There’s a saying in country music — “It’s all about the song.” That’s why Nashville has become known as a songwriter’s city. The best songwriters there are come to Music Row to collaborate with the talented writers who make magic with their pens. Once in a while though, a song comes from a writer’s room, retreat, living room or studio that exceeds magic and becomes iconic.
When mega-hit songwriters Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz put their heads, pens and guitars together and wrote the romantic “When You Say Nothing At All,” they may not have realized what they had come up with. Keith Whitley did, though, and it become one of his biggest chart-topping singles. Sadly, he passed away in 1989 just a year after the song’s initial success.
Alison Krauss knew the song was special, too. She recorded the song with her band Union Station for a Keith Whitley tribute album. The song’s tender message paired with Alison’s sublime vocals resulted in another rise up the charts and earned “When You Say Nothing At All” a spot on CMT’s list of 100 Greatest Love Songs. It also put a CMA song of the year trophy in the writer’s hands in 1995.
When a song is that great, almost anyone could sing it and almost everyone wants to, but some voices just sound a little better than others. Songs always find their home.
“When You Say Nothing At All” seems to have found another home in newcomer William Michael Morgan. An admitted Keith Whitley fan, Will’s version is true to the original and with a simple acoustic guitar accompaniment, is as honest a confession of love as there is. And the fact that he performs it in one of Music Row’s oldest watering holes, Bobby’s Idle Hour, it makes it even more endearing.
Take a listen, but don’t bother to try to pick a favorite. They’re all favorites.