It’s time to clock in—we’ve got the 40 Hardest Working Songs in Country Music. Today, Aug. 30, we’re featuring #31–40.
Country music throughout the decades has not only embraced its working class roots, it’s made a point to praise them. Yes, work is tough, as Merle Haggard wrote in “Workin’ Man’s Blues” or as George Strait sang in “Amarillo by Morning.” But to the hardcore country fan, hard work and sticking to it also represents a badge of pride. That’s why so many country songs are devoted to the working class—after all, it’s the core audience.
As we observe Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 5, we’ve picked 40—in honor of the 40-hour workweek—country songs that truly get to the heart of the working man and woman.
So, take a little time from your stressful day, kick back and savor these 40 songs—only one from each artist—about what all of you do every day: namely, keep this country moving with your work and dedication.
#40. “Beat Me Down”
Whether it’s a foreman breathing down your neck, a boss riding your butt, or logging too many miles on the road until it feels like my brain is fried, feels like my soul is dead, a beatdown is a beatdown. Have a drink and listen to Wade Bowen’s thumping rocker. You’ll feel better. And, as Wade suggests, you’ll get back up again.
#39. “The Dollar”
Don’t get so busy making a living, you forget to make a life. That’s the message in this heartbreaking ode to the hard-workin’ man, whose son wants to pay Daddy a fair wage for a little of his time. Jamey’s typically gravelly voice softens in this tune making it worthy of two tear-filled tissues.
#38. “This F***ing Job”
The title says a mouthful, but DBT does more than put into verse the way many people feel about trying to live on fast food wages. There’s the underlying message of chasing your dream, and when you accomplish it, knowing you have to work extra hard because that crappy old day job is still nipping at your heels.
#37. “Amarillo Sky”
Thanks to an incredible arrangement that builds within the verses to a pleading chorus, a visual-filled lyric that includes lines like On his knees every night he prays “Please let my crops and children grow,” and Jason’s almost crying vocal, you can feel he anxiety that the farmers honored in this song have every growing season.
#36. “Family Man”
Even temp work is better than no work in Craig Campbell’s aching ballad about living paycheck to paycheck. From wondering how he’ll buy food for his babies, to paying for a used truck over time, it’s real life in 4/4 time.
#35. “Call the Captain”
Steep Canyon Rangers
The Steep Canyon Rangers’ despondent bluegrass ballad about the perils of coalmining sounds like it could have been written a century earlier. Within that turn-of-the-century aura is the relatable everyman struggle of yearning for a better life outside of the mines where there are clear blue skies and a whole lot more.
#34. “Long Hot Summer Day”
The Turnpike Troubadours took the John Hartford bluegrass ditty, which harkens back to the Twainesque era of working on barges and tugboats, and punched it up with an electrifying fiddle solo and boot-stomping beat that almost makes working on the Illinois River in the summer heat sound idyllic.
#33. “Working in the Coal Mine”
The Judds reference a classic work song setting in their take on “Working in the Coal Mine,” originally a hit for R&B singer Lee Dorsey. Along with anvil noises, the lyrics are pure, searching misery wondering when the hardship will end, while the upbeat arrangement adds an almost-jeering counterpoint.
#32. “Workin’ Man (Nowhere to Go)”
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Being out of work is tough, and the situation never sounded grimmer than in the Dirt Band’s late ’80s hit. You feel for the guy’s shame and embarrassment, both professionally and socially, of not being able to find gainful employment.
#31. “One More Dollar”
This folky tune from the Americana darling depicts a day laborer in the orchards who yearns to return home to his family. He puts his money away a dollar at a time, but with the freezing branches and a bad roll in a dice game, it’s unlikely he’ll ever make it.
Tune in tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 31, as we reveal songs #21–30.