“If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets)”
Written by Ken Spooner and Kim Williams
#1 (1 week)
June 15, 1991
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
May 31, 1991
Hello, Joe Ditty!
The Road to No. 1
After two chart-topping ballads from his debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads, Epic went uptempo for the first time.
The No. 1
Joe Ditty was the derisive name given to Joe Diffie in the mid-nineties when he was putting out one novelty record after another, but it’s always been unfairly dismissive of his talent. Thing is, it’s actually quite hard to pull off humorous songs, and there’s a long and lasting legacy of the very best traditional country artists releasing this type of material, from George Jones and Buck Owens to George Strait and John Conlee.
“If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets)” was the earliest indication that Diffie could sing with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, and it’s a winner. This tale of a working class schlub signing his life away at a car dealership keeps things just light enough to be amusing, while not going so far in the direction of comedy that it becomes a farce.
In a few recent posts from this series, I’ve noted how artists haven’t fully found their voice in the studio yet, but Joe Diffie was a fantastic song interpreter right out of the gate. Thirty years later, he can still make me crack a smile, no matter how many times I’ve heard his songs.
The Road From No. 1
Diffie has another No. 1 on the way from his debut album this year.
“If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets)” gets a B+.
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