My Kind of Country

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Tag Archives: Little Texas

Classic Rewind: Little Texas – ‘Amy’s Back In Austin’

Classic Rewind: Little Texas – ‘Every Day’s Like Christmas’

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Young For a Long Time’

61-e8qacvul2015’s Young For a Long Time is the second post-major label studio album from Little Texas, and like its predecessor, 2007’s Missing Years, it finds Porter Howell taking over lead vocalist duties from the now departed Brady Seals and Tim Rushlow. He is not as gifted a vocalist as his former bandmates, but he does a decent job. Unfortunately, the band’s sound is inevitably changed from what fans were used to, and the album’s material is not particularly inspiring. It’s a country rock effort, with no fiddle or steel anywhere to be found in the track listing.

The band members wrote all of the album’s songs themselves, and also shared production duties with Anthony Martin. The final product is somewhat uneven. There is far worse music being played on country radio as we speak. Young For a Long Time never quites rises to the levels of greatness, but it never sinks to the depths of terrible, either, with the sole exception of the bro-country number “Yeah Yeah Yeah” which is every bit as awful as the title suggests. I guess they didn’t get the memo that the bro-country trend was past its peak in 2015.
While the album’s up-tempo numbers are distinctly non-descript and unmemorable, the ballads aren’t bad. I quite enjoyed “Take This Walk With Me”, which would make a good wedding song, and “How Many Chances”, which finds the protagonist frustrated when the object of his unrequited love continues to turn a blind eye to the faults of her current lover. The album’s two best tracks, however, are re-recordings of Little Texas’ best known hits, “What Might Have Been” and “God Blessed Texas”. Both are decently performed, but their inclusion is bound to draw comparisons – probably unfavorable — to the band’s earlier incarnation. Re-recordings rarely recreate the magic of the original versions, even when the key players remain the same.

It’s difficult for any band that undergoes major personnel changes to remain commercially viable. Little Texas is certainly no exception. Young For a Long Time is not a great album by any means, but it exceeded my expectations. While I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, it’s worth listening to if it’s included in any streaming services (like Amazon Music) to which you might subscribe.

Grade: C

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Missing Years’

mi0001766288After their eponymous album failed to reignite their career Little Texas all but disappeared. Tim Rushlow joined Brady Seals in perusing a solo career, riding high with the #8 “She Misses Him” when Atlantic shuttered its Nashville division in 2001 (which, if you may remember, also displaced Craig Morgan). Seals, despite multiple attempts, never gained traction with any of his solo recordings.

Duane Propes, Del Gray, Porter Howell, and Dwayne O’Brien resurrected Little Texas in 2004 with pushback from Rushlow, who sued in an attempt to block them from using the ‘Little Texas’ name. His attempts were unsuccessful and the band signed with Montage Music Group in 2007. The band’s first new release in ten years was The Very Best of Little Texas: Live and Loud, a concert album with Powell at the helm.

The band returned a month later with Missing Years, a proper studio recording produced by Anthony Martin. Little Texas hardly had a prayer of a legitimate resurgence, although it didn’t deter Montage from pushing ahead with three singles from the album.

They led with “Your Woman,” an awful and generic electric rocker, which didn’t chart. The title track was a slight return to form, a pop ballad, that miraculously peaked at #45. Final single “Party Life,” another generic rocker, also failed to chart.

Missing Years is nothing short of a disaster with zero tracks worth highlighting. The biggest misstep in this album specifically is using Howell as the lead singer. The man may have some talents but they aren’t his voice, an unlistenable mix of growly gruff. Martin places him in the grunge rock style run into the ground by Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert, which suits him, but not the audience.

I understand that spotlighting Little Texas wasn’t a popular choice amongst our readers and I can fully understand how they’d unnerve those who prefer a more pure take on country music. But I’ve always enjoyed both Seals and Rushlow and the contributions they brought to the band. Missing Years proves they were the band. Without either of them, Little Texas is nothing more than a waste of space. I have no problem with the band reuniting, but I’m with Rushlow in wishing they didn’t use the Little Texas name for this wasted second act. It doesn’t matter, though, as no one truly cared if they reunited or not. Certainly not those fans who pushed Big Time past double platinum.

Grade: D

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Little Texas’

little-texasThe sands of time ran out quickly for Little Texas as their eponymous fourth album, their last for Warner Brothers, barely charted reaching #47. By this time lead singer Brady Seals had departed the band leaving Tim Rushlow in charge of lead vocals.

Little Texas
hit the marketplace thirty-one months after their third album, a delay that probably didn’t help their chances in the ever changing market. The three singles released from the album all tanked at radio with none reaching the top forty. Despite this, I regard this as possibly their best album, with tighter vocal harmonies and a nice array of songs.

The album opens with “Loud and Proud”, written in part by band member Porter Howell. This is one of the weaker songs on the album, sounding more rock than country, but it is not bad:

Show me a mountain
Tell me it can’t be climbed
I’ll find my way through any shadow of doubt
And I’ll meet you on the other side

I love a good challenge
Send them all my way
I’ll rise to any occasion
I am not afraid

To be loud and proud
And givin’ in to nothin’
Livin’ and a lovin’
I’ll never get enough
And all the ups and downs
I take ’em as they come
And I’ll be right here standing my ground
Loud and proud

“Bad for Us” from the pens of Porter Howell, Dwayne O’Brien and Tom Shapiro) was the first and most successful single, reaching #45. The song is a nice ballad about a relationship that seems to be on the rocks. Several radio stations featured this song as their pick of the week, but the song never did generate any momentum, not surprisingly since more than a year had passed since the band’s last single.

You really got a good one in
You hit me where it hurts
Just so you wouldn’t get the best of me
I fired back somethin’ worse

I put you down
You show me up
Good for you
Good for me
Bad for us

We keep goin’ around and ’round
When’s it gonna stop
Real love’s not a matter of
Who comes out on top

“Ain’t No Time to Be Afraid” by Porter Howell and Allen Shamblin is another nice ballad, this one rather philosophical in nature. I would have picked this song for single release:

I was scared half to death
I couldn’t catch my breath
‘Cause that old tree down by the river
Was thirty feet high

That’s when I heard my daddy’s voice
He said, Son you’ve got a choice
You can climb down now
Or you can fly

This ain’t no time to be afraid
Or look the other way
If your prayers have all been prayed
Then you just let it come what may

If you’re not brave enough to try
Then life will pass you by
All we have is today
There ain’t no time to be afraid

“Long Way Down” sounds more like up-tempo 60s pop than anything else. Nashville songsmith Bob DiPiero co-wrote this with Porter Howell and O’Brien.

The second single off the album was “Your Mama Won’t Let Me”, which died at #64 on the charts. It is pretty generic, pleasant but not all that memorable. Del Gray, Thom McHugh and Keith Follesé composed this song

Like to take you to the movies on a Saturday night
But your mama won’t let me
Steal you away for a Sunday drive
But your mama won’t let me

She’s one step ahead of me every time
When I get too close she draws that line
Thinks I’m trouble but I’m not that kind
Your mama won’t let me make you mine

“All In The Line of Love” from Porter Howell, Dwayne O’Brien and Stephen Allen Davis is yet another pleasant but fairly generic ballad

I think the label missed a bet in not releasing the Bob DiPiero-Walt Aldridge song “Living in a Bullseye” as a single. I don’t think it would have been a huge hit but I suspect it would have at least cracked the top thirty. The song is a mid-tempo ballad with clever lyrics that would resonate with any blue collar worker:

I heard the whistle blowing as I pulled in the gate
I knew without looking, I was already late
Praying the boss wouldn’t catch me again
Sweating bullets while I was sneaking in

I’m living in a bullseye, ground zero
It’s kinda scary when the arrows fly
I ain’t trying to be no superhero
I duck and cover just to stay alive
Living in a bullseye

Eight hours later, at a half past five
I’m listening to my radio and pulling in the drive
The music telling me a thing that’s good
So I’m crossing all my fingers and I’m knocking on wood

“The Call” by Walt Aldridge and Tim Rushlow was the final single released from the album, peaking at #71. It’s a nice ballad with sleek vocal harmonies. I heard it quit a bit here in Central Florida, but it apparently tanked elsewhere:

You can run but you can’t hide
You can keep it all inside
Take it from a fool who’s tried it all
Pay attention to a friend
Who swore he’d never fall again
You’re gonna answer
When you get the call

“Yesterday’s Gone Forever” (Dwayne O’Brien, Jim Rushing) has the feel and sound of eighties country minus the annoying synthesizers. When released it really had no singles potential, but I can recall times when this introspective ballad would have done very well with radio:

For all of my good intentions
Heartfelt every one
I’ve left so much love unspoken
So much of life I’ve left undone

I could’ve made a difference
I just never made the time
Now yesterday’s gone forever
And today ain’t far behind

Should’ve taken that job in Dallas
Or the one in San Antone
Should’ve left that girl in the city
And married the one back home

I’d love to run back through the years
To tell her I was blind
But yesterday’s gone forever
And today ain’t far behind

The album closes with the Porter Howell – Chuck Jones rocker “If I Don’t Get Enough of You”.

If I don’t get enough of you
I can’t think, I can’t sleep
If I don’t get enough of you
I can’t eat, I get weak

Without you there to hold me tight
Well, I can’t make it through the night
I don’t know what I’m gonna do
If I don’t get enough of you

If I don’t get enough of you
I don’t act like I should
If I don’t get enough of you
It’s a fact, I’m no good

I think this is a better album than their first three efforts – good production, decent songs (none of the Texas chauvinism that marred earlier albums) and a really tight band augmented by Jeff Huskins on fiddle and piano, and Dan Dugmore & Sonny Garrish on pedal steel guitar, plus really good harmony vocals.

Why then did this album tank ?

I think the answer is three-fold:

1) There apparently some element of dissension in the band. Both Brady Seals and Tim Rushlow thought that they could become big solo stars, something that neither achieved.

2) A long lapse between the release of the third and fourth albums – to put it bluntly, radio forgot about them.

3) Changes in the country music market place which ultimately led to the domination of faux country acts like Rascal Flatts and Jason Aldean.

I would give this album an A-

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Kick A Little’

kick-a-liittleThe band’s third album was released in 1994. The title track and first single is a country-rock styled tune urging assertiveness which was a top 5 hit. Performed with energy and sincerity, it is rather generic but pleasant enough. Although not their biggest hit, peaking at #4, the next single, ‘Amy’s Back In Austin’ may be Little Texas’s best remembered song, and in my opinion it is their best. An airy vocal sells the wistful story of a young couple whose romance and dreams have foundered. It was written by Brady Seals with Stephen Allen Davis.

Unfortunately for the guys, their momentum came to a juddering halt with the album’s third single, ‘Southern Grace’, an uninteresting ballad. It cannot have helped that joint lead singer Seals had left the band by this point.

In ‘A Night I’ll Never Remember’ the lovelorn protagonist looks forward to drinking away his troubles. It’s a pretty good song and might have been a more successful single. ‘Hit Country Song’ lists all the clichés of country hits but has an attractive and traditional sounding melody and arrangement. You can even hear a fiddle. It sounds lovely, and shows the band could have made a stab at a more traditional sound.

‘I’d Hold On To her’ is quite pleasant but ultimately forgettable. ‘Inside’ is an earnest AC/Hallmark style ballad about finding good in everyone. In ‘Your Days Are Numbered’ the protagonist warns a love rival that the girl has been crying on his shoulder; it’s well written and sung with conviction but the arrangement is bland and more AC than country.

‘She’s Cool’ is boring and over produced, while the closing Southern rocker ‘Redneck Like Me’ boasts clichés about rural Southern life. It was written by Jay Booker (who also wrote the much better ‘Sunday In The South’ for Shenandoah), and is the album’s only outside song, with the band (at least Porter Howell and Brady Seals) composing the rest of the material.

Generally the album is generally a glossily efficient example of 90s country-rock, with full bodied vocals and prominent electric guitar. It’s not quite my cup of tea, but is preferable to some of the extremes we’ve seen since.

Grade: C

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Big Time’

51tuggiwfdl-_ss500Little Texas’ most successful album was their sophomore disc , Big Time, released in 1993.  It produced four hit singles, three of which reached the Top 10, including their only #1 “My Love”.  The album was produced by Doug Grau, Christy DiNapoli, and James Stroud.

Based on the feedback we received, some of our readers have been less than enthusiastic about our choice to spotlight Little Texas.  I’m by no means a Little  Texas super fan; I remember most of their radio hits from the 90s but prior to this review I’d never listened to one of their albums all the way through.  So I come to this with a fresh set of ears.   Was Little Texas really the Rascal Flatts of their day?  After listening to Big Time a few times, I can only answer with a resounding no.    I expected to enjoy the singles that I remembered from the radio but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the album cuts.   I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised.  The band members had a hand in writing eight of the album’s ten tracks.  Admittedly, they aren’t all particularly memorable, but there is certainly nothing cringe-worthy in a Rascal Flatts sort of way.

The album’s best track by far is the lead single “What Might Have Been”, which rose to #2 on the country chart and enjoyed some success in the adult contemporary format as well, reaching #16 on that chart.   It was followed by the uptempo Texas pride anthem “God Blessed Texas”, which topped out at #4 and is probably their best remembered hit today.  It’s a good song but one I’ve grown slightly tired of over the years, perhaps due to overplaying by radio.   As such, it’s my least favorite of the album’s singles.   The mid-tempo “My Love” seemed like a no-brainer to replicate the AC success of “What Might Have Been”, but oddly it did not appear on the adult contemporary charts.  It is not as good a song as “What Might Have Been”, but that, along with its lack of crossover success did not prevent it from becoming a #1 country hit.   “Stop on a Dime” had originally been the B-side of “What Might Have Been”.  When released as a single in its own right, it fell short of the Top 10, landing at #14.  As the album’s final single, Warner Bros. had perhaps lost interest in promoting it.  It’s a lot countrier than much of what was played on the radio in the mid-90s; it reminds me of something that Diamond Rio might have done.

“My Town” is the only tracks that doesn’t include one of the band members in its songwriting credits.  Written by Michael Stanley, isn’t particularly country but it is catchy and allows the band to showcase its harmonizing capabilities.   “Cutoff Jeans”, written by Troy Seals, Brady Seals and Ronnie Samoset is more traditional but equally infectious.

Little Texas is one of those bands that I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to when they first arrived on the scene.  They debuted at a time when there was plenty of strong competition within the genre, and that may have contributed to them falling through the cracks to a certain extent.  If they were just getting started today, they’d be head in shoulders above most of their contemporaries on country radio, at least in my book. Big Time isn’t likely to be included on anyone’s list of best country albums, but it exceeded my expectations and is worth giving a spin.

Grade:  B+

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘First Time for Everything’

177460_1_fLittle Texas released their debut album, First Time for Everything, in March 1992. The record, co-produced by James Stroud, came a little more than three years into their contract with the Nashville division of Warner Bros.

The band’s debut single was recorded in December 1990, but released in September 1991. “Some Guys Have All The Love” is an excellent piano and percussion laced mid-tempo ballad with ear-catching harmonies from the group. The song’s official title is ‘love’ but I have heard it called “Some Guys Have All The Luck,” as well. The track peaked at #8.

The B-side of their debut, the album’s title track, was issued as the second single. The track is a countrified power ballad I never really hated, but finally analyzing the lyrics for this review proves otherwise. “First Time For Everything” is weak, and justifiably peaked at #13.

“You and Forever and Me” was the album’s most successful single, and remains one of my favorite songs Little Texas released during their heyday. The track retains their formula, yet succeeds on the winning melody, Tim Rushlow’s wonderful lead vocal, and the band’s harmonies. The song peaked at #5.

The final two singles were ones I never even knew about until digging into Little Texas for this review. Both charted in the low teens, so their exclusion from the band’s Greatest Hits album is justifiable. “What Were You Thinkin,’” a bland mid-tempo in similar vein, peaked at #17. The final single, the warmed over pop ballad “I’d Rather Miss You” didn’t do much better, reaching #16.

The five remaining numbers showed Little Texas playing with a wider array of sonic textures. The best of the bunch is “Down In The Valley,” a barnburner solely written by Brady Seals that gives Ricky Skaggs a run for his money. The worst is “Better Way,” a gravely mess.

I’ve always really enjoyed the first three singles from this album and never bothered to check out the rest until now. It’s hard to see where Little Texas fits into the greater conversation of the early-90s, especially with this album, which makes few concessions to stake a claim as anything resembling country music. I wasn’t aware, or at least I’d forgotten about the hair and fashion, which is enough to make Billy Ray Cyrus want to puke. The look and sound aren’t gelling with me.

But I’ve always really enjoyed Little Texas and some of my favorites from them come from this album. First Time for Everything is far from a fine album but it isn’t atrocious, either. I don’t think the melodies have aged too much and I still find the whole proceedings listenable. Those high marks say a lot about an album released almost twenty-five years ago.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Little Texas – ‘First Time For Everything’

Spotlight Artist: Little Texas

dsc003271The founding members of Little Texas got their start in music 1983 when Porter Howell and Duane Propes joined forces while still in High School. Tim Rushlow and Dwayne O’Brian began playing together in Arlington, Texas the following year. They first came together, with additional members, as The Varsities, performing both on the road and at Opryland as a 1950s show band.

The band concept eventually dissolved and the guys invited old friends Brady Seals and Del Gray, who started as musicians in country singer Josh Logan’s backing band, to join them in their new venture as a country/southern rock band. They started playing 300 dates a year around the United States. The six of them officially became Little Texas, named for a place outside Nashville where they used to rehearse, in 1988.

They caught the ear of Warner Bros. and were signed to the label in 1989. The band released their debut album, First Time For Everything, in 1991. The album went gold and garnered the hits “Some Guys Have All The Love” (#8), “You and Forever and Me” (#5) and the title track, which peaked at #13.

Their biggest success came in 1993 with their 2x platinum, Big Time, which spawned “What Might’ve Been (#2), “God Bless Texas” (#4) and their sole chart topper “My Love.” The band’s rendition of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” was included on Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles, which won them the CMA Award for Album of the Year.

The Academy of Country Music named Little Texas their Top Vocal Group in 1994. Kick A Little came in September, with both the title track and “Amy’s Back in Austin” charting in the Top 5. The band also went through a regime change when Seals, who had co-written all the band’s biggest hits, departed to embark on a solo career. Their Greatest Hits album would feature their final Top 5, “Life Goes On” the following year.

With the band now in transition, they contributed “Kiss A Girl,” from The Little Mermaid to the various artists collection The Best of Country Sings the Best of Disney. Another tribute track, “Beast of Burden” was featured on Stone Country: Country Artists Perform The Songs of the Rolling Stones. They also collaborated with Jeff Foxworthy on “Party All Night” from his Crank It Up: The Music Album.

Little Texas released their self-titled fourth album, the band’s final for Warner Bros., in 1997. Coming three years after Kick A Little, they had lost their momentum and thus weren’t able to regain traction with country radio. Shortly thereafter the band officially disbanded. Rushlow went on to a one-hit-wonder solo career when the excellent Alzheimer’s themed “She Misses Him” peaked at #8 in 2000.

Propes, Gray, Howell and O’Brian resurrected Little Texas in 2004, but faced pushback from Rushlow and Jeff Huskins, who sued in a failed attempt to block them from using the ‘Little Texas’ name. This second incarnation has produced two studio albums – Missing Years (2007) and Young For A Long Time (2015). A concert album, The Very Best of Little Texas: Live and Loud has also been released.

I hope you enjoy our look back at Little Texas throughout the month, sprinkled amongst our Best of 2016 coverage.

Spotlight Artist: Lonestar

lonestarFor many years, the prototypical country group took the form of a gospel quartet or quintet, modeled after such gospel favorites as the Jordanaires, The Old Hickory Singers, The Oak Ridge Quartet or the Blackwood Brothers. These groups were strictly vocal groups, with some sort of instrumental accompaniment, often nothing more than someone playing the piano. It was rare that the group handled its own instrumentals, other than perhaps the original version of the Sons of The Pioneers; and aside from western groups such as the Sons of The Pioneers, the repertoire was almost entirely gospel.

The first group to venture off into mostly secular music was the Statler Brothers in 1965, with the electrifying hit “Flowers On The Wall”. The Statler Brothers were strictly a vocal group, although the great Lew DeWitt played some acoustic guitar. In 1976, the Statlers were followed by the Oak Ridge Boys (formerly the Oak Ridge Quartet). Like the Statler Brothers, the Oak Ridge Boys were a gospel quartet that went secular. Both groups tended to strongly resemble the gospel groups from which they had arisen, and both groups had all four members vocals featured prominently.

It was not until Alabama came to prominence in 1980 that the modern day concept of a country group entered the public conscience. Alabama was comprised of three cousins (Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook) plus a very talented outsider in drummer Mark Herndon. Unlike other country groups, Alabama had a designated lead vocalist in Randy Owen, with the other members providing instrumental support and taking an occasional lead vocal, mostly on album cuts.

Alabama proved to be hugely successful with dozens of #1 singles and millions of albums sold. Soon additional similarly structure groups would arise such as Atlanta (1983), Exile (1983), Restless Heart (1985), Shenandoah (1987), Diamond Rio (1991), and Little Texas (1991).

Of course, every trend and/or fad runs its course and Lonestar (1992) would prove to be the last really successful band of the wave that started with Alabama.

Lonestar was unusual in that as they originally were constructed, Lonestar had two singers who perceived of themselves as the lead vocalist of the group. Richie McDonald was the lead vocalist but bass player John Rich also sang some leads (mostly on album tracks) and would be booted out of the group after the second album.

Lonestar would prove to have staying power, releasing eleven studio albums (five reached gold or platinum status) and enjoying a large number of hit singles including nine that reached #1 and another nine that landed in the country top ten. One of their #1 singles, “Amazed” also reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for two weeks sandwiched between singles by Savage Garden and Destiny’s Child, and it charted in the United Kingdom.

Although the top ten singles ceased in 2006, Lonestar is still around having just issued a new album. Richie McDonald left the group for a while, but has since returned and the band once again consists of Richie McDonald on lead vocals and piano, Michael Britt on lead guitar, backing vocals, Keech Rainwater banging on the drums and Dean Sams on keyboards, acoustic guitar and backing vocal. This is essentially the original group minus John Rich.

Lonestar has a website and is playing a full schedule of road appearances. They still sound good, and if you liked them during their 1990s heydays, you’ll like them now.

So sit back as enjoy our Spotlight review of the one of the leading country groups of the 1990s and the early 2000s.

Week ending 4/12/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

LIttle Texas1954 (Sales): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: Understand Your Man — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1974: A Very Special Love Song — Charlie Rich (Epic)

1984: Don’t Make It Easy For Me — Earl Thomas Conley (RCA)

1994: My Love — Little Texas (Warner Bros.)

2004: When The Sun Goes Down — Kenny Chesney with Uncle Kracker (BNA)

2014: This Is How We Roll — Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan (Republic Nashville)

2014 (Airplay): Doin’ What She Likes — Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)

Week ending 4/5/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

tanyatucker1954 (Sales): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: Understand Your Man — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1974: Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone) — Tanya Tucker (Columbia)

1984: Let’s Stop Talkin’ About It — Janie Fricke (Columbia)

1994: My Love — Little Texas (Warner Bros.)

2004: When The Sun Goes Down — Kenny Chesney with Uncle Kracker (BNA)

2014: This Is How We Roll — Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan (Republic Nashville)

2014 (Airplay): I Hold On — Dierks Bentley (Capitol)

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+

Spotlight Artist: Dan Seals

Danny Wayland Seals was born in Texas in 1948 as a member of a very musical family. His father was not a professional musician, but had performed with Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb. Elder brother Jim was a member of successful soft rock duo Seals & Crofts, who were big stars in the 1970s. Cousins included country star Johnny Duncan and songwriter Troy Seals, and a generation later, another cousin, Brady Seals was to become lead singer of the successful group Little Texas. Young Dan grew up exposed to both the country music his father loved, but as a teenager was influenced strongly by the music of the Beatles, which led to the nickname (and later stage name) ‘England Dan’.

The young Dan followed in his brother’s footsteps by teaming up with a high school classmate to form the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. They released a number of albums together, with their greatest success coming with the single ‘I’d Really Love To see You Tonight’, a mellow ballad which topped the Adult Contemporary chart and reached #2 pop. Reba McEntire covered the song in 1978, as a B-side to one of her early singles, an early indicator of Dan’s potential as a country artist (although he did not write the song).

Going solo in 1980 was not an immediate success, and Dan lost his home and most of the money he had made as a pop star in a battle with the IRS over unpaid back taxes. It was then that he moved sideways into country music, signing to Capitol Records in 1983, and working with producer Kyle Lehning. His style retained many elements of his pop past, with an emphasis on gentle ballads, but either his own inclinations or Lehning’s meant that his music was generally less heavily produced than his pop-country contemporaries, and he maintained his success well into the period when the neotraditional movement was sweeping away the worst excesses of the 80s. Dan released some excellent singles through the 1980s, and was rewarded with a run of 16 successive top 10 country hits, including a particularly hot streak with nine straight #1s.

His career slowed down markedly in the 1990s. A move to Warner Brothers failed to reignite it, but he reinvented himself artistically by recording acoustic takes on some of his big hits, and continued to work touring. He died prematurely of cancer on March 25, 2009. In his last years he had been making music with his brother Jim, but a planned album was never completed.

We plan to cover the highlights of the career of a man whose crossover from pop to country respected the genre, and who created some timeless music.

Album Review: Josh Logan – ‘I Am What I Am’

joshlogan2_smallKentucky-born Josh Logan was one of those artists who fell through the cracks of a major (or almost-major) label deal when he was signed to Curb in the late 80s. His excellent 1988 album Somebody Paints The Wall included the first version of the title track, later a big hit for Tracy Lawrence and also recorded by George Jones, and Aaron Tippin’s ‘I Was Born with A Broken Heart’. Another early single was pulled when Conway Twitty released the same song. For whatever reason, Josh Logan never made any impact at radio, and was unceremoniously dropped by Curb. He has released a handful of independent albums in the years since, and the latest has just come my way.

Josh has a big deep baritone voice which could never be anything but country. His approach is normally solidly traditional, but this album is unfortunately produced by Del Gray, drummer for the group Little Texas, and I’m afraid I’m not over-impressed by Gray’s production skills, as the sound is a little muddy at times. The vocals are good, though, and some of the songs are excellent, making this a worthwhile purchase overall.

Josh is not a songwriter himself, but producer Gray has provided some of the material himself. Regrettably, some of these are the most dispensable and lyrically cliched moments on the record, such as the forgettable ‘I’d Be Good At Lovin’ You’. The unconvincing southern rock/outlaw posturing of the title track gets the set off to a disappointing start, as this is just not a style suited in any way to Josh’s voice. The worst of Gray’s songs is ‘BFE’, an overproduced and boring paean to the country lifestyle whose hook is incomprehensible. There are 13 tracks on the album, so cutting these three would have been a much better decision.

As a writer, Gray redeems himself with two offerings, both co-written with Zack Turner. ‘Old Die Hards Like Me’ lauds the honky tonk lifestyle to a slightly melancholy tune, and I thoroughly enjoyed honky-tonker ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’, which is, of course, “straight down to the bar” when love falls through. Neither song breaks any new ground lyrically, but they are both enjoyable. The same goes for ‘Dead & Gone’, a song about the appeal of country music written by another Little Texas member, Porter Howell, with Paul Jefferson and Johnny Slate – you’ll know it’s dead, Josh sings in rather melancholy tones, when no one falls in love or walks the floor with a broken heart – or when Hank Williams is no longer played on AM radio. It is not quite clear how ironic the lyric is intended to be.

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