Patty Loveless is one of the stars of the neo-traditional country movement with her honky-tonk and bluegrass-infused music. She's recorded 14 studio albums and released memorable No. 1 hits such as "Chains," "Blame It on Your Heart" and "Lonely Too Long."
But before all of her success, Loveless was a brand-new artist releasing her debut, self-titled album 35 years ago, on Oct. 1, 1986. Patty Loveless was a minor success, peaking at No. 35 on the Billboard charts and producing four singles.
Today, we're going back through Loveless' understated debut album and ranking all of its songs, from least to most favorite. Read on to see how we order 'em, and give this understated gem a listen:
“Blue Is Not a Word” feels like classic cowboy country music, with a nice bluesy tinge that helps set it apart. Loveless can be forgiven for the semi-confusing title -- blue is, no matter how happy you are, still a word -- because it’s in service of pure earnestness: “I’m so glad I found you,” she sings. “You made my dreams come true / Blue is not a word / As long as I’m with you.”
The fourth single from Patty Loveless, “After All” does what few country songs do: It centers the mistress in an affair in a way that’s humanizing and complex. If anything, the song makes clear that the cheating husband is the real villain of the story; it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for the narrator as she admits to him, “After all the hours spent / Waitin’ by the phone / Wondering when you could get away / And now that you can / You don’t call after all / I’m afraid what you did to her / You’re doing to me.”
“You Are Everything” is a plucky, upbeat love song, driven along by cheerful fiddling. The song is so aggressively optimistic that it’s easy to find yourself expecting the other shoe to drop (this is country music, after all), but it never does. There’s no turn or no reveal, just a happy narrator singing, “You are so good to me / You got me feelin’ like I’m happy-go-lucky / As free as a bird.” Unabashedly positive, it’s almost refreshing.
“Some Blue Moons Ago” is one of the harder-rocking songs on Patty Loveless. Unlike most of the other tracks, this one opens with electric guitar, and Loveless half growling “Sensitivity ain’t your style” in the opening line. She references an “Elvis smile” in the lyrics, which Loveless fans might see as an interesting foreshadowing of the still-to-come 1994 song (“I Try to Think About Elvis”) that would become one of the greatest hits of her career.
One of the album’s four singles, “I Did” is the only song on Patty Loveless actually written by Loveless, and it shows off her genuine ballad-writing chops. “I Did” is a solid mid-tempo ballad about longing, underscored with simple piano and steel guitar, and it’s the song that landed Loveless her first record deal. Roger Ramey, Loveless’ brother, played it for record execs at MCA, and they were so impressed that they signed Loveless to a multi-record contract.
“Slow Healing Heart” opens with slow, deliberate acoustic guitar picking -- the kind that lets the listener know a somber ballad is on the way. It’s one of Loveless’ stronger vocal performances, and features a chorus that slowly builds into something powerful. Lyrically, it takes an interesting angle: Instead of centering around the narrator herself, she’s singing specifically about a “slow-healing heart / Dying to mend.”
Carried along by folksy guitar and Loveless singing at a lower register, “Half Over You” is an insightful song about the journey of grief and healing. “I’ve seen rock bottom / And I’ve sailed to the top / Now I’m somewhere in between,” she sings at the song’s opening. Ultimately, it’s a song about moving on from a heartbreak, “almost accepting the fact that we’re through / But there’s nothing as lonely / As being half over you.” It’s a simple, folk-leaning country song in all the right ways.
"Lonely Days, Lonely Nights"
“Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” was the debut single from Patty Loveless and the best performing, commercially: It peaked at No. 46 on the Billboard charts. It’s an upbeat song with tight harmonies, and features Loveless' signature honky-tonk-infused country. Despite its up-tempo sound, it’s a song about longing for someone who’s gone: “Lonely days, lonely nights,” goes the chorus. “Missing you with all my might.”
Loveless is actually interested in capturing the sounds of loneliness in this song, which opens with her isolated vocals, noticeably and purposefully echo-y, likely meant to replicate the sound of a big, empty room. Musical instrumentation -- including a big horn section -- slowly chimes in and builds throughout the song, and the effect is pretty powerful. “Sounds of Loneliness” is the closest thing to musical experimentation that Loveless does on this album, and it pays off.
“Wicked Ways” is one of the most upbeat songs on Patty Loveless -- definitely the most uptempo of its four official singles -- with a dance-ready groove, fun electric guitars and dynamic barroom vocals. Loveless slides through the lyrics quickly, and the final result is a song about breaking free from a bad relationship that just makes you want to dance. “Ah, no more grievin’,” Loveless declares powerfully. “Baby, I’m leaving!”