In the last ten-years-plus, Joe has shown a master's hand at everything from heart-tugging, classic ballads to sidesplitting and seriously rocking, country cookers. And the same could be said of his latest offering, with the notable qualifier that never before has Joe assembled a more complete, compelling collection of all his many gifts into one album than he does now
In Another World.
Not that such an achievement came lightly.
Ever since Joe's smash-laden Greatest Hits summarized and solidified his place in the pantheon of country greats, and ushered him into the new millennium. He and his well-established production teamhit-makers Don Cook and Lonnie Wilsonhave been hard at work putting together In Another World, an album that not only stands as Joe's most fully realized work to date, but could be called, without the slightest exaggeration, definitive Diffie.
From the haunting, unforgettable title track, which indeed evokes an almost otherworldly image of a love long lost, to the tongue-in-cheek of My Give A Damn's Busted, Joe takes the listener on as impactive a 12-song ride as they are likely to encounter, this year or any.
We took the better part of two years to find the twelve absolute best songs that were out there to be found, Joe explains, and we really got each other psyched up. By the time we started the recording, we knew we were good and ready to go in andshall we saykick some serious butt!
And though in characteristically humble fashion, Joe admits that the title In Another World could also be seen as reflective of the power and magic of music, especially in the troubled times of today's world, to carry us all to a place where peace, hope, harmony and laughter still reign.
On an album that soars from the first downbeat to the final fade, Joe still has several songs that stand out as personal favorites. The title song just grabbed me and wouldn't let go, he says. From the very first time I heard the demo, I walked away singing the chorus. And the lyrics are just so cinematic. You can almost see the words as pictures on a movie screen. It's sexy in a subtle, tasteful sort of way, but it's also very romantic and touching. I knew right away I had to record it.
If I Lost Her is a landmark number that can stand with the best of Joe's formidable list of heart-grabbing ballads. That's one of those songs that just got me, Joe remembers. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I think the words are what every woman would want to hear from her man, and exactly what he'd want to say to her. And it's such a great melody. It hit me as hard as (all-time country classic) `Almost Persuaded.' It's the absolutely perfect country song.
While Joe doesn't wish to be tagged as a novelty song singer, his funny bone can't help but show through on My Give A Damn's Busted.
I co-wrote that with two terrific songwriters, Tom Shapiro and Tony Martin, and for a while it was one of those great ideas that was just looking for a hook a title, Joe recalls. All of a sudden Tom just came up with that, and we fell out. We knew it was perfect. But the most interesting thing about it to me is that it's also actually a pretty serious, even cerebral, sort of break-up song. But it's got enough humor in it to keep it from getting too serious, or sounding mean-spirited. We had a blast cutting it.
Joe was raised in a musical home where extended-family jam sessions were a normal event. He made his public debut at age four, singing You Are My Sunshine, accompanied by his aunt's country band in his hometown of Duncan, Oklahoma. As he grew older, Joe kept one ear on Top-40 rock while returning for regular tours of duty with his aunt on the country side of the tracks, as well.
We had about 30 songs all written out on paper, Joe recalls with a laugh, and if they had more than three chords we were lost!
Stints in a four-song, high-school garage band, partial to rockers Deep Purple and ZZ Top, segued into a gospel quartet and a bluegrass group in Joe's early 20s as he continued to expand his horizons. Seriously bitten with the music bug, it wasn't long before Joe lit out for Music City and a stab at the big time. A job at Gibson Guitars' Nashville plant paid the bills while Joe shopped his songs and voice to anyone who would listen.
When Holly Dunn had a major hit in 1989 with There Goes My Heart Again, co-written by Joe, the value of his stock increased considerably. By that time he'd also become a sought-after demo singer whose voice was winding up on the desks of producers, artists and label executives all over town. As the '80s ended, Joe graduated to a record deal of his own and within a year had lain claim to a permanent stake atop the country charts.
Throughout the '90s, Joe's fevered chart activity was accompanied by equally fervent humanitarian work. Himself the parent of a Down's Syndrome child, Joe has worked tirelessly on behalf of Nashville's First Steps, a group dedicated to loving, teaching and nurturing similarly handicapped children. Joe's star-studded Country Steps in for First Steps annual concert has raised more than a half-million dollar for various benevolent organizations.
And though all that, coupled with an almost relentless touring schedule, would seem to leave Joe little time for anything even approaching what the real world would call a hobby. It's not hard to launch him into a rapturous recounting of his favorite free-time pursuit: making wine and brewing beer. In fact, he readily admits it's one of his life's passions. Having dubbed his basement business, Winding Road Winery, Joe is not ashamed to take credit, or blame, for his various beverages.
You can buy kits to get you started, but I wanted to do it the real way, he laughs. I made a pumpkin wine that didn't taste too bad, but I have to admit it did smell pretty funky! Despite his considerable successes, his once-was-enough attempt at jalapeno wine is best left undisclosed, he jokes. And he is quick to point out that he brews a yeasty, unfiltered, old school beer, which he cautions friends and family to pour carefully.
All joking asideand Joe is a man who loves a good jokeit's his thoughts on his longevity and legacy that simply but profoundly tell the story of the man behind the music. I've thought about it, and I really can't come up with any magic formula for how you make it in this business, he concludes. I think it's a lot like life in general. In my career, I would hope to always be known as a great singer, and an artist who's always given his very best to the public, but in the bigger picture, that's secondary. It really comes down to people and treating them like you'd want them to treat you. Family, friends, co-workers, fans whoever. We're all just people. If folks could say about me, `He was a good friend a nice guy someone you could trust,' I'd be really satisfied. Strip everything else away, and those are the things that matter the most.
In this world, or any other.