Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Rick Trevino, “Learning as You Go”

“Learning as You Go

Rick Trevino

Written by Larry Boone and Billy Lawson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 6, 1996

A talented and charismatic singer has his edges sanded down by the Music Row machine.

The Road to No. 1

After “She Can’t Say I Didn’t Cry” went to No. 1, Rick Trevino’s first English-language album produced an additional top five hit with “Doctor Time,” enough to power Rick Trevino to gold-selling status.  His next album, Looking For the Light, produced three singles. The first and third missed the top forty, but  “Bobbie Ann Mason” went top ten.  His third English-language album, Learning as You Go, was his most successful at radio, kicking things off with two consecutive No. 1 singles.

The No. 1

“Learning as You Go” is a decent song with an interesting concept.  A man has never been hurt before, having only been in a secure, stable, and loving relationship with his partner. So as she’s leaving him, he asks her to go easy on him, as he’s “learning as you go.”

The production couldn’t be more generic if it tried, and Trevino’s vocal performance reminds me of Reba McEntire’s records for Mercury, where her producers insisted that she flatten out the distinctive vocal trills that would make her a superstar once she hooked up with Jimmy Bowen and MCA Records.

Trevino sounded less like himself on each successive Columbia album.  Listening to this alongside “Just Enough Rope” is startling.  It’s like his confidence actually eroded as a vocalist, likely because the label was simply incapable of cultivating him as an artist.

Doug Johnson was brought in to co-produce this project, a name that I don’t remember at all from the nineties, but just typed yesterday as the writer and producer of James Bonamy’s “I Don’t Think I Will.”  He was at the helm of Doug Stone’s first three albums, which this feature tracked over time as Stone descended from honky tonk greatness to sappy pablum over the course of those three releases.  He gets credit for bringing Patty Loveless over to Epic, and discovered much of the nineties Sony roster, so he had an ear for talent.

Just thinking of Johnson producing Loveless instead of Emory Gordy Jr. gives me the dry heaves.  She likely would’ve gone the way of Stone and Trevino, two of the best male vocalists to come along in the nineties.  What a waste of prodigious talent.

The Road From No. 1

Trevino’s next single also went No. 1, his final visit to the penthouse to date. We’ll cover it in early 1997.

“Learning as You Go” gets a B-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Bryan White, “So Much For Pretending”

6 Comments

  1. I am going to speak to two of CU’s recent posts in one comment here. At the end of Kevin’s “Reflections on Kate Bush,” he asked that people share their personal hidden gems.

    In the most recent post about Rick Trevino, he mentioned Doug Johnson and his importance to Sony’s Nashville roster.

    Enter my personal gem: Bobbie Cryner.

    Doug Johnson co-produced Bobbie Cryner’s eponymous Epic debut in 1993 with Carl Jackson.

    This wonderfully bluesy album charted three singles, but none of the three climbed higher than the 63 on the charts. This album was a showcase for Cryner’s sultry, big voice and her poignant, mature songwriting. It was a revelation for me when I first listened to it. Female urgency and honesty assaulted me. Whether covering Buck Owen’s “I Don’t Care” or her own compositions like “Leavin’ Houston Blues” or “You Could Steal Me,” she seems poised to be a star, but she fizzled at radio.

    A second Tony Brown produced album in 1996 for MCA was even better, and also more straightforwardly country. “Girl of Your Dreams” is a outrageously good. A classic album nobody seemingly bothered to notice. The three singles also stalled outside of the top 40.

    I only learned of the album’s through record reviews in “Country Music” magazine.

    “Girl of Your Dreams” is an emotionally shattering listening experience. It is raw and beautiful. Is it too weird to compare her to Adele in terms of style and power?

    The stand out tracks for me are “Vision of Loneliness,” “The Girl of Your Dreams,” and “You’d Think He’s Know Me Better.”

    Please explore her music further. So damn good.

    As far as I know, these were her only two albums.

    1
    • Gosh darn it, you beat me to mentioning Bobbie Cryner’s 1993 debut album as one that Doug Johnson produced. ;) That is actually another one of my favorite country albums from the early 90’s! I especially love “He Feels Guilty” which SO should’ve been a hit. I’ve heard others describe Cryner’s voice as the female Vern Gosdin, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Sadly, like Joy Lynn White, Jann Browne, etc., she’s another great female artist from that era who didn’t catch on.

      I do also like Doug Johnson’s work on Ty Herndon’s first three albums.

  2. As for this Trevino single, he had enough traction with me since his debut that I still liked even his watered down output like this. I always hoped he he would cut a great album. If only “Seperate Ways” had broken for him at radio, we would talk about that single in the reverential terms it deserves as a classic. As it stands now, the Raul Malo produced “In My Dreams” is my favourite Trevino album.

    1
    • I absolutely LOVE the direction Trevino took his music when he teamed up with Raul Malo as producer. It’s just a shame that radio was not on board, though. I still believe that “In My Dreams” is one of his very best songs and that he was robbed of a big comeback hit when he came out with it in 2003. Simply a stunningly beautiful song and vocal performance by Rick.

  3. I get that this song and the Learning As You Go album are more commercial than Trevino’s previous work, but still, I really love this song! Not to mention, it’s still pretty darn country sounding. The main fiddle parts alone are simply beautiful, and I really love the “George Strait like” production of this record. I especially love the powerful sound of the drums here. Even the piano playing in the second verse gives me a great feeling of nostalgia. Overall, I think it’s a great, relatable, and catchy song about someone experiencing their first broken heart, and Trevino’s youthful sounding voice is a perfect fit for the song’s theme, imo.

    I’ve always enjoyed this song’s music video, as well, which I find to be cute. I actually like the direction they took, in which they made the song more about someone’s first serious crush (at least that appears to be the case). It never fails to make me smile today. I especially like the part where the woman surprises the guy with the apples as he’s peeling potatoes (almost to the same beat as the song, too!). I also love the end when it appears the woman has already moved on and left, and she sends him a cute photo of them together in the mail for him to remember their times together and his reaction to it. :)

    Of course, this is also another song that always brings back great childhood memories for me from the mid 90’s. I actually still remember hearing it in the car with my dad one overcast Saturday afternoon later in the Fall of ’96. The songs I remember hearing before “Learning As You Go” were “Lonely Too Long” by Patty Loveless, “Nobody Wins” by Radney Foster, and “Piece Of My Heart” by Faith Hill. I remember thinking at the time that they were on a roll playing a lot of great songs together, and it was just one of those little moments that made me glad I was into country music. :) I actually still love to listen to this song when it’s a nice and cool cloudy, overcast day.

    The Learning As You Go album was actually one of my favorite albums that I got for Christmas in 2001, back when I was wanting to revisit a lot of my old favorites from the mid 90’s. While it’s not quite as straight ahead honky tonk as his earlier albums, it still has a lot of cuts I really love, such as “Mary’s Just A Plain Jane,” “I Wish He Wouldn’t Treat Her That Way,” “Oh Jenny,” “Anytime,” “I’m Here For You,” and “Serious Love.” It’s still one of my all time favorite albums that I enjoy from start to finish.

  4. For some reason, Trevino sounds exactly like Clay Walker on this record. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I can’t stop thinking about it LOL.

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