Singling out one man’s top 20

Radio playlists suck.

Almost every radio station uses them like gospel, when they”re really just toilet paper music companies pay for.

Now, with services like iTunes and Napster 2.0, the chains on music fans have been loosened. Listeners pick their songs and leave the trash where it belongs. No longer are you confined to albums. Now it”s time to fill out your collection with real music, not corporate crap.

Here”s what I think … in no particular order.

‘Tears in Heaven (Unplugged)’
Eric Clapton

If Elvis is king, then Clapton is God. Clapton completely retooled his hits for the ‘Unplugged’ album and made them great … again.

‘Come on Eileen’
Dexy”s Midnight Runners

Indecipherable lyrics blow your mind for days while you try to sing along. Of course, you could just look them up on the Internet. It has nice fiddle work though the song.

‘Strokin”‘
Clarence Carter

If we ever need to be reminded how much we have in common, then it”s time for the doctor to counsel us on how stroking brings us under one umbrella.

‘Silence on the Line’
Chris LeDoux

LeDoux died last month and this song about an old beat-up rodeo star that nobody appreciated in the end eerily puts his career in perspective.

‘(Don”t Fear) The Reaper’
Blue …yster Cult

Cowbell. I need more cowbell. This live version of ‘Reaper’ doesn”t have enough, but the instrumental solos make you forget the lyrics.

‘I Am the Walrus’
Styx

This is an energetic, live cover that shows a light at the end of the tunnel for Styx since they ditched Dennis ‘Mr. Roboto’ DeYoung.

‘Pancho and Lefty’
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

Willie and Merle do a duet on the sunset of an outlaw–priceless.

‘Keep Me in Your Heart’
Warren Zevon

Tough times bring out the best in people and dying from cancer brought about the poignant retrospective ‘Enjoy Every Sandwich.’ This is the only entire CD I recommend.

‘Once in a Lifetime’
Talking Heads

The Talking Heads are awesome enough, but this live version is so different from the original and so different from anything on the radio that it had to be on the list.

‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ Hayseed Dixie

This bluegrass homage to AC/DC is similar to Bon Jovi”s ‘This Left Feels Right’ in the way it tweaks a melody just enough to create a new song.

‘Mission Temple Fireworks Stand’
Paul Thorn

Sawyer Brown may have covered this song, but which would you rather hear, a guy whose hits include ‘Joanie The Jehovah”s Witness Stripper’ or some group talking about ‘Six Days on the Road.’

‘Devil Comes Back to Georgia’
Mark O”Connor

This song is the epilogue to ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.’ Mark O”Connor”s fiddle skills have fallen off, but the song is good enough to be pushed into your collection.

‘Cotton Pickin” Time
The Marcy Brothers

This is the best thing to come out of Oroville until me. Billy Ray Cyrus was gracious enough to yank out his big single from them, but this song”s a lot catchier.

‘Ball of Kerrymuir’
Jim Croce

Beautifully scripted debauchery with a catchy tune is an unbeatable combo. ‘Four-and-twenty virgins come down from Inverness, and when the ball was over, there were four-and-twenty less.’

‘When We Were Kings’
Brooks & Dunn

The song is the tale of friends who are split by the Vietnam War, yet it seldom makes reference to it. I”m sure the war in Iraq prevented its release, but that shouldn”t keep you from hearing it.

‘Tee Tot Song’
Hank Williams, Jr.

This acoustic tribute to Hank Sr. is downright amazing. It digs into the man that introduced him to music and how once ol” Tee Tot disappeared when little Hiram got big, the downward spiral began.

‘Could”ve Been Me’
Billy Ray Cyrus

I ripped on him for his big hit, so I might as well give him a spot on the list. This song has a first verse that takes up almost half the track. That”s got to count for something.

‘(They Long to be) Close to You’
The Carpenters

Karen Carpenter”s voice is beautiful on this haunting melody that is the eeriest love song I”ve ever run across.

‘You Never Even Called Me by My Name’
David Allan Coe

If you get this song, make sure to get the extended version. You will not have the ‘perfect country and western song’ until you do. Now get it. I”ll be waiting …

‘Cadillac Jack Favor’
Clint Black

Based on the true story of a rodeo rider who offered two men a ride that changed his life forever.

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