Travis Tritt changed producers once again, replacing Don Was with Billy Joe Walker, Jr for 1998’s No More Looking Over My Shoulder. His sixth studio album, it was his least successful release to date spawning three singles that didn’t peak any higher than #29 on the charts.
The #29 peaking single was the first, “If I Lost You,” which Tritt co-wrote with Stewart Harris. The beautiful piano led ballad is a charming story about a man’s undying love for a woman and his feelings if he should loose this person. The record is near perfection; from the tasteful production to Tritt’s sensitive vocal. Even the video was excellent as it served as the conclusion to his Mac Singleton trilogy, a fitting tribute to the five year old daughter Mac shares with now deceased wife Annie.
I also thoroughly enjoy the Craig Wiseman and Michael Peterson penned title track, which served as the second single, peaking at #38. An excellent sing-a-long mid-tempo rocker, the song has an engaging energy and I love the acoustic guitar riffs throughout.
Unlike the majority of Tritt’s rockin’ anthems, third and final single “Start The Car” doesn’t have many overly dated elements within the production track, and Tritt adds a strong, confident vocal performance to the mix. The rock elements don’t bother me either at all but the whole thing comes off very underwhelming thanks to Jude Cole’s inability to add anything memorable to the lyrics. It’s the type of song you forget the second you’ve heard it, which likely accounts for its poor chart performance (it peaked at #52).
The rest of the project isn’t as bland as I was expecting, but as a whole the album doesn’t really get off the ground. There just isn’t that standout track needed to raise the album above just okay. It’s solid, but nothing really special.
The best album cut is probably the weakest lyric, saved only by the production, which feels heavy influenced by Patty Loveless’ seminal When Fallen Angles Fly. “Girls Like That” boasts a nice, rollicking dobro that recalls “Half Way Down” and “Handful of Dust.” It’s too bad the lyric is beyond inane, as Tritt could’ve had a showstopper here. You’d think he and co-writer Bruce Ray Brown could’ve tried to put in some effort, and not resorted to a three-minute list of attributes talking about “Girls Like That.”
The next above average album cut also recalls a Loveless’ stunner, “A Thousand Times A Day.” The opening acoustic guitar lick of “I’m All The Man” is almost identical to Loveless’ 1995 hit, and the similarities serve Tritt well here. He also sings the song well, and wrote a nice lyric, but nothing about it feels extraordinary. It lacks an all-important commercial sheen that would’ve easily put it over the top. That sheen wasn’t a problem for Lesley Satcher and Larry Cordle’s “Mission of Love,” a ballad drenched in a harmonious blend of steel and electric guitars. My main issue with the track is it falls far below the standard Tritt set with his ballads up to this point. He could’ve done much better.
By now, it’s so customary for Tritt to blend his country and rock styles on an album that it’s a prerequisite. Here he takes that a step further, stepping into arena rock ballad territory. The best example of this is “For You,” another number he co-wrote with Brown. While the track manages to maintain the simplicity of country, the opening guitar work is classic arena rock. It’s also the most interesting element of the song, a little too slow and maudlin for my tastes.
Tritt also showcases his upbeat rocker side, turning up the electric guitars on “Rough Around The Edges,” which comes closest to emulating the style he concocted with “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” Problem is, it seems Tritt has mellowed over time as his vocal doesn’t quite come up to the intensity of the backing track.
Actually the closest Tritt comes to a standout track is his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than The Rest,” a song Emmylou Harris covered on her Brand New Dance album in 1990 and Chris LeDoux released as a charting single in 1995. Tritt’s take is excellent and maintains a country vibe in the midst of the rockish sheen. That gloss also covers “The Road To You,” The habitual ode to Waylon Jennings Tritt puts on albums. It’s good but not great, and lacks any standout qualities.
No More Looking Over My Shoulder is easily Tritt’s most puzzling album release to date. It isn’t so much for the style, but for the lack of effort in tracking down material comparable to Tritt’s classic work. He hasn’t “lost himself” by any means, but he failed to stock the album with tracks beaming with hit potential. I always wondered why radio ignored him during this period and it’s now easy to see why. There’s no way around the truth: this record is mediocre Travis Tritt. He could’ve and should’ve done far better then this. It isn’t a terrible album by any means, but in Tritt’s career, it’s a major step down from what he’s capable of creating.