Daily Top Five: Promise Unfulfilled

136 Gretchen HereInspired by today’s Randy Houser single review, what are your top five early singles that made you think an artist was going to be way better than they ended up being?

Here’s my list:

  1. Big & Rich, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
  2. Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman”
  3. Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine”
  4. The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”
  5. Billy Dean, “Somewhere in My Broken Heart”


  1. 1. Jamie Oneil- There is no Arizona
    2. Darius Rucker- Dont Think I Dobt Think About It
    3. Crystal Shawanda- You Can Let Go
    4. Carolyn Dawn Johnson- Complicated
    5. Kellie Coffey- When You Lie Next To Me

  2. 1. Jamie O’Neal – “There is No Arizona” (saw her 2 years ago and she still sounded great but her follow-up material hasn’t been good enough.)
    2. Steve Azar – “I Don’t Have to be Me til Monday” (liked “Waitin’ on Joe” better but it didn’t do that well on the charts.)
    3. Mark McGuinn – “Mrs. Steven Rudy” (liked “She Doesn’t Dance” better but it didn’t do as well as the Rudy song.)
    4. Pat Green – “Wave on Wave”
    5. Michael Peterson – “From Here to Eternity”

  3. 1.Randy Houser- Anything Goes (Because of what Kevin touched on in his review he has been the largest disappointments in recent memory.)

    2. Lee Brice- She Ain’t Right (I loved all of the singles off his debut album so i was bitterly disappointed when i bought the album and every album cut was awful. I haven’t been over the moon over any of his singles off subsequent albums either.)

    3.Ashton Shepherd -Sounds So Good (her first album was amazing & i did like Look it up which was the lead single from her sophomore album but the rest of that album was pretty poor and she faded from the mainstream.)

    4. Heartland- I Loved Her First ( This bands first single was an enormous smash and I enjoyed the rest of the album quite a bit so i was surprized when they didn’t sustain a mainstream presence.)

    5. Taylor Swift- Tim McGraw (I actually didn’t mind her first couple of singles but as time moved on her material became more pop leaning and her vocals didn’t improve so she wore on me fairly quickly.)

  4. 1. Doug Stone – “I’d Be Better Off (In A Pine Box)”
    What a phenomenal song and performance…and to think, this was his debut single. Stone did a few other songs I liked and certainly had his share of success…but, he never touched this level of greatness again.

    2. Mike Reid – “Walk On Faith”
    This isn’t out of criticism of his music…I love his songwriting, and he still does phenomenal work when he does record. This is mainly disappointment over why this song was his only solo top ten record.

    3. Rachel Procter – “Me and Emily”
    I mentioned this in a previous top 5, and it’s gotten mentioned by other posters over the years. Again, tremendous song…but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything she recorded after this.

    4. Pat Green – “Wave on Wave”
    This guy was hyped beyond belief on local radio in my area. After hearing this song, I almost bought into it. But outside of maybe one other single (Dixie Lullaby), I can’t think of anything that he recorded that I even found listenable.

    5. Rascal Flatts – “I’m Movin On”
    I say this as someone who doesn’t blame Rascal Flatts for the end of civilization. Yeah, they’ve released a good number of trainwrecks over the years, but there’s enough decent stuff in their catalog to justify their existence. But, much like Doug Stone…they had a “once in a lifetime” type of recording really early into their career. I kept waiting for them to record something of this quality again…and while they’ve done songs that I’ve enjoyed, they still haven’t released anything as good as this.

  5. 1. Julie Roberts, “Wake Up Older” – She couldn’t catch on, despite an excellent debut album and an above average sophomore set.

    2. Kacey Musgraves, “Merry Go ‘Round” – With “Biscuits” sounding like a retread from her debut, is it too early to worry she’s sticking too close to formula and not diversifying enough?

    3. Jerrod Niemann, “What Do You Want” – killer song. His output since? Not so much.

    4. Lady Antebellum, “Love Don’t Live Here” – Charles Kelley is immensely talented as their debut single aptly shows. So why have their producers suppressed his goods as the band moves further and further into soft rock territory?

    5. Luke Bryan, “We Rode In Trucks” – The guy co-wrote “My Ol’ Man” with Rory Lee Feek and released a generic yet heartfelt ode to childhood as his second single. It’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t a cartoon character and actually showed promise. But he did. (If you’ve never heard Joey + Rory’s recording of “My Ol’ Man,” check it out. Just a few years ago, Bryan could write with the best of them).

    As for Gretchen Wilson, I’d cite “When I Think About Cheatin'” as the example of her unfulfilled promise and not “Redneck Woman.” Her third single proved to me she has the goods to be one of the genre’s great female voices.

  6. 1. “Cowboys and Angels”: Dustin Lynch
    2. “We Rode In Trucks”: Luke Bryan
    3. “Amarillo Sky”: Jason Aldean
    4. “Wild At Heart”: Gloriana (They’ve gone from hormone-fueled teen-pop to stiff, neutered adult contemporary. And no, that’s not an improvement)
    5. “Storm Warning”: Hunter Hayes (I’m probably the only person that likes this song so much, but he just can’t seem to recapture the driving energy and wit that powered “Storm Warning”)

  7. 1. I Can Help – Billy Swan
    2. Unconditional – Clay Davidson
    3. My Love Goes On And On – Chris Cagle
    4. Ten Thousand Angels – Mindy McCready
    5. Pickin’ Wildflowers – Keith Anderson

  8. Most of the ones I would have mentioned have already been listed, so here’s a few more, in no particular order.

    1. Neal McCoy- “Wink”- Can’t believe no one’s mentioned him yet. He was a real talent with some solid early singles who decided to become a borderline novelty act.

    2. Craig Morgan- “Almost Home”- When I first heard this song it blew me away. Since then he’s mostly churned out crowd-pleasing junk.

    3. Rachel Proctor- “Me and Emily”- Seems like there was a whole group of early-aughts promising young female singers who just dropped off the face of the earth. She’s one I remember best, but several entries could go here.

    4. Joe Nichols- “Brokenheartsville”- His debut album is so good. I can’t think of anything he’s put out since then that I like much.

    5. Josh Turner- “Long Black Train”- This one is probably not a popular choice, and I’ll admit it’s not as severe as some of the above examples. But in most of his stuff I just haven’t heard the new Randy Travis we were supposed to be getting.

  9. Let’s see, what hasn’t been mentioned?
    Baby Likes To Rocket – The Tractors, too bad this group didn’t catch on.
    Dumas Walker – Kentucky Headhunters, see “The Tractors”
    Feed Jake – Pirates of the Mississippi, do you see a trend here?
    Roll With It – Easton Corbin, appears to have run out of talent… in need of an agent switch soon.
    The ultimate talented artist who wound up never getting any credit…
    B.W. Stevenson – who got bumped from the first episode of Austin City Limits, missed the country charts with what turned out to be a smash country hit and dies before he sees his song hit number one.

  10. 1. Jerrod Niemann – Lover, Lover/What Do You Want
    How do you go from that to Drink to That All Night and Donkey?
    2. Blake Shelton – Austin/Ol’ Red
    From Austin and Ol’ Red to the entire Red River Blue and Based on a True Story… cds, just straight boredom
    3. Joe Nichols – Man with a Memory was such an amazing CD, Old Things New and It’s All Good just seemed like he was phoning it in
    Crickets was a step forward although the singles have been straight radio fluff
    4. Josh Turner – She’ll Go on You/Long Black Train
    I don’t think I’ll ever get over Find Me a Baby
    5. Randy Houser – Anything Goes
    How Did he go from the Anything Goes album to We Went and the singles on How Country Feel (except Like a Cowboy, Love Like a Cowboy!)? I understand following trends, but why waste a tremendous voice on this fluff piece?

  11. 1. Blake Shelton: Austin
    Right out of the gate Blake had his best single of his career. He had tread water for a while after Austin was released and then went plunging deep down into the pits of the ocean, where he now has a bottomless music career as a B-level celebrity. Shelton is solely a money-maker now and has no interest in the artistic integrity of music. Imagine Blake debuting in 1992 or something like that. An artist the 90’s certainly would have benefited.

    2. Joe Nichols: She Only Smokes When She Drinks
    Well, they got Joe too. Here we have a very curious case, different from many others listed. In Nichols case, he had two, maybe three decent to good albums worth of music, producing strong singles cuts like “She Only Smokes When She Drinks”, “Brokenheartsville”, “What’s a Guy Gotta Do”. Then, the record label execs and suits only interested in chasing money got to him. Whether through their brute force, Joe looking out for his family’s financial future or just selling out for the cold, hard cash, today’s Joe Nichols does not even remotely resemble yesterday’s. What a shame too, because he had a great voice and showed it off with some great material early on in his career. If only he came along earlier.

    3. Easton Corbin: A Little More Country Than That
    George Strait Jr. was a title given to Corbin right out of the gate. When he debuted he had an uncanny vocal resemblance to a young George Strait. A Little More Country Than That wasn’t persay a strong song, but it had (so we all thought) firmly established Corbin as a solid singer and a voice for neo-traditional country music well into the future. It took two albums, ala Joe Nichols, but the man finally caved and put out the pop music that the Nashville suits probably wanted to feed him right from the start. The sad thing about Corbin is, that like Nichols, had he started 25 years ago, his career would be night and day different. He would have been a smash hit on country radio back in 1990, with his good looks and George Strait quality voice. Today though, he’s forced into singing with an over-crowded group of bro’s and pop artists disguised as country singers and gets lost in the shuffle.

    4. Highway 101: Whiskey, If You Were a Women
    Highway 101 had a really strong, truly country lead singer in Paulette Carlson. Add onto that, they had a great song to work with in “Whiskey, If You Were a Women”. Beyond this and another single or two, the group never did anything but brake up and fade into the abyss of country music. With the great country voice of Carlson I think the group could have been bigger part of the neo-traditional revival of the 1980’s.

    5. Boy Howdy: She’d Give Anything
    I was a kid at the time that Jeffery Steele and Bow Howdy released this song. Looking back, I think the group had more promise beyond their one hit wonder CD.

  12. you are all quicker than me. I’d have to really think about this topic but I will say, I really had hopes the “The Band Perry” would be great but they have not fulfilled what I were hoping they would do. They are still new in my book so I am hoping they can turn it around.

    On another note I want to mention Randy Travis. Yes, he is a legend but he just stopped too soon. He could have been up there with Haggard, Jones, etc. if he could of hung on radio a bit longer and had a few more iconic songs. Hey, that could be another topic? Legendary artist that could have been bigger legends?

  13. I suppose I better get in on what passes for “The Fun” in this, although I can only come up with two:

    MEREDITH EDWARDS–Anyone remember her? She had two very minor country hits back in 2001 with “A Rose Is A Rose” and “The Bird Song”, and her album Reach….and then she just fell off the face of the Earth, so it seems.

    CYNDI THOMSON–She had a #1 country hit in 2001 with “What I Really Meant To Say”, and two more minor hits (“I Always Liked That Best”; “I’m Gone”), but stopped recording in 2002, only to resume in 2006. She hasn’t been back since, however.

  14. “Redneck Woman” and “Save A Horse” are both novelty-type songs, so I don’t know why people would have expected a better career for those artists. It’s a bit like expecting Bell Biv Devoe to have had a great career because “Poison” owns or to think Megan Trainor will be around in 10 years because “All About That Bass” was fresh.

    I will say Big & Rich are a bit different because they worked with other artists and showed some originality, but it was all still very ‘of the moment’ stuff.

  15. 1. What Do You Want/Lover, Lover – Jerrod Niemann
    2. We Rode In Trucks – Luke Bryan
    3. Amarillo Sky – Jason Aldean
    4. Cowboys and Angels – Dustin Lynch
    5. Drinkin’ Me Lonely – Chris Young (not that he’s been that bad, this is just a case of being pretty good when he was expected to be great.)

    I thought about The Band Perry, Kacey Musgraves, and Dustin Lynch, but I decided it’s still a little early to say.

  16. Craig Morgan- ” Wake Up Lovin’ You”- I know it was late in his career but I always thought Craig Morgan had a decent voice that was being unused to attractive a broader female listener. But at this point in his career-with really nothing to lose- I thought he might catch fire again.

    Garth Brooks- ” The Dance”- I think Garth Brooks is the Devil of country music. Bro-country is really a grandchild of his self disillusion of fame, country cliches, and sex appeal. But when I heard ” The Dance” I thought he was a god. He was real, pure, and confidence. He has the same confidence as a very early Elvis. But money, unexpected, overwhelming fame, and a place in music history all ruined that John Denverish connection he made with ” The Dance”.

    Kenny Chesney- ” That’s Why I Am Here” – a straight forward and honest song about a real problem. Never hear Chenesy so honest until ” You and Tequila”. Whatever made Chesney change, but whatever made him Little Jimmy Buffett, please take him back to 1998. He was breathtaking then. I know that Kenny. But every other version has only diluted who I liked.

    Jason Aldean-Hicktown- it’s very rare that a singer and a song connect so well. But the James Dean quality that Jason Aldean and ” Hicktown” presented was rare. Aldean is no great artist and the song is a list song. But Aldean beings it the right attitude, confidence, and the bit of desperation it needs. While he is praising it he is also looking for a way out. And oddly enough his voice is his vehicle for all that. Like Luke Bryan and Jake Owens, I wish their fame might bring them the freedom to sing like real men with real lives .

    Holly Williams- Alone- a very Joni Mitchell way of revelation . We know an ugly truth without consent and have to stop in the trap of its truth. All done by the powerful incantation of Holly Williams’ voice. Maybe fame of birth traps great artist. Hasn’t worked in Thomas Rhett’s favor. But the failure to see great DNA at work is shameful.

  17. Mark Gray former singer with EXILE had his first top ten record with “Left Side of the Road” in 1984. The next three singles would reach the top ten including a #6 duet with Tammy Wynette on “Sometimes When We Touch” in 1985, It would be Tammy’s last top ten record. Mark would have one more top ten and after that virtually nothing.

    Columbia was touting Mark as the next great star. At same time RCA similarly was pushing former Pure Prairie League member Vince Gill. Neither happened although Vince would break through five years later with another label.
    At the time I thought Mark would make it (I also thought Vince would too, but I was less sure of that)

  18. Doug Supernaw’s first album showed a lot of promise with “Reno” and “I Don’t Call Him Daddy”.

  19. Pirates of the Mississippi- “Feed Jake”
    They’re debut album as a whole was very enjoyable. But there were a bunch of early 90’s country rock bands coming out at this time (KY Headhunters, Brother Phelps, Confederate Railroad, Gibson/Miller Band) and these guys just couldn’t stand out. “Feed Jake” is one of my favorite songs by a country group of the ’90s. It trends similar ground as Kacey Musgraves’ music but was much more daring since it came out in 1991. Nothing from them since has been close to as good, but they’re albums are all pretty good.

    Kevin Denney- “That’s Just Jessie”
    One of my favorite country songs of the early ’00s. Before Dierks Bentley, Josh Turner and Joe Nichols were being hailed as the young saviors of traditional country, this song reached the Top 20 in 2001. Follow up single “Cadillac Tears” was a great country shuffle but only reached #30. No follow up albums.

    Ty England- “Smoke In Her Eyes”
    Best known for his Top 5 single “Should’ve Asked Her Faster” this song blew me away. His debut album was quite good, especially the final track “Is That You.” Sophomore album was weaker and I didn’t buy his next two. He played guitar and sang backup for Garth Brooks. They were roommates at one point.

    Craig Campbell- Self Titled Debut Album
    His debut was a very enjoyable effort, however, it lacked a knock-out song. I was hoping he’d improve with his next album but mostly got more of the same. His sophomore album did feature “You Can Come Over” which is my favorite song of his. However, he seems like he’s losing his traditional sound with his more recent singles. We’ll see if Red Bow Records can get him back on track.

    Zac Brown Band- early material
    I never loved their music but thought they were one of the best country artists on the radio when they first started. “As She’s Walking Away” is their only single that I really enjoy. Most of the rest is just good or okay. A lot of their songs feel like they go on-and-on to me.

  20. Top prize goes to Mel Street. One of my favorite musical artists of the ’70s. He picked up steam and critical acclaim in the ’70s with 12 Top 20 singles and was poised to become a superstar when he signed with Mercury Records in 1978. Unfortunately he had been battling severe depression and alcoholism and committed suicide in October of that year. George Jones sang at his funeral.

    I believe Street could have become one of the genre’s biggest stars if he had lived longer.

  21. TRICK PONY–Remember “Pour Me”? Then Heidi Newfield, their lead singer who did the honors on that track, left for a solo career, replaced by Aubrey Collins. Kind of a lost opportunity for having lost this honky-tonk C&W outfit from the early 2000’s (IMHO).

  22. I absolutely loved Mel Street but I don’t think he was posed for real stardom. He signed with Polydor in early 1977 (Polydor owned Mercury and eventually quit using the Polydor name in the USA. The first two singles went to #19 and #15 (slightly higher on Cashbox) which was no better than than his smaller label recordings had done. The third single, “If I Had A Cheating Heart”, released 1/14/78 went to #9 making it the third biggest hit of Mel’s career. The next single. “Shady Rest” released 4/22/78 only reached #24, Mel committed suicide on 10/21/1978, his 45th birthday

    While I am sure that there were more good records ahead, I doubt that there were any more big hits as he was too traditional for the radio market of 1978-1985. By the time the “New Traditionalist came around , Mel would have been in his mid fifties.

    If he had been able to hang around a few more years, there were a lot of breakthroughs ahead in treatment of depression

  23. In 1984 the duo of Willie & Julio had a number one record with “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”. That Julio fellow had a pretty good voice but while Willie is still around doing well as a solo artist , Julio would appear only one more time on the country charts reaching #8 on “Spanish Eyes” in 1984, another duet with Willie.

    Wonder what ever happened to Julio ? It seems to me that he should have made it big

  24. Danni Leigh is another one not yet mentioned. Her debut (and only?) album was excellent and, if I remember correctly, she had success with some of the singles, but she seemed to disappear shortly afterwards. I also seem to remember her getting plenty of critical acclaim at the time (she was referred to as the female Dwight Yoakam).

  25. Mike Reid, “Walk on Faith”
    Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine”
    “Kris Tyler, “What a Woman Knows”
    Mark Nesler, “Used to the Pain”
    Chely Wright, “He’s A Good ol Boy”

  26. Mike Reid, “Walk on Faith”
    Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine”
    “Kris Tyler, “What a Woman Knows”
    Ken Mellons, “Jukebox Junkie”
    Pirates of the Mississippi, “Feed Jake”

  27. Bonus, because they were THAT good, but not one of the first 5 to hit me today:

    “Me and Emily”, by Rachel Proctor
    “Break Down Here”, by Julie Roberts

  28. Judy Rodman – “Until I Met You” – this song went to #1 in 1986, the first of four consecutive top ten records. Her label MTM folded shortly thereafter and Judy went into vocal coaching. She has had some success as a songwriter

    Danni Leigh had at least three albums – I’m not sure why she didn’t catch on. Maybe Nashville was not ready for a female Dwight Yoakam.

    I don’t think Mike Reid was particularly interested in being a performer – he was more interested in songwriting and I think he was somewhat involved with theatre

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