Classic Album Review-“Sawyer Brown”
The group Sawyer Brown has enjoyed a lengthy career, with thirty-six top forty country hits that span a twenty year period, from 1985 to 2005. That’s about fifteen years longer than many critics thought they would last, back in the early days, when their music was a large dose of bubblegum country. The group got it’s start in the early 1980’s, forming in 1981. Their break came on the television show “Star Search”, in 1983, when they became the first grand prize winners on the show. According to Wikipedia, they had auditioned mainly to get a video performance to use to promote the band. Their 1984 self-titled Capitol debut is the subject of today’s Classic Album Review. Featuring three top twenty singles, the album would peak at number two on the country bestseller list, their highest peak, despite several stronger albums, particularly during the 1990’s.
This collection opens with the band’s very first single, “Leona”. Bouncy country-pop is the best way to describe the sound, for that matter, pretty much the whole album. “Leona” is a good song, though, with some good energy and it’s a fun track to listen to. Not terribly deep, lyrically, but that’s okay, I still like it.
We get more of the same with “Feel Like Me”. Again, not terribly deep or thought provoking, when it comes to the lyrics, but the melody is good, it’s good “lite” country music.
The band found the top ten during the summer of 1985 with the ballad “Used To Blue”. A pretty decent track that shows the band’s sometimes overlooked abilities to perform more than just the “bubblegum” country that critics sometimes would label their early music. It certainly ranks as one of the better tracks on the album.
Back to the bouncy, bubblegum, country-pop with “It’s Hard To Keep A Good Love Down”, followed by “Step That Step”. Both tracks are pretty similar to the first two tracks; not deep, but easy-to-follow, catchy melodies that have an infectious, energetic feel to them. “Step That Step” was their second single, and their first number one.
With side one completed, it’s time to turn to side two, which opens with more of the same. “Smokin’ In The Rockies” kicks things off. A typical let’s-get-as-many-names-as-we-can-in-the-song, as Haggard, Jones, CDB, Waylon, Willie, Dolly, and the Oaks are among those who get mentioned. Not anything particularly special is this track. Previously, the song had been a minor chart single for Gary Stewart & Dean Dillon.
I actually think “Staying Afloat” may be one of the better tracks on the disc. While the sound is pretty much the same as most of the disc, lyrically, it is a stronger selection, and it possesses a good melody. However, by this point of the album, the sameness of most every track is really becoming evident.
They do slow it down a bit for another ballad with “Broken Candy”. They go for a power ballad sound, here, with this track. The result is a nice try, but an average track, at best.
A definite Hidden Gem contender is “The Sun Don’t Shine On The Same Folks All The Time”. This is a good track, here, possessing the best lyrics on the disc, mixed with a great melody, and while it’s still bubblegum country, there is a slight difference in this song’s presentation that makes it stand out from the rest of the disc.
The album wraps with one more bouncy track, “I’m Going Back To Indiana”. It tells of one who’s gone to Hollywood, and now is heading back to the Hoosier land. It’s an average track, though I do award bonus points to any track that mentions my state of birth.
I have to admit that I was surprised to find this album still available, not only on CD, but also MP3 download, for only about $5. One will also likely find some used vinyl and cassette copies with just a minimal amount of searching.
As for the album’s Standout Track, I am going with “Used To Blue”. Good ballad.
“The Sun Don’t Shine On The Same Folks All The Time” gets my nod for Hidden Gem. This song could have easily been a single, in my opinion.
As for the Weakest Track, I think I have to go with “Smokin’ In The Rockies”. Nothing special, average tune.
This is the first time I have listened to this whole album in at least twenty years. It’s amazing what time will do; as Bob Wills’ band once played, time changes everything. What was a great album as a teen, is now a compilation of sameness, not really holding up as well as some albums from that era. I will give it credit for the energy it brings, which was certainly something that country music needed in the mid-eighties. Overall, I think at best, it’s a 3 out of 5.
MORE COUNTRY FROM THE EIGHTIES