My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Andy Spooner

Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘Honky Tonk Attitude’

April 1993 saw the release of Joe Diffie’s third studio album on the Epic label. Honky Tonk Attitude would continue Joe’s ascent to country stardom as it produced 4 hit singles, the first 3 of them hitting the top 5.  Likewise, the album itself was Joe’s first to place inside the top 10 on the country albums chart, and would also be his first to earn platinum certification.  As Honky Tonk Attitude continued the success Diffie had earned with his prior albums, it found the singer shifting gears a bit, away from the ballad-heavy albums that came before it. Still, Joe ably wraps his warm and flexible baritone around a couple of decidedly traditional country numbers and a handful of up-tempo ditties ranging from clever to silly.

The lead single and title track to the album is one of several Joe Diffie singles that sort of gel together into one giant ball of loud in my head.  Other artists are guilty of this sort of overindulgence into up-tempo with wailing guitars and tongue-between-teeth lyrics.  Brooks & Dunn’s massive success with ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie’ certainly helped fuel this wildfire of line dance-inspired country hits.  This tune about getting on your ‘Friday night, get right honky tonk attitude‘ peaked at #5 just about the time of the album’s release.

Proving that when given a better lyric, he could inject just the right amount of humor when the song calls for it, Joe’s performance on the clever ‘Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox (If I Die)’ finds the singer showing maybe why he recorded so many songs of this nature: he’s actually really good at them. This time he fared just a bit better with country radio, and rose to #3 with this single.  Still not breaking out of the novelty mode already set by this album, the next single tells the story of Billy Bob (repeatedly) painting his and Charlene’s name on the water tower to profess his love.  And to prove his devotion – and also make sure everybody could see it – he uses the bright green color of John Deere tractors.  It’s a rather endearing story song, and writer Dennis Linde draws on very specific images to give a very clear picture in your head as the song plays.  ‘John Deere Green’ would be the third top 5 single from Honky Tonk Attitude.

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Album Review: Joe Diffie – ‘A Thousand Winding Roads’

Joe’s debut solo album was released on Epic in 1990, and immediately propelled him to stardom; overnight success (at the age of 32) which was thoroughly deserved, because this is an excellent album, and a fine exemplar of the neotraditional movement which all too briefly dominated the genre. It was produced by Bob Montgomery (then also working with Vern Gosdin) and Johnny Slate. They provided a sympathetic backing which showcased Joe’s vocal prowess.

The lead single ‘Home’ (written by Andy Spooner and Fred Lehner), which has the disillusioned protagonist looking wistfully back to his childhood, took Joe right to the top of the charts. It set records as the first ever debut single to hit #1 on all three of the major charts then in existence (Billboard, Radio & Records, and Gavin). The nostalgia feeds on the protagonist’s disillusionment about the dreams he has been pursuing:

The rainbows I’ve been chasing keep on fading before I find my pot of gold…

Now the miles I put behind me ain’t as hard as the miles that lay ahead
And it’s way too late to listen to the words of wisdom that my daddy said
The straight and narrow path he showed me turned into a thousand winding roads
My footsteps carry me away, but in my mind I’m always going home

The pained ballad ‘If You Want Me To’ was almost as successful, reaching #2 in 1991, and is my personal favorite of the four singles from this project. One of Joe’s own songs (written with Larry Williams), it was the first showcase of the apparently effortless slide between registers which is Joe’s most remarkable gift as a vocalist, as the narrator gently tells his beloved he is prepared to do whatever she wants from him, even if:

If it takes good-bye to make you happy
Then I’ll just walk away if you want me to

‘If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)’, written by Kim Williams (Larry’s brother) and Ken Spooner, took Joe back to #1, with its witty western swing twist on being broke and too easily swayed by a persuasive car salesman. The optimistic final single was written by Joe with his friend and regular co-writer Lonnie Wilson (who also plays drums and sings backing vocals on the album), about finding a ‘New Way (To Light Up An Old Flame)’. The only really happy song on the album, it was another #2 Billboard hit, and cemented Joe’s status as one of the brightest new stars of the early 90s.

Heartbreak also comes uptempo with the drinking-to-forget-the-heartbreak song ‘I Ain’t Leavin’ Til She’s Gone’ (written by Joe with Wayne Perry and Lonnie Wilson). Joe wails,

One drink’s too many
Ten ain’t enough
Lord, but she’s still here
So I’ll have one more

More western swing is on offer with the similarly themed ‘Liquid Heartache’, another of Joe’s songs, this one written with the veteran Red Lane, with a great groove which really lets the musicians stretch out.

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