Re-recording old songs can be therapeutic or emotional torment, depending on the artist and the song. Darryl Worley admits he hears several of the hits he re-cut for his Second Wind: Latest and Greatest album differently today. The story of "I Miss My Friend" remains unchanged.

While not the oldest of the songs Worley picked from his Dreamworks Nashville catalog, "I Miss My Friend" (2002) is arguably his second-most-known song, behind the September 11 rallying anthem "Have You Forgotten." Fans will notice subtle adjustments and a looseness to these re-takes on account of the singer's decision to let his road band record them. This raw energy also makes the transition to seven, Muscle Shoals-inspired new songs quite satisfying. Each is lighter in tone and message than the music he created in the early 2000s, leading to the question: Is Darryl Worley becoming an optimist?

“I wanna be," he says. "My wife knows how bad I wanna be."

Events like the one that inspired his recording of "I Miss My Friend" hold him back. Worley recalls being unlucky in love and heartbroken before he met a woman a little older than him. She had a 9-year-old daughter and the romance never got serious, but there was potential.

"We’d dance and we’d hang out and we’d go to dinner sometimes and I fell in love with her daughter," he says. "She was precious."

“Long story short, her and her daughter were both killed in a car accident. When I heard that song I said, ‘I can never sing this.’”

Worley heard it because everyone he knew kept sending the song to him — some people sent it twice! Finally he noticed the accomplished songwriters (Tom Shapiro, Mark Nesler, Tony Martin) and decided to check it out.

“When I put the song in the cassette player," he says, stopping to crack a joke about how he's showing his age, "It was raining. I was on I-40 heading west and I had to pull over.”

"I miss my friend / The one my heart and soul confided in / The one I felt the safest with / The one who knew just what to say to make me laugh again / And let the light back in / I miss my friend," he sings at the chorus. 

BFD Records

While tragic, that story and that song led to a string of hits for Worley, who was old by industry standards (35) when he signed his first record deal. Now accomplished with more security in who he is, the singer has decided to revisit his roots with the Muscle Shoals sound that built him. Worley cut his teeth writing for Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Alabama. That's where he learned how to produce and demo songs. That's where he learned to give a song room to breathe, something he says happens very rarely with the modern Nashville sound.

“I always think of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and it’s just so open," he says. "Rick Hall used to scream at us, literally scream at us. He says, ‘If a song can’t breathe, it will smother to death!’ That kept coming back to me in this process."

"Lonely Alone" — a song Worley's wife worried lead people to think they were breaking up — is the single at SiriusXM, but "It's Good to Be Me" and the soulful "Do Something Good" are the best representatives. Listen closely for Shenandoah's Marty Raybon and Mike McGuire adding harmonies. It was a Muscle Shoals kind of reunion during the recording of Second Wind: Latest and Greatest. A few of the original Swampers even joined in!

See 50 Essential 2000s Hits!