Single Review: Rhonda Vincent, "I'd Rather Hear I Don't Love You (Than Nothing At All)"


Written by Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. of Engine 145

From the moment Hunter Berry’s tearful-sounding fiddle plaintively whines the first four bars of Rhonda Vincent’s new single, we know we’re in for a sad country shuffle. In fact, the notes he strikes on the fiddle anticipate almost note-for-note Vincent’s emphatic, but mournful, tone in her first lines and the song’s chorus. Vincent’s soaring vocals, backed by those doleful fiddles and the pleading resophonic guitar of Brent Burke, deliver a sorrowful breakup song with a twist.

Written by Larry Cordle and Lionel Delmore, and recorded by Josh Logan on his album Somebody Paints the Wall (1988), “I’d Rather Hear I Don’t Love You” is the perfect “I-can’t-quit-you-baby” song. Hurting from a breakup, the woman calls her lover, knowing that he’s not alone. Still in love, she longs for some physical connection with him, so she’s compelled (“I had to phone”) to call her former lover just to hear his voice. Though her lover tells her she’s calling in vain, the “sound of [his] voice somehow eases the pain.” Rather than giving up all contact with her former lover—or

even enduring the painful silence of his presence when he’s nothing left to say to her—she craves the sound of his voice, hanging on to him by the thin thread of the telephone line, preferring to hear his declaration “I don’t love you” than a dial tone or to feel his absence.

Cleverly written, the song trades on a number of witty phrases that capture the longing for connection as well as the pain the woman is willing to endure just to stay connected. Not wanting to draw out the relationship or conversation, he’s “anxious to hang up,” but she’s “willing to stall,” since she’d “rather hear I don’t love you/than nothing at all.” He’d “like to hang up,” but she’s “just hangin’ on.” She guesses she should say goodbye “before she breaks down and bawls,” but she can’t bring herself to hang up since hearing “I don’t love you” is better than “hearing nothing at all.”

Vincent’s vocal delivery is perfect as she captures the rising tension of the conversation, wringing out the tears and the aching, throbbing heartbreak that comes from knowing what you have to do but being tortured by not being able to do it. The music starts out slowly, building to a crescendo of fiddles and resophonic guitar in the break, capturing the aches, pains, regrets, and even hopes of the lyrics. Vincent’s powerful and touching new single drives straight to the heart.

Written by Larry Cordle and Lionel Delmore

Grade:  A-


  1. This Henry Carrigan guy is everywhere!

    Seriously though, this song wasn’t on my radar at all, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. Like Leeann said, I love it when Rhonda goes country.

  2. …well, jason, try patty’s “you don’t even know who i am”. nonetheless, a fine tune by rhonda vincent. at first, i couldn’t quite unterstand, why anybody would give away a potential chart hit by loading it up with too much fiddle for today’s country radio. but patty had taken that song structure already to #5 in 1995.

    although i enjoy the barn kind of feeling of this production arrangement, denying it the “steel-treatment” and a notch more tempo leaves the tune falling somewhat short of its full potential.

    is the simplicity of three chords and the truth becoming an obstacle for brand new melodies? there have been a few songs lately that sounded rather familiar to some ancestor.

  3. I saw Rhonda perform this weekend at the Palatka (FL) Bluegrass Festival – she is a brilliant performer and her band is topflight. Curiously enough she wasn’t the headliner this time around (special guest Gene Watson was) but she took two 45 minute segments and performed with Watson on a couple of songs

  4. I was out on the second floor porch. Nice night. A little breeze. Cooler. The radio was picking up all sorts of stations. WSM came booming in. Right from Nashville.

    Heard Rhonda Vincent sing I’d rather hear I don’t love you than nothing at all. Thought…..that has to be the best country and western song ever recorded. Give it a listen sometime. Good for you ears….and what they’re attached to.

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