My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Rivers Rutherford

Album Review: Gary Alan – ‘Smoke Rings In The Dark’

Gary’s label, Decca, folded in 1998, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for his career. Gary, together with the majority of his labelmates (which included Lee Ann Womack and Mark Chesnutt), were transferred to sister label MCA. That meant a change in producer. Mark Wright remained on board, but Byron Hill was relegated to associate producer, with the experienced Tony Brown taking charge. He helped bring a smoother, more commercial sound, with a more layered production and the use of strings. Radio success continued to be mixed, but sales were good, and Smoke Rings In The Dark, released in October 1998, became Gary’s first platinum album.

The outstanding title track, released as the first single, only reached #12 on Billboard, but is one of Gary’s best-remembered hits. Written by Rivers Rutherford and Houston Robert, it marked a stylistic development for Gary heralded by the previous album’s ‘Baby I Will’. It sounds dreamy and sexy, belying a pain-filled lyric about the dying embers of a relationship:

I’ve tried to make you love me
You’ve tried to find a spark
Of the flame that burned
But somehow turned to
Smoke rings in the dark

The loneliness within me
Takes a heavy toll
Cause it burns as slow as whiskey
Through an empty aching soul
And the night is like a dagger
Long and cold and sharp
As I sit here on the front steps
Blowing smoke rings in the dark

I’m not gonna wake you
I’ll go easy on your heart
I’ll just touch your face and drift away
Like smoke rings in the dark

This is one of Gary’s finest moments on record and by far the best track on the album.

His inconsistent streak with radio persisted, as the follow-up, the intense Jamie O’Hara-penned ‘Lovin’ You Against My Will’ stagnated in the 30s. While it is a good song with a slow burning appeal, it lacks melodic interest and the vocals sound a little processed.

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Album Review: Darryl Worley – ‘Sounds Like Life’

Sounds Like LifeAfter almost ten years of varying degrees of success, Darryl Worley’s latest album came out recently on Stroudavarious Records. It is produced by Jim ‘Moose’ Brown and Kevin ‘Swine’ Grantt, and Darryl himself wrote or co-wrote almost all the material. One of the few exceptions, ‘Tequila On Ice’, written by Rivers Rutherford and Marty Dodson, served as the lead single, but faltered outside the top 40. The lyric is rather silly, but the tune is pretty and Darryl gives it a sexy, sultry delivery which is very pleasing.

Somewhat surprisingly, Darryl has scored a hit single with the title track, reviewed last week by Meg. It’s not a bad song, and certainly more listenable than most of today’s chart fodder, although there is something of a disconnect between the friend’s troubles, and the cheery message of the chorus. Darryl sounds more sympathetic in ‘Slow Dancing With A Memory,’ which is, deplorably, repeated from his last album, but sees a heartbroken man lost in memories of his beloved, and drinking as ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ plays on the jukebox (it’s obviously a very high class bar with such a well stocked jukebox). The protagonist here tells the bartender to leave the poor guy alone.

My favorite track is the beaty opener, ‘Honky Tonk Life’, written by Marty Dodson and Sean Patrick McGraw. This good-humored account of life as a traveling musician feels very authentic in its depiction of the positive and negative aspects: he doesn’t know where they are, they misspell his name on the publicity,
“If we hurry they’ll feed us before we go on and I’ll work it out with the man
Sometimes the beer’s free and sometimes it’s half-price and sometimes there’s no beer at all…

I could quit all this road stuff, go back to my real life and put in a straight 9 to 5
But I love the neon and I love the people and I love the honky tonk life”

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