Real Country Music
Rockin’ In The Country
4.5 out of 5
Rockin’ In the Country (featuring Charlie Daniels)/Love You With the Lights On/ That’s Why God Made Me/How Can I Believe In You (When You’ll Be Leaving Me)/Going Through Hell (With You Again)/ Background Noise/If I Ever Get Her Back/ Real Estate Hands/ She’s A Woman/ She Sure Looks Good In Black/ They Know How To Grow Em’/ Take Me Home, Country Roads
Producers: Greg Cole and Chuck Rhodes
E1 Music KOC-CD-9878
I don’t spend time waiting for a white horse but I do spend time waiting for real country music to arrive in the mailbox. In all this waiting, I’ve worn out several pairs of boots clicking heels and saying “there’s no place like real country music” and I wait and wait for that sound to fill my ears. Occasionally, there is something that keeps my hopes up.
So with that as context, I recently received the “new” Daryle Singletary release. Recorded several years ago, and oft-delayed, the disc offers what one would expect from Singletary, that being a few fast pacers and ballads that you can’t believe you’re hearing.
While listening, I was taken back to 1995, the year his self-titled debut was released. I liked “Too Much Fun” and I absolutely loved “I Let Her Lie.” In “I Let Her Lie” I found what myself and others appreciate about
I was certain that Singletary would be recognized as being pretty much peerless, when he later released “The Note.” But chart success became harder to attain. “The Note” was on his third and last album on Giant. Singletary has since recorded for Koch/Audium and Shanachie. The latest is offered by E1 Music.
Arguably, a listen to “Rockin’ In The Country” offers a sort of understanding of Singletary’s interesting career arc. (Now......it may be that only a fool with not enough to do would try to explain any success an artist has had........but just sit back and watch me pull out and put on my old analytical hat and give it a whirl.)
The disc begins with the Paul Overstreet co-written title track. “Rockin’ In The Country” tells of turning a failed farm into a successful outdoor concert venue. In the end the landowner is able to keep his land thanks to the fact that “they’re rockin’ in the country and.......dancing in the fields.......” The track finds itself somewhere between Tim McGraw’s “Down On The Farm” and Singletary’s own “Too Much Fun.” Thanks to Singletary’s delivery it’s better than it probably really should be. The same can be said for “They Know How To Grow Em’.” Both show his talent but don’t really show him to be ahead of the pack.
His voice also lifts “That’s Why God Me” and “Background Noise” beyond what they might be if done by someone else. That’s not to say that either is bad or poorly written. “Background Noise” is sweet in its sentiment that the presence, and the kiss, of someone special can make the noise and cares of everyday disappear.
Of the two, “That’s Why God Me” is the more nicely crafted. Who could question its “realness” of a little boy asking about his lineage after noticing he does not really look like his Dad? True, it’s a little sappy, but Country Music is filled with instances of Hallmark moments.
Other good moments on the album include “If I Ever Get Her Back” and “She’s A Woman.” “If I Ever Get Her Back” can be found on the 2004 Joe Nichols’ album Revelation. On Nichols’ album it made for a nice album track and it ably serves the same role here. It’s simply a good song delivered well, but not quite a standout track. “She’s A Woman,” written by Singletary along with Billy Lawson, wraps the mystery and wonderment of a woman in a soft loving arrangement. It, like the other tracks is good and more than ably delivered.
Now, it is in considering how the above mentioned tracks compare to the remainder of the disc that begins to explain Singletary’s career. To say the least, the rest of the disc serves as a better showcase of his talents. Vocally and stylistically, he reaches heights usually reserved for the Keith Whitleys, Vern Gosdins, and Mel Streets [may they all rest in peace] of the world.
His current single “Love You With The Lights On” leaves me to imagine Keith Whitley covering Conway Twitty. Much like Singletary’s cover of “I’d Love to Lay You Down” from several years ago, it is simply amazing what he can do with the right song and arrangement. To hear his delivery of the word soft within this track should alone justify any costs of buying the disc.
Without hearing Gosdin’s take on his and Buddy Cannon’s co-written “How Can I Believe In You (When You’ll Be Leaving Me),” I am willing to bet that Singletary’s version outshines the original or any other versions. It is just that stunning. As is another very traditional track, “Real Estate Hands” which has an ex visiting an empty house where once “so much love was made” and thinking of the memories “that are now in real estate hands.”
“Going Through Hell (With You Again)” finds Singletary wanting God to forgive him of his sins. “Because one of these days girl, we’re all gonna leave this world” and he “can’t stand the chance of going through hell with you again.” Isn’t that a feeling known at least once in everyone’s life? The song also makes good use of the word evil. (I’m pretty sure that evil is the all time best word ever used in music.) Again this track is more than fantastic.
“She Sure Looks Good In Black” describes what it might be like to have a very recent ex show up at your funeral looking hot. This track is nothing but a killer (sorry, had to), and brings to mind a fun game to play at your next party. Guests have to name at least five readily verifiable country songs sung from the perspective of the dearly departed. The one with the best list gets to be in charge of the music for the rest of the party. And please remember if planning on doing this, you should invite me, because you are my kind of people.
The last track, recorded with his road band (the rest of the tracks feature a who’s who list of session players), surprised me. I remember John Denver, and never found much to dislike about his music, but at the same time I feel perfectly fine in knowing that there is, to the best of my knowledge, no John Denver in my collection. But I do now have the definitive version of his “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Singletary, as he has shown in the past, has a way of outperforming the standards of others.
So now that all the tracks have been discussed, are you ready for my explanation of his career arc, or have you figured it out already? OK, (for the less sharp out there), Daryle Singletary’s career is not what it could be because he is just too damn good for his own good.
When his voice is matched with a song perfectly suited to him, the result is among the best selections of country music ever. The problem with this is that the truly great moments make the other selections seem weaker than what they may be. Of course, this is not an unheard of challenge for truly great artists. For example, Vern Godsin’s “Set Em Up Joe” is perfectly fine but when played next to “The Garden” or “If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right)” it seems a lot less like an achievement. It’s a predicament that presents quite a challenge. But one I hope Singletary, quite possibly the finest traditional country singer alive today, will be willing to face for many years to come.