SOUNDS FAMILIAR

Tracing the history of those country songs that keep coming back time and time again...
          by Alan Cackett (Country Music International Magazine)

            While playing Michelle Wright's last album, The Reasons Why, one song, Safe In The Arms, started to bug me. It was a song I knew from almost 10 years ago, but from where? Then, months later, while watching CMT, on came Martina McBride's new video, and guess what? She was singing the same song.
            Safe In The Arms Of Love - to give the song it's full title - was written by Mary Ann Kennedy, Pam Rose and Pat Bunch in1983. Kennedy and Rose had both come to Nashville in the late '70's and started out working for pedal steel player Pete Drake's Window Music as writers, demo singers and song-pluggers. Pat Bunch was drafted in to work with them, more often than not providing the lyrics to their catchy and inventive melodies.
            The first version of the song I ever heard of was by Wild Choir, a contemporary Nashville-based country/rock group formed by singer/songwriter Gail Davies in 1985. Davies had been the first female country artist in Nashville to produce her own recordings and, prior to forming Wild Choir, had several Top 10 hits to her credit and had made quite an impact with albums recorded for Lifesong/CBS, Warner Brothers and RCA. A role model for many future female artists, Davies had a reputation for being hard-nosed. Her attitude opened the door for many of today's female singers and songwriters and enabled them to take control of their music. Artists like Suzy Bogguss, Pam Tillis and Kathy Mattea all cite Davies as being a major influence and inspiration.
           During the early '80's Gail worked closely with Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose collaborating on several songs. To be fair, Wild Choir were probably four or five years ahead of their time. Paulette Carlson, one of Gail's backup singers, saw the potential of the band, moved to the West Coast and subsequently formed Highway 101, a group modeled on Wild Choir with the same upbeat aggressive sound. For proof, compare Wild Choir's version of Safe In The Arms Of Love with it's heavy backbeat, powerful harmonies and Davies' assertive lead vocal to Highway 101's subsequent hits.

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