Music

Country Rewind: Gary Stewart, Dean Dillon Go Honky-Tonkin' on 'Brotherly Love'

Gary Stewart, one of the greatest honky-tonk vocalists this side of Lefty Frizzell, ended his run on RCA Records with two duet albums with Dean Dillon, a songwriter whose George Strait connection alone makes him a living legend.

This traditionalist dream team cut Brotherly Love (1982) and Those Were the Days (1983) before Stewart went independent with HighTone Records and Dillon flew solo with a handful of major label albums, culminating with 1993's brilliantly-titled Hot, Country and Single.

Brotherly Love's title track brought fans of both misfits a minor hit that's nothing like Keith Whitley and Earl Thomas Conley's same-titled stroll down memory lane. Stewart and Dillon's single finds two brothers discussing their thirst for both a trip to the honky-tonk and a romantic encounter with a certain bartender and her sibling. Really, they could've just taken a page from Big Star and called this one "Sister Lovers."

"Brotherly Love" reached No. 41 on the Billboard charts, making it the best-performing single off Stewart and Dillon's two albums. The other singles were "She Sings Amazing Grace" (#83), "Those Were the Days" (#47) and "Smokin' in the Rockies" (#71).

Out of Hand (1975) alone earned Stewart a reputation as a vocalist, song interpreter and songwriter. It included the No. 1 hit "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)."

As for Dillon's career circa 1982, a co-write with Linda Hargrove titled "Tennessee Whiskey" had already been cut by David Allan Coe and would later take a life of its own when recorded by George Jones (1983) and Chris Stapleton (2015). In between Jones and Stapleton's turns at making "Tennessee Whiskey" immortal, Strait ("Famous Last Words of a Fool," "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her," "The Chair") and Toby Keith ("A Little Too Late," "Get My Drink On") made a habit of cutting some of Dillon's finest compositions.

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One last thing: If you see the album Brotherly Love out in the wild, buy it. It's not expensive or rare by any stretch, and it includes "Honky Tonk Crazy," which was later covered by Strait, plus the rocking "Firewater Friends," the sensitive "You To Come Home To," the sensual "Body Shop," steel guitar-flavored slow burner "Suburban Life" and a Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins team-up that's yet to happen, "Play This Old Working Day Away."

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Country Rewind: Gary Stewart, Dean Dillon Go Honky-Tonkin' on 'Brotherly Love'