titular single from the 2002 album ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around.’ Cash wrote this song, and the powerful lyrics showcase his talents as a songwriter.
6. Roy Acuff, The Great Speckled Bird (1936)
The melody for ‘The Great Speckled Bird’ is shared by several other songs, including Kitty Wells’ ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angles,’ Hank Thompson’s ‘The Wild Side of Life,’ and ‘Tonight I’m Thinking of My Blue Eyes.’ The title ‘The Great Speckled Bird’ is a phrase taken from Jeremiah 12:9 in the bible. When Acuff released this song in 1936, it became his first hit single.
5. Josh Turner, The Long Black Train (2003)
While many of the songs on this list date back decades, ‘The Long Black Train’ is a relatively new country gospel song, as it was written and released by Josh Turner in 2003. It was the second single released from the album of the same name. ‘The Long Black Train’ is a metaphor for a funeral train, and the lyrics of this song are about resisting temptation from the Devil. Its release was accompanied by a music video that was shot along various locations of a railroad track, along with characters who have committed sinful acts.
4. Kris Kristofferson, Why Me Lord? (1972)
‘Why Me Lord?’ is a song off Kris Kristofferson’s 1972 album ‘Jesus Was a Capricorn.’ It became the best-selling single of Kristofferson’s career. Kristofferson wrote the song, and the lyrics describe how a man is surprised by God’s grace. The country gospel song was later recorded by multiple other artists, including Johnny Cash. This song was nominated for the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year.
3. Porter Wagoner, A Satisfied Mind (1957)
Although Porter Wagoner had many successes during his career, ‘A Satisfied Mind’ was Wagoner’s first number one hit on the country charts. It appeared on the 1957 album of the same name. The song was written by Jack Rhodes and Red Hayes, and it was later covered by various artists, including Bob Dylan and the Blind Boys of Alabama.
2. The Carter Family, Can the Circle Be Unbroken? (1972)
‘Can the Circle Be Unbroken?’ is a hymn about the loss of a loved one. The lyrics describe feelings of both hope and despair, and they question whether the unbroken circle of life can bring spiritual transcendence. It was released by The Carter Family in 1972. Some lyrics from this song were later used by Johnny Cash in his song ‘Daddy Sang Bass.’
1. Hank Williams, I Saw the Light (1948)
According to Liveabout, one of the best country gospel songs of all time is ‘I Saw the Light,’ which Hank Williams released in 1948. The chorus of this song describes how a man feels lost in life but then sees the light. It reflects Williams’ personal life, as he struggled to combine a Christian lifestyle with his drinking habits and his lifestyle as a music artist.