My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘A Night To Remember’

Joe had followed up the disappointing sales of Twice Upon A Time with a Greatest Hits set, and in 1999 released what was to be his final effort for Epic. Produced by Don Cook with Joe’s old friend and collaborator Lonnie Wilson, it was a real return to form artistically, with not a novelty song in sight, and although it did not do as well commercially as it deserved to, he sustained his profile on radio.

The title track, written by Max D. Barnes and T. W. Hale, is a tenderly sung ballad focussing on a protagonist surrounding wallowing in tangible memories of a past relationship. It is a really good song, and was deservedly a sizeable hit, peaking at #6 on the country chart and even getting some crossover radio play. ‘The Quittin’ Kind’ is a solid enough mid-tempo love song with a slightly cluttered production. It was a poor choice as the follow-up single as it is perhaps the least interesting song here, and understandably it failed to crack the top 20. The efficiently poppy mid-tempo ‘It’s Always Somethin’’ (written by Aimee Mayo and Marv Green) isn’t much to my taste, but it appealed to country radio and gave Joe another top 5 hit.

Four of Joe’s own songs are included, three of them co-writes with Lonnie, including a couple of the highlights. One of these is ‘I’m The Only Thing I’ll Hold Against You’, written some years earlier by the pair with Kim Williams. It was originally recorded by Conway Twitty on his final album in 1993, but Joe’s version is even better. His voice really soars in the chorus as he swears unconditional love and forgiveness as he reconciles with his wife:

Sometimes things go wrong between a woman and a man
I know we’ll make it work
All we need’s a second chance
I’m the only thing I’ll hold against you

Let my lovin’ arms show you the truth
There’ll be no “I told you so”s
No matter how much heartache we go through
I love you (I’ll always love you)
I’m the only thing I’ll hold against you

Joe and Lonnie were joined by Zack Turner to express the opposing point of view in the anguished ‘Are We Even Yet’, another dramatic and beautifully sung ballad. This bitter-tinged look at a couple destroying themselves by keeping score of hurt is my overall favorite track:

My words hurt and cause you pain
Teardrops fall like pouring rain
You cry and cry
Love dies and dies some more
Revenge is sweet when you don’t talk
I’m afraid you’re gonna walk
What will it take to take back the things we’ve said?
Are we even yet?

Are we even yet?
Do we even know
If we’re holdin’ on or lettin’ go?
Nobody wins when we can’t forgive and forget
Are we even yet?

It is a shame this remained buried as an album track on one of Joe’s lower selling albums.

This trio also wrote the bittersweet midtempo ‘You Can’t Go Home’ as Joe returns to a former old marital home:

I came looking for a feeling but the feeling’s gone
You can go back but you can’t go home

Zack and Lonnie wrote the downbeat ‘Better Off Gone’ together, about a man struggling to come to terms with his decision to leave; it’s another fine song with an impassioned vocal as Joe admits he isn’t really happier sitting alone in the dark.

Joe teamed up with Tim Mensy (a former band mate of Lonnie Wilson) to write ‘My Heart’s In Over My Head’, a pleasant mid-tempo love song – filler but listenable enough. Rather better is the ballad ‘Not In This Lifetime’, written by Bob DiPiero and Steve Diamond, where Joe’s performance lifts an average song to something warmly romantic.

The album closes with another obscure revival, probably brought to the table by producer Don Cook, who co-wrote it with Harlan Howard in the 80s; it was originally recorded by Keith Whitley on his RCA debut. Joe’s version of the metaphorical ‘Don’t Our Love Look Natural’, about the death of emotion in a relationship, is excellent, and brings the set to a satisfying conclusion, but I do just prefer the original.

It did not restore Joe to platinum or even gold selling levels, but this is a good record worth adding to your Diffie collection, as despite some filler, there is a handful of truly great tracks which should not be overlooked.

Grade: A-

A Night To Remember is still widely available.

3 responses to “Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘A Night To Remember’

  1. Michael A. August 25, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Nice review, Occasional Hope. I enjoyed all three singles from this album and it is the last CD of his that I’ve purchased. I do plan on picking up Homecoming though since his voice is so well suited for bluegrass. I’ll rip it to my iTunes and pass it along to my uncle who’s a big fan of the genre. It’s a shame that it’s been delayed until October since I’m guessing it was MKOC’s plan to wrap up spotlight artist coverage with its

    • Michael A. August 25, 2010 at 12:03 am

      Ack! Stupid iPhone!

      review… unless you received an advance copy… 🙂

      • Leeann Ward August 25, 2010 at 8:04 am

        I only have the singles from this album ripped to my itunes. I’ll have to dig out the actual album to listen to it again, but I’m guessing that the singles must’ve been what stood out to me enough to put them on the iPod.

        Michael, I highly recommend Homecoming. It’s traditional bluegrass. It’s too bad that it’s been pushed back. I’m hoping that the date changes won’t be too confusing, but I’m guessing that diahard Diffie fans are keeping close tabs on the date.

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