Unlike harder-leaning Southern rock, melody-based country rock isn't afraid to occasionally go the peaceful, easy-feeling route. Think Southern rock's jam-based songs rooted in the blues, gospel and R&B vs. the acoustic guitars, banjos and song-oriented tunes of country rock.

No doubt it's a fine line - there aren't tracks by Lynyrd Skynyrd in the below list of the Top 35 Country Rock Songs, but the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band appear. What makes a song country rock but not Southern rock? To appropriate a colloquialism: You know it when you hear it.

The below songs, as voted on by UCR staff, cover tracks from the dawn of the genre in the late '60s through favorites that hit the official country charts to cuts that share traits with, yes, Southern rock. Nearly all of them can trace their roots back to American folk music from the first part of the 20th century, so it's little surprise the majority of the artists come from the U.S. But with rock 'n' roll's evolution and influence in the late '50s and early '60s, they've come a long way from the back roads and front porch.

35. Linda Ronstadt, "You're No Good" (1974)

Linda Ronstadt took an 11-year-old song by Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne's sister), ran it by her ace live band (who were schooled in country rock) and launched a fledgling solo career with her only No. 1 single. Unlike the original take on the song, an R&B burner first charted by Betty Everett, Ronstadt's version takes on a rootsy pop edge, leading off Heart Like a Wheel, her breakthrough sixth LP and a country rock milestone.

 

34. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Teach Your Children" (1970)

"Teach Your Children" was written by Graham Nash when he was still in the Hollies. He brought it to new bandmates David Crosby and Stephen Stills for their debut album as a trio, but the song didn't make it to a record until Neil Young joined for the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album in 1970, Deja Vu. Jerry Garcia added pedal steel guitar, a return favor after the group taught harmonies to Grateful Dead for Workingman's Dead.

 

33. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Mr. Bojangles" (1970)

Jerry Jeff Walker wrote "Mr. Bojangles" about a real person he met while serving time in jail for public intoxication. It's become a much-covered tune since Walker debuted his version in 1968. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a Top 10 hit - accidentally changing some of the original lyrics - with the song in 1970, its mix of banjo, mandolin and accordion keeping with the group's roots in traditional country, folk and bluegrass.

 

32. Gram Parsons, "A Song for You" (1973)

Gram Parsons had already been dismissed from two groups (Flying Burrito Brothers, which he cofounded, and the Byrds) when he released his debut solo album, GP, in 1973. "A Song for You" is one of the album's most gorgeous tracks, a sorrowful love song to the South of Parsons' youth and to country music itself. Eight months after GP's release, he died of an overdose. The posthumous Grievous Angel followed.

 

31. The Ozark Mountain Devils, "Jackie Blue" (1974)

Springfield, Missouri-based Ozark Mountain Devils had a Top 25 hit their first time out with "If You Wanna Get to Heaven." But it's their 1974 single "Jackie Blue" that earned them a place in the country rock pantheon. The song was written about a drug dealer the band's drummer, Larry Lee, knew. Producer Glyn Johns, fresh from his work on the Eagles' first three albums, tightened the song for radio. It made it to No. 3.

 

READ MORE: Top 10 Southern Rock Songs

 

30. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Proud Mary" (1969)

John Fogerty made it hard to peg down Creedence Clearwater Revival from the start. Were they a garage band? A psychedelic band? A swamp-rock group? Or just a great pop combo? The answer is all of these but with some detours. The perennial "Proud Mary" was conceived as many things by its author, including a Stax tribute and gospel song. Also in its late-'60s stew: a country rock shuffle open to musical interpretation.

 

29. Gram Parsons, "She" (1973)

Written with bassist Chris Ethridge, who was a member of the International Submarine Band and Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, "She" was selected as the first single from Parsons' solo debut, GP. It didn't chart, but both song and album laid the groundwork for country rock's alt-country successor in the '90s. Like several songs on GP, "She" is a somewhat affectionate nod to the South where Parsons grew up.

 

28. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Ohio" (1970)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had released their first album two months earlier when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students at a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University in May 1970. Neil Young quickly wrote up his thoughts and returned to the studio with his new bandmates for a timely single. "Ohio," which tilts toward the rock half of country rock, was an instant hit and one of the era's best protest songs.

 

27. Steve Earle, "Guitar Town" (1986)

Country rock was evolving into roots rock and Americana when Steve Earle released his debut album in 1986. But a clear line can be traced to the music's golden age on Guitar Town's title track. For a while, it looked like the Texas-bred singer-songwriter would be at the forefront of a new, less slick country music movement in Nashville. But a drug addiction derailed him in the early '90s until a career rebound later in the decade.

 

26. The Rolling Stones, "Sweet Virginia" (1972)

Right around the time Gram Parsons was out of the Byrds, he started hanging around Keith Richards; habits and influences were mutually shared for a time. The Rolling StonesSticky Fingers includes two songs undoubtedly inspired by the future Flying Burrito Brother: "Dead Flowers" and "Wild Horses," which Parsons' new group recorded in 1970. Parsons' country spirit later informed "Sweet Virginia" from Exile of Main St.

 

25. R.E.M., "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" (1984)

It may sound like R.E.M. has tongue planted in cheek on this 1984 song, with Michael Stipe's mannered twang and a down-home country arrangement, but the Athens, Georgia, band knew the South inside-out. Guitarist Peter Buck has said that "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" was originally a punk song, written by bassist Mike Mills for his girlfriend. But its route changed on the way to their second album, Reckoning.

 

24. Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee" (1971)

Kris Kristofferson was one of the most in-demand songwriters at the top of the '70s, with "Sunday Morning Coming Down" (covered by Johnny Cash) and "For the Good Times" (Ray Price) huge hits on the country chart. In 1970, Janis Joplin recorded his "Me and Bobby McGee" in the month before her October death; in early 1971, when her posthumous album Pearl was released, it became her only No. 1 single.

 

23. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Up Around the Bend" (1970)

CCR's 18-month run starting in January 1969 with Bayou Country and ending with their masterpiece, Cosmo's Factory, in July 1970 yielded an astounding four great albums (also including Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys). By the time they arrived at "Up Around the Bend" near the end of the run, frontman John Fogerty had sharpened his songs to their hitmaking point. From the tougher side of the country rock balance.

 

22. Bob Dylan, "Lay Lady Lady" (1969)

An argument can be made that Bob Dylan, as he has done many times throughout his long career, was at the vanguard of a movement that influenced generations of artists through the ages. With the 1967 Basement Tapes recordings, he and the Band made some of the first country-rock songs; his John Wesley Harding album from later that year is further evidence. Need more? 1969's Nashville Skyline and this hit single.

 

21. Outlaws, "Green Grass and High Tides" (1975)

With two extended guitar solos that push the song past the 10-minute mark, Outlaws' "Green Grass and High Tides" comes dangerously close to Southern rock in its resistance to country rock limits. (Truth be told, it's both Southern rock and country rock.) By the mid-'70s most genre progenitors had moved on to rougher terrain; with their debut album, and this most epic closing song, Tampa's Outlaws straddle the line.

 

20. J.J. Cale, "Call Me the Breeze" (1971)

J.J. Cale was soon to become a favorite of artists like Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd, thanks to his debut album, Naturally, which helped stoke the "Tulsa sound" mix of blues, swamp and country rock. "Call Me the Breeze" is notable for its use of a primitive drum machine, which leaves open its spare arrangement to interpretation. Skynyrd's 1974 cover ups the volume and intensity without losing the core of Cale's superb original.

 

19. The Band, "Up on Cripple Creek" (1969)

Even with their reputation as the godfathers of Americana music, the Band rarely played to type. The first single from their eponymously titled second album, "Up on Cripple Creek," features Garth Hudson on clavinet with a wah-wah pedal. The sound - used in countless funk songs in the '70s - gives "Cripple Creek" its distinctive stamp as rootsy country rock rooted in blues and R&B while setting its sights on an approaching decade.

 

READ MORE: 25 Songs That Almost Ruined Classic Albums

 

18. Flying Burrito Brothers, "Hot Burrito #1" (1969)

After helping the Byrds work up the country rock template on 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Gram Parsons and the band split. Within two months original Byrds member Chris Hillman had joined Parsons to form Flying Burrito Brothers. Their 1969 debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, further expanded the borders of the nascent genre. The heartbreaking "Hot Burrito #1" is a highlight and a blueprint for '70s country rock.

 

17. Grateful Dead, "Friend of the Devil" (1970)

Grateful Dead moved from psychedelic band to folk group on their fourth studio album Workingman's Dead in 1970; nine months later they repeated the combination on American Beauty. Combining folk, country and bluegrass, the LPs helped set the standards of country rock in the early '70s. "Friend of the Devil," sung and cowritten by Jerry Garcia, highlights Beauty and the Dead's exemplary roots-leaning era.

 

16. Eagles, "New Kid in Town" (1976)

Four years after their self-titled debut album became a country rock standard, the Eagles had left behind most of the peaceful easy feelings, replaced by dispatches from the fast lane. Their fifth album Hotel California wraps in everything from hard rock to reggae to big sweeping, strings-assisted ballads. The one song that recalls their country rock origins, "New Kid in Town," was the LP's lead single and a No. 1 hit.

 

15. The Rolling Stones, "Wild Horses" (1971)

Inspired by Gram Parsons, who was hanging out with Keith Richards then, "Wild Flowers" borrows phrasing and tone from the country rock pioneer. When the Stones filed away their demo of the song, thinking it wasn't very good, Parsons took it for the Flying Burrito Brothers' second album. Their version beat the Stones' reconsidered, and better, rendition (found on 1971's Sticky Fingers) to the shelves by more than a year.

 

14. The Rolling Stones, "Dead Flowers" (1971)

The Rolling Stones were moving on from the '60s as they continued work on what would become their first album of the new decade, Sticky Fingers. Pulling from the corners of American music - soul, blues and country - the album may be the most characteristic of the Stones' classic sound: keyed-in riffs underneath a sexy, defiant sway and swagger. "Dead Flowers" applies it to a country shuffle.

 

13. Eagles, "Already Gone" (1974)

With their third album, the Eagles were taking steps to widen their audience. The pivot to the more rock-oriented terrain of On the Border didn't hurt their commercial prospects; in many ways, the album cleared the ground for their even more successful second act. The LP's first single and opening song, "Already Gone," skims the edge of Southern rock, with new guitarist Don Felder contributing a Skynyrd-like solo.

 

12. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising" (1969)

Deceiving in its near rockabilly rhythm, one of John Fogerty's most apocalyptic songs (and Green River highlight) details an unknown approaching evil with a casualness that borders on bliss. The country rock warning has soundtracked a share of movies, TV shows and video games over the years. Like four other Creedence Clearwater Revival singles denied the top spot, "Bad Moon Rising" stopped at No. 2 in a busy 1969.

 

11. Linda Ronstadt, "When Will I Be Loved" (1974)

"When Will I Be Loved" was a hit for the Everly Brothers in 1960, but the Phil Everly-written song was even bigger for Linda Ronstadt when she covered it on her breakthrough album Heart Like a Wheel. Preceded by the No. 1 "You're No Good," "When Will I Be Loved" became Ronstadt's second hit song (it made it to No. 2) in a row. It did make it to No. 1 on the country chart, though, a nod to its foundation.

 

10. The Allman Brothers Band, "Midnight Rider" (1970)

Gregg Allman was determined to have a hit with "Midnight Rider," which first appeared on the Allman Brothers Band's second album, Idlewild South. The song he cowrote with one of the group's roadies got a second life (and a Top 20 chart showing) in 1973 on Allman's solo debut, Laid Back. The earlier take is the definitive version, with the band avoiding its usual jam habits for three minutes of blues-embedded country rock.

 

9. Eagles, "Lyin' Eyes" (1975)

By Eagles' fourth album in 1975, they were already heading in a more rock direction. But Glenn Frey's only lead-vocal contribution to One of These Nights relied heavily on the country quotient of their initial country rock status. "Lyin' Eyes" went to No. 2 on the pop chart and No. 8 country (the group's only Top 40 hit on that chart until a 2007 reunion LP) - no surprise given its breezy acoustic melody and cheating-partner theme.

 

8. Neil Young, "Heart of Gold" (1972)

One of music's most restless artists had already made folk, pop, psychedelic and rock records when his fourth solo LP arrived in 1972. Harvest transplanted Neil Young firmly on country rock ground, with its lead single, "Heart of Gold," a career highlight. The song - with vocal assistance from Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor - went to No. 1, heightening expectations with fans and his label. He next swerved in a new direction.

 

7. Eagles, "Take It Easy" (1972)

Eagles sounded fully formed when their debut single, "Take It Easy," arrived in 1972. Various studio and road work (with Linda Ronstadt, among others) had honed the original quartet to a finely tuned country rock point. They weren't originators, but the Eagles soon became a benchmark. "Take It Easy" was cowritten by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, whose version appeared a year later. The Eagles' take is definitive.

READ MORE: 40 Songs That Aren't on the Albums They Were Named After

 

6. Eagles, "Desperado" (1973)

"Desperado" was merely an album track, and the title song, to the Eagles' second album when it was released in 1973. But it soon became one of their most popular songs. An earlier Don Henley composition tailored to fit Desperado's theme of Old West marauders, the song was musically based on Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind," right down to the sweeping strings. Linda Ronstadt's cover the same year boosted its value.

 

5. The Byrds, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (1968)

The Byrds had launched their career in 1965 with a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Four years later, as they were rewriting their history and posed to start a new beginning, another Dylan song was a trigger. Rebranding as a country rock band on Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the Byrds open the LP with Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," from the then-unreleased Basement Tapes he made with the Band.

 

4. Little Feat, "Willin'" (1972)

Little Feat's first attempt at "Willin'" wasn't met with much success. Written by Lowell George and included on his band's self-titled 1971 debut album, the song was given another chance, but at a slower tempo, on their second record, Sailin' Shoes. The result is one of country rock's pillars, a road anthem about "weed, whites and wine" that's been covered by Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt and countless others over the years.

 

3. The Marshall Tucker Band, "Heard It in a Love Song" (1977)

For most of their career South Carolina's Marshall Tucker Band could be classified as Southern rock (see their classic "Can't You See"). But "Heard It in a Love Song" intersects the line between country and rock with pop-minded musicality. It's not just the masterful flute that runs throughout the song or Doug Gray's sympathetic vocal (has a goodbye song ever sounded so warm?). This is '70s song-making at its finest.

 

2. The Band, "The Weight" (1968)

The Band were architects of the country rock sound along with their partner in crime Bob Dylan during 1967's extended vacation that resulted in the Basement Tapes. Still sharpening the music when they made their debut Music From Big Pink (which featured some of the songs laid down in the Woodstock, New York, house with Dylan), they hit on an instant classic with "The Weight," a parable as aged as the folk tunes it invokes.

 

1. The Band, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (1969)

Everything about the Band's second, self-titled album points to the beginnings of Americana music - from the sepia cover photo by Elliott Landy to Robbie Robertson's songs about faith, redemption and repentance, played on instruments that could date back a hundred years. No song soaks up this atmosphere more than "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," set during the final year of the Civil War and told in a dust-ravaged voice by Levon Helm. On its own, the song stands as one of Robertson's, and the group's, greatest achievements; as the conceptual center of The Band, the track is the link to the fading-but-still-in-view past and the bridge between country and rock music progressing further into the 20th century.

The 12 Worst Bob Dylan Albums

When you've been around as long as he has, there's bound to be a few misfires in the catalog. 

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

More From Awesome 98