Let that sink in a little. Thirty years ago today, on Aug. 27, 1990, Garth Brooks released his second studio album No Fences.
And by now, it’s 100 percent obvious that there was never any kind of sophomore slump for Brooks.
Quite the opposite, in fact. That album from 1990 won him the Academy of Country Music’s album of the year award, and when Brooks accepted the award and thanked his team — and his pickers — he also thanked the fans. “Most of all, the people who bought this album, man,” he’d said, “thanks for spending your money.”
In Brook’s book The Anthology: Part I The First Five Years, he recalls where the title of the album came from, since it didn’t come from one of the ten tracks.
“I picked the album title No Fences because once you hear ’The Thunder Rolls’ into ’New Way to Fly,’ … ’Friends in Low Places,’ ’Mr. Blue,’ ’Unanswered Prayers,’ ’Wolves,’ it just became clear that this record had no boundaries, and, as much as we could guess, the future was whatever the music wanted it to be. We were beginning to feel that, really, there were no fences,” Brooks wrote, “and we’d be fools to put any up.
“All you knew was, Man, there’s some thing about this record that makes me pull for it. Something about it that makes me want to hear it again. I just know that’s how it hit me.”
Brooks also tells the story of his now-signature hit “Friends in Low Places.” How George Strait had passed on it, how Mark Chestnutt was about to cut it, but how Brooks had always thought of it as his song because he’d been singing it at shows for years. (Ultimately, Chestnutt did record the song for his 1990 album Too Cold at Home, but never released it as a single.)
Once Brooks released the song, he recalls driving home from a recording session at 2:00 in the morning, listening to the radio, and the DJ saying, “In my entire career, I’ve never had so many requests for one song. This has to be the most-requested song I’ve ever known.”
“I’m yelling, I’ve got my hands up in the air. We are on a ride that,” Brooks admitted, “we have no idea. We didn’t have a real sense for what was getting ready to happen, none of us did.”
The songs from No Fences were some of Brooks’ very biggest hits, and they still are today. Even the deep cuts have been fan favorites at his live shows since 1990.
No Fences track list:
1. “The Thunder Rolls” (Garth Brooks, Pat Alger)
2. “New Way To Fly” (Brooks, Kim Williams)
3. “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” (Bobby Boyd, Warren Haynes, Dennis Robbins)
4. “Victim of the Game” (Brooks, Mark D. Sanders)
5. “Friends in Low Places” (DeWayne Blackwell, Earl Bud Lee)
6. “Wild Horses” (Bill Shore, David Wills)
7. “Unanswered Prayers” (Brooks, Alger, Larry Bastian)
8. “Same Old Story” (Tony Arata)
9. “Mr. Blue” (Blackwell)
10. “Wolves” (Stephanie Davis)