My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Paul Brady

Album Review – Dan Seals – ‘On Arrival’

Released in February 1990, On Arrival was Dan Seals’ final studio album for Capitol Records, his label home since 1985. The album, produced yet again by Kyle Lehning, would extend Seals’ success into the 1990s, although it would be short lived.

The first two singles marked Seals’ final trips to the top of the charts. The title track, a Seals original, preceded the album. A honky-tonk charger, “Love on Arrival” features a committed vocal by Seals, but the drum and guitar centric arrangement hasn’t held up over the years.

More interesting was the second single, a cover of Sam Cooke’s 1964 hit “Good Times.” Lehning frames Seals vocal in a pleasantly uncluttered arrangement, while the sing-a-long nature of the recording recalls vintage Eddie Rabbit. Unfortunately, the horns were dated, even for 1990, and give an unwelcoming campy vibe to the proceedings. But I quite appreciate what Seals was going for here, even though the polish was a bit too shiny.

The third and fourth singles, the Seals and Bob McDill co-write “Bordertown” and Bruce Burch and J.P. McMean’s “Water Under The Bridge” were the first of Seals career not to crack the top 40. The lack of airplay was surprising, seeing as both tunes were comfortably within Seals straightforward acoustic ballad wheelhouse, although neither proved as good, or memorable, as his classic hits in this vein.

The rest of On Arrival sounds like an album typical of its era, with a mixed bag of results. Roger Ferris’ “She Flew The Coupe” is a bloated (and forgettable) honky-tonk thumper, Charlie Black and Rory Michael Bourke’s “A Heart In Search Of Love” is overly sentimental and slightly predictable, while Paul Brady’s “Game Of Love” is too sugary sweet.

Slightly better is “Lonestar,” a Seals and J.D. Souther co-write about a girl who can’t get the affection of her desired man. Seals infuses the track with a wonderful vocal while the soaking of steel guitar keeps the accompaniment rather enjoyable on the ears.

Another good one is “Wood,” a Seals original finding him back in his “Everything That Glitters” vein. The track tells a sweet story about a relationship between a father and son, complete with life lessons:

I left a little taller

wiser, and free

I learned the use of tools

for the carpenter in me

I don’t have all the answers

but one thing I have have found

We are the choices that we make

when the chips are down, wood.

I also enjoy “Made For Lovin’ You” a Curly Putman and Sonny Throckmorton penned tune that went on to be a #6 peaking single for Doug Stone in 1993. Easily the best lyric, vocal, and musical track on the whole project, its hard to understand why the song was never a single for Seals, who easily has the superior version of the song.

Overall, On Arrival finds Seals up to his usual tricks while trying to stay relevant in the changing musical climate of the early 90s. The album is sentimental, marking the end of an era in which Seals topped the charts eleven times and turned out some of the best country music of its time.

On Arrival proves his previous solo singles were near impossible to match let alone top and he had somewhat mixed results in trying to do that here. But even though the results weren’t as consistent as in the past, he still managed to find (and sometimes write) a few great songs.

Grade: B

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Album Review: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Where Your Road Leads’

It’s somewhat surprising that Trisha Yearwood never had any major crossover success, considering that much of her material seems to have been tailored to appeal to listeners outside the country market. However, in an era when hits by her contemporaries Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Martina McBride were climbing the pop and adult contemporary charts, Yearwood’s success was strictly limited to the country charts. After five successful albums with Garth Fundis, she teamed up with Tony Brown, with whom she shared production duties on ten of the eleven tracks of her sixth release. The result, 1998’s Where Your Road Leads, found her mostly moving further in a mainstream pop direction, with a few play-it-safe nods to country radio.

The change in producers was barely noticeable in the first single release, the mid-tempo “There Goes My Baby”. Similar in style to her previous single “Perfect Love”, and virtually indistinguishable from much of Trisha’s work with Garth Fundis, “There Goes My Baby” climbed to #2 in May of 1998. It was followed by the somewhat overblown title track, which despite being hyped as “the” duet with Garth Brooks and produced by Brooks’ producer Allen Reynolds, “Where Your Road Leads” is a Yearwood vehicle, with Brooks solely in a supporting role and never taking the lead vocal. Written by Victoria Shaw and Desmond Child, it had less chart success than the previous Yearwood-Brooks collaboration, the prior year’s #2 hit “In Another Eyes”. Despite the obvious star-power of both both performers, “Where Your Road Leads” peaked at #18.

Yearwood returned to the Top 10 with the album’s third single, the fiddle and steel charged and somewhat fluffy “Powerful Thing”, which reached #6. Despite its lightweight lyrics, it is one my favorite tracks on the album. The fourth and final single release, Diane Warren’s “I’ll Still Love You More” appears to be an attempt to recreate the success of the previous year’s “How Do I Live”. However, “I’ll Still Love You More” is a bit too saccharine for my taste, and despite having reached #10 on the charts, it is one of the more forgettable hits in Trisha’s catalog.

Like the singles, the album cuts are somewhat hit or miss. The dreamy-sounding “Never Let You Go Again” is rather tedious and my least favorite song on the entire album. “I Don’t Want To Be The One”, written by Carole King and Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady, is also a bit lackluster. The pop-leaning “Heart Like A Sad Song”, however, is a standout, as is my favorite track among the non-singles, “Bring Me All Your Lovin'”, written by Doyle Primm, Allison Moorer and Kenny Greenberg.

Overall, Where Your Road Leads is an uneven effort, dull at times, with occasional flashes of brilliance. It’s worth noting, however, that Trisha’s magnificent vocal performance often overcomes the sometimes mediocre material. Nevertheless, it doesn’t rank among her best work.

Where Your Road Leads reached #3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, and was the last Trisha Yearwood album to earn platinum certification. It is available inexpensively from third-party sellers at Amazon.

Grade: B-

Album Review: Brooks & Dunn – ‘Steers & Stripes’

1999’s Tight Rope was a commercial failure by Brooks & Dunn’s standards; it yielded no major radio hits and became the duo’s first studio album not to be certified platinum. Not surprisingly, they made some some changes for their next project, in their attempts to break out of the artistic and commercial rut in which they had found themselves. Mark Wright came on board as co-producer for 2001’s Steers & Stripes, which proved to be one of Brooks & Dunn’s more consistent and satisfying albums. Though it does have its flaws, they are more easily forgiven, thanks to a generous offering of fourteen tracks. Steers & Stripes finds the duo updating their sound, moving away from the beat-driven, barn-burning sound that had been the hallmark of many of their 90s hits, and moving towards more pop-oriented music.

“Ain’t Nothin’ About You”, the first single, was released two months in advance of the album and returned the duo to the top of the Billboard singles chart, becoming their first #1 hit since 1998’s “Husbands and Wives”. It also reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100, the duo’s best showing ever on that all-genre chart. The patriotic anthem “Only In America”, which opens the album, was chosen as the second single. Released in mid-2001, it predated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but in their aftermath, it quickly became a rallying cry for a nation struggling to come to terms with what had happened. It reached the #1 spot in Billboard in October of 2001 and was later featured prominently as a theme song for President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. In the spirit of bipartisanship, it was also played four years later at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The next single, “The Long Goodbye”, was somewhat of a departure for Brooks & Dunn. Composed by Irish songwriters Paul Brady and Ronan Keating, it had originally appeared on Brady’s 2000 album and was subsequently covered by Keating, whose version became a Top 5 hit in the United Kingdom in 2003. Though wildly successful – providing yet another #1 hit for the duo – Brooks & Dunn’s version is marred by overproduction, a problem that occasionally plagues other tracks on the album, namely “When She’s Gone, She’s Gone” and “I Fall”, both of which feature Kix on lead vocals, and especially “Unloved” – the most purely pop Brooks & Dunn song to date. All of these songs feature a more slick and polished sound than the duo’s previous work, and on “Unloved” in particular, the strings and synthesizers tend to overwhelm the song. Fortunately, Ronnie Dunn’s vocal performance is restrained, and he wisely resists the temptation to turn the song into an 80s-style power ballad.

More to my taste is “Every River”, the fifth and final single released from this set. It is one of the album’s more traditional-leaning songs and its least successful single, peaking at #12. “Lucky Me, Lonely You”, my favorite song on the album, is the sole purely traditional number. Also providing a nice change of pace from the strings, synthesizers and rock guitar licks that characterize most of the album, are the two Latin-flavored songs, “My Heart Is Lost To You” and “Deny, Deny, Deny”. “My Heart Is Lost To You” was the album’s fourth single, released between “The Long Goodbye” and “Every River”. It reached #5 in Billboard. The remaining tracks are largely forgettable, with the exception of “See Jane Dance”, which closes the album. This song is a throwback to the line-dancing songs of the 90s, and one I could have lived without.

In addition to a new co-producer and a change in musical styles, Steers & Stripes marks the beginning of a shift towards a little less Brooks and a little more Dunn. Whereas previous albums had the two members sharing lead vocalist duties more or less equally, Steers & Stripes is about one-third Brooks and two-thirds Dunn, with Kix taking the lead on only five of the album’s fourteen tracks. The changes paid off; Steers & Stripes marked a commercial recovery, reaching #1 on the albums chart and earning platinum certification. More importantly, it helped the duo break out of their creative rut. Despite the prevalence of more pop-leaning songs, Steers & Stripes is one of the stronger albums in the Brooks & Dunn catalog, and is worth seeking out.

Grade: B+

It is still widely available from both Amazon and iTunes.