Rodney Crowell is one of those rare talents who has found success as both a singer and a songwriter in equal parts. As a recording artist, he's released more than 20 studio albums, earned a couple of Grammy Awards and taken five singles to No. 1. As a songwriter, he's written hits for everyone from Waylon Jennings to Keith Urban to Tim McGraw.
The Boot's list of Crowell's Top 10 songs draw from from both of these pools: Crowell as a performer and Crowell as a songwriter. There's a little bit of everything on this countdown, from an early 1978 single to a 2004 song performed by Urban.
"Ashes By Now"From 'But What Will the Neighbors Think' (1980)
“Ashes By Now” is an early song, written and recorded by Crowell in 1978. Initially released as a stand-alone single, the song later appeared on Crowell's 1980 album But What Will the Neighbors Think; the original recording features fiddle from Ricky Skaggs. A simultaneously poppy and bitter post-breakup song, "Ashes By Now" hinges on lines such as “As much as you burn me, baby / I should be ashes by now.” Like many songs written by Crowell, it gained even more popularity years after its initial recording, when another artist covered it: Emmylou Harris sang it too, but it was Lee Ann Womack’s 2000 cover that took the song to No. 4 on the charts.
"After All This Time"From 'Diamonds & Dirt' (1988)
“After All This Time” is a guitar- and piano-driven ballad about enduring love. Crowell croons the chorus, claiming, “After all this time / You’re always on my mind / Hey, I could never let it end.” The simple song was Crowell’s third single (of five in total) from 1988’s Diamonds & Dirt to reach No. 1. “After All This Time” stands apart from that pack in one important way, though: It won the Grammys trophy for Best Country Song.
"It's Such a Small World"From 'Diamonds & Dirt' (1988)
“It’s Such a Small World” kicked off that aforementioned streak of five consecutive No. 1 hits for Crowell. The first single from Diamonds & Dirt, the song tells the story of two former lovers who meet by chance and reunite for one bittersweet night. Sung as a duet, “It’s Such a Small World” is bolstered by vocals from Rosanne Cash, who was Crowell’s wife at the time; the trade-off and harmonies between the two are what sell this song.
"I Ain't Living Long Like This"From 'Ain't Living Long Like This' (1978)
“I Ain’t Living Long Like This” is the title track of Crowell’s debut album. While the record itself failed to chart at the time of its release, many of its songs are now considered some of Crowell’s best-written tunes. That’s the case with “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” also performed by Emmylou Harris on her 1978 album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town. Recognizing the song’s potential (and supremely catchy chorus) Waylon Jennings recorded a version of the song as well, in 1979; it went to No. 1.
"Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight"From 'Ain't Living Long Like This' (1978)
“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” is simple, old-fashioned, plucky-storytelling country music. It announces itself right away with its opening line: “Mary took to running with a traveling man.” Crowell and Donivan Cowart wrote the song, and Emmylou Harris also sang it in the late '70s, but it became a hit when the Oak Ridge Boys recorded it and released it as the third single from their 1979 album The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived. For them, it became a No. 1 hit.
"Making Memories of Us"From 'The Notorious Cherry Bombs' (2004)
With “Making Memories of Us,” Crowell proved that he still possessed the songwriting chops he’d been showing off for decades. The song was first performed by Tracy Byrd in 2003; Crowell then recorded the song the following year with the Notorious Cherry Bombs, a supergroup featuring Crowell, Vince Gill, Hank De Vito and more. But the song found its true home when Keith Urban released it as a single from his album Be Here. His performance of the song stayed at No. 1 for five weeks.
"Many a Long and Lonesome Highway"From 'Keys to the Highway' (1989)
“Many a Long and Lonesome Highway” manages to sound both timeless and classic at the same time. It’s a stripped-down, winsome song about taking to the open road, and it showcases the upper ranges of Crowell’s voice without many embellishments. The song returns over and over to a simple chorus: “Many a long and lonesome highway lies before us as we go.” The song was the first single from Crowell’s 1989 record Keys to the Highway, and it peaked at No. 3 on the charts.
"Please Remember Me"From 'Jewel of the South' (1995)
Crowell co-wrote “Please Remember Me” with Will Jennings, and released the song as a single from his 1995 album Jewel of the South. His version peaked at No. 69 on the charts, but the song’s story didn’t end there. The tune found a second life when Tim McGraw recorded it for his 1999 album A Place in the Sun. It became a No. 1 hit for McGraw, and was his most successful crossover single. Following the success of McGraw’s recording, songwriter Crowell was nominated for the Song of the Year at both the ACMs and CMAs.
"She's Crazy for Leaving"From 'Diamonds & Dirt' (1988)
Driven by a groovy, high-pitched bass line, “She’s Crazy for Leaving” is energetic, self-deprecating fun. The newly single narrator sings, “You can’t stop a woman when she’s out of control / So I punched out my truck on a telephone pole.” The song was written by Crowell and Guy Clark; Crowell released it as the second single from Diamonds & Dirt, earning his second No. 1 hit.
"I Walk the Line (Revisited)"From 'The Houston Kid (2001)'
Crowell’s “I Walk the Line (Revisited)” is one of the most inventive cover songs in country music -- though it's not exactly a cover. The song is an original, a tribute by Crowell to the first time he heard Johnny Cash on the radio. The twist is that Crowell actually got Cash to re-record lyrics from “I Walk the Line" for the track, and he fuses these lines into the chorus of his new song. The result is a dynamic tribute to the original classic.