Billboarding: Nov. 26, 2007, This Is Carrie's Country

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We hope you feel like line-dancing, because for this week’s installment of Billboarding, we’re taking a look at the Hot Country Songs Top 10 for November 26, 2007. This may not be your grandpappy’s country music, but there are still plenty of fiddles, banjos, and pedal steel guitars to be heard (and, thank God, not a Bon Jovi song in sight). Crank ‘er up!

1. Carrie Underwood, “So Small” (Arista Nashville)
She takes a lot of crap for not being “country” enough, but this song – all swelling strings, over-the-top vocals, and greeting-card platitudes – is about as country as country gets; you can imagine Dolly Parton hearing this in 1981 and slitting a throat or two to get her rhinestone gloves on it. It’s no wonder CMT played “So Small” 66 times in a row a few weeks ago. That being said, we can’t remember a single note from this song, and we just finished listening to it.

2. Kenny Chesney, “Don’t Blink” (BNA)
The obvious gag here is easy – “don’t blink, or the next thing you know, your celebrity circus marriage is annulled” – so we’ll give Kenny a pass this time, even if the message behind this song has already been recycled for at least half a dozen country Number Ones in the last 15 years. Those pedal steel guitars are oh so smooth, after all.

3. Garth Brooks, “More Than a Memory” (Pearl)
It’s been a quiet decade for Garth Brooks, but the guy who almost single-handedly revitalized Nashville’s commercial prospects proves here that no matter how long he’s away, he’s still got juice at country radio – “More Than a Memory” became the first-ever Number One debut on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in September. The boxed set it’s coming from, Ultimate Hits, will be Brooks’ first self-released title since his Wal-Mart exclusive expired – meaning that no matter how grim this Christmas season turns out to be at retail, we know at least one country singer who’ll be rolling in dough.

4. Dierks Bentley, “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” (Capitol Nashville)
What the hell kind of name is Dierks, anyway? How is this guy not on every no-fly list in America? And why does he sound like he just stepped out of Frog Holler, Alabama? Well, whatever – this breezy, banjo-driven ode to the unencumbered road life would have given Glenn Frey hives of pleasure in 1976, and it’s doing the same to country fans everywhere right now.

5. George Strait, “How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” (MCA Nashville)
Only Elvis and the Beatles have more gold and platinum records than George Strait, which is mildly shocking if you don’t pay attention to the country charts – but here’s the thing about Strait: Even if you haven’t tuned your dial to a country station since the summer of 1988, you’ll instantly recognize his sound. In an era of country records heavy on pop production (we’re looking at you, Rascal Flatts), Strait’s low ‘n’ easy songs sound the same as they ever did. There’s something comforting about that, no?

6. Jason Michael Carroll, “Livin’ Our Love Song” (Arista Nashville)
Looking like a cross between Chad Kroeger and the Nelson brothers, Carroll delivers this week’s Top 10 its requisite baby-I-love-ya tune with “Livin’ Our Love Song,” a tune so absolutely unremarkable in every way that we aren’t completely convinced it actually exists. Even before it reaches the chorus, you’ll swear you’ve heard this song before, and hated it. Jon Bon Jovi probably wishes he’d written this, which should tell you everything you need to know.

7. Josh Turner, “Firecracker” (MCA Nashville)
Turner’s vocals, and the song’s instrumental track, are flatter and more mannered than anything else you’ll hear on this week’s countdown. But the nod-and-a-wink filth of the lyrics – a continuous series of double entendres based around the various noises emitted by the protagonist’s female “firecracker” – help elevate what would otherwise be a very pedestrian song. And really, this is still nothing that hasn’t been done before, but Turner has a certain charm – and it doesn’t hurt that his baritone dips into Isaac Hayes territory.

8. Clay Walker, “Fall” (Asylum/Curb)
Yeah, it’s pretty damn hokey – but if you have any sort of weakness for the country-ballad formula (and based on this song’s chart performance, many of you do), you’ll “Fall” hook, line and sinker for this artfully assembled paean to strong shoulderhood. You can practically hear the boots shuffling around the dance floor at your local redneck bar, can’t you?

9. Taylor Swift, “Our Song” (Big Machine)
Well, hey, guess what? Turns out Taylor Swift is more than just a pretty face after all. She wrote “Our Song” all by her lonesome, and it’s not only her most charming single to date, it’s got a slender, denim-clad leg up on most of the stuff on this week’s countdown. Does it stray a little too far on the L.A. side of the modern country continuum? Absolutely, but it’s clever, hooky, and sold to the hilt by Swift’s spry vocals. Jessica Simpson’s in Nashville working on her next album, and you can bet this is exactly what she hopes it’ll sound like. (It’s early, but what the hell – we predict snake eyes on that roll, Jess.)

10. Montgomery Gentry, “What Do Ya Think About That” (Columbia)
In which Eddie "Ted Nugent" Montgomery and Troy Gentry position themselves as the manlier alternatives to their wimpy new big-city neighbor – without stopping to consider the fairly significant homoerotic implications of two young, leather vest-wearing dudes who live together and chop a lot of wood in the front yard. (Which is, naturally, where their Chevy truck is parked. Nice product placement!)

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