Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Lionel Cartwright, “Leap of Faith”

“Leap of Faith”

Lionel Cartwright

Written by Lionel Cartwright

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

September 21, 1991

A young singer-songwriter enjoys an inspirational No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

Lionel Cartwright was a musical prodigy, playing multiple instruments proficiently while still in grade school.  He had a talent for writing and arranging, and first found success in Nashville by writing theme songs for sitcoms on the nascent Nashville Network.  He was doing demo sessions and performing locally when he was discovered by Tony Brown, who encouraged his development and eventually signed him to MCA Nashville.

Two studio albums were released in 1989 and 1990.  The first was self-titled and included his first top ten hit, “Give Me His Last Chance.”  The second, I Watched it All On My Radio, featured two more top ten hits: the title track, and “My Heart is Set On You.”

His third – and final – MCA album, Chasin’ the Sun, was led off by his final major chart hit, but it went all the way to the top.

The No. 1

“Leap of Faith” is a preview of Cartwright’s later success as a preacher.  It’s one of those inspirational songs that is framed around encouraging a woman to jump into a relationship, but also works as a larger metaphor for living life by taking chances and believing you can be successful.

It doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of Mike Reid’s “Walk On Faith” from earlier this year, but Cartwright gives an earnest, heartfelt performance that leans toward Contemporary Christian music without fully toppling over in that direction.

The Road From No. 1

Chasin’ the Sun produced two more singles, but neither cracked the top twenty.  A fourth album, The Real Story, was planned but never released, after two releases from it fell well short of the top forty.

Cartwright continued to write and perform, and appeared on Kathy Mattea’s Love Travels album, playing piano and singing background vocals on a track that he’d also written.  In recent years, he became the worship pastor at HopePark Church in Nashville, and returned to scoring theme songs of television shows, with more than a hundred television credits under his belt.  He also works as a inspirational public speaker.

“Leap of Faith” gets a B. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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8 Comments

  1. This was another one of my very favorite songs when I got back into recording tapes regularly in the Fall of ’91! Unfortunately, the first tape I got it on was already an old one from the 80’s, and it ended up wearing out not too long after (It also included the first time I heard and recorded Patty Loveless’ “Hurt Me Bad (In A Real Good Way),” which quickly became another one of my favorites). Thankfully, I also got it on one I recorded in early 1993, and another in 1996, which was the last time I recall it being played on our main station. I’ve always really liked the melody, production, and Lionel’s vocals. I also like how the message can apply to everyday life. I actually think it hasn’t aged too bad at all for an early 90’s recording.

    Lionel Cartwright was one of those artists I ended up rediscovering as I revisited many of my old tapes around 1998-1999. A couple other songs of his I especially fell in love with again were “Give Me His Last Chance” and “Say It’s Not True.” I also really love the follow up single to this, “What Kind Of Fool,” and it’s too bad it wasn’t a bigger hit. The independent station we started picking up around 1999 was still regularly playing some of his hits as well, including “Leap Of Faith” and “Like Father Like Son.” Now, I have all three of his MCA albums and really enjoy them. I like his contemporary style which he mixed with some more traditional leaning cuts, and it’s too bad his career came to such an abrupt end not long after the success of this single.

    As Peter Saros pointed out before, I love that country radio at the time was still embracing contemporary leaning artists like Lionel, Billy Dean, K.T. Oslin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Skip Ewing, etc. even in the middle of the New Traditionalist movement.

  2. Nice song. Never heard it before.
    I got familiar with “I Watched It All from My Radio” from hearing Don Schlitz sing it. Never actually heard it on the radio.

  3. This song got a lot of airplay in Central Florida, so much so that I was beginning to tire of it before it finished its chart run. It made #1 on all the local country stations and also got some airplay on other stations. After its chart run, it received some recurrent airplay for another year or so.

    I did (and still do) like the song – I’d give it a B+

  4. Minneapolis/St.Paul’s KEEY K-102 played the tar out of this hit. It is so much a part of my country radio experience that I find it hard to objectively criticize it. This song was always there and still feels so comfortable. The same is true for his earlier hits.

    I think it is noteworthy that labels stayed with artists like Cartwright for a couple albums to develop them and help them find their audience, and ultimately score a number one hit.

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