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Steve Peake

This Week's Forgotten Gem of the '80s - T. Graham Brown - "I Tell It Like It Used to Be"

By October 8, 2013

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t-graham-brown.jpgCountry music released during the first half of the '80s often gets a bad rap for being too pop-oriented and tied to the heavily commercial, even perhaps cynically minded urban cowboy sound. However, some successful artists of the period who operated prior to or just outside the New Traditionalist movement found a way to stay true to country's roots by bringing in elements of soul music and early rock and roll. Georgia native T. Graham Brown certainly fits into this category, largely thanks to the combination of his soulful tenor with a lively, horn-inflected arrangement on the excellent Top 10 single from late 1985, "I Tell It Like It Used to Be."

This standout track gleefully employs an utterly sparkling melodic hook even while it creates a joyfully organic, rootsy atmosphere punctuated by boogie piano and a stylistically well-rounded structure. In this way, it's complicated and simplistic at the same time, achieving a balance that has a high degree of difficulty even in the small corners of the music industry that contain the least amount of commercial pressure. Brown is a fine, underrated male country singer from an era full of bigger names, but his performance here of a particularly tight three-minute single stands firmly as one of the most memorable country songs of the decade. The confidently clever yet understated wordplay also represents the best elements of modern Nashville songcraft.

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Capitol

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