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Source Material

Source Material: The Judds, Why Not Me

by Linda Ryan

Source Material: The Judds, Why Not Me


When The Judds came on the scene in 1983, no one could foresee how this mother-daughter duo would reshape the landscape of country music. After releasing a self-titled EP to introduce the twosome, Curb Records released The Judds' debut, Why Not Me in 1984. And country music has never looked back. Listen to our playlist, which contains tracks from Why Not Me, songs from artists who have influenced The Judds, and artists whom The Judds have influenced.

At the start of the 1980s, Naomi Judd was making ends meet by working as a nurse. One of her patients happened to be the daughter of producer Brent Maher; Maher secured the two an audition with a record label. Signed more or less on the spot, the two went into the studio and starting cutting tracks for their introductory EP -- with none other than Brent Maher producing. At the time, Maher was a fairly successful songwriter/engineer/producer, working with the likes of Dr. Hook, B.J. Thomas and David Loggins, among others.

In country music, getting the perfect song is everything, and Maher's extensive work in music gave him access to some of the best songwriters in the business. Not surprisingly, four songs off The Judds' debut -- "Mama He's Crazy," "Girls' Night Out," the title track and "Love Is Alive" -- topped the country charts.

Maher kept the production on Why Not Me to a minimum, opting for crisp, uncluttered production. Rather than muddy the sound with over-embellished string arrangements or thin-sounding, machine-programmed drums (which many country artists did in the '80s), Maher left plenty of breathing room for the duo's beautiful Everly Brothers-like harmonies, which shine especially bright on twanging gems such as the sassy "Drops of Water," the lilting "Sleeping Heart" and the flawless, "Bye Bye Baby Blues," which channels a yodeling Patsy Cline.

And clearly, this approach was the perfect vehicle for highlighting Wynonna's expressive voice. Instinctively, Wynonna knows to how deliver each song: on "Mr. Pain," co-written by her mother, Wynonna sounds vulnerable and just a little sad in her delivery, while on "Drops of Water" she opts for a bluesy, fiery and ready to rock feel. In retrospect, the production had more in common with the lite country rock of Linda Ronstadt and the earthy, bluesy sound of Bonnie Raitt than it did with much of the country music coming out at the time, yet Why Not Me was country through and through. By going back to the basics, Why Not Me helped kick off the neo-traditionalist movement, which hit its stride a couple of years later.

Decades later, Why Not Me remains one of The Judds' best offerings, and one of the most potent albums in the annals of country music. There are plenty of fine albums in The Judds' repertoire, but like a first love, Why Not Me leaves a lasting imprint.