My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Sticks And Stones’

sticks and stonesTracy’s debut album in 1991 was a solid example of the neotraditional sound which was sweeping country music at the time. Smoothly produced by James Stroud, this album epitomizes the style, mixing traditional country with plenty of fiddle and steel with a radio friendly feel. Tracy was only 23, but had a natural country voice and sounds mature and confident beyond his years.

The title track, written by Elbert West, was the record’s lead single, and perhaps helped by the publicity of Tracy’s shooting, it raced to #1. A sincere and believable vocal sells an excellent song about a man who offers to let his ex take all their material possessions, as nothing matters as much as his broken heart,

The regretful ballad ‘Today’s Lonely Fool’ (written by Kenny Beard and Stan Paul Davis ) reached #3, and is another fine song in classic country style, with the jealous husband learning from his mistakes and begging for a second chance.

The enjoyable up-tempo ‘Runnin’ Behind’ is a young man’s cheerful response to living on the edge, with not enough money or time. It peaked at #4.

It was followed by my favorite of the singles, which approached the same hard times theme from a more mature angle, and became Tracy’s fourth top 10 hit. ‘Somebody Paints The Wall’ had previously been recorded by Curb artist Josh Logan and (as ‘Somebody Always Paints The Wall’) by George Jones, on the album which also contained the original (and best) version of ‘Ol’ Red’. The song is a wry look at living with regular financial disaster, but with a loved one standing by him, the protagonist is going to be okay, even though

The day my ship came in I was waiting for a train

The rival versions are both more downbeat, with George Jones having the most emotional depth and melancholic feel, and Lawrence does come across a little lightweight in comparison, but it is still very good.

Tracy wrote two songs on the album. ‘Dancin’ To Sweet Seventeen’ is a surprisingly convincing song from the viewpoint of a jaded 30-something clinging to dreams of a high school romance. His other composition was a co-write with Elbert West. The protagonist of the fiddle-led lament ‘Froze Over’ bemoans losing his “angel”, who

Swore she’d love me til Hell froze over
Well, Hell just froze over tonight

There are another couple of ballads with appealing melodies. ‘Between Us’ is a pleasant love song, while ‘April’s Fool’ is another sad song about a man hopelessly in love.

The tongue-in-cheek hillbilly ode to ‘Paris, Tennessee’ as a romantic destination is quite entertaining, with banked backing vocals giving the up-tempo romp a breezy feel. It was later recorded by a pre-beach Kenny Chesney on the latter’s All I Need To Know, with a virtually identical arrangement.

In the closing ‘I Hope Heaven Has A Honky Tonk’ , the protagonist is hoping for an afterlife

Like Texas on a Saturday night,

With, of course, some live country music. Bob Wills is said to be present in person, but Hank Williams only on the divine jukebox; one hope this isn’t a comment about the likely destination of the latter.

It is easy to find cheap used copies of this promising debut album, and it’s worthwhile doing so.

Grade: A

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4 responses to “Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Sticks And Stones’

  1. J.R. Journey September 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I was a little surprised to learn Tracy Lawrence was only 23 when this album came out. Maybe he just sounded so much older, but I thought he looked it too.

    “Today’s Lonely Fool” is my favorite from this album though I liked all the singles. I always liked “I Hope Heaven Has a Honky Tonk Angel” too.

  2. Razor X September 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    This is an outstanding album.

  3. Paul W Dennis September 5, 2013 at 6:55 am

    An excellent debut and he would move from strength to strength over the course of the next few albums. “Runnin’ Behind” is my favorite song from the album, but just barely

  4. Luckyoldsun September 6, 2013 at 12:09 am

    A decent album. Seemed very similar to what Chesnutt, Diffie and Kershaw–who broke in just ahead of Tracy–were doing, without offering anything different. But Lawrence did even better than those guys commercially. I thought it was because he was slightly younger and considered more of a “hunk.”
    Lawrence actually sings better on this album than on many of his later works, where his vocal influence seems to be Donald Duck.

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