Ask around Nashville for any amount of time about great vocalists to come from Music City, and invariably, the name of Con Hunley will come up. In the 1970s and 1980s, the East Tennessee native recorded some of the most soulful tracks to ever be cut here -- including "What's New With You" and "No Relief In Sight."
The singer admits to being very humbled by those compliments that have come artists such as Kenny Chesney and Vince Gill. "I'll be honest. I'm very gratified by it. I stepped back from recording for a number of years. I've managed to keep my chops in good condition. I'm grateful for the people who still love what I do."
The singer has just released a brand new Gospel album, "Wayfarin' Stranger." Though Hunley had been working on the IMMI release for a while, it took a powerful song from a songwriting legend to really get the album in gear. "Dean Dillon had always been a good friend of mine," Hunley told Billboard. "I called him one day, and asked what he had been up to. He was telling me about his ranch in Colorado where he spends quite a bit of time, and also about him going to Texas and writing with George Strait and his son Bubba. He asked about me, and I told him I was working on a Gospel album, and he said 'You're kidding. I've just written a song called 'Jonas' about the Crucifixion and resurrection. It's a great song, and it was meant for me to have it. He sent me an MP3 that night."
"Wayfarin' Stranger" took Hunley back to a simpler time. "I remembered all the places and times growing up when I did these songs where I could visualize my family singing them. The Church that is pictured on the back of the CD is one that my grandfather started in the late 20s or 30s. All through the years, I remembered these songs like 'Satisfied' and 'Amazing Grace.' There's a song my dad liked called 'There's A Leak In This Old Building.'
The disc also features a guest appearance from the legendary Bill Gaither. "I've got so much respect for him and what he has done. Some of our mutual friends got us together around Knoxville and we went out on Douglas Lake where the water was kind of still. There was an electronic piano on the boat, and he looked at me and said 'I'm going to play you what I think is one of the best Gospel songs ever written. He starts singing 'Why Me Lord.' He asked me if I could sing it with him. I started singing, and when I sing, I close my eyes. At the middle of the song, he had tears coming down his eyes. I knew then and there I had come upon a song that I needed to cut. After I cut that song, people told me I needed to cut a Gospel CD."
Another powerful cut on the album is "Hollow Man." Of the track, Hunley says, "It is a recovery song. When I heard it, I guess everybody knew I had a dependency on alcohol for a while. I had to get help. In recovery, they talk about the emptiness, and you try to fill it with things that mean nothing. Kim Williams played it for me, and they had just written it. It hit me, and I started crying. I told him that's me."
Hunley also said that he felt the album brought some healing. In the course of ten years (1999-2009), the singer lost both of his parents and a brother. He admitted that the music on "Wayfarin' Stranger" helped him. "A lot of this music reminded me that I will see them again," he says with a smile. "We are all wayfaring strangers."