Review originally published at The 9513 in November 2010. Although this track seemed in the early stages of being released as a single at the time, it is not now classified as one – whether because that was never the intention or because it garnered so little interest that it was quickly withdrawn, I don’t know. Anyway, thought this might be a fitting repost for Memorial Day.
Songwriters: Billy Ray Cyrus and Cindy Cyrus
No, you didn’t just fall through a crack in the space-time continuum.
Technically, this reprise of one of country radio’s favorite patriotic recurrents is its first release as a single; when it charted back in 1992, it did so on unsolicited airplay. Now, the mullet king and occasional Brother Clyde frontman has enlisted a veritable B-list Highwaymen of Craig Morgan, Darryl Worley, and Jamey Johnson (how’d he get in there?) to help him give it another spin just in time for the recent Veterans Day holiday.
It’s easy to regard this preview of Cyrus’ upcoming patriotic-themed album I’m American with some degree of cynicism. The release just ahead of Veterans Day, the added star power, the preceding decade of difficulties getting anything up the charts – it smacks more than a little of desperation.
Ultimately, though, good songs and good performances justify themselves. “Some Gave All” remains an affecting song, the sort of heartfelt patriotic number that draws no lines in the sand, effectively seeming more pro-soldier (which is not, divisive political rhetoric aside, a partisan stance) than pro- anything else, save perhaps denim get-ups and occasional awkward phrasing (“a hero yes was he”).
If this had to be revived, Cyrus has gone about it the right way. His choice of guest vocalists is spot-on: Johnson the former Marine, Morgan the former Fire Support Specialist with the U.S. Army, and Worley the outspoken supporter of the military, they all have burly enough voices to not take this recording too far astray from the original. At a couple points, it becomes difficult to tell just who is singing which part.
What’s more, any one of these artists could have credibly recorded the song by himself. As much as we like to insist on the separation of song and singer, in broaching a topic as potentially touchy as patriotism, it does make a difference that there’s no ‘what the heck?’ moment of, say, Sheryl Crow affecting a twang and singing about scrubbing her clothes on a warshboard every day. Sincerity counts for a lot.
Nobody would mistake it for essential listening, but it’s a nice tribute and an equally nice reminder of the quality to be found on Billy Ray’s first album. Would that he could find or write some new originals up to this same standard.