I hadn't heard of country music singer-songwriter Walt Aldridge until I realized the other week that he is the co-writer of one of my favorite country songs of all time (Earl Thomas Conley's heartrending 1983 hit "Holding Her and Loving You"). Of course, Aldridge has had a hand in many other country hits as well, some dating back 30 years or more and some quite recent. However, what is unfortunately much less known about Aldridge is that he served as frontman and supplied lovely if not terribly distinctive lead vocals for a pretty damn fine late-'80s country band called The Shooters. The group charted seven singles on the North American country charts between 1987 and 1989, but none of these tunes - all featuring tight, impressive songcraft and clean, uncluttered acoustic production - became big enough to break the band beyond marginally successful status. That's both a shame and injustice, especially given the big production that often hampered pop, rock and country music of that period but somehow doesn't stain this band's rather pristine country-rock sound in the least.
The Shooters' first and probably best single is "They Only Come Out at Night," a tune country legend Conway Twitty chose to record as an album cut in 1988. I'm not sure why it didn't become a huge hit the second time around, either, particularly with the big-name clout Twitty's association certainly would have supplied had the song showed up on country radio. Regardless of these puzzling realities, The Shooters' original version is a thoroughly engaging listen, characterized by effectively gentle guitar riffs and some genuinely tasty, clean lead guitar licks. As a singer, Aldridge may not stand in a league all his own, but his pleading tenor perfectly delivers the mournful lyrics of a structurally sound and authentically moving example of fine songcraft. Music like this certainly can't claim to embrace the New Traditionalist, honky-tonk credibility that was beginning to emerge at the time of its 1987 release, so in that sense perhaps it lacks edge and grit. Nevertheless, a contemporary band like Restless Heart certainly used a similar sound during the same period to register some worthy, pop-tinged romantic country tunes like "I'll Still Be Loving You" and "Why Does It Have to Be Wrong or Right." So, why there wasn't room for at least one or two more of these kinds of lovelorn country nuggets at the top of the charts I can't begin to explain. This track should have been huge - period - but at least its quality still beckons for those industrious and committed enough to locate an official recording floating somewhere on the fringe of an ever-shrinking music marketplace. Whatever you have to do to check out Aldridge's music in greater depth, I promise the effort will pay lasting melodic dividends.
- Listen to "They Only Come Out at Night" in its entirety here.
- Top Authentic Country Music Artists of the '80s
- Top Randy Travis Songs of the '80s
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Epic