“Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart”
Written by Hugh Prestwood
#1 (4 weeks)
March 9, 1990
Radio & Records
#1 (2 weeks)
March 16 – March 23, 1990
One of the best Randy Travis singles has a lengthy run at the top.
The Road to No. 1
Before the Class of 1989, there was the Class of 1986. In a year that saw the breakthroughs of Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam, it was Randy Travis whose star shone the brightest. His debut album, Storms of Life, was the watershed moment for the New Traditionalist movement which had been gaining momentum for several years. With that classic album and its follow-up, Always & Forever, Travis proved that a traditional country singer could sell multi-platinum without even a hint of crossover elements to his music. The entire ethos of the nineties boom can be traced to that “a-ha!” moment on Music Row, where crossing over was viewed with contempt and disdain for many years following Randy Travis becoming the genre’s biggest star.
By the turn of the decade, Travis had a shelf full of awards and millions of album sales under his belt, as well as a long string of chart-topping hits. Travis previewed his fourth studio set, No Holdin’ Back, with a cover of the Brook Benton classic, “It’s Just a Matter of Time,” which topped the charts in the fall of 1989. For the second single, the label remixed a Hugh Prestwood song that would ultimately become the longest running chart-topper that Randy Travis has had to date.
The No. 1
“Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” is a damn near perfect country record. Impeccably produced, it incorporates elements of seventies pop and rock without veering from its country core, and Travis sings the fire out of it.
The importance of his delivery of this song cannot be overstated. The narrator here is an absolute cad who is painting his spouse as being a cold-hearted shrew unwilling to forgive, while he’s doing everything he can to “roll up his sleeves and repair” their broken home. Your heart breaks for him as he laments that “I feel like a stone you have picked up and thrown to the hard rock bottom of your heart.”
Only one problem: he’s entirely in the wrong. He’s the one who cheated. He’s the one who broke their home. He isn’t entitled to – or worthy of – forgiveness, as he’s placing the burden of rebuilding love and trust on the person who had nothing to do with breaking them in the first place.
But try – just try – to hold it against him while the song is playing. It’s not possible. He’s so heartfelt in his performance that he gets you to take the wrong side. That’s a damn fine country singer, right there.
The Road From No. 1
Travis kept his chart-topping success going throughout the nineties, so we will be seeing a lot more of him as the list progresses.
“Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” gets an A.