(Somehow he got a record contract)
As stressful and time-consuming as my job was in 1998, at least it sheltered me from the tunes on the radio.
The last thing I wanted to do was give up on country music. I'd been drenched in country for thirty-odd years by then. That was a hard habit to break. I think country radio knew how bad the songs were, but they were slaves to programmers -- no more would a disc jockey break a hit record -- there were no more Ralph Emerys or Bill Macks. Spinning records was akin to a job ringing up a cash register.
The country landscape was barren. George was beginning to drift toward treacle (it would get worse). But he still had a couple of good tunes:
Diamond Rio was close to wrapping up. They'd had a phenomenal run, but I guess everything (except George Strait) comes to an end eventually:
Yes, this was an Aerosmith song, but Mark Chesnutt was always a good song picker. He would get better after this (believe it or not), and would go on to reach the pantheon of my all-time favorite country singers. This isn't my favorite, but hell, Mark was still keepin' on.
Clint was back. He wrote this song with Steve Wariner. Aside from "Better Man", this is one of my favorite Clint Black songs:
I thought I would throw Reba in here, because she actually recorded a country song in '98. I wasn't a fan of Reba's theatrics. They were "tricks". I like a singer who sings.
Who was hot in 1998? Well, there was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. There was Jo Dee Messina. There was the Dixie Chicks, who I liked a lot until they (Natalie) went nuts. A lot of my standbys had hits, but not hits that I liked -- Steve Wariner, Brooks and Dunn, Shania Twain, Randy Travis.
Somebody who didn't even reach the Top Country 100 had the best album of the year. I don't understand popular tastes. I don't understand why this wasn't one of the top hits of the year. But you know what? Quality survives. That's why Dwight Yoakam is still one of my all-time favorite singers.
From "A Long Way Home":
Sometime in 1999 I abandoned country music all together. That's where it ended for me. I miss it, but it's not coming back. Now I listen to Sirius, when I listen to music at all. I don't listen to music much.
Things change, Dwight told me.