Ira Dean made his name as the bassist for the highly successful country trio Trick Pony, and he also had a hand in penning some of the band’s biggest hits. When the band (also consisting of Heidi Newfield and Keith Burns) started to fray circa 2006-2008, Dean concentrated on the songwriting aspect of things. He has also released a pair of solo albums as well.
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The respect for Dean’s talent is evident in the wide range of artists who have recorded his songs. Here are five examples of Ira Dean’s songwriting excellence.
1. “A Feelin’ Like That” by Gary Allan
One of Dean’s biggest successes as a writer came when he hooked up with David Lee Murphy and Kim Tribble for “A Feelin’ Like That,” a song recorded by Allan in 2006 for a greatest hits package. The song made it to No. 12 on the country chart. “A Feelin’ Like That” comes from the perspective of a protagonist who’s a bit of a daredevil. It turns out the reason that he’s living on the edge is that he’s trying to find some sort of emotional replacement for the woman who left him behind. Thus, even though he jumps out of planes and runs with the bulls, he’s still haunted by that loss. It’s a clever way to approach a heartbreak song, and the combination of the solid writing and Allan’s outstanding vocals carry it a long way.
2. “One in Every Crowd” by Montgomery Gentry
Once again, Dean partnered with Kim Tribble to write “One in Every Crowd,” and the pair got assistance from Eddie Mongomery as well. The chunky guitar riff gives the song a power pop feel that’s a pleasant surprise. Raucous crowd sound effects add the feel of a wild bar that might just be haunted now and again by the protagonist of the song. This is a guy who’s the life of the party until he goes a little bit too far, but it’s all forgotten by the next time he shows up. He’s also the guy who sings Lynyrd Skynyrd songs with his shirt off right before he tries to hit on your girlfriend. Good time Charley with a Harley, whiskey bent, and hellbound is this guy’s motto. The twist: There’s one in every crowd, and it’s usually me.
3. “What Am I Waiting For?” by Heidi Newfield
Newfield’s first (and only) solo album arrived in 2008 at the time that Trick Pony had just about run its course. But clearly, there wasn’t a ton of bad blood at the time, as “What Am I Waiting For?” is credited to all three members of the trio (including Dean) and co-writer Jeffrey Steele. The message seems very much in the vein of somebody breaking out from a group to go out on their own, which is likely why Newfield chose it for the title track. It’s a winning melody and a heartfelt performance by Newfield, as she embodies a narrator who chides herself for her reluctance to make that big move out of her safety zone into the new and unknown.
4. “God Fearing Heathen” by Dan Tyminski
Tyminski is one of the most respected names in bluegrass, and he returned to that genre with a new album in June 2023. For the title track, he turned to Dean for a co-write, and the pair delivered a stunning acoustic ballad. “God Fearing Heathen” elaborates on the disconnect between a hard-living sinner and his devotion to his religion. Such a setup could easily have been played for comedy. But instead, Tyminski and Dean wring a great deal of emotion out of it, with Tyminski’s anguished vocal also adding to that effect. The first two lines paint a vivid picture of how this guy has been living: Well, I’ve cursed at Jesus with smoke on my breath / I gave him every reason to leave me for dead. In the end, we’re left wondering if there is indeed a place up in heaven for a God-fearing heathen.
5. “Proud to Be Here” by Trace Adkins
If you’re going to be a writer for hire, you need the ability to get inside the hearts and minds of the artists for whom you’re writing. In the case of “Proud to Be Here,” Dean, Chris Wallin, and Aaron Barker did just that, penning a 2011 track so apropos to the persona of Adkins that listeners probably assumed that Trace wrote it himself. The details are everything: Had a thousand dollar stereo / In a two thousand dollar truck, sings Adkins. It all builds to a moving chorus about gratitude that sounds like country music’s answer to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Yeah, I’m just proud to be here on the right side of the dirt, sings Adkins, and that’s a sentiment that anyone who made it through some travails can appreciate.
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