My Kind of Country

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

Album Review – The O’Kanes – ‘Tired of the Runnin’

In 1988, The O’Kanes followed up their successful debut album with Tired of the Runnin’ which continued their short hot streak on the charts. It would also mark their commercial peak, as a third album, Imagine That, would come without much fanfare in 1990.

The first single, “One True Love” would peak just inside the top 5 in 1988. The tune perfectly showcases the duos distinct harmonies and features snarly guitar riffs that recall the California rock sounds of Fleetwood Mac and has echoes of Linda Ronstadt in the drum work. The production works to frame the duo vocally, but the lightness of the lyrical bed ultimately leave the song feeling a tiny bit less than memorable.

The second single, “Blue Love” marked the end in their streak of top ten singles, peaking at #10 in 1988. Written by the duo, the song stands as a warning to love and its effects on the human psyche:

One day, your love is, one day your love is, so true

Next day, you’re changin’, next day, you changin’, your mood

I just can’t take it, I just can’t take your blue love

A much better song than the first single, “Blue Love” succeeds on its sing-a-long melody and fusion of lead guitar and drumbeats. Vocally, it seems, the duo are channeling Buddy Holly and as a package the whole thing works.

A third single, “Rocky Road” was also released in 1988 but only managed to peak at #71. That radio ignored the tune isn’t entirely surprising; the nearly seven minute harmonica laced ballad about going down the “rocky road of love” was just out of step enough with the neotraditionalism favored by country radio at the time. But it’s still an outstanding track by all accounts and the folksy production is as delightful to listen to today as it was nearly 25 years ago.

“All Because of You,” another drum and mandolin soaked track is a love letter to the woman who has made life all the better:

Look at me feeling good

Who’d have thought I ever would

See my dreams come to light

See the dark turning bright

For the first time I feel more than good

All because of you

The hopeful message is another album standout and a delight to listen to. The catchy melody draws in the listener making them want to hear the song until the end.

Another great song is the Celtic flavored “If I Could Be There” which was covered by Emmylou Harris on her Live At the Ryman album from 1992. The sparse production made up of fiddle, mandolin and guitars works like magic to frame the duo vocally and draws the listener into the story of a person’s obligation to their work taking precedence over where they wish they could be:

If I could be there

I’d be there tonight comforting you

This road I’m on is so far away, too far away

If God would grant me wings to fly

I’d be in your arms by and by

If I could be there

I’d be there tonight comforting you

The funky “Highway 55,” which opens with a distinct plucking of strings, was nothing like I was expecting. I love the overall mood of the track and the harmonies elevate it to a higher level. Plus the overall sound is very reminiscent of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. But in context with the rest of the project, it doesn’t quite work.

Much like “Highway 55,” “All My Heart” features a similar funky arrangement but it’s paired with a somewhat haunting vocal. In comparison to the rest of the album the song is a little strange and stands out because of it. It’s safe to say it isn’t one of my favorite songs on the project.

Another weird song, “Isn’t That So” has somewhat of a party vibe suggested by what appears to be steel drums in the opening. Like “All My Heart,” this song also doesn’t gel with the rest of the project.

The bluegrass heavy title track features a driving melody in sharp contrast to the story of a fatherless boy. The story is quite effective and does a nice of job of outlining the effects of growing up without a father figure. I wasn’t sold on the contrast in lyrics and production at first, but the fast-paced melody succeeds in highlighting the fact this guy is still running his way through life sort of as a vagabond.

The album nicely picks up again with “I’m Lonely” which retains the sound featured on the singles. It’s hard to see why this wasn’t released instead of “Rocky Road” as it most likely would’ve extended the duo’s time in the top 10 by at least one more song.

All and all Tired of the Runnin’ is an above average collection of music from an underrated duo with a short chart life. I hadn’t heard their music prior to writing this review and liked most of what I heard. Unfortunately the album is out of print, but it’s worth seeking out a copy if you can find it.

Grade: B+ 

One response to “Album Review – The O’Kanes – ‘Tired of the Runnin’

  1. Razor X January 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I don’t remember hearing “Rocky Road” on the radio but I imagine the single version was edited to a much shorter length for radio. This is a pretty decent album but I like the first half a little better than the second half. “If I Could Be There” and “Blue Love” are the two best cuts.

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