I will always be in awe of Steve Goodman for 'Talk Backwards' and
'City Of New Orleans'. Not in my dreams could I touch those masterpieces. Same for Kate Wolf with 'Great Divide'.
Two other greats among many: Stephen Fromholz - 'Hobo Bob'; 'Waltz'
Willis Alan Ramsey for 'Spider John', 'Painted Lady'.
Oh yeah, and Joni for 'Dry Cleaner From DesMoines'
For all of the above, I wish there were a magic formula; all I can say is that they 'nailed it'.
I'll spend the rest of my life trying to write songs like this.