Love & Gravity

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Love & Gravity
Studio album by Blackhawk
Released July 29, 1997
Recorded 1996-1997
Genre Country
Length 42:08
Label Arista Nashville
Producer Mike Clute
Mark Bright
Blackhawk chronology
Strong Enough
(1995)
Love & Gravity
(1997)
The Sky's the Limit
(1998)

Love & Gravity is the third studio album released by the American country music group Blackhawk. It features the singles "Hole in My Heart" and "Postmarked Birmingham", which peaked at #31 and #37, respectively, on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts in 1997.

All of the songs center around the theme of loneliness and all but one track concern relationships. The first nine songs are written from a first person perspective, but the last two, including the track "Lonely Boy" a cover of the 1977 pop standard by Andrew Gold, are written from the third person perspective. The track "Will You Be There (In the Morning)" is a cover of a song originally recorded by the band Heart.

All songs are sung with Henry Paul in the lead with the exception of the track "If That Was a Lie", which features Van Stephenson on lead vocals.

Context[edit]

Love & Gravity was released following the 1995 hit album Strong Enough, which continued the success of the debut album BlackHawk. The band recorded the album after receiving TNN's "Star of Tomorrow" award at the network's Music City News Country Awards in 1995 and following a performance at Farm Aid in front of 50,000 fans later that year.[1]

Work on the album began in 1996 as the band toured with Wynonna and made their debut at the Grand Ole Opry early in the year. While recording, the group was nominated as best band by the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. Near the end of the year, BlackHawk learned that their debut album had reached double platinum status.[1]

Love & Gravity would go on to be released on July 29, 1997 under the Arista Nashville label. Upon release, lead singer Henry Paul described the album as a "risky" move for the band, alluding to its contemporary country sound and increased band participation in the songwriting. Paul remarked that the risk of the album was made to "make the kind of progress in our careers that we hope to make." He stated that songs with more "sociological value" were seeping into the band's repertoire to mix with radio hits.[2]

The band would go on to promote the album following its release. A performance in front of a crowd of 5,000 at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota in August 1997, was documented by the media. During the event, 1,000 signed copies of the album were distributed, free of charge.[3] On October 18, the band made an appearance at Legion Field prior to a University of Alabama college football contest against the University of Tennessee. BlackHawk performed the Star Spangled Banner at the forum.[4]

Content[edit]

The album produced two singles, "Hole in My Heart" and "Postmarked Birmingham". Both reached the top 40 on the Billboard charts, but neither peaked as high as the band's singles from its previous two albums.[5]

Seven of the eleven tracks were written in part by a member of BlackHawk. The exceptions included: "Will You Be There (In the Morning)", a cover of the 1993 hit song by the rock band Heart; "Postmarked Birmingham", which featured the introduction of renowned songwriter Phil Vassar; "Hold Me Harmless" composed by songwriter Roger Wojahn; and the cover of Andrew Gold's 1977 pop hit "Lonely Boy."[6]

Side one[edit]

The first track is titled after the album. Its lyrics tell a story of a man from the first person perspective who has fallen from the "good graces" of a woman after "stay[ing] out late" and not calling her. The lead singer describes his situation by repeating the track's title, stating that "Love and Gravity are having their way with" him.[7]

The next track, "Stepping Stones" written by band members Dave Robbins and Van Stephenson plus Jeff Silbar, is a first person plea from an individual asking for somebody's help "who lifts" him "up to higher ground" when he is down. The lyrics state that the protagonist needs help from the individual, just as he needed help from them previously. He begs for the listener to turn his "stumbling blocks" into "stepping stones." The chorus continues as follows: "And I need you now like I needed you then, to help me get back up on my feet again. Only you and you alone can turn my stumbling blocks into stepping stones."[8]

"Postmarked Birmingham" is a ballad written by Phil Vassar and Don Sampson. The song marked the beginning of a songwriter career for Vassar who went on to pen country hits including Little Red Rodeo and My Next Thirty Years; he would also go on to begin a successful recording career in the 2000s.[9] "Birmingham" is the only track on the album to later be featured in the band's 2000 Greatest Hits collection. The vocals of the song are written in first person and discuss the arrival of a letter from a woman who left to Birmingham for unknown reasons. The letter pleads for the protagonist not to "hate" her for her actions. After receiving the letter, the man waits for the woman to write back, looking for the stamp "postmarked Birmingham."[10] The track was the second single released from the album, peaking at #37 on United States country charts and #53 on the Canadian charts.[5] A music video for the song was also created and released to television. It was produced by Robert Deaton and George J. Flanigen and was nominated as the Nashville Music Video of the Year.[11] Later discussing the song, Henry Paul would recount: "People don't always find the answers they're looking for. We wanted a song to have a simplicity as it tells a memorable story to get the point across while begin as succinct and concise as possible."[4]

Following "Postmarked Birmingham" on the album, the track "Will You Be There (In the Morning)" had previously reached number fifteen on Adult Contemporary charts and number ten on United States Mainstream Rock charts for the band Heart.[12] It was written by Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who at the time was married and writing songs for country star Shania Twain. The song centers around an individual in the first person, who wonders if their lover will remain with them through the night, hoping that they will "be there in the morning."[13]

The next track, "It Ain't About Love Anymore" was written by band members Dave Robbins and Van Stephenson plus Songwriters Hall of Fame[14] songwriter Desmond Child. The song features a first person speaker explaining to his partner that "it ain't about love anymore" and that he will "walk out the door" because a "cold wind blows." He expands this sentiment by stating that his "lonely heart" has become a "ghost town." There is no mention of ill-will toward his intended listener but states that he is leaving so he doesn't "hurt" her anymore.[15]

Side two[edit]

"Nobody's Fool", the album's sixth track, was written by lead singer Henry Paul along with Dale Oliver (a member of the group's backing band, who later made a career composing entrance music for wrestlers in TNA) and former Survivor band member Jim Peterik.[16] In the song, a man discusses his life in the first person, explaining how he is "nobody's fool", a position he does not cherish. The protagonist walks away from relationships "before the heartache starts" avoiding any "angry eyes" or "sad goodbyes." Although he states that he "was the envy of every man", he feels alone, and believes that it is better to be "somebody's fool than nobody's fool at all." Lead singer Paul starts the chorus by stating "I'm nobody's fool", and is answered by Robbins and Van Stephenson with "somebody who." Later in the chorus, similar harmonies are constructed as the lead sings "no angry eyes" and his band members answer with "no sad goodbyes."[17]

The next track, "If That Was a Lie" was written by band members Dave Robbins and Van Stephenson as well as Jeff Silbar. The song is the only on the album to feature Van Stephenson on lead vocals instead of Henry Paul.[18] It is written from a first person perspective and questions whether a confession of love "was a lie." Throughout the song, the protagonist states, "if that was a lie, that was the sweetest lie that I have ever heard." At certain points in the song, Stephenson repeats "if that was a lie" as his fellow band members sing "I'm gonna believe" in the background.[19]

Written by band members Van Stephenson and Dave Robbins alongside Desmond Child, "Hole in My Heart" expresses a man's love for a woman in the first person, but states that the love is "gonna tear [him] apart" and that he needs it as much as he needs a "Hole in [his] Heart."[20] The song was released as the lead-off single for the album and peaked at number 31 on U.S. country charts, it reached number 52 on Canadian charts and peaked at number 123 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the band's fifth highest position on the chart. A music video was released to television for the single.[5]

Following the single "Hole in My Heart", "Hold Me Harmless" is a first person plea from a man to his lover to "Hold [him] harmless." In the opening, the situation is explained where the man states that his lover "needed a little time" but now "its been too long" as he is experiencing "agony." The protagonist states that he is "not that strong" to put up with his lover's absence. When the title of the track is sung, the word "hold" is drawn out into three notes to begin the chorus. In the chorus, the man admits his eternal love to whom he is speaking. Later in the track, the speaker confesses that his "crime of passion" is loving too much and that he is "guilty as charged."

The tenth track, "She Dances with Her Shadow" was written by all members of BlackHawk and Dale Oliver. The track is a ballad, which chronicles in third person, a woman who "dances with her Shadow" since the departure of her "fast" and "restless" lover, who said "goodbye" for reasons not mentioned. The chorus goes as follows: "And she dances with her shadow, staring out the window, a silver moon silhouette shining in her eyes. In her heart she knows that he will never come back she dances with her shadow alone again tonight."[21]

The final track, "Lonely Boy" had previously charted number seven in the United States for Andrew Gold, whose version was included on his 1976 album What's Wrong with This Picture?[22] and featured background vocals by country music artist Linda Ronstadt.[23] BlackHawk's version differed somewhat from Gold's: it begins (and ends) with a banjo solo by musician Eric Silver[24] and adds ten years to the date of birth of the song's protagonist, the birth year of his sister and his departure from home. The song follows the life of a boy in the third person, who feels neglected by his parents following his sister's birth, and is therefore stricken with loneliness.[25]

Reception[edit]

Reviews of the album were mixed. Allmusic gave the band a generally favorable review, remarking that the album's "best moments demonstrate that BlackHawk is more talented and diverse than their previous two albums would suggest", however the review also labeled, without specifying, that certain songs were "simply unmemorable." Overall, the website gave the album three stars out of a possible five.[6]

The review of The Plain Dealer was mostly critical. Three tracks were singled out; the title track was criticized for being "lighthearted" and leaving the listener "feeling totally empty", "Postmarked Birmingham" was cited for starting "strong but" losing "its momentum" and was criticized as a "take no chances effort", "If That Was a Lie" was described as the "most interesting" track on the album for its change in lead vocals to Van Stephenson from Henry Paul, whose vocals were criticized for being "raspy." Overall, the album was given a "C."[18]

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gave the album an "A" stating that the band's "choice to record music and meaningful lyrics combined with vocal and musical talent [made] the album a winner." Two of the tracks were expressively lauded: "Postmarked Birmingham" and "She Dances with her shadow."[26]

According to reflections on the album, the singles released were ignored by "the powers that decide what the public should hear...as did radio stations." But the Virginian Pilot declared that "fans and critics loved the album" and that it "was an excellent album with...outstanding songs and exciting lead vocals by Henry Paul."[27]

BlackHawk was honored as the "CMT Showcase Artist" for August 1997, shortly following the release of the album.[2]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Love and Gravity (Was Fallin' from Her Good Graces)" (Henry Paul, Dave Robbins, Mark D. Sanders) – 3:16
  2. "Stepping Stones" (Robbins, Jeff Silbar, Van Stephenson) – 4:05
  3. "Postmarked Birmingham" (Don Sampson, Phil Vassar) – 4:20
  4. "Will You Be There (In the Morning)" (Robert John "Mutt" Lange) – 3:48
  5. "It Ain't About Love Anymore" (Desmond Child, Robbins, Stephenson) – 4:00
  6. "Nobody's Fool" (Dale Oliver, Paul, Jim Peterik) – 3:52
  7. "If That Was a Lie" (Robbins, Silbar, Stephenson) – 3:59
  8. "Hole in My Heart" (Child, Robbins, Stephenson) – 3:59
  9. "Hold Me Harmless" (Roger Wojahn) – 3:33
  10. "She Dances with Her Shadow" (Oliver, Paul, Robbins, Stephenson) – 3:23
  11. "Lonely Boy" (Andrew Gold) – 3:54

Personnel[edit]

BlackHawk[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

Strings performed by the Nashville String Machine and conducted by Carl Marsh.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1997) Peak
position
U.S. Top Country Albums 8
U.S. Billboard 200 79

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Country US CAN Country
1997 "Hole in My Heart" 31 123 52
"Postmarked Birmingham" 37 53

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BlackHawk, American Music Channel.
  2. ^ a b Wix, Kimmy. BlackHawk Opens Up Risky Business, CMT, 1997-08-15.
  3. ^ Merchants and Marketing Newsline, Billboard Magazine, 1997-08-16.
  4. ^ a b Colurso, Mary. BlackHawk's Message 'Postmarked Birmingham', Birmingham News, 1997-11-21.
  5. ^ a b c BlackHawk, Allmusic.
  6. ^ a b Owens, Thom. Love & Gravity, Allmusic.
  7. ^ Lyrics for "Love and Gravity (Was Fallin' from Her Good Graces)", CMT.
  8. ^ Lyrics for "Stepping Stones", CMT.
  9. ^ Huey, Steve. "Phil Vassar biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  10. ^ Postmarked Birmingham, CMT
  11. ^ PR News Wire, Nashville, 1998-11-18.
  12. ^ Heart, allmusic.com.
  13. ^ Lyrics for "Will You Be There (In the Morning)", CMT.
  14. ^ Torreano, Bradley.Desmond Child, allmusic.com.
  15. ^ Lyrics for "It Ain't About Love Anymore", CMT.
  16. ^ Jim Peterik, allmusic.com.
  17. ^ Lyrics for "Nobody's Fool", CMT.
  18. ^ a b Fulmer, Douglas. "BlackHawk; Love and Gravity", The Plain Dealer, 1997-09-15.
  19. ^ Lyrics for "If That Was a Lie", CMT.
  20. ^ Lyrics for "Hole in My Heart", CMT.
  21. ^ Lyrics for "She Dances with Her Shadow", CMT.
  22. ^ What's Wrong with This Picture, allmusic.com.
  23. ^ What's Wrong with This Picture, allmusic.com.
  24. ^ In Brief, Buffalo News, 1997-09-26.
  25. ^ Lyrics for "Lonely Boy", CMT.
  26. ^ Frazier, Amy. Weekend at Home; The latest in Music, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1997-08-14.
  27. ^ Roberts, Frank. BlackHawk headlines entertainment Lineup, Virginian Pilot, 1998-04-16.