My Kind of Country

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

Single Review: T. Graham Brown – ‘I Tell It Like It Used To Be’

tgb“I Tell It Like It Used To Be” was T. Graham Brown’s breakthrough single and the title track of his debut album, which is out of print and therefore, was unavailable for us to review. Written by Ron Hellard, Michael Garvin and Bucky Jones, it was the follow-up single to “Drowning In Memories”, which barely cracked the Top 40 in early 1985. “I Tell It Like It Used To Be” outperformed its predecessor by a mile, peaking at #7 and establishing T. Graham Brown as a new artist to watch.

The record’s intro is reminiscent of a Billy Sherrill countrypolitan record of the 1970s, but once the song gets underway, there is very little about it that is country. The verses are a mixture of rockabilly and 50’s doo-wap and Brown’s soulful vocal performance accompanied by a saxophone, adds a touch of R&B as well. This is particularly true on the chorus, during which the narrator admits that when asked, he doesn’t tell people that he and his ex have broken up and instead leads them to believe that things still are as they once were. It’s a very catchy tune that sticks in the listener’s head. It’s that earworm quality that allowed the record to buck the trend and land in the Top 10 at a time when country music was obsessed with rediscovering its roots. It’s also evidence that country radio programmers of the day had some appreciation for diversity — something that is sorely missing today.

T. Graham Brown’s reign at the top of the charts was very brief, but “I Tell It LIke It Used To Be” was the first of a string of Top 10 hits, including three #1s, that continued until 1988. It is available for download as a single and also as part of hits compilations, but be sure that you are getting the original version and not a re-recording.

Grade: A

2 responses to “Single Review: T. Graham Brown – ‘I Tell It Like It Used To Be’

  1. Paul W Dennis January 5, 2015 at 6:46 am

    I have a vinyl copy of the album, which reached #15 on the album charts. Four top ten singles were released from it. Below is the list of songs plus the chart position of the four singles:

    Say When
    Don’t Go To Strangers (#1)
    Rock It Billy
    She’s Mine
    I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again (#3)
    I Tell It Like It Used To Be (#7)
    You’re Trying Too Hard
    Hell And High Water (#1)
    Don’t Make A Liar Out Of Me
    Is There Anything I Can Do

    The four singles were each outstanding as was the album, recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama giving it a tougher sound than typically produced in Nashville. Producer Bud Logan, had been one of Jim Reeves’ Blue Boys and proved his versatility with this album. For its time it was a very different album than most of the fare from Nashville,

    T Graham co-wrote two of the songs on the album, “Hell and High Water” and You’re Trying Too Hard”: Most of the album’s songs were written by Nashville songsmiths but only the title track has a steel guitar on it whereas three of the tracks feature horns. Really, the whole album has a strong R&B vibe to it and may have helped conditioned Nashville for Leroy Parnell to have some success in the upcoming years. In addition to the four singles, “Say When” also received some airplay in my area and would have made a decent single

    In terms of the success of the singles, this album would be the high water mark of TGB’s career. I’d give the album 4.5 stars

  2. luckyoldsun January 5, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    I have this album as well as the follow-ups “Brilliant Conversationalist” and “Come As You Were” on CD. I seem to recall that I bought them all on Amazon in the early 2000s–possibly used–for a few bucks each. Looking at the labels and inserts, these appear to all be the original pressings from the ’80s. I didn’t know they’re rarities. I can probably upload them and e-mail them to you if you need them.
    I used to think of Travis Tritt as a “better” T. Graham Brown. “Help Me Hold On” sounded like a record that T. Graham should have wished he had made. But off of what they’ve each done since being bounced from the majors, I might rate T. the better artist!

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