My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Tom Brasfield

Album Review: Earl Thomas Conley – ‘The Heart Of It All’

Released at the heart of the New Traditional era in 1988, The Heart Of It All did not stray too far from ETC’s accustomed wheelpath, although producers Emory Gordy Jr and Randy Scruggs made sure the arrangements were a bit less AC than previously. He was still a reliable hitmaker beloved by country radio, with singles destined to reach #1, and the first four singles from this album followed the pattern.

The lead single is a nice ballad written by Bob McDill and Paul Harrison about a woman tied to an unworthy husband, who she loves regardless. ETC’s hushed vocals are lovely, and the production fairly restrained.

Harmonies from Emmylou Harris make any song better, and the next single was the lovely duet ‘We Believe In Happy Endings’, another McDill song about keeping a marriage going, but a more positive one. It had been a top 10 solo hit for Johnny Rodriguez a decade earlier. This is one of my favorite ETC recordings.

‘What I’d Say’, written by Robert Byrne and Will Robinson, is another excellent ballad. This one faces up to the immediate afterbreak of a breakup, with the protagonist uncertain how he would react if he met her unexpectedly.

What would prove to be Earl’s very last #1 hit was Thom Schuyler’s ‘Love Out Loud’. A more upbeat tempo enlivens a sincerely sung song about an inarticulate man who nevertheless loves his lady. It is my least favorite of the singles from this album, but not a bad song.

The long run of #1 and 2 hits, dating back to 1982’s ‘Somewhere Between Right And Wrong’ was to come to a juddering halt with this album’s fifth single, which peaked at a very disappointing #26. It was the first time ETC had attempted more than four from one album, but the main problem may have been the underlying shifts in country radio. He would experience only two more top 10s, one of which was a posthumous duet with Keith Whitley. ‘You Must Not Be Drinking Enough’ is actually a fine song which deserved better, and more traditional sounding than much of ETC’s oeuvre (despite being a Don Henley cover). A soulful vocal is backed up with steel guitar as ETC offers advice to a lovelorn friend, or perhaps himself:

You keep telling yourself she means nothing
Maybe you should call her bluff
You don’t really believe it
You must not be drinking enough …

You keep telling yourself you can take it
Telling yourself that you’re tough
But you still want to hold her
Must not be drinking enough

You’re not drinking enough to wash away old memories
And there ain’t enough whiskey in Texas
To keep you from begging “please, please, please”
She passed on your passion, stepped on your pride,
Turns out you ain’t quite so tough
Cause you still want to hold her
You must not be drinking enough

The rambunctious ‘Finally Friday’ would be a single for George Jones a few years later. ETC’s version is more restrained, but the accordion-led production lends it a happy Cajun feel which works pretty well.

ETC co-wrote three songs, two of them with producer Randy Scruggs. The title track, ‘Too Far From The Heart Of It All’, is quite a pretty ballad on a religious theme although the meaning is not very clear. ‘Carol’ is a tender, thoughtful ballad about a man who regrets having left his wife years ago:

If I could turn back time to yesterday
I’d be coming home this time to stay …
I guess I never felt this way before
Feeling like a stranger at my own door
I wouldn’t have to ask you how you’ve been
And I wouldn’t have to fall in love again

Carol
No one has replaced you
I’ve never looked a day beyond goodbye
And Carol
Time could not erase you
It’s only made me wish I’d never tried

Guess some of us just don’t know when to stop
Reaching out for something we ain’t got

‘No Chance, No Dance’, written with Robert Byrne, is a brassy uptempo tune about not playing things safe.

Byrne teamed up with Tom Brasfield to write ‘I Love he Way he Left You’, an AC leaning ballad hoping a woman who has been hurt by a previous relationship will end up with him.

This is one of ETC’s best albums and it is definitely worth checking out.

Grade: A-

Single Reviews: Earl Thomas Conley – ‘Nobody Falls Like A Fool’ and ‘Once In A Blue Moon’

By 1985 Earl Thomas Conley was one of the most consistent hitmakers in country music, with every single topping the charts. It was time for a Greatest Hits compilation. As well as eight of ETC’s hits, the set included two new songs, which were released as singles. The new songs were well chosen, as both reached #1.

‘Nobody Falls Like A Fool’, written by Peter McCann and Mark Wright. Slightly tinny keyboards typical of the period have dated, but ETC’s smoky vocal, at once vulnerable and optimistic, really sells the song. The protagonist and his new love interest have both been burned by love before, but the former at least is an undying romantic who believes this time it will work out:

After so many dreams have fallen through
It’s time that one came true

Nobody falls like a fool
Nobody loves like a believer

And I’m fallin’
‘Cause I believe in you

I know you’re afraid
Of the words that we’ve spoken
There’s been so many promises made
And so many broken
Oh but please don’t hold back
I’ve already opened the door
And this time I’m hoping for more
You’re making it easy

‘Once In A Blue Moon’ was written by Robert Byrne and Tom Brasfield. The beautiful melody and hushed vocal are allied to a tender lyric about a woman’s love for an unworthy but grateful man:

She’s starving for affection
So hungry for love’s touch
But she only hears “I love you”
When we’re making love
Lord, I’ll always wonder
Why she loves me so much
And the best I’ll ever do won’t be enough
So I’ll just thank my lucky stars above

But once in a blue moon
I’ll do something right
And once in a blue moon
I’ll make her feel so fine
‘Cause I can make her laugh
Oh, and make her cry
She hates the way she loves me sometimes

Again, the production is dated but it doesn’t intrude too badly, and the song and vocals are great.

Grade: A-

Song titles that really aren’t

dwightyoakamI was listening to Dwight Yoakam’s ‘It Only Hurt When I Cry’ earlier today when I caught the video on the CMT Pure Vintage show. I noticed that not once does Dwight actually sing the title of the song, but rather he sings it as ‘it only hurt me when I cry’.  Every time he gets to that line, he adds ‘me’ into the title.  Dwight penned the song with the great Roger Miller.  So, maybe that’s how the two wrote it, and the title just sounded better with the omission of ‘me’.

Similarly, Ricky Skaggs’ ‘Honey (Open That Door)’ doesn’t ever word his plea that way.  Rather, Ricky adds the words ‘won’t you’ to the title as he sings ‘honey won’t you open that door’.  Mel Tillis wrote this classic, and I’ll never know why it wasn’t titled the way Ricky sings it.  Certainly the extra two words are needed to keep the beat.  But why not title it ‘Honey (Won’t You Open That Door)’?

ronniemilsap1Thinking back to some of my other favorite songs, I remembered Ronnie Milsap’s ‘There’s No Gettin Over Me’.  This tune was written by songwriting team Walt Aldrige and Tom Brasfield.  Between the two of them, they’ve written such classics as ‘She’s Got a Single Thing In Mind’, ‘The Fear of Being Alone’, ‘Holdin Her and Lovin You’, and many, many more. Anyway, let’s get back to the Milsap song …

The title of that song is gramatically correct.  But the way Milsap sings it is not.  ‘There ain’t no gettin’ over me’ is not only gramatically wrong, it adds a double negative to the line. Maybe Milsap purposely added the double negative to add to the irony of the song.  It’s supposed to be a kiss-off number, but Ronnie’s vocals tell that maybe he’s not as strong as the lyrics would have us believe.  So, in telling his lady she’ll never get over him, I think he’s just steeling himself against the all-too-certain future he knows is ahead without her.  Helluva good song either way.

Those are all I can think of right now.  But I’m sure there are more …

What other songs are examples where the singer never actually sings the title? And what songs come really close like the ones I mentioned?

Listen to Ronnie Milsap – ‘There’s No Gettin Over Me on Last FM.