Written by Hal Bynum and Bud Reneau
#1 (1 week)
March 10, 1990
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
March 2, 1990
An early highlight from the catalog of a genre legend.
The Road to No. 1
Patty Loveless was one of the few artists to emerge in the late eighties that would reach their career peak in the nineties, despite most of her contemporaries having faded from the charts by then. Her run on MCA Records followed previous unsuccessful attempts to break through in Nashville, but the timing worked out perfectly. While she was honing her craft on the club scene, Nashville was moving away from the Urban Cowboy pop crossover sound and back into more traditional arrangements, which suited the pure mountain honky tonk of Loveless perfectly.
Not that her work on MCA fully captured that, given most of it was produced by Tony Brown. She broke through with a gorgeous cover of the George Jones classic, “If My Heart Had Windows,” which served as the title of her second album. After a Steve Earle cover (“A Little Bit in Love”) reached No. 2, Loveless released her biggest album for MCA, Honky Tonk Angel, which would eventually be certified platinum.
The first four singles all went top five, with the third, “Timber I’m Falling in Love,” becoming her first chart topper in 1989. The strength of the album’s material led to a fifth single, still a rarity at that time.
The No. 1
Many of her best hits were drenched in melancholy, but Loveless was also quite adept at navigating clever and catchy upbeat numbers. “Chains” is one of the latter, with Loveless lamenting about being trapped in a toxic relationship and she vows she will eventually break free.
“These love-taking, hearbreaking, cold heart, lonely-making chains” is not an easy line to deliver at all, let alone as the hook of a chorus, but she pulls it off with aplomb. The arrangement doesn’t have the organic beauty of her later work for Epic, but it doesn’t really matter. Loveless is singing on the track, and that makes it sound country by default.
It’s a fun, charming record that serves as a highlight of her MCA run.
The Road From No. 1
Loveless kept the hits coming at MCA for two more albums, resulting in two more gold albums (On Down the Line and Greatest Hits), and three more hit records, including “I’m That Kind of Girl,” her first hit written by Matraca Berg, who’d be responsible for another No. 1 down the road. After having Vince Gill sing harmony on her MCA hits, she returned the favor, providing killer harmonies on “When I Call Your Name” and “Pocket Full of Gold.”
She’d top the charts again a few more times after changing from MCA to Epic Records, so we’ll be seeing her again soon.
“Chains” get an A.
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