(Editor’s note: I moved from an apartment into a house starting January 1st, 2020, and I had to toss all my CDs into a big garbage bag during the move. The idea for this feature is I write a review about each CD as I unpack that bag, one CD at a time, and rank them.)
The Fifteenth CD Out of the Bag
1. Teardrops; 2. Kisses Don’t Lie; 3. Hello Cruel World; 4. My World Stopped Turning; 5. Lipstick Promises; 6. Shame on Me; 7. Waiting and Wishing; 8. In No Time at All; 9. Only in My Dreams; 10. It Ain’t Me.
The 1994 self-titled album by George Ducas is one of the best country music debuts I’ve ever heard. A modern blend of neo-traditional honky-tonk, classic country, and Bakersfield sound, George Ducas is a near-perfect collection of ten songs clocking in at an efficient 35 minutes. Known mostly for its top ten hit “Lipstick Promises,” George Ducas doesn’t have a bad song on it. It kicks off with the terrific “Teardrops,” which boasts a lively toe-tapping beat that belies its lyrics about a man so lonely “even the sun” can make him cry. The album finishes with the rocking “It Ain’t Me” that sounds like a perfect companion piece to Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast as You.” In between, George Ducas is packed with gorgeous songs about love and heartache, including the sweet innocence of “Kisses Don’t Lie,” the fiddle-laced sadness of “My World Stopped Turning,” the desperate longing for a second chance in “Waiting and Wishing,” and the unrequited love of “Only in My Dreams.” There’s also the bluesy cheating song “Shame on Me” and a bouncy number about a man in denial titled “In No Time at All.” The Texas native’s vocals inject the right amount of emotion, vulnerability, and sentimentality into each song. Like when he sings “Waiting and Wishing,” he sounds like a man who legitimately lost his one true love forever.
“I throw a penny in the river each morning.
At twilight, I go outside and find the first star.
I’m down on my knees most every evening,
Praying I’ll find a way back into your heart.“
His debut album should’ve launched Ducas into more mainstream success, but it failed to crack the Top 40 on Billboard‘s Country Albums chart (although it did hit No. 36 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart). Like other top-notch country albums of the mid-’90s, George Ducas was unfortunately released when songs by industry mainstays Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, George Strait, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, and John Michael Montgomery dominated radio airplay. Then, six months after the album’s release, Shania Twain exploded onto the scene. Ducas has since written several hit songs for some of the biggest names in country music, and he’s still releasing quality country music on his own terms today. But man, oh man, what a debut. Timing is everything, I guess.
My favorite song
My favorite George Ducas song is “Hello Cruel World.” It’s another sad song set to a buoyant, shuffling beat that contradicts the utter devastation of the narrator’s true emotions.
“I lost another one and only,
But I’ll move on and do my best.
You’ll find me where it’s sad and lonely,
In case you need my new address.”
By the way, that address is “1313 Heartbreak Avenue.” Give Mr. Ducas credit. His songs go all in on the heartache and embrace the ensuing aftermath of misery. What I love about “Hello Cruel World” is its innovative arrangement that’s as fresh sounding today as it was in the 1990s. It has the timeless Roger Miller vibe that I loved so much in Dwight Yoakam’s “It Only Hurts When I Cry,” which is another one of my favorite songs. “Hello Cruel World” grabbed my attention immediately upon first listen, and I can’t recall another song quite like it in country music at the time.
My favorite lines of my favorite song
“I’ll be real lucky if I make it.
Your memory still tears me apart.
The only way I can escape it
Is down the trail of broken hearts.”