Let it be known that I’m not a fan of country music as it exists today. When I think of country, I think of the Texas Outlaws of the 70s, among other classic acts like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. The Texas Outlaws were my first real venture into country that paid off, though, so I keep a special place for them, particularly Rusty Wier.
On Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance, Rusty delivered his best set from the 70s, at the height of the “Cosmic Cowboy” movement. It’s got a strong rock feel to it, but it’s still a country album. While Lynyrd Skynyrd were a country-flavored rock band, Rusty Wier delivered some rock-flavored country. There’s no fiddle or pedal steel guitar on this album. It’s for the Texas roadhouses, not the Hee Haw cameras.
The title track is an anthem to me. It was a moderately big hit when it came out, and was covered by many other country artists. It’s a great singalong and has a cool guitar solo in it, to boot. The next song, “I Believe in the Way That You Love Me,” is a fine ballad that’s not an exploration of sappiness.
“Trouble” comes next, and it’s got a great riff and is fun to rock to. The tempo then changes for the beautiful ballad, “Blue Haze.” My wife and I sing along with it every time we hear it. It’s a simple little tune, but it expresses a deep love that we understand more and more with each year of our marriage.
Side one climaxes with “Agua Dulce,” a deep cut that has made me travel to Agua Dulce, Texas just to see what kind of place deserved a mention in Mr. Wier’s song. The song is about waking up after a lost weekend in some place that was either godforsaken or part of a divine plan… no way to tell until you’ve lived some more… but it’s a great song about South Texas and the distances we can cover, both physically and emotionally. The end of the song is perfect for driving off into the sunset.
“Relief” finishes off the side in a funky, bluesy way. It’s musically sparse, and it makes sense that way. I like the lyrics on it and always enjoy the fine pickin’ at the end.
Side two runs as follows: “Sing Me,” “Sally Mae,” “I Heard You Been Layin’ My Old Lady,” “Tulsa Turnaround,” and “Cloudy Days.” The first two are upbeat songs about simple, honest love, full of energy and life. If I hadn’t of told you they were country songs, you’d swear they was rock and roll. So it went for the Cosmic Cowboys… they really blurred the line between the genres, back when the line between them was worth blurring.
“I Heard You Been Layin’ My Old Lady” is a guilty pleasure. It’s a country song for sure, because it’s all about dealing with a man that’s been cheatin’ on your wife. This one is full of wit, irony, and irreverent humor. It’s a song that convinces me that Rusty Wier was the Jim Rockford of country music. He doesn’t want to fight, but it’s important to get the truth out. From the chorus: Well I like you, Joe, but wives are hard to share…
I never totally caught on to “Tulsa Turnaround,” and I don’t think I will. It’s all right, but the amount of funk in it is out of place on the album. I’ll pass over it in favor of the final track, “Cloudy Days,” another great road tune that could as well have been sung by Kermit and Fozzie Bear for all its wide-eyed optimism. It’s good to have music like that, and I’m glad Rusty Wier sang it.
9 out of 10 because it’s a monumental album. Seek it out, young music-lovers!