Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Joe Diffie, “New Way (to Light Up an Old Flame)”

Musician Joe Diffie attends the 289th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on May 11 1993 at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

“New Way (to Light Up an Old Flame)”

Joe Diffie

Written by Joe Diffie and Lonnie Wilson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 11, 1991

Joe Diffie goes four for four.

The Road to No. 1

“New Way” is the fourth and final single from Diffie’s debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads, and like all of its predecessors, it topped the chart.

The No. 1

This is the record that lays down the template for uptempo nineties country, with the aggressive, in-your-face instrumentation associated with rock music being delivered with pure country instruments.

You can understand why country music suddenly sounded so cool to young listeners, and it’s an early preview of the huge hits that would make Joe Diffie a top seller by the mid-nineties.

And it’s a great song, with Diffie forcefully declaring his determination to rekindle an old flame.  It’s appropriate that he’s channeling Buck Owens vocally, who helped give country music an electrifying kick in the behind in the sixties with the Bakersfield sound.   This is different in style from those old records but identical in spirit.

Joe Diffie was so damn good.

The Road From No. 1

A Thousand Winding Roads didn’t sell gold or platinum like Diffie’s next few albums would, but it was his set with the most No. 1 hits.  His next album, Regular Joe, was previewed with the appropriately chilling “Is it Cold in Here,” which went top five.  He returned to the top with the second single from that album, which many believe is the best record of his career. We’ll cover it when we get to 1992.

“New Way (to Light Up an Old Flame)” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Diffie was so versatile a vocalist. The hesitating acceleration of the chorus, combined with Diffie’s vocal range, feels like engines rumbling at the start of a race. Once he settles into the verses, the song is smooth and clean, and the listener can just settle in and enjoy the ride of another spectacular song from a new country artist. All four of Diffie’s number ones from his debut album are 90’s classics in my mind.

    Diffie would take country music in so many unexpected directions from small town water towers to the third rock from the Sun and everywhere in between.

    I think the praise and adoration he is receiving in this feature is long overdue.

    This song has an energy and drive all its own. I love it.

  2. Yes, this is such a fun song from beginning to end! Another one of my all time favorites from Joe Diffie. Peter’s first paragraph perfectly describes one of the things I always enjoyed about Diffie’s performance on the song. I’ve always loved those low notes he starts with at the beginning of the chorus, and with that also serving as part of the song’s intro, it definitely gets you excited for what you’re about to hear, which is how I remember feeling when I first heard it on the radio. I also agree that it’s another number that does a great job of showcasing the wide range he had as a vocalist. It’s amazing how he effortlessly goes from the low notes in the beginning to the high notes he hits during the song’s key change near the end. Always loved the energetic production, as well, with some great fiddle playing and guitar picking.

    Of all the singles from his debut album, this is the one that I remember still getting a good amount of recurrent airplay long after its original chart run was over. I have it on one of my favorite tapes that I recorded around the Spring of 1993, and amazingly, it still plays very well today, despite it being an 80’s tape and having played it countless times throughout my childhood. I remember still hearing it on the radio with my dad in the car around the mid 90’s, as well.

    I’ll say it again: this album was pure gold from start to finish, with not a single dud in the mix. It’s amazing how all four singles went to number one, and it still shocks me that it didn’t go gold at least. BTW, I also absolutely love “Is It Cold In Here,” and that one deserved to reach the top, as well, imho.

  3. Jamie,
    I can’t remember if I’ve ever said this to you? Your cassette tapes make me think of a recurring dream that I’ve had for many years where I’m trying to play a cassette tape, but the tape inside starts to unravel and I’m desperately trying to fix it, but I can’t get it to go back in without a wrinkle. So, everytime that you mention playing a tape that you’ve made, I can’t help but think of my dream and wonder how you’re still able to play those tapes!:)

  4. Leeann – I’ve actually had similar dreams like that before, as well! Especially during my childhood when making and listening to those tapes was such a big part of my life. I guess I’m just fortunate to still have a good stereo with a great working cassette player that rarely ever chews up the tapes (It actually happens to be the very same stereo that I recorded all those tapes with, believe it or not). Unfortunately, quite a few of the older tapes from the 80’s that my parents had around for a while ended up getting too messed up/worn out to fix, and ultimately had to be tossed. Some of those had some great songs on them, too. There were actually many times I’d be afraid to play a tape on a different player because I was scared it was gonna chew it up. The tape deck in my step dad’s Blazer especially got bad at ruining tapes later on. Even now, I still get a bit wary of playing a favorite tape of mine on a player that I don’t quite trust yet, lol.

    As for this tape that I recorded in ’93 with the Joe Diffie song, it actually starts out a bit rocky on the first song (“You’re Still New To Me” by Marie Osmond and Paul Davis) but by the time it gets to the second song (Alabama’s “I’m In A Hurry”) it’s pretty much fine from there on out. As I said, it’s one of those few older tapes from the 80’s that’s amazingly survived all this time!

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