Just months after career-threatening throat surgery, Patty Loveless returned to the studio with husband-producer, Emory Gordy, Jr., to record her debut for Epic Records. Only What I Feel juggles commercial demands with her own artistic desires to create the first fully-formed collection in her catalog.
The highlight is “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye,” one of the best songs Loveless has ever committed to record. A three-act play, “Goodbye” follows a mother-daughter relationship to the death bed. Memorable without being maudlin, her performance remains restrained despite the song’s grief-striken nature.
The Harlan Howard-Kostas cut, “Blame It On Your Heart,” is a hillbilly tongue twister that finds Loveless letting loose and feeling frisky. But, as Only What I Feel offers, a heart’s content can have its consequences. With “Nothin’ but the Wheel,” Loveless reveals the chill in the air and the gloom in the steel-gray sky, neither one of them as cold and dark as the loneliness leading her down Highway 41. The album title comes from “What’s a Broken Heart,” a tossed-off midtempo where she swears such a thing ain’t no big deal. But just one note from Loveless’ devastating voice makes it sound like the end of the world.
Yes, this is a very good album. “Nothin’ But the Wheel” is one of my favorite songs that Loveless has recorded.