|Album Review: Added: 08/26/04
Con Hunley - Sweet Memories
By. Christine Bohorfoush - AngryCountry.com Staff Writer
Con Hunley: New Album, After An Absence From Country Music
New fans to country music may not be familiar with the name Con Hunley, the soulful singer who was born and raised in Fountain City in the Smokey Mountain foothills of East Tennessee. One of six children, Con had music in his life from birth. His first entrance into the music world was singing gospel songs at church with his family. Con's parents bought him a used "Stella" guitar for Christmas when he was nine years old. He was overjoyed. His parents taught him basic chords (G, C, D, A) and some simple songs. Con idolized Chet Atkins and taught himself to play thumb-style guitar while still a youth. When his parents bought a piano for his sister, Beth, Con taught himself to play by ear and learned Ray Charles' famous hit, "What'd I Say." That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair. Con credits Ray Charles with having the greatest influence on his style and his music career. "That record was like a monster that just grabbed me up," Con says, "and it kept alive my motivation to play."
In 1975 Con went to Nashville after catching the ear of Sam Kirkpatrick who happened to be at the Corner Lounge in Knoxville one Thursday night where Con was performing. Kirkpatrick chartered Prairie Dust Records and Con, with the help of guitarist Larry Morton, who was band leader for Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, cut five sides: "Misery Loves Company," "Pick Up The Pieces," "I'll always Remember That Song," "Deep In The Arms of Texas," and "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" received national attention. Soon after, Con, an avid golfer, was at the Acuff-Rose Publishing Company Golf Tournament in Nashville with Bobby Denton of WIVK Radio. After the first day of the tournament the golfer/musicians, made up of the biggest names in country music, had a "guitar pullin'." Bobby Denton asked Con to sing. He sang two songs after a lot of persuasion, but was totally in awe of everyone in the room. A few days after the tournament, his phone started ringing. Major labels wanted to meet him. After the dust settled, Con Hunley signed with Warner Brothers Records in 1977 and cut his first of five Warner albums, Cry, Cry Darling.
In 1982 Con recorded his biggest hit, "Oh Girl." During that time he was touring with various artists including George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Alabama, The Gatlin Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys and others. In 1984 Con went with Capital Records. One of his recordings for them, "What Am I Going To Do About You," was a hit and one of twenty of his songs that made the top ten on the charts. It stayed on the charts for fifty-eight consecutive weeks. It was during these years that Con was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year and Newcomer of the Year by ACM and CMA. In 1982 Hunley sang the National Anthem before the Heavyweight Championship between Big John Tate and Gerry Coetzee in Pretoria, South Africa. In 1986 Con performed with the seventy piece Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and his five piece band, a Knoxville first. He played at the White House in 1996 and did an annual New Year's Eve show in the Smokies for many years.
His latest project is a marriage of the old and new. Con and Norro Wilson, his first producer at Warner Records, kept in touch and began talking about another project a few years ago. "We decided to do a new album, Sweet Memories," and enlisted the top musicians in Nashville," Con says. In 1999 Con's mother, Priscilla Clodell Hunley, passed away. It was a year later before Con got back to the album. He had already recorded eight cuts and added six more. Sweet Memories is completed now and is dedicated to Con's mother. She is the reason that the final cut on the album is "Amazing Grace." She loved the song and she loved to hear her son sing it just like in the days of his childhood.
When Con Hunley was brought to the attention of AngryCountry, we were so impressed by this album that we knew we wanted to interview Con and speak with him regarding his feelings on the album, Mr. Hunley kindly agreed:
Con: Hey, Michael!
Michael: Hey, Con...how are you doing?
Con: I'm doing fine... how are you, Sir?
Michael: Pretty good...
Michael: Man, your XM Radio Show last week was just awesome...
Con: Oh, thank you!
Michael: (laughing) We timed a road trip last week to Nashville so that we'd
make sure that we'd be on the road during that hour that you were
on XM and we could hear you perform. [Con did a one hour live
concert on XM Radio from their studios in Washington, D.C.
where he discussed and played many of his past hits, as well
as new music from his current album.]
Con: Really? That's kind of neat... I mean, I had not done anything like that
in quite a long time. I was real happy the way it turned out; of course,
what a great facility it was. I enjoyed the heck out of it!
Michael: It was just amazing... for just you, a guitar player, and an empty room.
Michael: Well, I just have a few quick questions for you...
Con: Okay, that's great... I appreciate you taking the time for me.
Michael: No problem at all... for our younger readers who may not be
familiar with your work, could you tell us a little about yourself
and your music?
Con: Well, I was with Warner Brothers early on... for five years actually and
then I ended up signing with MCA and got about five songs deep into
an album there and had some changes in leadership at MCA. I
wound up going to Capital and got about five deep into an album there
and they also had a change in leadership (laughing) I was pretty
active during that time, from say 1977 to 1987 to 1990. Things were
not happening the way that I hoped it would be happening, so I
kind of got away from making country music for awhile. So, I have
done a little thing for Norro Wilson, my friend and producer, and
we worked on this new album, Sweet Memories. I came to town,
as he was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They
had asked me to perform one of the songs that he had written called
"The Most Beautiful Girl" and surprise him. I did and I kind of
reacquainted myself with a lot of the folks in the business; and Norro
and I got to talking and the next thing you know, we are in the studio
recording again and this album, Sweet Memories, is the result of that.
Michael: What are some of the reasons that led you to decide that now
is the right time to go back in to country music?
Con: Well, it just felt good... and I truly missed it, Michael. Having been away
from it, it is my first love. I mean, I just absolutely love it! I kind of got a
little bitter, when I left Nashville... you know, I kind of got away from it
for a while. The longer that I was away from it, the more I realized how
much I missed it. There is a lot of things going on right now, as far as
music is concerned... there is room for a whole lot of different kinds of
music. I felt that now was the right time for me to come back with what
they call "my style." What it is, is that I love country songs, but they just
come out a little different, ya know? We have been having a lot of luck;
I have had a lot of people who are glad to see that I am back and
recording. I've been really getting a lot of great reviews on the album,
as well as the single. Everything is positive and I am just so happy to be
back and doing what I love.
Michael: Well, to we at AngryCountry your style is pure country... and there
is not enough of it going around right now.
Con: Well, I appreciate that... you know, I do love country music! There is
nothing better than a good country lyric. I mean, who has not lived a
country lyric? I am just so appreciative of the chance to be back and
having fun with it and enjoying it and really getting great response to
Michael: Your current single, "Still", was written by Bill Anderson... and as
you explained on the XM Radio feature, you went to Bill for his
approval of your rendition of the song. What was that experience
like for you?
Con: It was scary... I mean, it was really scary! (laughing) You know, Bill is
a gentlemen, but when you start messing with a songwriter's song and
begin changing some words around - the song around - you are kind of
treading on thin ice. When I went to him and began to pitch the idea
to him, I told him that I wanted his blessing before I recorded the song.
Had he not liked it, I would not have recorded it that way. I had the
opportunity to sit down and play it for him at his house, and he loved it.
From the minute that I started the song, he absolutely loved it. He told
me, "Con, you've taken my song and made it your song. I absolutely
love it and I could not be happier with the way that you have arranged
it. You have my blessing!" And so, we went into the studio and cut it
and it turned out well; and like I said, we are getting a great response
Michael: What are some of your other favorite songs on the album?
Con: I love "Sweet Memories," which is the title cut written by Mickey
Newbury... in fact during the recording of this particular project, I lost
my mother. One of her favorite songs is "Sweet Memories" and another,
of course, was "Amazing Grace;" so I dedicated this entire album to
her memory and the last two cuts on the album to her. These two are
favorites of mine... but, I like "Since I Fell For You" and "No Relief In
Sight"... I like everything that we recorded. And of course, "Still" stands
out because just being able to take a song and do something
completely different with it... I enjoy performing it and sort of creating
it. Sort of becoming a stepfather to that song, so to speak, in the
Michael: What would you like listeners to take away from this album? Or what
is the message in the music that you choose?
Con: I hope that when they listen to it they are touched... I hope that they
can relate to what I have to say in my songs and I hope that they can
relate to the lyrics. But more importantly, I hope that they are touched
by the way that I perform it and that it's believable. I like to do songs
that speak to me and songs that touch me; they are the songs that I
like to do. Hopefully, I can do them in a way that speaks to and touches
Michael: We have a signature question that we like to ask every artist...
what is the one thing that your fans would be most surprised
to know about you?
Con: Hmmm, that's a good one... I suppose that I have become an avid
bike rider. I'm sort of into the exercise thing and watching my diet.
Michael: What is it about bike riding that you have come to enjoy?
Con: I just love to be able to get out... you're at a speed where you can
really appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. There are a couple
of trails where I ride where the views are absolutely magical. It's so
inspirational and you feel like you can reach out and touch the creator.
Michael: I know that your time is valuable, so I will let you go... I appreciate
your taking time out of your day for AngryCountry.
Con: Well, Michael, I appreciate your taking the time for me.
Track One: "Over Getting Over You"
Pretty heartache ballad about seeing an old flame and realizing that buried feelings remain very close to the surface.
Track Two: "A Chance"
Beautiful ballad that speaks to the loss of a love and knowing that you can never get that love back. My favorite track on this album due to its very soulful stylings.
Track Three: "She Ain't You"
A touch of the Blues Brothers style is brought to this track that looks at having many lovers in one's life; and yet, only that one special person captures your heart.
Track Four: "Since I Fell For You"
I have always loved this song, but Con gives it a special touch that really makes you feel the love that one has for another.
Track Five: "She Thinks I Still Care"
Wonderful cut that addresses how one may deny their feelings, but deep down, the love that you feel for someone special cannot really be denied.
Track Six: "That's All That Matters To Me"
A track that speaks to knowing that you may share the one you love with others, but all is right when that love is in your arms.
Track Seven: "Don't Touch Me"
Asking that someone you adore and cannot really have not tempt you with their love... because just their simple touch will make you desire that person too much.
Track Eight: "Something You Got"
Almost a Sam and Dave soul touch is put on this track about the attraction one feels for a special person.
Track Nine: "Still"
What can be better than a great track written by Opry legend Bill Anderson? When Con Hunley puts his soulful voice and touch on it... terrific!
Track Ten: "If You Ever Have Forever In Mind"
Pretty familiar ballad about longing for a person to settle down and love only you.
Track Eleven: "Only Time Will Tell"
Finding that a lot of time is needed to get over a lost love. I think everyone has felt those feelings and this song sums up all those feelings.
Track Twelve: "No Relief In Sight"
Trying everything possible to get passed a lost love ... only to find that no matter what you attempt, the pain remains.
Track Thirteen: "Dedication To Mother"
Very touching and heartfelt explanation of Con's feelings over the loss of his own mother and why these songs meant so much to her.
Track Fourteen: "Sweet Memories"
Absolutely beautiful ballad and vocal that Con brings to this song about the memories that linger even after a loved one has passed on.
Track Fifteen: "Amazing Grace"
This old familiar standard, once again, comes alive due to the unique and very soulful touch that Con brings to the song.
Totally Awesome! This is an album that receives my highest praise. I have been searching for a country artist who has the soul of my all-time favorite Motown artist, Smokey Robinson. Con Hunley is that country artist. Not only does he have the soulful vocals, but he also knows just what kind of touch to bring to a particular song. Sweet Memories is exactly the kind of album that has been missing in Nashville and on the country radio airwaves... good old "real" country music with lyrics that reach out and wrap around your gut. I simply cannot say how much I appreciate Con Hunley and this album, and I want to welcome him back to country music. If there was ever an album and a country artist who exemplifies what I preach on the pages of AngryCountry about "keeping the music grounded in traditional country lyrics, " Sweet Memories and Con Hunley are a shining example. You will want this album and will agree that this is country music at its best.
NOTE: AngryCountry wishes to express our sincere
thanks to Con Hunley for the time that he took
to interview with us. For more information on
Con Hunley, please visit his website at:
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