“Back When” by Pamela Hopkins
Arkansas born and bred vocalist Pamela Hopkins’ latest single “Back When” is a polished example of what modern country can accomplish. Purist fans of the genre won’t find much to admire about Hopkins’ song, but even if you aren’t a fan of her stylistic choices, there’s no denying her skill. Hopkins and her collaborators ably mix strands of traditional country with a hint of rock muscle without ever pushing too hard. It’s a credit to her talents she pulls this off so seamlessly.
It is the latest single in what has been a spectacular return for Hopkins. She began her recording career more than twenty years ago and her 1995 debut generated considerable buzz at a highly competitive time in music history. It was, indeed, a different world then. She stepped away from the music world, however, and life led her into teaching and law enforcement. I believe Hopkins’ understanding of what makes people tick, an essential quality in any artist, expanded exponentially during this time of her life. You can hear it, if you listen, in “Back When”.
It is a song that is, first and foremost, about longing. The writing never wallows in self-indulgence and drives straight to the point, relying on specificity rather than generalities, and you’ll understand its themes and aims with a single listen. It is no great mystery. Pamela Hopkins has opened her heart in its entirety and is clearly intent on communicating in collaboration with a band. There’s no sense of her chasing personal glory with her vocal performance.
Her voice veers from moments of delicate sensitivity to moments of full-on emotional wallop. There’s plenty of restraint, however, in both her singing and the musical arrangement. Acoustic guitar makes an early appearance in the song and brings a welcome melodic layer to the performance and the electric guitar contributions elsewhere expands the song’s emotional register.
The production does an excellent job documenting these elements. It excels, in particular, with the electric guitar playing and many listeners will enjoy its warmth and piercing physicality. The words are well-balanced with the musical arrangement. None of the lines are unduly lengthy and weigh down individual bars of music.
Anyone searching for extended instrumental breaks is advised to look elsewhere. There’s lots of evidence, however, of the musical skill fueling this gem but Hopkins and her cohorts are intent on serving the song’s needs. “Back When” is a fantastic pop song, a singer/songwriter track, and has a smattering of Nashville further diversifying its sound. Despite this mix of elements, however, Pamela Tompkins never takes a misstep and delivers a memorable musical experience.
Let’s hope there’s soon more to come. Pamela Hopkins comes across as a singer, songwriter and performer thoroughly immersed in her art and determined to provide you with a fully immersive artistic experience. We need more performers like this in the world today and let’s hope Hopkins will remain with us for many years to come. She has far greater peaks ahead and, after hearing “Back When”, you’ll want to scale them with her.