Searching For Bobbie Cryner

by

May 10, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write about Bobbie Cryner for a long time. Thanks to some kind folks uploading her music on to YouTube, I can finally do so.  (For whatever reason, her two fantastic albums – Bobbie Cryner and Girl o f Your Dreams – have yet to see digital release.)

This woman was good. Real good.  Possibly the best unheralded singer-songwriter of her time, with a sultry voice formed at the crossroads of Bobbie Gentry and Dottie West.  She first surfaced on Sony, releasing her self-titled debut in 1993. It was previewed by the autobiographical “Daddy Laid the Blues on Me.”

It could’ve been the start of a legendary career, but the single stalled at #63.  Next up was the haunting “He Feels Guilty”, which went to #68. It has an amazing guitar intro. That video can be viewed here.  Her debut album produced a third single, the #72 “You Could Steal Me.”  This one’s heartbreakingly gorgeous, but I can’t find an online way of sharing it with you.

The rest of that first album includes a duet with Dwight Yoakam on “I Don’t Care”, the Buck Owens classic. Another stellar cover is “The One I Love the Most”, which could’ve been a George Jones classic back in the early seventies.

But the best material comes from her own pen. Check out “I Think It’s Over Now”, which features the lyric, “You don’t have to say you love me if you think there’s any doubt. But if you have to think it over, well, I think it’s over now.”

Also worth seeking out is the closing track from that album, “This Heart Speaks For Itself,” which has every part of her body fooling others that she’s over the man who let her down.

In one of those glorious second chances that the music business rarely doles out, Cryner resurfaced on MCA three years later, sporting a more cosmopolitan sound and look. On Girl of Your Dreams, Cryner penned all five of the strongest tracks, while also credibly covering Dusty Springfield and Dottie West.  The lead single was “I Just Can’t Stand to Be Unhappy”, a kiss-off anthem that was too smart for country radio, stopping at #63:

What followed was an absolute masterpiece, one that still only reached #56 (and only #66 when Lorrie Morgan revived it two years later.)  “You’d Think He’d Know Me Better” is shockingly good, managing to tell the story of a selfish and cold woman by having her talk about how inconsiderate her man is. She’s the only one left in the dark at the end, as the listeners all realize who’s really to blame for this broken home:

Her final MCA single was “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”, which chronicled Cryner’s battle with alcoholism. It didn’t chart.

Again, the album had gems beyond what went to radio.  “Vision of Loneliness” is amazing, a song that gained new resonance with me when my mother related to it so well during her bereavement:

The title track should’ve been a single, though it’s hard to imagine radio playing it after passing on her earlier work.  I’d argue that “The Girl of Your Dreams” isn’t just Cryner’s finest piece of writing, but that it rivals the very best of Matraca Berg, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rosanne Cash. It begs for Trisha Yearwood to cover it:

So what happened after that second album faded into obscurity?  How could a songwriting talent like this get lost in the shuffle? Well, it didn’t happen right away.  After Morgan covered “You’d Think He’d Know Me Better”, Cryner surfaced as a writer on albums by top-tier female artists.

The most high profile of these three came after Cryner left a demo in Yearwood’s mailbox that simply had the title, “Real Live Woman.”  Yearwood later commented that she prayed before listening to it that it would live up to that title. It did, and ended up being Cryner’s biggest hit when Yearwood took it into the top twenty:

Suzy Bogguss took the compelling story song “Nobody Love, Nobody Gets Hurt” to #63 in 1998, titling her album after it as Yearwood did with “Real Live Woman” in 2000.

Finally, Lee Ann Womack included “Stronger Than I Am” on her smash album I Hope You Dance.  It finds a woman in awe of her young daughter who seems so much stronger than she is.

After that, I have no idea what happened to this woman. Do you?  In an era when country music isn’t made for adults, or even by adults, this woman’s contributions are desperately needed.

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  1. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    A nice tribute. I owned Girl of Your Dreams and agree that the title track is her strongest song. It’s nice to see the videos again. This is the first time I’m able to hear anything from her debut album. Thank you!

  2. plain_joNo Gravatar says:

    Never heard of her before…..sounds like a feminine George jones

  3. Paul SelbyNo Gravatar says:

    Yes! I love Bobbie and “You’d Think He’d Know Be Better” is an absolute masterpiece and is in my all time Top Ten songs.

  4. AndreaNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for posting this. We used to line dance to “Daddy Laid the Blues on Me.” It’s great to hear this song again and I, too, wish it was available digitally.

  5. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I heartily agree with your assessment – both of her albums are excellent. There are any number of really talented vocalists, male and female, who make no impact on country radio. Mostly this is because their music is more mature than the radio audience.

    As much as I like Bobbie Cryner, I think Dawn Sears was even better, as was Mandy Barnett. At least Dawn is still available as part of the Time Jumpers

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I’m actually not familiar with Bobbi Cryner’s music, though I’ve definitely heard of her. Dawn Sears is also in Vince Gill’s band as a backup singer. I agree she is excellent. She sang “Oklahoma Swing” with Vince at the first concert I attended and “Faint of Heart” this time around. He said that she’s one of his favorite singers (though I’ve heard him say that about a number of people). I didn’t know she’s recorded music on her own though.

  7. BobNo Gravatar says:

    I know of her because of the Suzy Bogguss song. She sounds very good. I’m impressed that she was the sole writer on the Bogguss, Yearwood and Womack songs and a half dozen of the other songs you mentioned. She’s obviously very talented. Thanks for the chance to listen to her.

  8. [...] Universe’s Kevin J. Coyne introduced Bobbie Cryner, who he says was “possibly the best unheralded singer-songwriter of her [...]

  9. Love both of her albums and still wish she’d come back into songwriting somehow, though I doubt radio would play it anyway. Took me a while but I had tracked down both her albums and now they’re safely in my cd tower. Two of my most prized posessions.

  10. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    I only have Bobbie Cryner’s debut album, but I always enjoyed listening to it. It’s been a while since I had it out … thanks for a reminder. I hate to see good artists like her just fade away, but it’s good to know she’s still writing songs that are making their way onto major label albums.

    Back in March at My Kind of Country, Occasional Hope wrote a great piece about singers who turned into full-time songwriters when chart success alluded them, and Bobbie Cryner was central to the discussion. Feel free to check it out here and her other post called Moving Backstage, on the same topic.

  11. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …she’s like that last piece of apple pie. you’d always wish there was more but there isn’t…

    thanks for this post, kevin. it’s much appreciated. and yes – i love apple pie.

  12. lanibugNo Gravatar says:

    I am with JR, I only have her first album, but it is on my ipod and I love every song on it and never skip a single one of them when they come up. Wish she had gotten more of a chance.

  13. JimmyNo Gravatar says:

    I like most her song “You Could Steal Me.”
    DVD+RW

  14. Mike GNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been looking for info on Bobbie Cryner for the past ten years, not believing that someone with such an enormous talent could disappear off the scene after just two albums. To my mind, she had the potential to become one of the most important female singer-songwriters of any genre over the past two decades, such was the angst, pain and raw emotion of her songs. The other contributors are absolutely right — the best tracks on her two albums are the self-penned ones, though in fairness the remainder are largely well chosen. I only once ever heard Bobbie Cryner feature on the radio and, even then, the dj, in announcing the song, referred to ‘he’, obviously never having taken the trouble to listen to it in advance. From what I can gather, Bobbie had to overcome both professional and personal difficulties, but at last there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for those of us enduringly beguiled by her melodies and lyrics with suggestions of a new album in the offing.

  15. Donald BuckleyNo Gravatar says:

    A friend of mine worked for Sony records in Nashville and in 2000, Iwas there celebrating my 65th Birthday. My friend had given me the Bobbie Cryner tape earlier in the year and I told her I just loved it. She(my friend) arranged for Bobbie and her husband to join us for a Birthday dinner (unknown to me) Unfortunately, her daughter was ill that evening so they sent their regrets. The following day the phone rang and when told it was for me I picked it up and was serenaded by the nicest voice to ever sing Happy Birthday to me. Yes it was Bobbie Cryner. She apologised for not being able to visit with me and talked for ages. A very very nice lady.

  16. curt waltersNo Gravatar says:

    It is amazing that no one has mentioned the fact that Bobbie is as beautiful as she is talented. From an old bass player who’s been around and heard and seen it all.

  17. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …bobbie cryner beautiful? – you must be kiddin’ curt. she’s the early morning sun ray from behind a snowcovered peak, falling on dewey meadow where a river runs through and the wind softly whispers in the sorrowful branches of a lonely pine tree…

    (another fan may feel free to continue)

  18. Teri ThomasNo Gravatar says:

    okay, I am going to give Bobbie this link. I think that she will really appreciate the comments. I hope everyone here who has taken the time to listen to her, passes it on. Everyday that goes by in country music is a sad day without her songs on the radio. It is a injustice to me. There has not been any female songwriter or singer that I have ever heard that comes close to expressing raw emotion, that makes you want more and more. Tom I’m with you, beautiful just isnt a big enough word. I will leave it to Bobbie to share what she is doing now and where you can go see her.

  19. Donna TNo Gravatar says:

    Love Bobbie Cryner…she has the most wonderful voice…C’mon Bobbie if your reading this, give us some more! You are loved!!! :o)

  20. dario cristinNo Gravatar says:

    Bobbie, you’re beautiful, I love you. Greetings from Argentina

  21. SteveWNo Gravatar says:

    I read a review of “Girl of Your Dreams” in the Boston Phoenix when it first came out and ran out to get it. It was love at first listen. One brilliant heartbreaker after another on that album, with “Girl of Your Dreams” and “You’d Think He’d Know Me Better” as the standouts. I subsequently bought her debut, which was almost as good. She was (is) a knockout talent, with a terrific voice and gorgeous to boot. I always thought she should have a career in movies if not in Nashville.

  22. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve enjoyed the ability to build her new website at http://bobbiecryner.com. Bobbie is working on a new album and hopes to get the support of her fans. She gets the emails from the site, plus can be found on Facebook by simply searching her name.

  23. LoisNo Gravatar says:

    Bobbie your music, wow when it first came out i bout the tape. I still have the Tape It was like listing to my own life. it pulled me up, i still listen to when i need a pick me up. love you and your music please please put another CD out there

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