A Country Music Conversation, Day 12: “I’m Tryin'” to “It’s Not You, It’s Me”

A Country Music Conversation: Introduction and Index

Previous Entry: Day 11: “If I Had Wings” to “I’m No Stranger to the Rain”

Day 12 features tracks from Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Wynonna, and The Little Willies.

“I’m Tryin'”
Trace Adkins

Written by Jeffrey Steele, Anthony Smith, and Chris Wallin

Trace Adkins made the same mistake as Joe Diffie did. He allowed himself to be known for his novelty songs, obscuring his talent for delivering hardcore country ballads. “I’m Tryin'” is as intelligent as it is heartbreaking, and should’ve been a career-defining moment for him. Maybe it even was, until “Chrome” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and “Swing” and “Hot Mama” came along.

Other Favorites: “‘I Wanna Feel Something,” “Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone,” “Every Light in the House”

“In a Couple of Days”
Toby Keith

Written by Toby Keith and Bobby Pinson

There are so many great moments hidden on Toby Keith albums. He’s one of our most prolific singer-songwriters, and when the radio cycle lengthened to only allow two or three singles per album, some great songs never got a chance to be heard on the radio. This is one of them.

Other Favorites: “As Good as I Once Was,” “A Little Too Late,” “I Like Girls That Drink Beer”

“Independence Day”
Martina McBride

Written by Gretchen Peters

“Independence Day” has been a classic for so long now that it’s hard to remember the impact of hearing it for the first time. I bought the album on the day of release, and remember reading the lyrics on a train ride home from school, back before portable CD players were a thing. I wish I could hear it again with fresh ears, but it remains such a powerful performance that its impact can still sneak up on me from time to time.

Other Favorites: “My Baby Loves Me,” “Safe in the Arms of Love,” “Whatever You Say”

“Is it Over Yet”

Written by Billy Kirsch

A friend of mine once described Wynonna’s vocal talent like this: “Some singers have power, and others have control. Wynonna has power and control.” It’s hard to imagine anyone else being able to alternated between a growl and a teardrop in the same line, and I still get chills each time I hear her do that here. The line in question: “Smile and say goodbye, so you don’t see me dying inside.”

Other Favorites: “Come Some Rainy Day,” “She is His Only Need,” “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis”

“It’s Not You, It’s Me”
The Little Willies

Written by Richard Julian and Ashley Monroe

Norah Jones makes for a pretty great country singer, as her contributions to the Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton tribute albums proved. So it’s not a surprise that fronting a country band as a side project has great results. The Little Willies trafficked mostly in classic country covers, but “It’s Not You, It’s Me” was an Ashley Monroe co-write that was the highlight of their first album.

Other Favorites: “I Gotta Get Drunk,” “The Wurlitzer Prize” (Norah Jones), “The Grass is Blue” (Norah Jones)

Up Next: Day 13: “Just Some Girl” to “Linda On My Mind”


  1. Great batch of artists here.

    “I’m Tryin'” is fantastic.

    Toby Keith – Upstairs, Downtown, I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying
    Martina McBride – Love’s the Only House, Whatever You Say, Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong
    Wynonna – When I Reach the Place I’m Going, Rock Bottom

  2. Trace – Timing Is Everything, I left Something Turned on at Home, Help Me Understand, No Thinkin’ Thing

    Wynonna – It It Over Yet, Come Some Rainy Day, She Is His Only Need, To Be Loved By You, We Can’t Unmake Love (w John Berry)

    Martina – All the Things We’ve Never Done, Wrong Again, Valentine (w Jim Brickman), In My Daughter’s Eyes, Wearing White

    Toby – Should’ve Been a Cowboy, My List, Me Too, New Orleans,

  3. Trace Adkins: Sometimes A Man Takes A Drink, Til The Last Shot’s Fired
    Toby Keith: New Orleans – obscure story song which shows he can do subtlety
    Martina McBride: Wrong Again, Cry On The Shoulder Of The Road

  4. I’ve gotten way behind on these posts and need to get caught back up!

    For this crop of artists, my most played iPod tracks are:
    – Trace Adkins, “Every Light in the House”
    – Toby Keith, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”
    – Martina McBride, “Whatever You Say.” This and “Independence Day” are the only songs of hers that I’ve played more than a couple of times.
    – Wynonna, “I Saw The Light.”
    – The Little Willies, “I Gotta Get Drunk.” For Norah Jones solo, it’s “Miriam,” her awesome foray into Southern Gothic!

  5. Martina: “When God Fearin’ Women Get The Blues”; “(Just A) Little Bit Of Rain”.

    Why “God Fearin'” didn’t become a bigger hit than it was is a really big mystery to me.

    As for “Just A Little Bit Of Rain”, this was a mid-1960s folk-rock ballad penned by Fred Neil that Martina covered on her 2014 album Everlasting, very much as a tribute to Linda Ronstadt, who first did it with the Stone Poneys fifty years ago (YIPE!!)

  6. Kevin: Great set of songs in a great string of days that you’ve been posting these lists. Thank you for these as I avidly wait for each set daily from you. (So, don’t stop these!) You’ve also introduced me to some artists of whom I was not aware.

    Jonathan: I love reading your posts and always respect what you write. I will go in a different direction here though and say that there is almost never a song sung by Martina McBride that I will not replay and listen to incessantly, whether from her earliest album in the beginning of the 90s or from her more recent ones such as Reckless. I hesitate to name specific songs for fear of failing to mention others, yet a rendition she did in the 90s of Two More Bottles of Wine and which I have heard her sing in person just rocks. I also love her version of Harper Valley PTA, Blessed, Wild Angels, How Far, Wrong Baby Wrong and, more recently from 2006), Anyway. But, there are so many others …..

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