Recording Review

Ever' Time My Heart Goes Home

Debra Tuggle

Light Productions, Inc.

Format: cassette

By Paul Moffett

My fifteen-year-old daughter Adrianne remarked that she found the use of "katydid" in three songs on one side a little bothersome, and she thought that the crickets and water that opened side one didn't sound really real, you know, and there was one place where the singer seemed to stretch a little too long, but she really loved the album and I did ask her "to be critical." I said that I had been.

It isn't really my habit to ask my daughter about recordings I'm trying to review -- she's listens to Tone Loc, and sometimes Michael, and usually can't stand to listen to anything her father likes, but she has a good ear and can hear things I don't. She now insists that she has to have a copy of this album.

Producer Vince Emmett, who has worked with Tuggle off and on for several years, had a definite idea about how this project should be done: arrange the instruments so that they constitute the background for Debra's voice and nothing more.

Tuggle's voice, polished and professional from years as a lounge singer, had to both carry and dominate the material, and the arrangements should do nothing to stand in the way. Using only five musicians, J. D. Miller on keyboards, Jeff Guernsey, now with the Steve Wariner band, on fiddle, mandolin and guitar, Dwight Dunlop on percussion, Bob Goff on bass and Emmett himself playing guitar, he produced what session engineer Nick Stevens called "Fifth Avenue Bluegrass," as accurate a description as one could want.

In order to set that vocally-dominating tone, Side One begins with the aforementioned cricket-and-creek combination, then an a capella rendition of "Appalachia," an unabashed love song to childhood in the mountains. A strong but faintly ominous, minor key violin lick opens the title tune and the listener is swept along, as though the gentle creek had suddenly turned into a torrent and raced away toward the city, just as the singer had been carried away by the flow of her life toward the city.

A simple, melodic flattop riff leads into "Pine Tree Paradise," arguably the most commercially appealing tune, with a steady, loping beat and flawless mandolin and guitar work by Emmett and Guernsey. The hum-along chorus and sharply-drawn verses etch an immediately visual image: the lyric "Sittin' on a pop case, Saturday mornin'/Down at the company store," sets the scene about as well as it is possible to do in two lines. The rest of the song goes down as easy as the rhubarb pie that is frequently mentioned in these songs.

The side closes with "Old Glory," a frankly patriotic paean to the flag. In this tune, J.D. Miller, producer of many of Tuggle's early demos, handles all of the instrumentation on piano. Producer Emmett successfully resisted the urge to fill this tune up with syrupy strings and big orchestration and saved it accordingly.

Side Two opens with "Front Porch Swings," a breezy little number about exactly what it says it is, the pleasures of front porch swings and their therapeutic value. The instrumental arrangement is clearly meant to reflect what could be played on a front porch in Appalachia, if you happened to have several studio musicians as close personal friends.

"Build Back The Mountains" is a tune meant to be propagandistic, in the positive sense of that word. Tuggle often speaks of the song as her contribution to the task of dealing with the damages caused by coal mining in Appalachia.

"A Country Lullaby" was recorded by Tuggle on the L.A.S.C.'s First Time Out release and the differences are quite noticeable to those familiar with both versions. This arrangement is quite a bit leaner and that leanness allows Tuggle's voice to carry the tune, as it was meant to do.

The final tune, "I Am Home In My Kentucky," was written to be used as a state song in a public relations campaign by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is nonetheless a fine song and perfectly fitted to end this album. Miller's piano leads the way, until midway through the tune the production slips heavily into 'jingle pop,' with strings and pounding piano, an appropriate arrangement for this tune.

The album was recorded and mixed at Allen-Martin Productions, Jeffersontown.

For old and new fans of Debra Tuggle, this is the long-awaited recording that begins to fulfill the promise of her vocal abilities and demonstrates that she is a fine songwriter as well. It is also a recording that will be shopped around to major labels, and with a very good chance to be picked up. Better order yours today, and don't forget to drop a note asking her to autograph it, so you, too, can say: "Well, I knew her way back when, etc and so on."

The tape costs $10.00, plus $2.50 for shipping and handling. It may be ordered from:

Light Productions Inc.

P.O. Box 58803

Louisville, Ky 40258