Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Earl Thomas Conley, “Honor Bound”


“Honor Bound”

Earl Thomas Conley

Written by Charlie Black, Austin Roberts, and Tommy Rocco


#1 (1 week)

April 13, 1985

Earl Thomas Conley’s ability to write and to select sophisticated material helped him to stand out among his peers, and “Honor Bound” is one of the best songs yet that he’s taken to the top.

Conley gravitated toward empathetic songs which sidestep blame and focus on the human impact when a love falls apart.  On “Honor Bound,” he’s fully aware that his partner is staying with him out of a sense of responsibility, as her love is now gone.  Rather than feeling sorry for himself, he feels sorry for her and disapp0inted in himself for still holding on to her.

It’s a powerful song that he sings beautifully, especially on the verses.  Unfortunately, a bombastic production kicks in for the chorus, requiring him to deliver overpowered vocals to be heard over the din of noise. It’s so jarring a transition that it reminded me of the days before DVR and streaming, when commercials would be played at louder volume than the television show you tuned in for.

The song itself is so good that I still recommend it wholeheartedly. But it would’ve been an all-timer if the producer had shown some restraint.

“Honor Bound” gets a B


Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. Sophisticated. Complex. Refined. Mature.

    Whatever adjective you pick to describe Conley’s music, it is clearly intended to capture how his music noticeably stood apart from his contemporaries.

    Interestingly, Wade Jessen chose to describe “Honor Bound” as “murky” in the liner notes to RCA’s “The Essential Earl Thomas Conley” collection.

    This singles is one of the best country conundrums of the decade. The song deserves better than it gets production-wise with the wild swing in dynamics, nonetheless, it is a captivating listening experience for its emotional generosity and thoughtful awareness.

    It is not often that a great song is fingered for coming up short of its potential.

    Conley continues to be special.

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