Everyone has an opinion of the best country music cover songs of all time. Let's look at what makes a great cover song. Simply put, a great country cover song must pay homage to the original artist while creating a new experience for the listener. The original version does not need to have been recorded by a country music artist in order to make a great country cover song. In fact, many of the best cover songs ever recorded stepped away from the original genre. Here are the top ten best country cover songs:
- "Hurt" Johnny Cash, originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails Nine Inch Nails is best known for their heavy, industrial sound. "Hurt" is a departure from the norm and relies heavily on piano and lyrics alone. Cash's haunting version replaces piano with guitar and the lyrics are much more gritty and climactic. It is typically believed that a cover song will never eclipse the original recording, but this song is certainly the exception to this rule. The video for "Hurt" took home Video of the Year and Single of the Year honors at the 2003 Country Music Awards, Best Short Form Video at the 2004 Grammy Awards and Best Cinematography at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.
- "To Make You Feel My Love" Garth Brooks, originally recorded by Bob Dylan It is truly hard to improve a Bob Dylan song, but Garth did an outstanding job with his rendition, which was featured in the Sandra Bullock movie "Hope Floats." Fortunately for us, Garth has a better vocal range and delivers a more melodic version.
- "Piece of My Heart" Faith Hill, originally performed by Erma Franklin and made famous by Janis Joplin The original version released by Franklin and the subsequent cover by Joplin both feature strong, throaty vocalizations that Faith smooths out and delivers with a country twang. Each version stands alone with its own unique sound–Franklin's delivers soul, Joplin's rocks out and Hill's goes country.
- "Always on My Mind" Willie Nelson, originally recorded by Brenda Lee This song has been covered my many artists in many music genres, but Nelson's cover has won the most praise from the public and critics alike. The song was a number one hit on the country music charts and crossed over to the pop charts and peaked at number five. It won Song Of The Year at both the Grammys and CMAs.
"Elvira" The Oak Ridge Boys, originally recorded by Dallas Frazier While Elvira was a minor hit for its writer, it was a smash hit for The Oak Ridge Boys. Just as "Always On My Mind" was a hit for Willie Nelson, "Elvira" also topped the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts.
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" Dwight Yoakam, originally performed by Queen Dwight's honty-tonk sound lent itself wonderfully to this energetic, '50s rock song.
- "Hello Mary Lou" The Statler Brothers, originally performed by Ricky Nelson Nelson's performance is smooth and flawless, as is the The Statler Brothers'. However, The Statler Brothers deliver a much better performance by singing it in the harmony that made them famous.
- "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" Reba McEntire, originally performed by Vicki Lawrence Before Vicki Lawrence became famous for her comedy, she had a hit single. Reba took that tale of love, lies and infidelity and turned it into something timeless.
- "Amie" Lonestar, originally performed by Pure Prairie League Being a southern rock classic, "Amie" already had its foot in the country door as it was part rock and part country. Lonestar took it one step further and made it 100 percent country.
"I Will Remember You" Kenny Rogers, originally performed by Sarah Mclachlan You can't mess with perfection and Kenny didn't even try to improve Sarah's gorgeous ballad. Instead, he created a sound uniquely his won, which begins as a capella.