Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 5)

5. "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road"
Artist: Nick Lowe
Year: 1994

Nick Lowe has been a favorite since I was a lad, and the 1994 album 'The Impossible Bird' marked the beginning of a renaissance that continues to this day. I would take the six albums he has done since 'Bird' over the six he did before that in a Brentford minute. OK, I don't know what that means either, but if you do the math, that just leaves 'Jesus of Cool' and 'Labour of Lust,' and those are my No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, but I put 'The Impossible Bird' right there with his best work. Lowe didn't want to "become one of those thinning-haired, jowly old geezers who still does the same shtick they did when they were young, slim and beautiful," and his reinvention as a crooning balladeer has completely worked for me.

Today's song wasn't penned by Lowe, but I think his take is the best version on wax. "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road" was written by the country songwriting team of Dallas Frazier and Arthur Leo "Doodle" Owens and first released with little fanfare by Duane Dee in 1968. Elvis' recording is the most well known, but Percy Sledge's was the best... until Lowe took his turn. Lowe speaks of the tune with affection, saying, "I first heard "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road" on a compilation record that accompanied Peter Guralniek's book 'Sweet Soul Music.' I love the title, I love those sort of gospely words, and it has a lovely tune. Percy Sledge's version is kind of jaunty, where mine is a little more downbeat." He went on to say, "I love that thing where R&B meets country."

I'm going to include the lyrics for this one. Chances are these beautiful words will hit home for you... and yours. Enjoy the completely different version from Percy, too.

How many girls choose cotton dress worlds
When they could have satins and lace
And stand by her man, never once letting shade touch her face

How many hearts could live through all the winters
We've known and still not be cold?
True love travels on a gravel road

Love is a stranger and hearts are in danger
On smooth streets paved with gold
Oh, true love travels on a gravel road

Down through the years we've had hard times and tears
But they only helped our love grow
And we'll stay together no matter how strong the wind blows

Not once have I seen your blue eyes filled with envy
Or stray from the one that you hold
Oh, true love travels on a gravel road

Love is a stranger and hearts are in danger
On smooth streets paved with gold
Oh, true love travels on a gravel road
Yeah, true love travels on a gravel road
True love travels on a gravel road


charity chic said...

An inspired choice Brian

drew said...

I've never heard this version before. It is very good but I hate to disagree with you Brian but Elvis' version is the definitive one for me.

Brian said...

That's it, Drew. I'm coming over there. Better not have your window open tonight.
Actually, I can appreciate Elvis' passionate delivery, but the music is coming a little too close to that cornball era for me. Are you a fan of the In Memphis album?

drew said...

Love the In Memphis album with the exception of Moma Liked The Roses, dreadful, mawkish tripe.

George said...

Not heard any of the two versions posted, Brian, and have just played the Elvis version. And the Elvis one is the worst, I'm afraid Drew - insipid. Not terribly impressed with the Percy one either.

The Swede said...

Not wishing to add fuel to the fire, but may I suggest a fine alternative take by Elvis (, which is way less smooth and produced. Nick's version is superb too Brian.
Top 5 and there's still a name I'm waiting to see!

Echorich said...

Didn't see this one coming, but I can agree that Nick Lowe found some amazing mojo mid 90's and has gone from strength to strength since.

Brian said...

You're making me nervous, Swede. Hopefully I haven't disappointed you.

George, Kind of surprised you don't like Percy's version. I would have thought that was right up your alley. Can't tell if you liked Lowe's and am afraid to ask.

Echorich, Love when a mature artist can surprise us with a second life, and Lowe's reinvention is one of the best. There are a couple on this list that are as good now as they ever were... Hitchcock is the one that immediately comes to mind. And he didn't need a reinvention at all.