Country Music’s Top 10 Bass Lines
The bass is the backbone of most songs. It may not be as flashy as an electric guitar solo or command the same attention attention as a big vocal run, but it's always there, plugging away in the background, vital to a song's rhythm and foundation.
Bass lines are often the unsung heroes of songs -- but today, that changes. Today, we're not ignoring those bass lines. Today, in fact, we're all about that bass.
Join us in celebrating the bass, from the wild and fast to the slow and steady. Scroll down to hear The Boot's picks for the 10 country songs with the genre's best bass lines.
The bass line in “Fast as You” opens the song and pushes it through to the finish. It's in a higher octave than is typical for a bass line, so it takes center stage every time (even if you’re listening on crappy speakers). The instantly memorable walking bass line carries the song into the chorus, where Yoakam declares, “Maybe I’ll be fast as you / Maybe I’ll break hearts too.” It’s a great song top to bottom, but that little ditty you’ll be whistling later? It’s all bass.
Chesney’s “How Forever Feels” leans heavily on the bass. It's busy in the background while Chesney sings about falling in love in paradise, moving and shifting while he praises “little umbrella shaped margaritas, coconut oil, tan senoritas.” But it’s the bass riff that opens the song and centers it. Seriously: Take one listen, and we guarantee you'll be humming the descending “dum dum dum dum” all day long.
If you’re going to put “blues” in the title of your song, you better back it up with a steady blues bass line. Thankfully, Haggard was a pro, and “Workin’ Man Blues” has just that: a bass line that doesn’t sound too flashy, and is actually working much harder in the song’s foundation than a listener might realize. In many ways, it’s the perfect backdrop for a song about doing hard, honest work.
Busier bass lines don’t necessarily mean better bass lines -- but in “Ravishing Ruby,” it does. The bass plugs ahead steadily and busily in the background, which is the perfect complement to the song, which about a hard-working truck stop waitress named Ruby. The bass urges the song forward and, in a quiet way, gives it something subtle and special.
If you haven’t been to one of his shows, you might not know what an accomplished bass player Urban is. But in “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” Urban lets his bass-thumping skills fly: He switches from his usual electric guitar to play lead bass on this song, and the result is … well, electric. Urban’s bass in this song is sleek and funky and slides, rightfully, into center stage.
The title of this song is a reference to drinking, not to trains, but there’s something about the bass in the tune that calls to mind the latter anyway. The song is practically propelled forward by its repetitive, hypnotic bass line. There are plenty of Miller songs that could have made it on this list, but “Chug-a-Lug” -- only Miller’s second single, from 1964 -- is our choice thanks to its inescapable simplicity.
“Before He Cheats” is memorable for so many reasons; the uber-popular revenge song wracked up award after award and became many people’s favorite Underwood tune. So your first thoughts about “Before He Cheats” might not be about the bass line ... but they should be. The loping introductory bass line immediately sets the tone for the verses: It’s a little angry, a little restrained, and a little bit foreboding. In other words, it sets up the perfect atmosphere for Underwood to explode in the chorus: “I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive.” We have the bass line to thank for that incredible choral catharsis.
Sometimes the best bass lines are slow and understated; you hardly know they’re there. And sometimes, you’re listening to a Hank III song. The bass in “Nighttime Ramblin’ Man” is just like everything else in this track: wild, frenetic and fast. The fact that this unhinged bass line is played on an upright makes it the perfect metaphor for the music of Williams III: a little bit of old school mixed with a lot of crazy fun.
You can’t have a list of country's best bass lines without the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and "I Saw the Light" is our pick. Their version of the Hank Williams song shows off every instrument, but the bass (too often the unsung hero) really shines. It plugs along nicely for the full song, but the best part of this version of “I Saw the Light” is that listeners get to hear a wild bass solo breakdown. If you’re a bass fan, it’s a complete treat.
The bass is what opens “Amos Moses,” and from the very start, it’s pure groove. It’s a quick-fingered, bluesy riff -- the kind that repeats over and over, the kind that you can’t help but tap your foot to. Reed never lets the bass line slip into the background on this one, either; it's the star, taking center stage throughout the full song, and it’s what makes “Amos Moses” such a pure jam.