These days, fans know Tracy Lawrence as one of the biggest names in 90s country music. Tracks like “My Second Home,” “Paint Me a Birmingham,” and “Time Marches On” solidified his position. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a 90s country fan who couldn’t sing at least a handful of his songs by heart. I’d go as far as to say that most of you reading this know “Time Marches On” by heart.
Listening to his older material today is like taking a trip back in time to the good old days. However, thirty years ago today, Lawrence introduced himself to the country charts with “Sticks and Stones.”
Tracy Lawrence started working on his craft as a teenager. Then, after years of grinding and growing, he moved to Nashville in 1990. The next year, he inked a deal with Atlantic Records’ now-defunct country imprint and immediately got to work on his debut album Sticks and Stones. It dropped in November of that year and peaked at number ten on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Tracy Lawrence released the title track as the record’s lead single. It caught fire and went to the top of the Billboard country singles chart. All of his hard work and dedication to his craft was finally paying off in a big way.
Digging into Tracy Lawrence’s First Single
Elbert West and Roger Dillon penned “Sticks and Stones.” Tracy Lawrence went on to collaborate with West at least once more in the future. He penned another of Lawrence’s chart-topper, “Can’t Break It to My Heart.”
From its opening notes, you know “Sticks and Stones” is going to be country gold. It’s full of Telecaster twang, fiddle, and steel guitar. They blend with a solid backbeat to lay the perfect groundwork for Tracy Lawrence’s vocals. To me, this song sounds like my favorite bar. That crying steel guitar somehow conjures up the scent of sawdust and whiskey.
Lyrically, “Sticks and Stones,” is a heartbreak song. It’s all about a guy whose lady is walking out the door. He’s so devastated by her departure that he tells her to just take whatever she wants and go. To him, none of it matters without the love they once shared. It’s pretty standard fare for country music. However, the song features some great wordplay that sets it apart from the pack.
A great example of that wordplay comes at the end of the song’s chorus. “Those sticks and stones may break me / but the words you said just tore my heart in two.” It’s a play on the old saying about sticks and stones breaking bones as well as an unbothered look at the financial ruin that’s right around the corner.
It’s hard to believe that Tracy Lawrence dropped this song thirty years ago because it still feels so fresh today.