A Trisha Yearwood Retrospective, Part Three: 1995-1996

A Trisha Yearwood Retrospective

Part Three: 1995-1996

This part of our Trisha Yearwood retrospective delves further into her “best kept secret” years, when she was consistently putting out excellent music but somehow remaining under the radar of the industry and awards organizations that are supposed to recognize such things.

“Thinkin’ About You”

Written by Bob Regan and Tom Shapiro

1995

#1 (2 weeks)

Grade: A

When Tom Shapiro first heard Yearwood’s recording of “Thinkin’ About You,” he was so blown away that he couldn’t believe that it was the simple song that he had co-written.  By this point in her career, Yearwood and producer Garth Fundis had mastered their framing and delivery of material, knowing just when to let Yearwood emphasize the lyric with her inimitable vocal power. The Lee Roy Parnell slide guitar only heightened the track’s power, lending the entire track a sultry seductiveness.  – KJC

Thinkin’ About You

1995

Country #3 | Pop #28

Track Listing:

Thinkin’ About You

XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)

You Can Sleep While I Drive

The Restless Kind

On a Bus to St. Cloud

Fairytale

Those Words We Said

O Mexico

I Wanna Go Too Far

‘Til I Get it Right

International Edition Also Includes:

Two Days From Knowing

Jackie’s House

Bartender’s Blues (with George Jones)

Because “XXXs and OOOs” had returned her to the top of the charts, reaffirming her status as an A-list star, Yearwood was given a wider berth to take risks on her fourth album, Thinkin’ About You. In hindsight, what’s most striking about the album is how Yearwood leans into the tension between her status as a reliable hit-maker and an interpreter whose fearlessness was so often doggedly non-commercial. 

The title track is a lovely addition to her greatest hits collection, of course, and few women on country radio have ever sounded as hard-up as Yearwood does on that last, “And I do love thinkin’ about you,” aside. It’s a fundamentally hot and bothered record that Yearwood and Fundis still make sound classy. 

The remainder of the album is no less fascinating. Who else but Yearwood would have dared to record a Melissa Etheridge cover, wringing every bit of pathos out of “You Can Sleep While I Drive,” or would have sent her gorgeous rendition of what is possibly Gretchen Peters’ finest composition to radio, even though it’s a five-minute long piano ballad about haunted sense memories?

Yearwood’s capacity for giving voice to unique women is at the forefront of Thinkin’ About You: She name-checks popular icons Aretha and Patsy, and she also covers No Depression favorites in Kim Richey and Texas singer-songwriter Kimmie Rhodes, and she fully inhabits each of their personas. She didn’t actually record Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” but that was the gist of Thinkin’ About You. – JK

 

“You Can Sleep While I Drive”

Written by Melissa Etheridge

1995

#23

Grade: B+

Yearwood nailed her delivery of this Melissa Etheridge track, saving the catch in her voice for the pleading bridge, where she wonders aloud, “Is it other arms you want to hold you?”  The only thing holding things back a bit 25 years later are some dated production choices. The reverb is a little too strong and the intimate vocal didn’t need quite so much bombast in the instrumentation.   – KJC

 

“I Wanna Go Too Far”

Written by Layng Martine Jr. and Kent Robbins

1995

#9

Grade: B+

Yearwood said at the time that this song was a fantasy, as the last thing she really wanted to do in life was “go too far.”  I think that’s why her delivery of this is more effective than it would’ve been by other artists, who likely would’ve leaned in to the desire for reckless abandon.  Yearwood is quite believably the “everything in moderation” woman that she portrays in the song, so much so that she sounds like she doesn’t so much want to go too far.  She just wants people to think she does so they’ll stop calling her the “everything in moderation” girl. – KJC

 

“On a Bus to St. Cloud”

Written by Gretchen Peters

1995

#59

Grade: A

Circa 1995, this was Yearwood’s strongest vocal performance to date, an absolute masterclass in subtlety and nuance.  The lyric is pure poetry, and Yearwood brings the haunted abandonment to the surface slowly, revealing the emotional desperation a little bit more with each verse and chorus, until letting loose completely in the bridge, as she wails, “You chase me like a shadow. You haunt me like a ghost.”   Regaining her composure, she rues, “I hate you some, and I love you some…but I miss you most.”  It’s a stunning piece of work that has lost none of its impact in the two and a half decades since its release.   – KJC

 

“Believe Me Baby (I Lied)”

Written by Angelo, Larry Gotleib, and Kim Richey

1996

#1 (2 weeks)

Grade: A

She’d covered Kim Richey’s “Those Words We Said” as an album track for Thinkin’ About You, and Yearwood was wise to recognize that Richey was on a hot streak. Granted, Richey’s winning debut album should have made her a star in her own right, but 1996 was the year when every woman in Nashville wanted to cut one of her songs.

Trisha, for her part, wrestled “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” away from Richey herself– she’d planned to keep it as the lead single from her forthcoming sophomore album. But Trisha persisted, ending up with another #1 hit. The song beats all the hallmarks of Richey’s clever wordplays, soaring melodies, and memorable lyrical hooks, and the jangly production even nods to Richard Bennett’s work on her self-titled debut. It’s perhaps the coolest-sounding hit in Yearwood’s catalogue. – JK

 

Everybody Knows

1996

Country #6 | Pop #52

Track Listing:

I Want to Live Again

It’s Alright

Believe Me Baby (I Lied)

I Need You

Little Hercules

Under the Rainbow

Everybody Knows

Hello, I’m Gone

Maybe It’s Love

A Lover is Forever

International Edition Also Includes:

Even a Cowboy Can Dream

Find a River

The Chance I Take

Trisha Yearwood and Garth Fundis made for one of the best singer-producer combinations in country music history, but by the time Everybody Knows was released, their work together was being taken for granted.  Like Emmylou Harris before her, Yearwood had made a high standard of excellence so predictable that it was getting a little boring.  With so many other women releasing excellent albums at the same time – everyone from her contemporaries Patty Loveless and Pam Tillis to new stars like Faith Hill and Martina McBride – Yearwood’s efforts were being taken for granted.

It would take a contrast with a young superstar on a Diane Warren power ballad to give the industry a jolting reminder of Yearwood’s talent. But that was still a year down the road, and even though it carried Everybody Knows to an Album of the Year nomination at the 1997 CMA Awards, the album was seen as enough of a slowdown at the time to motivate MCA to make a production change from Fundis to Tony Brown.

We now know with the long view of history that Yearwood would come back to Fundis repeatedly, never making more than one album with another producer. But we didn’t know that then, and this seemed like their swan song at the time.

I share all this because Everybody Knows stands out more on Yearwood’s career timeline than within her catalog.  It’s an excellent album that breaks no new no ground for her stylistically or thematically.  It’s ballad-heavy, the women are self-reliant, and the songs are delivered with impeccable taste.  

Like any Yearwood album, there are some remarkable highs.  Lead-off hit “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” is the best of her five #1 singles, with its Wall of Sound harmonies and self-aware apologetics.   The stark album closer, “A Lover is Forever,” improves on the Rosanne Cash cover in every imaginable way.  And she even finds the humanity in the workaholic on the album’s centerpiece, “Little Hercules,” which cuts straight to the bone in its understanding of why such a person exists, and how they can get trapped by their own sense of obligation to everyone but themselves:

You’ve made a life where no one ever tells you what to do

Now the only tyrant that you’re working for is you

It’s never easy to keep all the promises you make

But no one’s gonna get you fired, if you just give yourself a break

The international bonus tracks aren’t as revelatory as the ones on Thinkin’ About You, as they all feel like b-sides that missed the proper album because they weren’t quite as good as the songs included.  But like everything else on Everybody Knows, they’re of a high enough standard that they’re worth checking out.  It’s an excellent album that is a lesser entry in her canon only because of the peerless caliber of that canon as a whole. 

 

“Everybody Knows”

Written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison

1996

#3

Grade: A

Trisha has always done right by Matraca Berg’s songs, and “Everybody Knows” is simply another perfect pairing of singer and song. Berg’s wiseass streak shines on this tune, on which the narrator would love nothing more than for everyone to stay the hell out of her business. And Trisha knows exactly the right line to lean into on this one, turning, “Give me some chocolate and a magazine!” into an exasperated war cry. – JK

 

“A Lover is Forever”

Written by Steve Goodman and J. Fred Knobloch

1996

UK Single | Did Not Chart

Grade: A-

The US market got “I Need You” as the third single from Everybody Knows, whereas British audiences were introduced to Yearwood via a different type of ballad. As soulful and bluesy as anything she’s ever recorded, Yearwood’s cover of “A Lover Is Forever” is a marvel of understatement, with little more than a lonesome harmonica solo accompanying the acoustic guitar. I won’t pretend to have expert knowledge of what was charting in the UK at the time, but this single smolders. Still, it’s hard to imagine country radio playing this any more than they played “I Need You,” but this was the vastly superior offering. – JK

A Trisha Yearwood Retrospective

Previous: Part Two: 1993-1994 | Next: Part Four: 1997-1999

5 Comments

  1. I don’t think Trisha sounds hard up at all on that line you mention, and I can think of many examples of country songs where women do sound hard up.

  2. Another excellent write up, guys! Thinkin’ About You is yet another wonderful album from Trisha and one of my favorite albums that I always enjoy listening to from beginning to end. Her and Garth Fundis were such a perfect pair, and I think this album is a perfect example of why.

    “I Wanna Go Too Far” is my personal favorite of the singles. Not only does it bring back great memories from the mid 90’s for me, but I can also definitely relate to it at times, as well. Love Lee Roy Parnell’s slide guitar solo on this one, too. I also really love the title track and “On A But To St. Cloud.” The latter has to be one of the most perfect recordings I’ve ever heard, and sadly, the first time I ever heard it was when I got the cd. I guess that even in the 90’s, it was just too good for radio. Of the album cuts, my favorites are “Those Words We Said,” “Fairytale,” and her cover of “Til I Get It Right.” Her version of “The Restless Kind” is also my favorite of all the artists who’ve recorded it.

    Everybody Knows is another great album, though I’ll admit I haven’t listened to it quite as much as it’s predecessor. I always really loved “Believe Me Baby, I Lied,” and you guys nailed it in saying that it’s one of her coolest recordings. The video is also equally cool, imo. “Everybody Knows” is another favorite and yet another relatable one for me. I also really like “It’s Alright,” “Under The Rainbow,” and “I Want To Live Again” from this album.

  3. This is a fabulous retrospective! I’m a fan of some of today’s current pop-leaning female country artists, but I just can’t imagine, for example, Kelsea Ballerini or Danielle Bradberry knowing what to do with a song like “On a Bus to St. Cloud” or (one of my favorite album cuts “Hello, I’m Gone.”

    Also, Trisha sang “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” with Kelly Clarkson on Kelly’s show a few months back, and nothing has brought me more joy this year. Those harmonies! That energetic arrangement! As cool-sounding today as it did back that.

  4. Oh, I LOVE that video!! I had the same reaction as you, Michael, and I swear I couldn’t stop grinning the whole time I was watching it the first time. Many props to Kelly for helping to bring that song back in the spotlight! It’s amazing how they were still able to nail those harmonies when they weren’t even in the same room. Btw, there’s another neat video I found a while back of Trisha doing the same song on one of the late night shows in ’96 with not just one, but TWO drummers in the band.

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