1995’s Gone was the result of Dwight experimenting with his sound and expanding is musical boundaries, but it marked his fall from commercial grace. Produced as before by Pete Anderson, there was a marked change in style to a more rock-influenced sound.
Lead single ‘Nothing’ (a rather boring soul-influenced ballad which Dwight wrote with then-hot songwriter Kostas) peaked at #20 – a disappointment, but it was the album’s only hit. It’s a song I really don’t like, with intrusive backing vocals and busy production, and it put me off buying the album at the time. It was a major mistake as a single choice, as country radio rarely touched Dwight afterwards.
Although they were better songs and closer to the style Dwight had developed over previous albums, the beaty title track and ‘Sorry You Asked?’ failed to make it into the top 50, and the attractively loping ‘Heart Of Stone’ (another Kostas co-write) didn’t chart at all. ‘Sorry You Asked?’ is the best of these, with its bright horn section and pained vocal as Dwight bends the ears of a sympathetic friend asking about his relationship breakup; had this been the first single the chart history might have been distinctly different. ‘Gone (That’ll Be Me)’ is a pretty good warning to a troublesome lover, but the production is a bit cluttered.
‘Don’t Be Sad’ is more typical Dwight, a sardonic response to an ex:
Don’t be sad cause you got what you wanted
You should be glad to know that I’m finally gone
Don’t feel bad or be disappointed
Cause you got what you wanted all along‘
This Much I Know’ is a more regretful, but resigned, response to the loss of love, with spot-on harmonies from Beth Anderson, and is one of the best tracks. I also enjoyed the cheerful accordion-led mid-tempo ‘Baby Why Not’, which has Joy Lynn White on harmonies and Dwight playing with his voice at the end trying out his deepest bass effect.
‘Never Hold You’ is over-produced rock with even more intrusive backing vocals than those on ‘Nothing’ (this time courtesy of rock duo The Rembrandts, best known for the Friends theme tune), although it is well written lyrically. ‘One More Night’ similarly flattens out the appeal of lyrics which look on the page as though they would come alive set to a Bakersfield beat but just sound boring weighed down by this flat tune and the heavy production.
The Rembrandts sing backing vocals with more restraint on ‘Near You’, a sweet love song with a rather old-fashioned if not very country feel.
Dwight wrote all the songs and directed all the videos for the singles alone, so all the choices made here must have been entirely Dwight’s. His acting side career was also starting to take off, and perhaps wider horizons were starting to distract his attention. I suppose one should applaud Dwight for not settling on his laurels, and choosing to make challenging musical choices, but on the whole I didn’t much care for this record. In the long run I believe it proved a massive misstep in terms of Dwight’s career. In a remarkable turnaround from the multi-platinum sales of This Time, Gone only achieved gold status, and he was never to regain his status as a mainstay of country radio, although he still had interesting music in his future.
Used copies are available very cheaply.