My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: John Conlee — ‘Friday Night Blues’

The title track was the first of three singles released off of John Conlee’s third album Friday Night Blues, which came out in May 1980. The excellent mid-tempo ballad tells the story of a lonely housewife desperate for the affection of her oft-absent husband:

He’s been working all week

he’s got mental fatigue

and that old couch sure looks fine

All week he’s been gone

she’s been sitting alone

slowly going out of her mind

As he kicks off his shoes for the six o’clock news

she’s getting all prettied up

Oh she’s wanting to boogie

he’s wanting to lay there

she’s got the Friday night blues

 

And the Friday night blues

they get in your shoes and

they work to get you down

Oh and there ain’t a lady that I ever knew

who didn’t need her a night on the town

But the hills and the bills and a week’s worth of deals

has got him feeling more than used

Oh, he’s kicking his shoes off she’s putting hers on

she’s got the Friday night blues

 

there once was a time she was top of the line

her nights like teenage dreams

Now it’s operas at noon,

dancing round with her broom

talking to the washing machine

Oh, the girl down the street

says her old man is neat and

she makes it sound so true

Now she’s feeling lonely thinks

she’s the only one

with the Friday night blues

It’s a great story song that deservedly peaked at #2. The follow-up single, “She Can’t Say That Anymore,” a ballad about a cheating man, matched it. The alluring, yet much slower, “What I Had With You” stalled at #12.

“Honky Tonk Toys” is the story of a mother, her daughter, and the bar they call home:

Annie Mae Johnson gave birth to a child

In a room, at the back of this bar

She named her Rainbow, cause she came at midnight

In the light of a blue neon star

 

Rainbow brought sunshine to Annie Mae’s life

While Annie served drinks to the boys

She’d sit on the floor, in the back of this bar

And play with her honky tonk toys

 

And there were honky toys, like beer tops and beer clocks

But her most favourite toys of all

Was a beer carton cradle and a table cloth blanket

And a little brown beer bottle doll

 

Rainbow turned eighteen, two summers ago

Old enough to go out on her own

She wanted to know, what her Daddy was like

So she left her honky tonk home

 

Annie Mae still loved the man she divorced

Til he became Rainbow’s first choice

Now all that’s left, of Annie Mae’s Rainbow

Are three little honky tonk toys

 

And there were honky toys, like beer tops and beer clocks

But her most favourite toys of all

Was a beer carton cradle and a table cloth blanket

And a little brown beer bottle doll

The song, which was later covered by Red Sovine in 1980, is typical of its era, complete with the horrid twist. It’s certainly memorable.

Conlee is quizzical on “Old Fashioned Love,” questioning whatever happened to the idea of making a life-long commitment to someone. He follows with the splendid “Misery Loves Company,” a classic barroom anthem for the down and depressed. Conlee’s hot streak continues on “Let’s Get Married Again,” which finds a couple headed towards the ultimate reconciliation.

A nice dose of fiddle and twang provide the backdrop on “When I’m Out of You.” A strong conviction from a man to his woman is at the heart of “We Belong in Love Tonight” and “Always True” is about a man’s steadfast loyalty to his lady.

Friday Night Blues is a splendid album from start to finish, without a single throwaway track in the bunch. Conlee’s sound was beginning to change by the end of the decade. He was still retaining the producing prowess of Bud Logan, but his album’s, especially this one, aren’t suffocated by heavy orchestration. The songs are given their rightful place and are allowed to shine, just like they richly deserve.

Grade: A+

4 responses to “Album Review: John Conlee — ‘Friday Night Blues’

  1. Luckyoldsun March 10, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    I’ll admit I’ve never been a John Conlee fan, but as for “Honky Tonk Toys,” I find both the original recording, by A.L. “Doodle” Owens, and Red Sovine’s later version to be considerably better than Conlee’s overwrought version. Owens gave it an understated country delivery and let the eerie lyric speak for itself. Though the record barely made the chart for Owens, it has the distinction of being the H-o-F songwriter’s only charting single.

  2. Ken March 11, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Don’t know how could you could possibly hear Doodle Owens version of this song as superior to John Conlee’s. No question that the late Doodle Owens was one of Nashville’s finest songwriters. But as his recording clearly demonstrates he had significant shortcomings as a vocalist. Not unusual because many of country music’s most prolific songwriters were not great singers.

    Red Sovine’s understated version was well done but clearly not significantly better than Conlee’s rendition.

    Overwrought? That makes no sense. You may not like Conlee’s style but he definitely nailed the song.

  3. Ken March 11, 2019 at 10:18 am

    I concur with Jonathan’s review. One of John’s best albums with great songs. My only criticism was releasing “What I Had With You” as the third single. That slow ballad was not as well received by radio or country fans as his previous seven singles.

    A couple of date corrections.

    The Friday Night Blues album was released by MCA in May 1980 not 1979. However all of the tracks were recorded in late 1979.

    Red Sovine’s version of Honky Tonk Toys was released on the 1980 Gusto vinyl LP “The Late Great Red Sovine- Phantom 309” [GT-0072 ] That album was issued shortly after Red passed away. He died on April 4, 1980.

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