My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Bobby Harden

Album Review: Kenny Rogers – ‘Love Will Turn You Around”

Kenny Rogers’ thirteenth album, Love Will Turn You Around, was his second studio release since parting ways with longtime collaborator Larry Butler. The album, released in 1982, was a platinum-selling success.

The title track, one of my favorites in Rogers’ catalog, was issued as the lead single. The whimsical mid-paced ballad, the theme to his film Six Pack, peaked at #1 on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts.

The second and final single, “A Love Song” was written and originally recorded by Lee Greenwood on his Inside Out album the same year. The lush ballad, which peaked at #3, is a bit too slow and delicate for my tastes.

Bobby Harden’s “Fightin’ Fire with Fire” is the story of a man being tormented by a woman named Diana and the new flame she’s literally rubbing in his face. “Maybe You Should Know,” composed by Peter McCann, is a forceful confessional from a man to his woman.

The funky R&B leaning “Somewhere Between Lovers and Friends” was co-written by Brent Mehar and Randy Goodrum, who were enjoying ample success during this period writing for everyone from The Judds and Anne Murray to Ronnie Milsap. With that degree of pedigree, it’s odd this wasn’t chosen as a single.

“Take This Heart,” by J.P. Pennington, moves Rogers’ further away from country with a lyric and melody that would’ve perfectly suited Crystal Gayle. The straight-up rock of “If You Can Lie A Little Bit” recalls his work with the First Edition. “The Fool In Me,” another Goodrum co-write (with Dave Loggins), is one of the album’s strongest tracks, complete with horns.

The best album cut on Love Will Turn You Around is closing track “I Want A Son,” co-written by Steve Dorff and Marty Panzer. The reflective ballad isn’t particularly country but that doesn’t diminish its quality in the least.

Love Will Turn You Around is a mixed bag at best, melding a slew of different styles both effective and ineffectively. The title track is the obvious classic and easily the most memorable cut from this set.

Grade: B

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Album Review: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Too Cold At Home’

Following a 1988 independent release that garnered little attention, Mark Chesnutt signed with MCA Records the following year and made his major label debut in 1990. Producer Mark Wright took a play-it-safe approach, putting together a track listing of original and cover songs that were solidly within the neotraditionalist movement, which was still the dominant influence in mainstream country music at the time.

The title track had been released as Mark’s debut single two months prior to the album’s appearance at retail. “Too Cold At Home”, written by Bobby Harden, had been turned down by another Beaumont, Texas native, George Jones, who nevertheless gave Mark his stamp of approval in the album’s liner notes. Set to a simple, traditional country melody, it is an instant classic that tells the tale of an unhappily married man who is passing time in a bar because it was “too hot to fish, too hot for golf, and too cold at home.” The record quickly climbed the charts, peaking at #3 and established Mark Chesnutt as a major new star. MCA quickly followed up this success with the release of “Brother Jukebox”, a song that was already familiar to Keith Whitley fans, having appeared on an album released shortly after Whitley’s untimely death the prior year. Chesnutt was not and is not as expressive a vocalist as Whitley, but Mark’s version of “Brother Jukebox” became his first chart-topper. It remained in the #1 position on the Billboard country singles chart for two weeks in February 1991.

Three more singles were released from the collection, all of which reached the Top 10: the western-swing flavored “Blame It On Texas”, which peaked at #5, “Your Love Is A Miracle” (the weakest song on the album) which reached #3, and “Broken Promise Land”, a Waylon Jennings cover that climbed to #10 but deserved to chart much higher.

MCA had reportedly planned to release “Friends In Low Places” as a single, but rival label Capitol beat them to the punch with the release of Garth Brooks’ version in July 1990. It may have been a missed opportunity for Mark and MCA, but it was just as well, since Chesnutt’s version lacks the passion and intensity of Brooks’ definitive recording. Had Chesnutt’s version come out first, it’s unlikely that the song would be remembered as a classic today.

Twenty years after its release, two things strike me as I listen to this album: (1) its brevity; it clocks in at just over 30 minutes and (2) how much better the labels were at picking singles in those days. Though I personally would not have chosen “Your Love Is A Miracle” as a single, there isn’t much to argue about regarding the label’s other choices: the remaining singles were the strongest songs on the album — unlike today when the opposite is often true — and there aren’t any standouts among the album cuts that should have been released to radio.

Though Chesnutt doesn’t show a great deal of stylistic diversity on this album, it’s a solid debut nonetheless, with only two weak songs — “Your Love Is A Miracle” and “Too Good A Memory” among the set. Fans apparently agreed; the album reached #12 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, and earned platinum certification for sales exceeding a million units. The title track remains the song for which Chesnutt is best known.

Too Cold At Home is still in print and available on CD and digitally from Amazon and iTunes.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’

Loretta’s sixth studio album was released on Decca in September 1966. It marks a significant advance in her career, as her first album to hit #1 on the country album chart. Produced by Owen Bradley, there is no doubt that this record is solid country from the first note to the last. Loretta wrote half the twelve tracks, mostly without assistance.

The title track is one of Loretta’s classic hits, a confident rebuttal to a woman making moves on Loretta’s husband, and one of my personal favorites, as she firmly declares:

Sometimes a man’s caught lookin’
At things that he don’t need
He took a second look at you
But he’s in love with me

This song strikes the perfect attitude, balancing awareness of male frailty with faith in love, and like many of Loretta’s best songs, drawn from real-life experience (although not directly autobiographical – it was inspired by a couple at one of her shows). It was the only hit from the album, but it was a significant one, reaching #2.

Equally assertive is a sassy country cover of Nancy Sinatra’s then-current pop hit ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’, written by Lee Hazlewood. Loretta’s own ‘Keep Your Change’ is a cheerfully assertive up-tempo riposte to an ex wanting to crawl back; it is not as good as the title track but still entertaining and full of attitude as Loretta tells the guy she doesn’t want him back, and asks witheringly,

What happened to the scenery
That looked so good to you?
Did you get tired of the change you made –
Or did she get tired of you?

Not everything is assertive. The B-side of ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ was the hidden gem ‘A Man I Hardly Know’ (covered a few years ago by Amber Digby). This song has a honky tonk angel as the protagonist, a woman seeking refuge from her heartbreak in the arms of strangers.

‘God Gave Me A Heart To Forgive’, which Loretta wrote with Bob and Barbara Cummings (her only co-write on the album), shows a more vulnerable side to Loretta as she plays the long-suffering wife of a husband who stays out all night leaving his wife lonely at home, with the attitude of the title track sadly wanting; the protagonist of this song is more of a doormat:

You brought me every misery that there is
But God gave me a heart to forgive

You hurt me as much as you can
Then you tell me that you’re just weak
Like any other man
Still you’re the only reason that I live
And God gave me a heart to forgive

Although it wasn’t written by Loretta, Bobby Harden’s ‘Tippy Toeing’ (about getting a restless baby to sleep) feels autobiographical for the mother-of-six, and has a bouncy singalong nursery rhythm perfectly suited to the subject matter.

An interesting inclusion is Loretta’s take on the then unknown Dolly Parton’s plea to a lover planning to leave, ‘Put It Off Until Tomorrow’, which is rather good, with Loretta’s voice taking on more vibrato than usual. This may be one of Dolly’s first cuts as a writer. Dolly’s own version of the song was released as a single in 1966 (and appeared on her debut album the following year), but failed to chart. Loretta’s ‘The Darkest Day’ is a less memorable look at a woman left by her man.

Another fine song with a classic feel is ‘Talking To The Wall’, about a woman who leaves the man she believes is not happy with her, and is trying not to admit she regrets it:

But I might as well be talking to the wall
When I tell myself I’m not missing you at all

It was customary for country artists to record covers of current and recent hits by other artists in the 1960s, and the songwriter Warner Mack had his own hit with the song in 1966 (#3 on Billboard). Loretta also chose to cover one of his older hits, the pained ‘Is It Wrong (For Loving You)’, which was a top 10 hit in 1957.

‘It’s Another World’ is a not very memorable perky love song, a cover of a hit for Loretta’s mentors the Wilburn Brothers (#5 in 1965), with double tracked vocals retaining the duo feel of the original. A much better Wilburn Brothers cover is their 1966 top 10 hit ‘Someone Before Me’, a classic style lovelorn ballad here given a gender switch in the lyrics so that it is about a woman loving a man still hung up on his ex, which is another one I like a lot. It was a top 10 hit for the Wilburn Brothers in 1966, but Loretta’s version is superior:

Someone before me still turns you inside out
When we’re together she’s all you talk about
You’re always wanting me to do the things she used to do
Someone before me sure left her mark on you

I’ve tried to get inside your heart but I don’t have a chance
Now I can see she’s still on your mind with every little glance
You’re living on old memories
My love can’t get through to you
Someone before me sure left her mark on you

The Osborne Brothers recorded a beautiful version the following year for their album Modern Sounds Of Bluegrass Music.

Loretta at her peak has the reputation of being more of a singles artist than an albums one, but this classic album is pretty solid throughout and one which I really enjoy. It has been re-released in its entirety on a budget CD and is also available digitally.

Grade: A-