My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Dana McVicker

Classic Rewind: Dana McVicker – ‘I’m Loving The Wrong Man Again’

Album Review: Sawyer Brown – ‘Outskirts Of Town’

1993 saw the release of the band’s third and final Gold certified album. The material was all in-house, and Mark Miller and Mac McAnally provided solid production.

Things got off to a great start with the chart-topping lead single ‘Thank God For You’, a warm and likeable mid-tempo number written by Miller and McAnally, which still stands up well. ‘The Boys And Me’ (about enduring friendship groups) from the same writing team peaked at #4, and is enjoyable. There is also a ‘dance re-mix’, aimed at the then-popular line dance market. Tis feels regrettably self-indulgent now, if less offensive than much of what passes for everyday radio fare today.

In contrast the title track, written by band members Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard and Duncan Cameron, barely squeezed into the top 40. That’s a shame, because it’s a very nice song, a harmonica-led story song about a farmer who stays in his dying small town. I liked it better than the fourth and final single, the Miller-penned ‘Hard To Say’, even though the latter revived the band’s hitmaking ways, with a #5 peak. It’s perfectly pleasant, just not very memorable.

Dana McVicker had had a short and not very successful career attempting to make it as a star, with one album and a few low charting singles on Capitol in the late 80s. Her husband Michael Thomas was one of the musicians in Reba McEntire’s road band who was tragically killed in the 1991 plane crash. Sawyer Brown recruited her to duet on ‘Drive Away’, a somewhat rock/AC leaning ballad Miller wrote with Bill La Bounty, which is a highlight. Her gravelly alto is distinctive and powerful, and like Sawyer Brown she had got her Start on Star Search.

‘Farmer Tan’ (a Hubbard-Miller co-write) is a sympathetic, gritty look at the tough life of a famer about to be evicted, while the pair’s ‘Listenin’ For You’ is quite attractive. They were joined by Cameron to write ‘Eyes Of Love’, a nice love song about making it through the hard times.

Hubbard’s ‘Hold On’ is a beautiful ballad tenderly addressing an aged mother or grandmother. Also very good is the brisk ‘Heartbreak Highway’, which has an electrified bluegrass feel, thanks in part to Cameron’s mandolin and dobro.

Other than the aforementioned dance mix, the only song I could do without is the poppy ‘Love To Be Wanted’.

The album was followed by a second Greatest Hits collection, which spawned two more top 5 hits, ‘This Time’ and ‘I Don’t Believe In Goodbye’.

This is a very good album which is Sawyer Brown at their best.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Travis Tritt – ‘T-R-O-U-B-L-E’

Travis TrittIn the early 1990s, the major Nashville labels signed a seemingly endless string of cookie-cutter male artists that became known as “hat acts.” Travis Tritt was a notable exception. Not only did he not look like his contemporaries, he was less restricted by the musical boundaries of the era, offering up a healthy dose of Southern rock with more traditional country fare.

T-R-O-U-B-L-E was his third album for Warner Bros., released in the summer of 1992. Like his two previous albums, it was produced by Gregg Brown. It produced five singles, beginning with the blue collar anthem “Lord Have Mercy On The Working Man”, which featured a chorus of guest artists including Brooks & Dunn, T. Graham Brown, George Jones, Little Texas, Dana McVicker, Tanya Tucker, and Porter Wagoner. The Kostas-penned tune, unlike the cliched “I’m country” songs that plague the airwaves today, paints a sympathetic picture of the protagonist and makes him someone to which the listener can relate. It reached #5 on the Billboard country singles chart, and was followed by the #1 hit “Can I Trust You With My Heart”, a song he co-wrote with Stewart Harris. Tritt has always been a strong, if somewhat underrated ballad singer and nowhere is that more evident than on this song, which shows his more vulnerable side.

The pace changes dramatically with the uptempo title track, which was a cover of a 1975 Elvis Presley single. Travis does the song justice, but it has never been one of my favorites. It was somewhat surprising to learn that it only peaked at #13, since it seemed to me that it was overplayed on the radio. “Looking Out For Number One”, a kiss-off number in the vein of “Here’s A Quarter, Find Someone Who Cares”, is much better. In no uncertain terms, Travis announces that no longer will he be anyone’s doormat. This is another one of his own compositions, co-written with Troy Seals. Surprisingly, it only reached #11. The final single, “Worth Every Mile”, which he also wrote, only reached #30, possibly due to a lack of promotional push by the label. It deserved to chart higher.

Also quite good are the Marty Stuart number “A Hundred Years From Now” and the self-penned “Blue Collar Man”, on which he revisits the working class theme again, this time with a more Southern rock arrangement. Less enjoyable is the bluesy “Leave My Girl Alone”, a cover of a Stevie Ray Vaughan hit that closes the album. Clocking in at just under nine minutes, it is self-indulgent and overly long. But even though it is not to my personal tastes, Tritt deserves credit for pushing the envelope. It’s hard to imagine any of the other top male acts from the era trying to tackle this number.

Though T-R-O-U-B-L-E contains many fine cuts, I’m not much of a Southern rock fan so it makes for a somewhat uneven listening experience. However, it is worth seeking out a cheap copy if you don’t already own a copy.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Travis Tritt – ‘It’s All About To Change’

it's all about to changeTravis Tritt’s second album was released in May 1991, and is along the same lines as its predecessor, with the same producer, Gregg Brown. It was, however, a step up in quality and consistency.

The lead single, ‘Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)’ is a fabulous kissoff song with plenty of attitude, which is one of the seven songs here written by Tritt and is one of my favorites of his. There is a more traditional feel to this structurally than with much of his material, although the full production gives it added radio-friendly impact. It peaked at #2 on Billboard.

The excellent ballad ‘Anymore’, which Travis wrote with Jill Collucci, was the second single, and made it all the way to the top. The lyrics have the opposite emotion to that of ‘Here’s A Quarter’, with the protagonist surrendering to his feelings after a period in denial of the pain he is suffering at the failure of a relationship, finally admitting,
I can’t keep pretending I don’t love you anymore

The song allowed Tritt to show a more subtle side to his vocals, and is one of the finest recordings of his career, with delicately understated production. Backing vocals come from Dana McVicker, a former Capitol artist who never made a breakthrough, and they add a sweet edge.

His first of several career duets with Marty Stuart (recorded prior to their first tour together) is the singalong honky tonker ‘The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’’, a Stuart co-write with Ronny Scaife. It’s a solid song which I like a lot, although Tritt’s full blooded vocal is the best thing about this #2 hit.

It was back to the ballads with the album’s final single, #4 hit ‘Nothing Short Of Dying’. A wistful song about the pain of lost love with some mournful fiddle and steel supporting the regretful vocal, this is another great track and the most traditional country of the singles.

Although it wasn’t a single, the blazing up-tempo ‘Bible Belt (featuring rock band Little Feat) garnered a lot of attention when an alternate version was recorded for the movie My Cousin Vinny, with new lyrics fitting the film’s plot. The original is better, and is one of Tritt’s most memorable recordings with its dramatic tale of an adulterous preacher brought down by “the flames of passion” following an affair with the choir leader, based on a true story. Travis warns the couple they will have to “answer to the Lord and the Bible Belt”, although in fact they run away to Vegas together, apparently never to be seen in Georgia again. The Southern rock/country arrangement is genuinely exciting with pounding piano and a choir bringing in gospel elements suited to teh subject.

On the up-tempo side, I also liked ‘Don’t Give Your Heart To A Rambler’, a classic bluegrass number written by Jimmie Skinner unexpectedly given a Southern rock style makeover which works surprisingly well. I was less impressed by closer ‘Homesick’, an obscure Southern rock cover which is a self-indulgent rocker more about the groove than anything else, but it is the only track I didn’t like on an otherwise outstanding album.

The title track is a fine ballad in classic country style, with a sincere, believable vocal about a man who has had enough of the woman he has loved treating him badly and is ready for a new start.

‘If Hell Had A Jukebox’ is another great hurting ballad, written by Travis with Lee Rogers. This time the protagonist’s ex responds to a pitiful plea for her return by telling him to go you-know-where. Travis replies,

Honey, if Hell had a jukebox
And the Devil kept it full of hurtin’ songs
You could find me there this evening…

I don’t see how the fires below
Where you wanted me to go
Could be worse than the hell I’m living here on earth

The gentle ballad ‘Someone For Me’ (written by Tritt with Stewart Harris) is a lonely man’s wistful longing for love, and another fine song, with a subtle string arrangement.

With triple platinum status, this remains Travis Tritt’s best selling album, and it is also my personal favorite. There is a wide variety of tempos and styles, but the quality is almost all very high indeed. Used copies can be found extremely cheaply, and are well worth tracking down.

Grade: A+