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Patty Loveless plays with a strong heart

By Jeffrey B. Remz, September 2000

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"It was such a cool feel to it," she says. "I think I'm able to express myself a little bit more to him than I am to others. There are a lot of wonderful writers out there that I find it difficult to compete with."

"It's kind of swampy. You have to keep in mind some of the things I was listening to."

"Having Em produce my records makes it easy for me to get across to him. He knows when to draw the line and say, 'no go you can't go too far because you have to hang onto your country audience here."

"Even for me, I just want to make music that appeals to an audience like me, but is young at heart; very strong willed. but passionate. I feel that I've managed to cover that in this album."

"Emory's (thought) was maybe we need to write something like that. That was the case of this song. He knew I wanted to do something like this - something fun and something funky. Some of the other things I was writing, I was not totally sold on myself."

"I was listening to music of Otis (Redding) and Percy Sledge and Dionne Warwick, some of the old stuff, some of their older material," Loveless says. "When I look back on those (songs), there was a lot of a soulful country feel to the music that they did - maybe not Dionne Warwick."

And there was one thing even Loveless learned about Gordy during the listening process. "My husband came to play some for Otis Redding," she says. "I find something new about him all the time."

"During the time I had off, Em and I had time to spend to spend together. Some things I was going 'oh wow, I remember that song.' He says, 'how do you remember that song? You weren't old enough.' They still do play it sometimes. If you really do find strong songs, it's going to outlive the artist because it will come back around."

"I'm finding even in some of the pop music I'm hearing today and even some rock and roll, you're hearing some remake of the greatest stuff. A great song will always live on."

Loveless attempted to write with such well-known writers as Kostas and Don Schlitz, "but it wasn't coming across for me."

"I think for me, I need to be in a place that I'm not so distracted, and after being off the road and then being home, it feels good being home and doing something besides constant thinking of music all the time. I just wanted to get away from it and let my down hair down for a little while."

"The first four months I was off the road, I was writing. It was not happening," she says.

Finding high quality songs has never been a problem for Loveless. Matraca Berg co-wrote two songs ("You're So Cool" and the ballad, "My Heart..."). Al Anderson also co-wrote two ("The Last Thing on My Mind" and "THe Key of Love," the latter with Gordy).

After the songs are chosen, it's up to the producer to tweak the music.

Five songs make extensive use of violins, violas and cello.

"After the songs were finished, Emory and I would listen to it and we decided where would strings sound good. He writes them all. He's wonderful at that."

"He surprises me every time because with each album, he listens more and more to me. The thing is he's beginning to understand even more of what I'm about and what my likes and his likes are. I just don't know if I'd ever be able to find anybody else who was this easy for me to work with. I have to know the person and they'd have to know me to understand each other. The combo keeps working. I hope he doesn't quit."

Working with Gordy is nothing new for Loveless. In fact, the husband-and-wife team, who married in 1989, have teamed up in the studio since "If My Heart Had Windows."

Loveless says she has always enjoyed working with Gordy, who once upon a time was bassist for Elvis Presley. Gordy performs similar musical chores on "Strong Heart."

Loveless' roots go back to Kentucky where she was born in the small Appalachian town of Pikeville. Her father, John Ramey was a miner and died of the dreaded black lung disease in 1979.

Same turf as the other coal miner's daughter, her cousin, Loretta Lynn.

Growing up, Loveless (the name was adapted from the surname of her first husband) regularly listened to the Grand Ole Opry. When only 15, she and brother Roger, with whom she sang, took Loveless' songs to Porter Wagoner.

Wagoner encouraged Loveless to finish high school, but two years later, she joined the Wilburn Brothers road show as their featured female singer. She also did songwriting for their publishing firm, though she tends to downplay the quality of those songs today.

In 1976, she married the Wilburns' drummer Terry Lovelace, moved with him to North Carolina and left behind country for rock bands in the Charlotte area.

But a hard lifestyle including drinking was left behind for Nashville. Her marriage ended, but Loveless' musical success was on the upswing.

She signed a singles deal with MCA Records and eventually recorded her first album in 1987.

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