"How's it feel to hear country music on Music Row?" smirked an industry wag as Darryl Worley and his band romped through Buck Owens' 1963 hit, "Love's Gonna Live Here."
Worley's salute to tradition came during his performance
Thursday evening (Aug. 2) at a party held on the side lawn of DreamWorks Records. The event was staged to win the singer votes
for the Country Music Association's Horizon Award.
Because exposure on the CMA Awards Show can boost an artist's album
sales, record labels have been campaigning for votes this year with noteworthy vigor and directness. On July 26, VFR Records
threw a similar outdoor bash for one of Worley's first-round Horizon competitors, Mark McGuinn.
Worley had a distinct
missionary glint in his eye when he told the crowd, "The music I do is a little bit different from what's coming out of this
town. I guess I'm the alternative guy." Then, to demonstrate his fealty to country music as it used to sound, he ripped straight
into the 1966 Merle Haggard
lament, "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down."
Although he repeatedly reassured the celebrants that he knew they were "industry
people" who want their shows kept brief, he held the stage for nearly an hour, during which time he performed eight of the
12 songs on his first Dreamworks album, Hard Rain Don't Last, and three cover tunes. His mother, father and brother
were on hand to lead the applause.
Worley had a story for almost every song. Opening with the album's title cut, he
explained that his co-writer, Rob Crosby, "brought the idea [for the song] in the same day [April 16, 1998] the big tornado
came through town."
"This song was written when I was at the lowest point I've ever been in my life," Worley said
as prelude to "The Way Things Are Going in My Life." His voice cracking with emotion, he added, "I want to thank my mom and
dad for helping me get through it."
After he sang "When You Need My Love" ("the song that got me started in country
music"), Worley launched a barb at the inconstant ex-girlfriend who inspired it: "Like my labelmate [Toby Keith] says, 'How do you like me now?!'"
The tall Tennessean dedicated "Second Wind," his current
single, to his mother and then sang John Prine's "Paradise" for his father. Setting up his final number, "A Good Day to Run,"
Worley said, "This goes out to all the people who like to drive fast with the windows down."
True to the party's purpose,
Worley concluded his appearance with an appeal for votes.