My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Wynonna – ‘Tell Me Why’

tell me whyWynonna’s second solo album was released in May 1993,produced as before by Tony Brown. It did not sell as well as its predecessor, but was still certified platinum, and produced five top 10 hits.

The first single, the title track, was a mid-tempo Karla Bonoff song with a glossy contemporary country-rock feel, and reached #3 on Billboard. This performance was matched by its successor, the more delicate and sophisticated ‘Only Love. Written by Roger Murrah and Marcus Hummon, it doesn’t sound particularly country now, but it featured a strong vocal performance.

My favorite track by far, ‘Is It Over Yet’, is a solemn piano-led ballad with a sensitive string arrangement which allows Wynonna’s emotion-filled voice to shine on a song about the pain of a breakup. It peaked at #7.

The most successful single, ‘Rock Bottom’, only just missed the top of the charts. It was written by the songwriters behind Southern Rockers the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and has a bluesy rock groove which suits Wynonna’s confident growl, although it’s not really my favorite style. The final single, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ‘Girls With Guitars’, is a strong country rock number celebrating female musicians by telling the story of one young woman’s progress from high school to adult success, defeating the expectations of sexist listeners along the way. Naomi Judd and Lyle Lovett contribute backing vocals on the song.

Jesse Winchester’s ‘Let’s Make A Baby King’ is a Christmas song which New Grass Revival had recorded a few years earlier in more bluegrassy style, and which Wynonna gave a black gospel makeover. While Wynonna’s version was not formally released as a single, it gained some airplay at Christmas. ‘Just Like New’ is another memorable Winchester song, a bluesy story about a car once owned by Elvis. Naomi Judd’s ‘That Was Yesterday’ is performed as a slowed down blues number.

‘Father Sun’ was written by Sheryl Crow, about to make her own breakthrough as a rock singer-songwriter, and has a rather elusive lyric. The production funnels Wynonna’s vocal through an echoey effect which wastes her greatest asset, her powerful voice, and more gospel style backing vocals swamp her at the end.

She does show her more subtle interpretative side with a cover of ‘I Just Drove By’, written and originally recorded by Kimmie Rhodes. This charming song is about sweet memories of childhood innocence, and Wynonna sings it beautifully.

While it is a long way from traditional, and a purist might challenge its country credentials on any level, Wynonna was able to take her place in the diverse sounds of 1990s country music. It’s an accomplished record in its own right, genre considerations aside, but that does make it tough to assign a grade to on a country blog.

Grade: B

4 responses to “Album Review: Wynonna – ‘Tell Me Why’

  1. Razor X March 9, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I liked “Is It Over Yet” a lot and was surprised it didn’t chart higher. My favorite is “I Just Dropped By” which is the only truly country song on the album. “Girls With Guitars” wasn’t bad but I really got tired of it after a while.

  2. Michael A. March 9, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    I enjoyed this album, especially the singles. “Is It Over Yet” is also my favorite. Nice review.

  3. Tyler Pappas March 9, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    To me, this is wynonna’s best album. I never really thought of her as a pure country singer. Mainly as a singer who sang many styles. Her country credentials were solidified as a member of the Judds. “Tell Me Why” for a long time was the only song I knew by her because it was the only recurrent that played on the radio, which is a shame because it’s not the best single from this album. I like all the songs from the album but like everybody else I do think ” I just Drove By”, Is It Over Yet”, “Only Love” and “That Was Yesterday” are the reasons to buy this album.

    • Ken March 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

      Many radio stations, including mine, did play all of Wynonna’s hit singles from this album both as recurrents and later as oldies. Back in the day her solo hits were just as popular as the Judds duets. Perhaps your local radio station had a different policy regarding those songs or had reason to believe that their listeners did not wish to hear them.

      By the way I’ve often seen the radio term “recurrent” used incorrectly. “Recurrent” means “recent current.” It applies to songs that have peaked in popularity as a brand new or current song but continue to have very high listener appeal. “Recurrent” is a category of songs that are played less frequently than the brand new or current songs but are played more often than older songs considered to be “oldies” or “gold” titles. The fundamental concept for the recurrent is that folks still want to those recent hits but not as frequently as newer titles. Current rotations schedule the most popular songs to repeat every 2.5 to 4.5 hours (depending upon each radio station’s policy) Continuing to program songs often after they’ve been played frequently for several months leads to listener fatigue or “burn out.” In the country format songs usually moved from the recurrent rotation to some type of oldie category about six months to a year after they have left the current chart. Oldie or gold rotations are also tiered in several levels of airplay depending on the radio station’s music policy. For pop stations and some country stations that focus primarily on current music the oldies category may not even exist with only the current & recurrent rotations used.

      I actually preferred the method that predated the use of recurrents in country radio. Back in the day when a hit song left the current chart we put that record in a “hold” category for about six months completely removing it from airplay. The idea was to “rest” that title after folks had heard it so frequently. Then when we brought that song back a few months later as an oldie in a lower rotation of airplay those songs sounded very fresh once again. It eliminated the redundancy factor that permeates so much of radio today. Songs now remain on the current survey for six months or more. Then another full year or more of significant recurrent play is added to that. No wonder that you get burnt out on songs that you once loved because they get played to death. But because most of today’s music is deemed disposable it will completely disappear from the radio after a few years anyway so I suppose it may not matter.

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