Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: The Judds, “Turn it Loose”

“Turn it Loose”

The Judds

Written by Craig Bickhardt and Brent Maher

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 26, 1988


#1 (1 week)

March 26, 1988

It matters where you come in.

Country music was always around me as a child, but I didn’t start caring about it myself until 1991. I knew of the Judds, and even a couple of their hits, but they were on their last radio single from their first run by then – “John Deere Tractor” – and I wasn’t paying much attention to them at that point.

I remember clear as day the 1992 American Music Awards, though, where Wynonna debuted “She is His Only Need” and launched her solo career. I was a Wynonna fan out the gate, and her musical sensibilities meshed better with my tastes that most of the post-Greatest Hits Judds output.

So “Turn it Loose,” to my ears, sounds like Wynonna lite. I can hear her pushing up against the restraints of the Judds sound here, as if she’s trying to rock out in the basement but Mama Naomi is at the top of the stairs telling her to keep it down.

But if I attempt to put this in historical context, “Turn it Loose” feels like the perfect halfway point between the Judds’ Appalachian-tinged harmonies and Wy’s kickass country blues. Naomi was slowly fading into the background with each successive album, but she’s still incredibly essential here. Her harmony vocal helps build a bridge between Wynonna’s growling performance and the pure country twang of the musicians.

So while I wouldn’t call it the Platonic ideal of a Judds record or a Wynonna record, I would definitely call it an essential part of their collective story, especially for those of us who primarily see the Judds as Wynonna’s early years.

“Turn it Loose” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I prefer my Judds records traditionally country and my Wynonna solo singles bluesy. That’s part of the reason why I struggled with this phase of the Judds’ career as the middle ground they were navigating wasn’t working for me. Wynonna gives a solid vocal performance here but the restraints to keep it within the confines of an 80s-era country song manages to quite ironically contradict the title. The lyrics don’t give me a lot to work with in terms of redeeming qualities. The best I can say is that I like it a fair amount more than “I Know Where I’m Going”.

    Grade: C+

  2. Hmm….I think this may be my favorite Judds chart topper after Why Not Me (my favorite Judds single is Give a Little Love, which I think stopped at #2 on the charts). I agree though, definitely Wy leaning into that country rock/blues side that permeated alot of her solo stuff.

  3. I am still looking for my shoutin’ shoes!

    The Judds did sound as if they had sprung a leak to the extent nothing could seemingly contain Wynonna’s emergence as a solo star and vocal force of nature. Some of the tender charms of the Judds’ early hits gives way here to the messy, slipperiness of something new being born.

    The personal parsing of what the instruments mean to her are low and mean; they variously slide, moan, and shake.

    This is a song for both body and soul and it’s not child’s play.

    I love the growl and tension of this hit as much as anything.

    I like to think of Conway Twitty listening to this song.

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