30 Songs About Angels

Juli Thanki | August 3rd, 2009

Whether real or imaginary, the figure of the angel has wormed its way into all facets of country music. From church pews to bar stools, you just can’t escape these heavenly helpers…or the real life folks who may just look angelic.

The list of potential songs for this month’s playlist was quite lengthy, but after shedding blood, sweat, and tears here on The 9513 compound, we’ve narrowed it down to 31. Songs by Alabama (“Angels Among Us”), Tommy Shane Steiner (“What If She’s An Angel?”) and Iris Dement (“Infamous Angel”) barely missed the cut, but they—along with a few dozen others that didn’t make the list—are worthy of your time.

Give these songs a listen, but beware: an angel’s beautiful face can hide some pretty rotten behavior.

  • Martina McBride - Wild Angels30. “Wild Angels” – Martina McBride
    Perhaps the Martina McBride prominently featured in Country California’s Fake News needs a wild angel to watch over her Danzig covers and slurred diatribes, but real Martina? Probably not so much. We like this song anyway. We’d like it even more if Martina’s alleged wild angel spurs her to record a version of the Misfits’ “Last Caress.”
  • Jamie O'Neal - Shiver29. “When I Think About Angels” – Jamie O’Neal
    O’Neal’s thoughts are all over the place on this supercatchy tune: Rain -> singing -> heaven -> angels -> you. Unfortunately, she missed the boat when it came to penning a sequel song about Ritalin improving her flighty concentration.
  • jamey-johnson-angel28. “Angel” – Jamey Johnson
    Poor Jamey Johnson. Surveying the wreckage of love gone wrong only leads to more questions, the most important one being ”Am I shaking a devil that’s after my soul/Or sending an angel to hell?”
  • the-judds-guardian-angel27. “Guardian Angel” – The Judds
    My mother likes to say “the higher the hair, the closer to God.” If that’s true, then in their Aqua-Netted prime, Naomi and Wynonna were in spitting distance of the Almighty, not to mention the ancestors watching over them—probably through the hole all those cans of hairspray punched in the ozone layer—in this sweet song.
  • Lefty Frizzell - From An Angel To a Devil26. “From and Angel to a Devil” – Lefty Frizzell
    Lefty traces the devious behavior of women all the way back to scheming Eve. Those Old Testament broads’ll get you every time. Don’t even get ol’ Lefty started on Noah’s daughters…
  • Mindy McCready - Ten Thousand Angels25. “Ten Thousand Angels” – Mindy McCready
    The protagonist of this song needs a whole army of angels to keep her from going home with a bad guy. 10,000 angels is either overkill, or they’re all really ineffective guardians. Either way, perhaps a few dozen can be spared to keep an eye on the oft-troubled McCready.
  • Alison Moorer - Send Down an Angel24. “Send Down an Angel” – Allison Moorer
    Moorer’s another one who needs supernatural protection against a jerk who does her wrong time after time. Must be one of the angelic subsets: cherubim, seraphim, antidouchebagaphim.
  • Radney Foster - Everyday Angel23. “Everyday Angel” – Radney Foster
    Sometimes angels are just folks without wings, rising up to extraordinary occasions; in this case, those occasions include marching for civil rights and dying while attempting to rescue those trapped in the World Trade Center on September 11. In the hands of a lesser singer/songwriter, this is a topic that could be maudlin and emotionally exploitative, but Foster handles it with his typical skill.
  • George Jones - Your Angel Steps Out of Heaven22. “Your Angel Steps Out of Heaven” – George Jones
    So you’ve married an angel and everything is perfect, right? Not so, says the Possum, because that angel has stepped out of the heaven you’ve built and is running around on you. Ouch. Better go see if you can borrow some of Mindy McCready’s angels.
  • Tammy Cochran - Angel in Waiting21. “Angels in Waiting” – Tammy Cochran
    “Angels in Waiting,” a Top Ten hit in 2001, is about Cochran’s twin brothers who died at a young age from cystic fibrosis, trading their sick bodies for angels’ wings. Because I’ve got handicapped siblings of my own, this song hits me on a personal level, and considering its success, it seems that “Angels” hit others in the grief bone as well.
  • josh-turner-your-man20. “Angels Fall Sometimes” – Josh Turner
    Sometimes angels fall. And then they marry Josh Turner, who sings about angels falling and marrying Josh Turner. It’s like one of those M.C. Escher pieces with the impossible stairs.
  • chris-thile-angel19. “You’re An Angel and I’m Gonna Cry” – Chris Thile
    Mandolin genius Thile gets sensitive with this whisper-soft ballad from How to Grow A Woman From the Ground. A few lyrics might be a little emo for some (“I can’t have you/And I’m never gonna try” being one), but Thile—who was recently divorced around that time, which explains the emoness—and his skilled band of progressive pickers make it work.
  • billy-joe-shaver-when-fallen-angels-fly18. “When Fallen Angels Fly” – Billy Joe Shaver
    I could write a little blurb about this song, but I think the lyrics speak for themselves, especially when delivered by Billy Joe: ”God will save his fallen angels/And their broken wings he’ll mend/When he draws their hearts together/And they learn to love again.”
    Sara Evans covers the same subject a little less deftly in another one of this month’s contenders, “Saints and Angels.”
  • patty-loveless-mountain-soul17. “Sorrowful Angels” – Patty Loveless
    What makes angels weep into their wings? Unrequited love. Also, the perpetual ineptitude of the Philadelphia Eagles come playoff time. No, wait. That’s what makes me weep.
  • conway-twitty-angel16. “There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me In)” – Conway Twitty
    Somehow a honky tonk man can always find another woman to put up and put out. Hey, who could resist Twitty’s ‘fro and polyester wardrobe?
  • miss-leslie-angel15. “Midnight Angel” – Miss Leslie and Her Juke Jointers
    A cut from covers album Honky Tonk Revival, “Midnight Angel” has Leslie waiting up nights for her no account man to return home after his carousing as she despairs “It seems I spend a lifetime between midnight and dawn/Watching from my window for a cab to bring you home/Listening to the silence while waiting all alone/For my midnight angel to come home.” For the bluegrass types out there, Rhonda Vincent also does the song justice on All American Bluegrass Girl.
  • kitty-wells-waltz-of-the-angels14. “Play Me The Waltz of the Angels” – The Derailers with Buck Owens
    Ohh, this is a sad one. An old man requests “The Waltz of the Angels,” the song that was playing on the day he met his wife, and on the day he buried her. If you’re not listening to The Derailers—and really, you should be—the album this track came from, Full Western Dress, is a good place to start.
  • Lucinda-Williams - Drunken-Angel13. “Drunken Angel” – Lucinda Williams
    I never saw that derelict in duct taped shoes, Blaze Foley, in person, but he must have been something special if he inspired such a wonderful song by alt-country’s matriarch.
  • hank-iii-angel-of-sin12. “Angel of Death/Angel of Sin” – Hank Williams/Hank III
    Those Williams boys ain’t much for the happier side of life. The elder, afflicted with crippling back pain and alcoholism, may have seen that angel in his rearview mirror that cold New Year’s Eve. The younger Williams welcomes his angel on this track from the appropriately named Straight to Hell to the soundtrack of lonesome pedal steel.
  • garth-brooks-fresh-horses>11. “Cowboys and Angels” – Garth Brooks
    Did you know that there is a George Michael song with this very same title? Alas, only one qualifies as country enough for inclusion on the playlist, and this song, from Fresh Horses, is one of Brooks’ best. But I’d pay money to see a Wham! revival with Garth filling the role of Andrew Ridgely. Because, you know, Garth Brooks is so hard up for cash.
  • the-derailers-angel10. “When the Angels Carry Me Home” – Flatt and Scruggs
    There’s a lot of bluegrass gospel, but this one ranks pretty close to the top of the list. Let’s hope Lester is riding the “heavenly glorious train” up there, and that it’s a whole lot nicer than Amtrak.
  • dolly-parton-little-sparrow9. “Mountain Angel” – Dolly Parton
    A seven-minute epic from Little Sparrow, “Mountain Angel” is another in a long line of amazing Dolly Parton songs. A young woman’s life is destroyed after a handsome, devilish stranger breaks her heart and mind, and the woman is left delivering a stillborn child. So then she goes crazy and after she dies, haunts the crap out of everybody. Trust me: it sounds a lot better coming from Parton. Most things do.
  • Gram-Parsons-Sleepless-Nights8. “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night” – Gram Parsons
    It was a tough decision between this song and the equally wonderful “Return of the Grievous Angel,” but this tale of salvation eked out the win. Emmylou Harris’ harmony vocals here are the only proof I need of angels’ existence.
  • chip-taylor-carrie-rodriguiez-angel-of-the-morning7. “Angel of the Morning” – Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez
    Taylor, the author of this song, and fiddler Carrie Rodriguez turn this song about a one night stand into a gorgeous, aching duet on Live from the Ruhr Triangle. Sorry, Juice Newton, but this version leaves yours in the dust.
  • kitty-wells-waltz-of-the-angels6. “The Waltz of the Angels” – Kitty Wells
    Just about every country singer worth his or her salt has recorded “Waltz of the Angels,” and with damn good reason: it’s one of the finest love songs ever written. Kitty Wells does a mighty fine job here, but if her voice isn’t to your liking, there’s a thousand other versions for you to enjoy.
  • willie-nelson-seven-spanish-angels5. “Seven Spanish Angels” – Willie Nelson and Ray Charles
    “Seven Spanish Angels” is like the perfect storm of songs. Amazing vocals from two musical juggernauts, solid instrumentation and production, and incredible lyrics all converged to create this masterpiece of love and death in the valley of the gun. If you haven’t heard it, first of all, Welcome to Earth! I hope you enjoy your stay on this planet. Second, go track down the song right now. The Top Four songs will be here when you come back.
  • stanley-brothers-angel4. “Angel Band” – Stanley Brothers
    “Angel Band” is one of those seminal songs that everyone knows…of course, its inclusion on the O Brother soundtrack helped more than a little with the most recent generation of listeners. Ralph and Carter, who struggled with his own demons before his death in 1966, do good here.
  • john-prine-angel-from-montgomery3. “Angel From Montgomery” – John Prine
    Need proof that John Prine is one of the best songwriters of the 20th century? “Angel from Montgomery,” from his 1971 eponymous album, is Exhibit A. There isn’t a word out of place, and the images Prine conjures up are simply genius (my personal favorite: “If dreams were lightning, thunder was desire/This old house would have burnt down a long time ago”).
  • willie-nelson-honeysuckle-rose2. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” – Willie Nelson
    Love’s the greatest healer of all for a broken angel. Though one day she’ll be cured and leave your side, it’s better to see her up than see her down. Embarrassing confession: when I heard Willie sing this one live in 2005, I sobbed like a tween at a Jonas Brothers show.
  • charley-pride-sings-heart-songs1. “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” – Charley Pride
    If this song doesn’t put a smile on your face, chances are you’re missing a soul. Sweet, catchy, and expertly delivered by Pride in 1971, “Kiss An Angel” is one of country music’s best known and most beloved songs. And as far as personal tenets go, it’s pretty hard to beat “kiss an angel good morning/And love her like the devil when you get back home.”
  1. numberonecountryfan
    August 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    What about Earl Thomas Conley’s Angel In Disguise?

  2. Paul W Dennis
    August 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    The word ‘angel’ doesn’t need to be in the title – for example Stonewall Jackson’s “Why I’m Walking”

    Good list, though

  3. Kelly
    August 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Good list, my favorite so far. Drunken Angel, 7 Spanish Angels and Angel from Montgomery are my faves from this list…add to that, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground is my all-time top nelson song.

  4. stormy
    August 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    11. “Cowboys and Angels” – Garth Brooks
    Did you know that there is a George Michael song with this very same title? Alas, only one qualifies as country enough for inclusion on the playlist, and this song, from Fresh Horses, is one of Brooks’ best. But I’d pay money to see a Wham! revival with Garth filling the role of Andrew Ridgely. Because, you know, Garth Brooks is so hard up for cash.

    But the George Micheal song is vastly better:
    “Cowboys and Angels they all take a shine to you/what makes me think that I was designed for you.” It is on the dramatically underated Listen Without Prejudice cd.

  5. Mike Parker
    August 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Loved “Drunken Angel,” it’s a great song. I always think of “Angels Among Us” when I think of angel songs. Not because I think it particularly good, it’s just different enough to be memorable.

  6. Rick
    August 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Just a historical tidbit: The song “Waltz of the Angels” was written by Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds and was first recorded by Wynn Stewart in 1956. Wynn was a fine sogwriter in his own right but recognized great songs from others icluding his friend Harlan Howard. If fact Wynn was the first to record Harlan’s “Above And Beyond (The Call Of Love)” and Buck Owens liked it so much he recorded his own version which became Buck’s first radio hit! In fact Wynn wrote Merle Haggard’s first charting single “Sing a Sad Song” as Merle had played bass guitar in Wynn’s band in Wynn’s club in Las Vegas circa 1961. Just thought you’d like to know…

  7. Juli
    August 3, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks for the info, Rick! I only have two Wynn Stewart albums–one a collection of songs he did with Jan Howard–but his version of “Waltz” isn’t on either of ‘em…will have to track it down.

  8. Rick
    August 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Juli, I’m sure Paul Dennis can provide you that song if you can’t source it elsewhere. (wink)

    Other “Angel” songs I really like: Iris DeMent’s “Infamous Angel”, Aaron Tippin’s “My Blue Angel”, and yes even Ashton Shepherd’s “How Big Are Angel Wings”.

    As for real life angels here on earth, how about this most recent blog post from Ashley Monroe posted Saturday when her west coast tour with Jewel was over:
    “I am headed to Sun Valley, Idaho today to spend a few days at this wonderful camp for kids who have cancer called Camp Rainbow Gold.. I’m so excited to just hang with these wonderful children who I am sure will inspire me much more than I can even imagine.” Some gals just sing about such things…

  9. Michael
    August 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Alabama’s “Angels Among Us” Jimmy Wayne’s “Paper Angels” and Deana Carter’s “Angels Working Overtime” come to mind. Great list!

  10. Michael
    August 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Oh, and Alan Jackson’s “The Angels Cried” too.

  11. Nicolas
    August 3, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I think Deana Carter’s “Angels Working Overtime” is the best angel song I’ve ever heard…

    “Saints & Angels” by Sara Evans is another angel song I like

  12. Tim
    August 3, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Tim McGraw – Angel Boy
    Tommy Shane Steiner – What If She’s An Angel
    Martina McBride – Concrete Angel
    Jimmy Wayne – Paper Angels
    Jack Ingram – Lips of an Angel

    Good pick from Nicolas – loved Sara Evans’ “Saints & Angels.”

  13. James S.
    August 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    “Wild Angels” is probably my favorite Martina McBride song. Love the Mindy McCready and Garth Brooks songs, too.

    I second the suggestion of Aaron Tippin’s “Blue Angel.” Stacy Dean Campbell (anyone remember him?) has another good song also titled “Midnight Angel” from his “Hurt City” album.

  14. Ronda
    August 3, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    My very favorite is Angels by Randy Travis, a beautiful tribute to the special love that only a mother can provide.

  15. highwayman3
    August 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    George Strait – ‘Heaven’s Missing An Angel’
    Brooks & Dunn -‘You’re My Angel’
    Reba ‘Sky Full Of Angels’

  16. Steve Harvey
    August 4, 2009 at 12:31 am

    You look like an angel
    Talk like an angel
    Walk like an angel
    But I got wise…

    YOU’RE THE DEVIL IN DISGUISE!

    Ok, probably doesn’t count…

  17. Jon
    August 4, 2009 at 6:55 am

    A list of “Angel” songs that includes neither “Borrowed..” nor “Forbidden…” is UTTERLY WORTHLESS!

    And really, no disrespect to Miss Leslie whatsoever, but the original Osborne Brothers recording of “Midnight Angel” has yet to be beat, which helps to explain why Rhonda’s second recording of the song is split with Bobby – who sings it in the same key he sang it in nearly 40 years ago.

  18. Chuck
    August 4, 2009 at 8:39 am

    It’s cool that Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez’ version of “Angel Of The Morning” topped Juice Newton’s in your book. I know it’s a very famous Angel song. But “Seven Angels On A Bicycle” by Carrie Rodriguez (in solo mode, but co-written with Chip Taylor) is an “angel” song that haunts me. I’m gonna see her open this month for John Prine – hoping they perform “Angel from Montgomery” together! Also, always wonder about Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” (which breaks my heart everytime I hear it). I was told there are more verses to the song than have ever been recorded. So wanna hear those someday…

  19. Buddynoel
    August 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Bobby Helms – My Special Angel (1957) – should be in the top five.
    Agree with NOCF about ETC.
    Martina’s “Concrete Angel” should not be forgotten either.

  20. Ollie
    August 27, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I also love Angel Eyes, which Emmylou Harris sang with Willie Nelson in the movie, Honeysuckle Rose.
    (She also recorded it for her Christmas album, Light of the Stable.)

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