When David Ball’s single “Thinkin’ Problem” hit country radio in the spring of 1994, it played alongside tunes by neo-traditionalists Tracy Lawrence, Mark Chesnutt, and Alan Jackson. Yet even then it seemed like an anomaly.
With Ball’s a cappella delivery of the opening line, “Yes, I admit I got a thinkin’ problem,” sung with the hard-edged twang of a Buck Owens-George Strait hybrid, the song, written by Ball with Allen Shamblin and Stuart Ziff, was the first taste of mainstream country success for the Spartanburg, South Carolina, native, who 20 years earlier had been a member of the pioneering acoustic outfit Uncle Walt’s Band. The trio, distinguished by sparkling harmonies, also featured Champ Hood and Walter Hyatt. Ball would relocate to Nashville in the late Eighties, initially releasing a handful of singles for RCA before signing with Warner Bros. His debut single for the label, “Thinkin’ Problem” climbed the chart through the summer of ’94, ultimately reaching the Number Two spot behind Alan Jackson’s remake of “Summertime Blues.”
In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Thinkin’ Problem LP, a reissue of the album was released today on Omnivore Recordings. It includes the original 10-track LP, previously unseen photos, and eight previously unreleased bonus cuts, including an alternate version of the title tune and a 2019 update of “What Do You Want With His Love.”
Ball’s Thinkin’ Problem also produced the Top Ten single “When the Thought of You Catches Up With Me,” and “Look What Followed Me Home,” which stopped just outside the Top Ten. “What Do You Want with His Love” and “Honky Tonk Healin’” were also released as singles. The singer-songwriter earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Male Vocal Performance and nominations for the CMA Horizon (Best New Artist) honor and Song of the Year.
Although the next few years brought only minor hits, by 2001 Ball, who won a Grammy for his participation in the Stephen Foster tribute project Beautiful Dreamer in 2005, had moved to independent Dualtone Records, which would release the haunting story song “Riding With Private Malone.” Just as “Thinkin’ Problem” had done, that song peaked at Number Two.