Back in the late '70s, when my early childhood pop music listening tastes pretty much followed the middle of the road (MOR), country pop and soft rock leanings of my 40-something parents, one of my first concerts naturally included Mac Davis, one of the wry, widely appealing kings of these genres. Hey, all music enthusiasts have to start somewhere, and as starting points go, the eclectic, easygoing stylings of Mr. Davis are far from the worst place to begin. Aside from the fact that this artist's top-selling 1980 album, It's Hard to Be Humble, possesses a cover photo that seems to have been taken during the latter, tipsy portion of a Playgirl photo shoot, Davis is a genuinely accomplished songwriter whose compositions often tend to fare best when they're relatively serious. That record's title track, for example, doesn't extend much beyond silly and half-heartedly self-deprecating. But Davis is capable of much more.
As a matter of fact, that same year's "Let's Keep It That Way," the album's second Top 10 single on the country charts, deftly handles a variation on an age-old country music theme: the cheatin' song. However, by zeroing in on the moments just before romantic betrayal is to take place, Davis captures a specificity that helps this track stretch beyond its pleasant but perhaps too-relaxed melodic gifts. A few country artists of the period attempted, with spotty results, to treat this same theme (Earl Thomas Conley and Keith Whitley coming to mind most readily), but Davis manages to bring some heft to his gentle, proactive warning to would-be adulterers everywhere: "So before we forget/We're not cheaters yet/Let's keep it that way." There are far more fiery love songs out there to be discovered in practically every genre, but there is something deeply refreshing about the grounded, modest and yet still urgent manner of this one.
- Sample or download "Let's Keep It That Way" here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of MCA