What makes a truly great dark country song? Well, it helps if there's a death involved, and country music is full of classic, chilling murder ballads that fit the bill.
But in order to be truly dark, a song has to be more than just sad or scary — it has to leave the listeners with a feeling of uneasiness, or provide a shocking twist that subverts expectations about what's going to happen to the characters in the lyrics.
This list of the darkest country music in history provides just that, though some of the songs are upbeat, and even easy to dance along to. In compiling this list of dark country songs, though, Taste of Country learned that — by and large — they just don't make a creepy song like they used to. Several modern-day hitmakers make the cut, including Ashley McBryde, Carrie Underwood and Morgan Wallen. But a bulk of the entries hail from the 1990s or earlier, and some — including our No. 1 pick — even date back to before 1970.
In selecting the darkest songs of country music, we chose one track per artist. Some stars, like Johnny Cash, have a whole cache of songs that qualify as some of the darkest in the genre's history, but we limited ourselves to just one for this list. So while Cash classics like "Hurt" and "Folsom Prison Blues" get honorable mentions, they didn't make the final cut, because he's got another song that was just dark enough to edge them out.
Speaking of Cash, there are lots of artists on this list that are country music royalty. Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks all get a nod in the gallery below. But there are also some deep cuts and cult favorites, and the No. 1 dark country song of all time is so obscure that even diehard fans of the genre might never have heard it before.
Read on to find out, and see if your favorite dark country musics made the list.
The country genre's got plenty of sad songs, but these tracks are downright chilling. Here are the 30 darkest songs in country music.