Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Highway 101, “Cry, Cry, Cry”

“Cry, Cry, Cry”

Highway 101

Written by Don Devaney and John Scott Sherrill

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 8, 1988


#1 (1 week)

May 7, 1988

Linda Ronstadt was the biggest influence of an entire generation of female country vocalists, and it’s fair to say that Paulette Carlson was the first to fuse Ronstadt’s powerful style with a pure Southern twang.

This makes for a potent combination on “Cry, Cry, Cry,” which lyrically is a stone cold country weeper. But Carlson can’t credibly play the victim queen. Not with that brassy and fearless voice. She makes the weeping woman of the song sound like she’s scheduling a catharsis in between a power meeting and a two martini lunch.

She’s gonna cry, and it’s gonna be messy, but then she’s gonna be fine, even if she loves that boy till the day she dies. It’s all so theatrically despondent, and Carlson sells it with aplomb, not a bit unlike Ronstadt herself did on “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.”

When the influences are this good, how could country music not experience a golden era?

“Cry, Cry, Cry” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Hasn’t an emergent theme of these late ’80’s hits been the importance and significance of the musical influences of these new artist, and just as valuable to their listeners, their willingness to identify, celebrate, and promote them?

    This Highway 101 single sounds like a primer for Americana/alt-country/No Depression 101. Their sound is both traditional and progressive. The mathematicians may get upset at the impossibility of it, but the band has magnitude while simultaneously pointing in multiple directions.

    For those of us who did not experience it, is this what west-coast/California country sounded and felt like, hard-country twang cut with rock and roll energy and production elements?

    And I have not even celebrated Carlson’s voice, so big and so sure. It is the heart and soul of Highway 101’s sound, always bravely charging out in front of the percussive punch of the band.

    Lookie here! The single is still refreshing today as it plays like a raging river of confidence and courage in the face of heartache and devastation.

    The bounce

  2. In a lot of ways, Paulette and Highway 101 extended elements of both the Bakersfield Sound and the West Coast country-rock style with this record. It’s probably a bit more polished than it really has to be, but it’s by no means a dud.

    As for Paulette’s approach on “Cry, Cry, Cry” being compared to what Linda Ronstadt did on “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”–I think a case can be made for the end result being the same. It’s just the approach that’s different, I suppose. Paulette’s very much honky-tonk sass, which isn’t a bad thing. Linda’s is blackly comic and, dare I use this term on a family board, sado-masochistic.

  3. While I’ve said before that Paulette’s voice isn’t my cup of tea, I can’t deny that Highway 101’s high-energy jams hit the mark on no shortage of occasions, and this one is easily among their most hummable earworms. I had never considered that it was probably intended as a sadgirl ballad–and I dare say was probably written for a male artist (sadboy) and lyrically finessed to fit Paulette as a narrator–but having just listened again, I think both things are true. The lyrics are effective either way but I’m glad they went with the uptempo route as the song is my favorite of Highway 101s, at least thus far.

    Grade: B+

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