It’s time to clock in—we’ve got the 40 Hardest Working Songs in Country Music.
Today, Aug. 31, we’re featuring #21–30.
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.
Tuesday, Aug. 30: #31–40
Wednesday, Aug. 31: #21–30
Thursday, Sept. 1: #11–20
Friday, Sept. 2: #1–10
#30. “Drinking Class”
There’s not a dang thing wrong with earning an honest living breaking your back and working up a sweat. In fact, it’s a source of pride as Lee Brice boasts in this anthemic salute to working hard and playing harder.
#29. “Something More”
At some point, we all have the sneaking suspicion that we’re wasting our lives eight hours (or more) a day at work. This breakout Sugarland hit floats the idea that we should work to live, not live to work and that bigger and better may be out there somewhere.
Robert Earl Keen
There’s a tender ache in REK’s voice as he sings about Mariano, a virtuous Mexican laborer who works just like a piston in an engine so he can send his family all his weekly wages, saving nothing for himself. Eventually deported and unaccounted for, Mariano’s plight for a better life becomes too haunting to forget.
#27. “Workin’ for a Livin’”
Garth Brooks & Huey Lewis
’80s faves Huey Lewis and the News, whose members collaborated on the song, were a blues/rock band at heart. But they had plenty of country in their souls. With lines like, Damned if you do / Damned if you don’t / I’m supposed to get a raise next week / You know damn well I won’t, this tapped right into the frustrations of the average working stiff. Garth and Huey pound it out with fervor.
#26. “The Factory”
Kenny’s touching tune about the daily struggles of a factory worker with a family of nine serves as a poignant reminder that it’s OK to dream bigger, but don’t forget to be thankful for what you have. That’s why Papa got down on his knees and prayed, Please help me through another day / Thank you, Lord, for my job down at the factory.
#25. “One More Payment”
Why do we work so hard? Livin’ isn’t free, unfortunately, and there’s always some damn house payment to be made or car that needs to be fixed. Clint’s bright, Texas swing arrangement adds a touch of levity to the proceedings, but this much is clear: we get out of our obligations only when we check out for good.
#24. “Blowin’ Smoke”
Let’s be honest. Every job, no matter how much you love it, can be a grind now and then, but if you’re on your feet all day slingin’ hash, making less than minimum wage and pulling doubles for the tips, the grinds are a little greater. Kacey nails the attitude of a waitress who doesn’t have a damn left to give.
#23. “Cafe on the Corner”
This classic pays homage to a farmer forced from his fields because of falling prices. He’s relegated to sipping coffee at a local cafe, feeling completely out of place, and wondering if he’ll ever tend to the earth again.
#22. “I’m Tryin'”
With his rumbling baritone, Trace Adkins can convey a message like no other, and in “I’m Tryin,” he vacillates between anxiety and apology for simply doing the best he can to provide for his family and make his daddy proud. Listen to the original on his Chrome album. The opening strings will break your heart.
#21. “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man”
Travis Tritt’s spin on the working man’s anthem highlights the economic imbalance of working people and the wealthy. The working man breaks his back to break even, while the wealthy man dances unawares. It’s as relevant today as it was in ’92.