Sawyer Brown Starter Kit

Sawyer BrownMy favorite band of the early and mid-nineties was Sawyer Brown. Former Star Search winners, they had a decent run of hits in the eighties, though their early albums are legendarily awful. But they found their artistic voice when lead singer Mark Miller began writing with Mac McAnally. Many of their biggest and best hits were written by one or both of them.

The end result was that Sawyer Brown became one of the only country acts that broke out in the last few years of the eighties to actually become far more commercially successful in the nineties.

Ten Essential Tracks

“The Race is On”
from the 1989 album The Boys Are Back

So much of their eighties work was disposable, but there’s a surprising charm to this revved up take on the George Jones classic. Even the Possum himself was a vocal fan of it.

“The Walk”
from the 1991 album Buick

This powerful single kicked off a string of five excellent singles that established Sawyer Brown as one of the strongest voices in country music.

“The Dirt Road”
from the 1992 album The Dirt Road

After a single that explored the major milestones of a father-son relationship, they followed with one about the life lessons taught in between those milestones.

“Some Girls Do”
from the 1992 album The Dirt Road

Finally, they find a way to be upbeat and fun without being goofy.

“Café On the Corner”
from the 1992 album Café On the Corner

The band reaches their creative peak, bringing the different faces of the early nineties recession into vivid focus.

“All These Years”
from the 1992 album Café On the Corner

This sparse ballad documents what is perhaps the most awkward conversation ever between husband and wife.

“Thank God For You”
from the 1993 album Outskirts of Town

A tongue-in-cheek list of thank yous aimed toward those responsible for the good life the man is leading.

“Hard to Say”
from the 1994 album Outskirts of Town

Plenty of clever wordplay is neatly embedded into a catchy melody.

“This Time”
from the 1995 album Greatest Hits 1990-1995

The lead single from the band’s second and far stronger hits collection features one of their most rootsy arrangements.

“(This Thing Called) Wantin’ and Havin’ It All”
from the 1995 album This Thing Called Wantin’ and Havin’ it All

A tent revival morality tale that still sounds relevant today.

Two Hidden Treasures

“Outskirts of Town”
From the 1993 album Outskirts of Town

Put this slow and simple portrait of country life up against all of the overblown party anthems that have dominated the radio this decade, and it quickly becomes clear what a parody of itself country music can become.

“Another Side”
From the 1997 album Six Days on the Road

A tale of two brothers on opposing sides of the Civil War. It’s far more poignant than you’d imagine.


  1. Nineties Sawyer Brown was awesome. I love Mark Miller’s voice. “All These Years, “The Walk” and “Outskirts of Town are my favorites.

  2. There are some worthwhile singles from the eighties even though the albums weren’t great

    “Betty’s Being Bad” was written by legendary bad-girl country rocker Marshall Chapman

    “Step That Step”, “Out Goin’ Cattin’ ” and “This Missing You Heart of Mine” were all worthwhile songs, although not having the gravity of their later efforts

  3. Some of my favorites not mentioned:
    One Less Pony,
    Like a John Deere….if hearts were built like John Deere tractors there’d be happy ever afters….

    I also really liked Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, from their 2005 album of the same name.

  4. Yes, their 90s material is far superior to the stuff from 80s. In fact, “The Race Is On” is the only single that I liked from that period. You hit all of my favorites, especially “All These Years”, “Cafe On the Corner”, “Hard To Say” and “Outskirts of Town” which might top my list. I also enjoyed “Round Here” and their remake of Johnny Lee’s “Lookin’ For Love”. BTW, I’m eating up 90s month on CU. Great idea!

  5. ‘This Night Won’t Last Forever’ is my favorite track by Sawyer Brown, but I like all the above too. Sawyer Brown used to get a lot of recurrent airplay but lately they seem to be moving toward obscurity and I think that’s a shame. Sawyer Brown and Diamond Rio – whose Starter Kit I am going to read next – are two of my favorite country acts, and both are part of the reason I became a fan of the genre.

    I also am loving this 90s country coverage. The 1990s are golden to me for country music – even acts that didn’t become superstars (like these guys and so many others) all released stellar music. It seems like everybody was back then, but that’s probably mostly nostalgia on my part …

  6. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with Sawyer Brown here. I didn’t mind “They Don’t Understand” but by the time that and “Mission Temple Fireworks Stand” were released the group had been passed over by country music.

    “This Night Won’t Last Forever” and “This Thing Called Wantin’ And Havin’ It All” are still favorites. “Treat Her Right” was a good ballad too (though it has aged a bit).

  7. I pretty much echo what everyone else here has said about Sawyer Brown, and J.R., I’m totally with you on 1990’s country.

    Once again, these are all great songs. “All These Years” is my number one favorite here, while “The Race Is On” and “Some Girls Do” are old favorites that I’ll never get tired of. I’d also like to add “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” “Treat Her Right,” “‘Round Here,” and “I Don’t Believe In Goodbye” to the list.

    My favorite albums are Cafe On The Corner and This Thing Called Wantin’ And Havin’ It All.

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