By the summer of 1992, Stuart was finally in favor with mainstream country music. Released in late 1991, “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin,” the inaugural duet between him and Travis Tritt, peaked at #2, the highest peak Stuart would ever see. The duo would also go on to win a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration that same year, marking Stuart’s first such win.
Capitalizing on his recent success, Stuart released “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For A Long, Long Time),” another duet with Tritt in June. The title track for his third album with MCA Records, it would prove successful as well peaking at #7. Written by Stuart, it’s just as good, if not better, than their previous collaboration. The tale of love gone wrong is framed in a stone cold arrangement complete with steel and piano that helps accentuate the mournful and clever lyrics. I love how she’s the one who’s going to hurt, not him.
Released next, the bluesy “Now That’s Country,” written solely by Stuart, would peak at #18. A honky-tonker complete with electric guitar and steel flourishes, it depicts the ways in which Stuart was raised:
Well, that’s country,
I was born, yes, a country child
Now that’s country, but baby that’s my style
The almost dirty production is very good and helps elevate the song. But with very little to hold onto lyrically, the tune isn’t particularly memorable.
“High On A Mountain Top” came next, peaking at #24. Written by Alex Campbell and Ola Belle Reed, it isn’t to be confused with the Loretta Lynn song of the same name. This “High On A Mountain Top” is a rocker complete with accents of mandolin that details the story of a man reflecting on the journey that led to the current moment:
High on a mountaintop, standing all alone
Wondering where the years of my life have flown
High on a mountaintop, wind-blowing free
Thinking about the days that used to be
It’s too bad producer Tony Brown saw fit to create such a cluttered arrangement, as this could’ve been a wonderful song. The screaming guitars hinder Stuart’s vocal and nearly drown it out.
Fourth and final single “Hey Baby” reached #38 in 1993. Thankfully more stripped down than its predecessor, the gently rolling arrangement is a perfect compliment to Stuart’s vocal. He sings of a man strong enough to come to the aid of a woman and her broken heart:
Hey baby, don’t you cry
I’m gonna wipe those little teardrops dry
Hey baby, don’t be sad
I know he hurt you but it ain’t so bad
The rest of This One’s Gonna Hurt You finds Stuart showcasing his skills at hillbilly rock to fine effect. Written by Stuart and Paul Kennerley, “Down Home” has a nice electric guitar led production that allows Stuart to let loose vocally and show off the grit in his voice. I could’ve done without the background singers on the chorus, who sound as though they’re whispering, but it’s a very enjoyable track.
“The King of Dixie,” written by Stuart and Allen Shamblin, wouldn’t be out of place on country radio today thanks to the mix of heavy electric guitars. But what nicely sets it apart from today’s country rock is obvious pedal steel, which is just as loud and prominent as the electric guitars in the mix. It rocks a little too hard for my tastes, but its still a good song.
Like any great album from Stuart, This One’s Gonna Hurt You pays homage to country music’s rich past in new and exciting ways. “Me and Hank and Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” written solely by Stuart, begins with the voice of Hank Williams Sr seemingly from beyond the grave before Stuart goes into a reassertion framed by airy organ as though he’s floating through space.
What could’ve come off as weird is actually very cool but daring for a mainstream country album in the early 90s. The resulting song, “Me and Hank and Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is bluesy and funky and features a somewhat sultry vocal from Stuart. As the most experimental moment on This One’s Gonna Hurt You, the song is an acquired taste. I like it but I don’t love it – overall, it just didn’t grab me.
But I did love “Just Between You and Me,” a cover of the Jack Clement song Charley Pride took to #9 in 1966. The fabulous pedal steel grabbed me on the opening notes like a breath of fresh air from all the hard-hitting songs on the album. Stuart nicely stays true to the original recording yet keeps the track modern in execution. It’s my favorite song on the whole album by a wide margin.
The final ode to the past, “Doin’ My Time” is a cover of Bluegrass singer Jimmy Skinner’s tune and a duet with Johnny Cash. The tune is very reminiscent of the songs Cash recorded for Sun Records back in the 1950s. His vocal is an added bonus for the song and he comes off as an authoritative figure in this piece about doing time in jail. I only wish this were my taste as I might’ve liked it more. But it’s still very good.
In the end This One’s Gonna Hurt You is a solid album from Stuart. I applaud him for displaying his love for country music’s history on a mainstream recording. I only wish he had found more balance and instead of recording so many songs with a rock feel, he had gone deeper into his love of traditional country. But this is still a wonderful album and well worth checking out (from Amazon or iTunes) if you’ve never heard it.