My Kind of Country

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

June Spotlight Artist: Mark Chesnutt

One of the biggest country stars of the early 1990s, and a leading exponent of the neotraditional sound, Mark Chesnutt was born in Beaumont, Texas (also home town of the great George Jones) in 1963. He dropped out of high school to play in country bands with his father in Texas, and honed his performance skills over the next decade. An independent album released in 1988 led to a deal with MCA. He was to remain on either MCA or its subsidiary Decca for the whole of the ’90s.

The single ‘Too Cold At Home’, ironically a song pitched to Jones and rejected by him, was his big breakthrough in 1990, and the following year he achieved his first #1 single with ‘Brother Jukebox’. He went on to enjoy over 30 top 10 hits on Billboard including eight #1s. Sales declined in the later part of the decade, leading to the release of the most controversial singles of his career in 1999, a cover of rock band Aerosmith’s hit ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’, recorded under protest at the behest of the label which was keen for Mark to score another big hit and restore flagging sales figures. While this was initially successful, giving Mark another country #1 and crossing over to give him his only pop hit, the move predictably alienated Mark’s core fan base without bringing in new fans, and the song was to be not only his last #1 hit but his last top 10 – and the label dropped him after one more album failed to deliver commercially.

A move to rival label Columbia in 2002 showed that the industry still had faith in Mark, but with the biggest hit from his self-titled album for the new label just missing the top 10, sales were disappointing. Mark’s subsequent move to the independent sector was accompanied by a resurgence in the quality of his music. No longer forced to compromise with major-label demands, Mark has released a string of excellent and pure country records over the past decade on a series of labels, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he still managed to score some minor hit singles. They may not have matched the sales figures of his first few albums, but recent releases are well worth tracking down.

His latest move is to the highly respected Saguaro Road, current label home of former MKOC Spotlight Artists Patty Loveless and Tanya Tucker. The first project, Outlaw, produced by Pete Anderson, most famous for his work with Dwight Yoakam, is due out later this month and is a tribute to the sounds of the 1970s ‘Outlaw’ movement which, although Mark’s music fits in the straight country/honky tonk tradition rather than the outlaw genre, was clearly an inspiration to him growing up.

I’ve always been a big fan of Mark’s voice and music, and am delighted to announce that he is our Spotlight Artist for June. We’ll be sharing our thoughts on some of Mark’s best music with you over the next month.

8 responses to “June Spotlight Artist: Mark Chesnutt

  1. Michael June 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Ah, an interesting selection and a nice surprise. I’m looking forward to it!

  2. Tom June 2, 2010 at 6:40 am

    if it wasn’t for “too hot for golf” this would, arguably, be the most perfect country song of all time. i think every thing is spot on, apart from that freddie couples picture that comes up in my mind every time i hear “too hot for golf”. great sportsman, freddie couples, but totally out of place in a country song.

  3. Leeann Ward June 2, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Considering his firstborn is named Waylon Nelson, I’m not surprised that he embraces outlaw music. He does a pretty cover (with Waylon) of “Rainy Day Woman” too.

    I’m interested to see what you guys will say about Chesnutt this month. His albums are hit and miss over the years, but I’m a fan and he arguably has one of the best voices in modern country country music. He’s one of those artists whose material doesn’t always live up to his ability, but who also doesn’t always rise up to the material in return. There are examples of both in his music, for example, his version of “Friends in Low Places” lacks any of the energy and spark of Garth Brooks’ interpretation and he’s pretty straight with most of his covers. So, I’m interested to see what he’ll do with this upcoming album. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also preparing to be disappointed.

    I think Saving The Honkey Tonk is one of his best albums to date, but I don’t agree that any of his other albums have been particularly strong since he left the major labels. I think his albums from the first half of the nineties have been his best albums. By the time he left the majors, it was time though.

  4. Tom June 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    …so i’m not the only one, who feels that way. thanks for the info, occasional hope, i didn’t know about that.

    “too hot for a lawn-mower ride” would have given it a nice little novelty twist but also killed it. not an easy fix.

  5. pwdennis June 3, 2010 at 4:34 am

    Mark has always been a pretty good country artist who has put out decent, but (usually) not great albums that have been worth the purchase

    I look forward to this feature

  6. Julia C H (Theoretical Country) June 4, 2010 at 1:40 am

    You have definitely sparked my interest for the month.

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