Billed simply as Joy White (she incorporated Lynn later), the redhead from Arkansas and Indiana had a sound as striking as her appearance. Signing to Columbia Records in 1992, no doubt the label had great hopes for her debut album, filled as it was with great songs and Joy’s distinctive vocals, by turns fierce and vulnerable, in a way which presages the mainstream music of the Dixie Chicks with Natalie Maines half a decade later. It is unsurprising that they even covered songs Joy did first. Paul Worley and Blake Chancey produced the set, and would go on to work with the Chicks.
Unfortunately country radio was not quite ready for Joy’s intensity, and none of the album’s three singles reached the top 40. First up was ‘Little Tears’, an up-tempo tune about defying the pain of heartbreak written by Michael Henderson and Mark Irwin.
‘True Confessions’, the closest Joy came to a hit single, peaked at #45. Written by Marty Stuart with hitmaker Kostas, it is a very good song given a compelling performance. Stuart has been quoted saying Joy’s voice “could make time stand still”, and she commits to a passionate tale of falling in love despite the man initially not being in it for the long run:
He only wanted my shoulder to cry on
He only wanted my love for a while
I was lookin’ for someone to rely on
I traced his heart from his smile
The stars were fallin’ in every direction
The moon was rockin’ back and forth in the sky
Modern day lovers with true confessions
Written in their eyes
The last single from this album, ‘Cold Day In July’, which was also recorded around this time by Suzy Bogguss, and was later a hit for the Dixie Chicks, was written by Richard Leigh, known for his songs for last month’s Spotlight Artist Crystal Gayle. A graceful subdued ballad about the shock of a breakup, Joy’s version shows her vulnerable side.
Another song which may be familiar is ‘Wherever You Are’, which Highway 101 had included on their Paul Worley produced Bing Bang Boom – an album on which in turn they had recorded a Joy White penned tune, ‘Big City Bound’.
Joy continues the assertive dealing-with-heartbreak up-tempo theme with songs like ‘Wishful Thinking’, written by the team of Michael Henderson and Wally Wilson. The same pair contributed the more positive ‘Let’s Talk About Love Again’, a catchy number which might have been a good choice for a radio single. ‘Hey Hey Mama’ has a rockabilly feel.
Slow and intense, ‘Those Shoes’ (written by Kevin Welch and Harry Stinson) is an excellent song addressed to the woman her ex left her for, and who has now shared the same fate:
I’ll bet you don’t know what went wrong
Why has your darling gone with her
You’re half wild
You wanna track him down
You think you can bring him round again
There’s nothing that you’d love more
Than to tear her in two
I know how close I came
Coming after you
Yes, I’ve walked in those shoes
I know where you’re headed
There’s still time to turn around
Don’t follow in my footsteps
Cause it’s a long way down
I’ve come back here tonight
To give you the news
You might think you’ve lost it all
But there’s a lot more you can lose
My favorite song, and the one whose lyrics provide the album title, is the beautifully constructed story song ‘Why Do I Feel So Good’, written by the great Bobby Braddock. It relates the tale of a young girl persuaded to marry the boring rich guy rather than her working class true love, and regretting every second:
Mom and Dad didn’t like her boyfriend
Cause working in a factory
Just wasn’t satisfactory
They said he’s too rough and a little too wild
They knew all the reasons she should leave him
She just smiled
“If he’s so bad
Why do I feel so good?
Why am I walking on air
Dropping his name everywhere?
Tell me Mom and Dad
If he’s so bad
Why do I feel so good?”
Now she lives in a 40 room mansion
With a man so boring
That Mom and Dad adore him
She lost in the big bed where she lies
And somewhere between midnight and hindsight she cries
“If he’s so good
Why do I feel so bad?
Why am I chilled to the bone
Wishing I’d never left home
And if I should feel so good
Why do I feel so bad?”
Then she runs home to Mama
And she cries to her Dad
“Why did you talk me out me out of
The only chance for happiness I ever had?
If he’s so bad
Why did I feel so good?
Why was I walking on air
And dropping his name everywhere
Tell me Mom and Dad
If he’s so bad
Why did I feel so good?”
Joy wrote a couple of the songs herself, both ballads. ‘Bittersweet End’, a co-write with Sam Hogin and Jim McBride, is a reflective song about the aftermath of a relationship where “the taste of forever still lingers”. Some lovely fiddle augments it beautifully. The delicate ‘It’s Amazing’ is a gentle love song given a string arrangement to close out the set.
I was always sorry this album did not help Joy to break through. It is well worth checking out.