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Tony Arata

WAY BACK WHEN (Little Tybee) • Tony Arata

Back before Darrell Scott proved that fantastic, original, and soulful writers could still get cut in the vapid age of Country, there was Tony Arata. More than anyone, he proved that a writer can write from his deepest place and still create hit songs that will stand the test of time.

In the mid to late eighties, two songwriters met up at a Douglas Corner open mic, Tony Arata and Garth Brooks. Garth loved Tony's great song "The Dance" and swore that if he ever got a deal, that he would cut it. When he did, it became the most played song in R&R and the ACM Song of the Year, and the first of eight Arata tunes that Garth eventually cut. A string of cuts and number ones followed, including Patty Loveless, Lee Roy Parnell, Trisha Yearwood, and a host of others.

All that amazing background notwithstanding, Way Back When is a fantastic record all on its lonesome. Most of these cuts are demos (!) right out of the Forerunner Music vault. (Thanks to producers Matt Lindsey and Mark Miller.) Some are recut or have had some recent flourishes added. Many of Nashville's great session players appear, but the most ubiquitous are Milton Sledge on drums, Alison Prestwood on bass, Dan Dugmore on lap or pedal steel, George Marinelli, Jr. on electric guitar, and Peter Wasner on piano. Pete co-wrote a couple of these superb tunes, as did Scott Miller. George Marinelli and Gary Scruggs co-wrote one apiece, and the artist wrote the other eight alone. The tracks are smokin throughout, but the instrumental standouts are Pete Wasner and Dan Dugmore kickin ass on "Gone is Still Goodbye" and memorable slide guitar work by Tom Britt and Lee Roy Parnell.

Way Back When brings back a much more exciting and inspiring time in the Nashville music scene, it's like a different world. This beautiful record is a good look into that world, and that time, just a few short years ago. If you're a serious songwriter, or if you just like great songs, trust us and buy this record. • FG

[And if you missed our recent interview with Malcombe Holcombe, check out Malcolm's comments about Tony.]

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