Top Five: Country Songs by The Rolling Stones

photo courtesy UMG

With The Rolling Stones announcing the North American dates of their 50 and Counting Tour this week, we’ve been in a Stonesy mood here at CW HQ. But, hey, we're a country site, so we’re not cranking “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or the overplayed “Start Me Up.” Instead, we’ve been focusing on the Stones’ more twangy work, which the group began to immerse itself in during the recording of 1972’s Exile on Main Street, with a little influence from country-rock visionary Gram Parsons.

Here’s our five favorites—some of which you might think sound even more country than what’s heard on country radio today. Which one gives you the most satisfaction?

 

5. “Country Honk”

This stripped-down 1969 jam was the precursor to the electric “Honky Tonk Women” that we all know. Originally appearing on the Stones’ Let It Bleed album, “Country Honk” wasn’t too far removed from a Hank Williams lament, complete with lonesome fiddle.

 

4. “Sweet Virginia”

Exile on Main Street is considered by many to be the group’s masterwork, a rambling collection famously recorded in Keith Richards’ villa Nellcôte in the south of France. But don’t expect any ooh-la-la on this country shuffle, one of the most vivid displays of American country’s influence on the band.

 

3. “Far Away Eyes”

Part send-up, part salute, “Far Away Eyes” finds Mick Jagger doing his best Southern drawl as he relates the benefits of finding a girl with the titular peepers. The Stones trotted out this gem during their Beacon Theatre shows in New York City for Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light documentary with sublime results—and the face-to-face duet between Mick and Keef is enough to make a grown man well up.

 

2. “Bob Wills Is Still the King”

To celebrate their first-ever concert in Austin, Texas, in 2006, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers covered Waylon Jennings’ “Bob Wills Is Still the King.” Ronnie Wood’s steel-guitar playing is spellbinding.

 

1. “Wild Horses”

The pinnacle of The Rolling Stones’ foray into country balladry, “Wild Horses” was a subdued bit of subtle magic amid the rock riffs of 1971’s Sticky Fingers. Still a mainstay of the group’s set list, it’s Keith’s solo version here—with help from Steve Earle, Norah Jones and others—at a tribute to his old pal Gram in 2004 that we find the most chilling.

If you just want to let all five songs play while you do other things, we put together a YouTube playlist. Enjoy!

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