Mark Chesnutt Starter Kit

mark-chesnuttBack to the Nineties continues with a look at Mark Chesnutt, one of the strongest traditionalists to break through in 1990. He won the Horizon Award in 1993 while he was riding a streak of three consecutive #1 singles.

Chesnutt’s greatest commercial and radio successes came early on. His first three studio albums went platinum and his fourth went gold. He’d earn an additional platinum record with a hits collection assembled from those sets.

While he remained a consistent presence on radio for the entire decade, his sales tapered off. His last big hit was his 1999 cover of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” which went to #1. In more recent years, he’s limited his covers to The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Rich.

Ten Essential Tracks:

“Too Cold at Home”
from the 1990 album Too Cold at Home

Chesnutt’s first twelve singles reached the top ten, starting with this pure country hit that finds him hiding out in a bar on a sweltering summer day. “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf, and too cold at home.”

“Brother Jukebox”
from the 1990 album Too Cold at Home

He’s still at the bar for this hit, his first to top the charts. This time, the woman has left him, and his only family left are the jukebox, wine, freedom, and time.

“I’ll Think of Something”
from the 1992 album Longnecks & Short Stories

A bone-chilling cover of a very old Hank Williams Jr. single. His nuanced vocal digs deeper than Williams did on the 1974 original.

“Bubba Shot the Jukebox”
from the 1992 album Longnecks & Short Stories

This was one of the first singles forced by radio, as unsolicited airplay pushed it on to the charts while MCA was still working “I’ll Think of Something.” Songwriter Dennis Linde also penned Chesnutt’s #1 hit “It Sure is Monday.”

“Almost Goodbye”
from the 1993 album Almost Goodbye

It begins like a domestic epic worthy of George Jones, complete with the swelling of the strings for heightened emotional effect. But cooler heads prevail as they realize how much they’d have to lose if they said the word goodbye. After all, “Sometimes the most important words are the ones that you leave unspoken.”

“I Just Wanted You to Know”
from the 1993 album Almost Goodbye

One side of what must be an incredibly awkward telephone conversation, with the woman’s implied silence at the other end of the line making things just a little more uncomfortable.

“Goin’ Through the Big D”
from the 1994 album What a Way to Live

The nineties equivalent of “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft.)”

from the 1995 album Wings

Covering Todd Snider. The coolest thing that Mark Chesnutt has ever done. “A woman like you walks in a place like this and you can almost hear the promises break.”

“It Wouldn’t Hurt to Have Wings”
from the 1995 album Wings

Essentially the title track to Chesnutt’s finest major label album, it was also the set’s only big hit.

“Thank God For Believers”
from the 1997 album Thank God For Believers

In a decade that brought several powerful new perspectives on alcoholism, this was one of the best, as the man who struggles with his addiction can’t believe the strength and the faith of the woman who stays beside him.

Two Hidden Treasures:

from the 1995 album Wings

Take your pick from this album – perhaps you’d prefer “As the Honky Tonk Turns” or “King of Broken Hearts” – but my favorite is the closing track, where strangers that meet in the evening will be strangers again the next morning.

“A Hard Secret to Keep”
from the 2004 album Savin’ the Honky Tonk

This is the best moment of Chesnutt’s strongest album, the independent release Savin’ the Honky Tonk. It’s an album that more than lives up to its title, especially on this tale of cheater’s paranoia.


  1. This is a good list; though I think his best “hidden gem” is “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” from the “Longnecks and Short Stories” album.

    I was a big fan of Chesnutt through the 1990s, and his first two albums I really loved. But after those 2 albums, his music declined in my opinion. Interestingly, only 3 of the “Essential” tracks came from 1995 or later.

    I think he still recorded some good music in the late 1990s, but in my mind he never fulfilled the promise he showed in the early 1990s.

  2. My hidden treasure would have been “Hard Secret to Keep” too.

    I really love his voice, though I agree that he’s stumbled along the way as far as material goes at times.

    Kevin hit most of my favorites, including “Almost Goodbye”, “I Just Wanted You To Know” and “I’ll Think of Something”, but I also like:

    “Your Love is a Miracle”
    “Broken Promise Land”
    “Fallin’ Never Felt So Good”
    “Old Flames Have New Names”
    “Confessin’ My Love”
    “Live A Little”
    “Sure Is Monday”

  3. Speaking of “hidden gems,” there’s a Chesnutt CD called “Doing My Country Thing,” from Axbar records, that features several songs Chesnutt recorded before getting his deal with MCA.

    The CD seems cheaply produced, but it features a few great songs : “Country Girl,” “Since I Drank My Way to Houston,” and “Rodeo Cowboy” are, in my view, as good as many songs he recorded for MCA and Decca.

    Also, Chesnutt recorded some great tunes on other people’s records. The duet “Make Memories with Me” from Lee Ann Womack’s debut CD is great, and “Goodbye Comes Hard for Me” from the compilation “Red Hot and Country” is also very good.

  4. I’ve always been a big fan of Chesnutt, along with the other two Beaumont Boys of the 90’s, Tracy Byrd and Clay Walker. I would also include “Your Love Is A Miracle,” “Broken Promise Land,” “Old Flames Have New Names,” “Ol’ Country,” “Down In Tennessee,” and “Let It Rain.” Otherwise, pretty good list.

    Some of my favorite album cuts:
    “Lucky Man” from Too Cold At Home
    “I’m Not Getting Any Better At Goodbyes” from Longnecks and Short Stories
    Just about anything from Wings, especially “King Of Broken Hearts,” “I May Be A Fool,” and “Pride’s Not Hard To Swallow.”
    “That Side Of You,” and “Any Ol’ Reason” from Thank God For Believers

    I must say, his latest album, Rollin’ With The Flow, is pretty solid, too. Any longtime Chesnutt fans should enjoy it.

  5. Mark Chesnutt is one of my favorites and in my opinion, “I’ll Think of Something” is one of the greatest songs of the 90s by any artist! I also enjoyed “I Just Wanted You To Know”, “Broken Promise Land”, “Ol’ Country” and “This Heartache Never Sleeps”. I wish he had a good career spanning compilation.

  6. While not exactly a treasure, some may be curious to hear Mark’s version of “Friends In Low Places” included on his MCA debut Too Cold At Home.

  7. Chesnutt remains one of my favorite artists around. “The Man In The Mirror” is a father-son song that actually isnt sappy and is quite good off his latest “Rollin’ With The Flow” album.

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