“Who’s Cheatin’ Who”
Written by Jerry Hayes
#1 (1 week)
February 14, 1981
Charly McClain had been singing and performing from such a young age that she had the experience of a veteran when she was signed to Epic Records at the age of twenty. It took some time for Nashville to catch up with her, as she was saddled with middling material and her vitality as a singer took some time to show up on record.
But by the start of the eighties, she had a few top ten hits under her belt, and she finally had her big artistic and commercial breakthrough with “Who’s Cheatin’ Who.” We covered Alan Jackson’s version of this song in the nineties feature, so this take will sound familiar: the Charly McClain version is superior to the Alan Jackson one in every conceivable way.
This is an urgent, loose, dirty record, driven by a pulsating guitar and a nervy performance from McClain. It never comes up for air, with McClain not even resting for a beat between the chorus and the second verse, sounding like a woman who is spitting fire as she lays bare the ugly truths of her quite adulterous neighborhood. I love the way she tosses off the word “guitar” before the guitar solo, like she needs a sip of water before going back in for the kill.
This one’s an absolute classic, and it established McClain as a leading eighties lady who will be a steady presence on the charts throughout most of the decade. We’ll see her next with one of those “younger woman/older man” duet pairings that were so popular back in the day.
“Who’s Cheatin’ Who” gets an A.
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