Released in 1984 on RCA Records Too Far Gone, finds Vern Gosdin in a peculiar place in his career – the infamous Urban Cowboy period was nearing its end but the new traditionalist movement hadn’t yet taken hold. So Gosdin created an album that would appeal to the slicker sounds of the time while also keeping one foot planted in the traditional sounds that shaped his career.
The album kicks off with the mid-tempo “Too Far Gone to Find,” a song drenched in acoustic guitar, that finds a man pleading with his lover to let him go and never be heard from again. Once the steel guitar and background singers kick in on the chorus, though, the tune begins to show its age. But overall it’s a very enjoyable track and an inviting way to open the album.
The string heavy ballad “Just Give Me What You Think Is Fair” comes next and it’s the rare lyric in which a man is willing to share his lover with another msn as long as she gives him as much of her as she feels he deserves. The clever lyric really helps sell the song, as does Gosdin’s vocal, which is clear and commanding. So it’s unfortunate that the mix of heavy strings and steel guitar would wear so thin overtime as to sound a bit cloudy.
Another relationship song, “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again” finds a man in the same pleading position as the previous tracks, but this time he’s begging her not to leave. Another very strong vocal and lyric help greatly in elevating the campy production values, which begin in what feels like a sensitizer and piano haze, but smartly give way to a more tasteful mix of light procession and pedal steel.
“Cowboys Are Common As Sin” opens like another track all together, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” but quickly turns into its own thing, signaled by the drum introduction. One of the more country sounding songs, it’s set in an old tavern and offers a warning that the female protagonist is “asking for trouble” by “hanging around cowboys like me.”
Another of my favorite tracks is “Lady” which rolls along with such a gentle ease, it’s easy to be lost in the vulnerability Gosdin is displaying here by admitting to his woman how he can’t quite put his feelings for her into words. The vocal and lyric are great, but like most of Too Far Gone, the production, a bit too pop leaning for my taste, leaves a lot to be desired.
That cat and mouse game between production, lyric, and vocal plays out again on “It Might Have Been” an ode about regrets, with the man thinking back to when love was young, and what could’ve come of the relationship during those innocent times. It’s too bad the somewhat indistinguishable arrangement comes off so cloudy since sparser instrumentation might’ve pushed this over the top.
Thankfully the same can’t be said for “Damn The Fever” which is an excellent cheaters lament finding the man sneaking home in the morning after spending the night with another woman. I really like this one because of the production – the mix of pedal steel, acoustic guitar, and light drums is delightful.
The album closes with “Only For You” which makes use of Gosdin’s vocal and is an ample showcase for why he was nicknamed “The Voice.” The tasteful mix of guitars and pedal steel elevate the track to new heights, which is one of the album’s distinct highlights.
Overall, there’s definitely more pluses than minuses on Too Far Gone. The songs are all top notch and Gosdin delivers with his usually impressive vocal abilities. Stemming from the early 80s makes it somewhat easy to forgive the now dated production values but its hard not to imagine what this same record would’ve sounded like during Gosdin’s peak just a few short years later.
Too Far Gone is out of print, but the individual tracks are easy to find on YouTube and worth checking out.