My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: The Judds – ‘Wynonna and Naomi’ & ‘Why Not Me’

The Judds’ first appearance on record was the 1983 mini-LP Wynonna and Naomi.  Initially released only on vinyl and cassette, it consisted of six tracks, most of which eventually appeared on subsequent albums.  “Had a Dream (For the Heart)”, a Dennis Linde composition previously recorded by Elvis Presley, was the duo’s debut single, which peaked at #17 in late 1983.  But it was the second single, “Mama He’s Crazy”, released in the spring of 1984, which made it to #1 and jump-started their career.  The Kenny O’Dell composition was the first of eight consecutive #1 singles for The Judds.  It was also one of the first hit records of the New Traditionalists era, which wouldn’t get fully underway for another two years.

Initially, “Had a Dream” and “Mama He’s Crazy” were the only two singles released from the mini-LP, but an alternate take of “Change of Heart”, written by Naomi Judd, was included in their 1988 Greatest Hits package and released as a single, reaching #1 .   Likewise, “John Deere Tractor” was included as a bonus track on the CD version of 1990’s Love Can Build a Bridge, and was released as the duo’s final single before Naomi’s retirement in 1991.

Two songs on the disc never appeared elsewhere: “Isn’t He a Strange One” written by Kent Robbins, and “Blue Nun Café”, a excellent number written by Harlan Howard and Brent Maher, who produced all of The Judds’ albums.   Wynonna and Naomi eventually received a budget CD release in the 1990s; that version contained two bonus tracks, “Cry Myself To Sleep” and “Dream Chaser”, both culled from their 1985 collection Rockin’ With the Rhythm.

While Wynonna and Naomi did a more than adequate job of introducing The Judds to country audiences, it was their first full length album that really got the ball rolling.  Why Not Me was released in 1984.  “Mama He’s Crazy” makes another appearance on this disc, along with nine new tunes.  The title track, written by Harlan Howard, Sonny Throckmorton, and Brent Maher, was released as the first single and quickly became the pair’s second #1 hit.  The uptempo “Girls Night Out” and the ballad “Love Is Alive”, likewise topped the Billboard country singles chart.  

Both “Mama He’s Crazy” and “Why Not Me” won Grammys for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1985 and 1986, respectively.  The album is worth purchasing for those two performances alone; however, the six album cuts are also quite good and worth seeking out for those who are only familiar with The Judds’ radio hits.  “Mr. Pain”, written by Kent Robbins and Naomi Judd, had hit single potential, as did “Bye Bye Baby Blues” — another Harlan Howard-Sonny Throckmorton-Brent Maher composition and my favorite track on the album – and “Drops of Water” by Bill LaBounty and Roy Freeland.   The ballads “Sleeping Heart” and “Endless Sleep” are the album’s two weakest cuts, acting mainly as filler, but they do not detract from the album as a whole.

In addition to spawning four # 1 singles, Why Not Me reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and earned double platinum certification.  Platinum-level sales were a huge achievement for a country album in 1984, particularly for a brand new, female act.  I’m undecided as to whether Why Not Me is The Judds’ best album; the following year’s Rockin’ With the Rhythm is a strong contender for that distinction, but it is an excellent collection and essential listening for any Judds fan. 

Inexpensive copies of both albums are easy to find.

Grade:
Wynonna & Naomi: B+
Why Not Me: A

One response to “Album Review: The Judds – ‘Wynonna and Naomi’ & ‘Why Not Me’

  1. Ben Foster January 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Great read, Razor. I’ve mostly been a soft-core Judds enthusiast, so I haven’t yet collected all of their studio albums, but I hope to pick these up soon.

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