If you've looked up Joe Diffie on Spotify in recent weeks, you saw a five-song collection titled Sweet Dreams Die Hard, credited to Diffie and a duet partner named Dawn Anita. On it, a voice clearly belonging to a younger Diffie sings duet-friendly covers of Merle Haggard's "Somewhere Between," Felice and Boudleaux Bryant's "Tears," Dawn Anita's own "Blow Gentle Breezes" and two songs by Tennessee songwriter Gary Sefton: the title track and EP highlight "The Sadder the Story."
Details are scarce about this archival release, aside from Dawn Anita's identity: she's Diffie's aunt, Dawn Anita Plumlee.
Plumlee's the sister of Diffie's father Joe Riley Diffie, a banjo picker and tour bus driver for Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs. Both Joes are the namesake of Plumlee's father, Oklahoma farmer J.D. Diffie.
In most retellings of Diffie's path from Tulsa to Nashville, years of collaborating with a musical family precede "Pickup Man," "John Deere Green," "Bigger Than The Beatles," "If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)," "Third Rock From the Sun" and other '90's country classics.
There's no telling when these songs were recorded. Diffie's work with his aunt's band dated back to his high school years, but if the EP is that old, he was one mature-sounding 14 year old.
Plumlee has been part of Oklahoma's country music scene since childhood. The former Texas Playboys member has shared the stage with numerous legends, including the first superstar to cut a Joe Diffie composition, Hank Thompson. Recent works as a more-Western-than-country vocalist, songwriter, poet and beauty pageant contestant include the 2017 album Down on Wildhorse Creek.
Just as Diffie honored a family tradition and his old band Higher Purpose with Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album, Plumlee often sings about folks back home on the ranch in such songs as "If You Wanna Be a Cowboy" and "Grandpa Joe Diffie, Our Dad."
Some may recognize Diffie's aunt from the Plumlees, a duo also featuring Plumlee's son, Jerry Don.