Mark Chesnutt’s eleventh album, and only release for the Lofton Creek label, was released two years ago this month. While not as remarkable as his previous two independent releases on Vivaton, Rollin’ With The Flow continues in the back-to-basics approach Chesnutt has been applying to his music for the past decade – since radio all but gave up on him. The relatively small success of the first single, plus I would imagine career momentum, helped the album chart inside the top 40, landing at #35 the week of release. And even though a grand total of six singles were sent to radio throughout 2008 and 2009, only two even charted at all, and only one cracked the top 40, Chesnutt’s last to do so.
The album’s title track, a decidedly country song by production, finds a man growing older with a different attitude from his friends. They’re all off starting families and settling down, while he’s still whooping it up for the most part. Lines like ‘Can’t take it with you when you go, but I want enough to get there on’, and the basic sound behind it, save the song from being too mundane. Stalling at #25 on the singles chart, it was the album’s biggest hit with radio.
First single ‘Things To Do In Witchita’, is a list song by definition, wherein the narrator spends the entire song telling us all the boring things he’s doing to pass the time. No insight into his heartache or even insight into why he’s alone are presented, but it’s melody usually gets me humming along when it comes on.
Keith Whitley co-wrote the smart ‘She Never Got Me Over You’ with Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran, which finds a man telling us all the virtues of his new lady. She’s fixed him up pretty nice, but her love didn’t cool the feelings he still holds for his old flame. The crying steel guitar work sells me on it every time. It was the only other release to chart aside from the lead-single, stopping at #49. Likewise, ’When I Get This Close To You’ is a well-written song, and the orchestrations in the production give the swooning-for-you lyrics a full effect.
‘If The Devil Brought You Roses’ is an uptempo tune about a man crawling home to his wife, with several I’m sorry’s in his hand. It’s a driving honky-tonk number that probably sounds better in concert than on record. ’Come On In The Whiskey’s Fine’ is another dittie, this time about a pair of cousins who stumble upon a backwoods honky-tonk.
Mark co-wrote two songs for the album himself, and stacked them near the end. ‘Man In The Mirror’, not to be confused with the Michael Jackson hit, is a genuinely touching look at losing a father. His crooked smile in the mirror, coupled with a few gray hairs, remind him of his dad. The lyrics paint a vivid picture:
Cause he was too old-fashioned when I was 16, not near as smart as my buddies and me
Not near as smart as my buddies and me
But the only friend I’d grow up to need, got called home just shy of 63
Now the man in the mirror, looks so familiar
He’s wearing that same crooked smile
Same lines of worry, kids growing up too early, and gray hairs from extra miles
I thought I’d never see him again, but little did I know
I’d turn into the man in the mirror
I’ve heard a lot songs about dads in my life, and I can honestly say there’s not one I like better than this. Maybe because my own dad’s family tends to look an awful lot alike, especially around the mouth and eyes, and I am no exception to this rule, so I can relate to it more than most, but it’s an honest and intimate look into the mind of a man genuinely missing the company of his father, not to mention all those questions that only Dad can answer. Producer Jimmy Ritchie wisely kept the production low-key and allowed the lyrics, and Mark’s fitting vocal, to shine through. I’ve always thought it should have been one of the radio singles.
As a whole, Rollin’ With The Flow comes across as a hodge-podge of country themes, and some not-so-country, that don’t have any real theme to tie them together, but that doesn’t stop it from holding a handful of great country songs no collection should be without.
Rollin With The Flow is available digitally (for cherry-picking) or in CD form at amazon.