My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘Regular Joe’

Joe Diffie’s sophomore release continued to build upon the winning formula of 1990’s A Thousand Winding Roads and went on to become his first gold album in 1992. While listening to it for the first time in quite a while, caused me to experience a severe case of 90s nostalgia. The first notes of the opening track, “Startin’ Over Blues”, a single that peaked just outside the Top 40 caused me to stop what I was doing and listen in amazement at the excellent and non-pretentious picking and singing, something that I routinely took for granted in the 90s but sorely miss from most contemporary releases. Like its predecessor, Regular Joe was produced by Bob Montgomery and Johnny Slate. Diffie had a hand in writing four of the album’s ten songs.

In addition to the aforementioned “Startin’ Over Blues”, Regular Joe spawned three other singles, including two top five hits — “Is It Cold In Here” and “Ships That Don’t Come In” — which I consider to be the two finest performances of Diffie’s career. The former examines a dying relationship, while the latter is a conversation between two men in a bar — a younger one who is discontented with his life, and an older, wiser one who points out that there are plenty of others who are far worse off. It’s not exactly the type of song that would find a home on country radio today, but it’s the kind that the format so desperately needs. It’s difficult to decide which song I like better, though if forced to choose, I’d give a slight edge to “Is It Cold In Here”. Diffie shares songwriting credits on both of these masterpieces. Either one could have and should have been considered his career record; it’s a shame that he is better remembered today for his uptempo semi-novelty tunes. Following these two consecutive top five successes, Joe faltered a bit on his next single, the upbeat “Next Thing Smokin'” — another of his co-writes, which only made it to #16 on the charts. “Startin’ Over Blues” fared even worse, stalling at #41, despite being one of the more radio-friendly tracks on the album. Possibly it didn’t receive enough promotional support from the label. In the early 90s, artists tended to release albums more frequently than they do today. The lead single from Diffie’s next project was released slightly more than a year after Regular Joe, which may have been to the detriment of “Startin’ Over Blues”, his worst performance on the singles charts up to that time.

In addition the album contains several solid tracks that were not chosen for single release. Diffie turns in a fine vocal performance, reminiscent of George Jones on “Ain’t That Bad Enough”, which he wrote with Ron Moore and longtime collaborator Lonnie Wilson. The closing track “Goodnight Sweetheart” could have been subtitled “The One That Got Away”; it went on to become a Top 10 hit for the now-forgotten David Kersh in 1996. It’s surprising that Epic didn’t send this one to radio, particularly in light of the chart success of the album’s other ballads.

Despite all of these fine performances, Regular Joe is not without its flaws. It is marred by two tracks in particular — “Just A Regular Joe” and “Back To Back Heartaches” which both suffer from a now dated-sounding line-dance style beat and production which make them sound out-of-place with the rest of the album. However, both of these missteps are forgivable, detracting only slightly from the enjoyment experienced from listening to this fine album.

Grade: A

Regular Joe is still in print and available from vendors such as Amazon and iTunes.

4 responses to “Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘Regular Joe’

  1. Occasional Hope August 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Definitely another really good record from Joe.

  2. Razor X August 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I like it better than the first one.

  3. Andrew Leprich August 6, 2010 at 7:45 am

    The only Joe Diffie album I own is a “16 Greatest Hits” compilation. I’m going to have to pick all of his studio albums up since they’re so inexpensive.

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