In the wake of the success of “Holdin’ Heaven” Tracy Byrd readied his sophomore album, No Ordinary Man, for release a year later in 1994. Country and pop songwriter / musician Jerry Crutchfield, handled the production duties, taking over from Tony Brown and Keith Stegall, and gave the project a straightforward mainstream sound that worked well with fans and radio programmers alike.
The first single was Byron Hill and Wayne Tester’s “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,” a delightful honky-tonker about a couple being filmed for a television show that peaked at #4, The lyric may be clichéd and try too hard to paint the scenario of this couple, but the overall track exudes a likeable charm that remains enduring more than twenty years later.
The line dance craze sweeping the country music nation at the time give rise to such numbers as second single “Watermelon Crawl,” which also peaked at #4 as a result. The song, about a Watermelon festival in Georgia, is corny and dated but hasn’t aged as horribly as other such songs and is still listenable today.
“The First Step,” the third straight sound-alike honky-tonker to be released from No Ordinary Man impacted radio next. Another line dance song this one may’ve peaked at #5, but unlike the previous two, it’s hardly remembered today (I’ve never even heard it before). Line dance burn out, and the fact this number is pure filler, is likely to blame for this track’s demise. The production doesn’t help either, as it’s indistinguishable from Garth Brooks’ “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association” from a year earlier.
MCA Records at the time didn’t want to release the biggest hit from No Ordinary Man as a single, but Byrd pushed, citing crowd reaction in his argument. Byrd won and “The Keeper Of The Stars” was released in February 1995. An instant classic, the gentle acoustic and steel guitar accentuated love song quickly raced to #2, became an anthem for weddings, and won its writers (Dicky Lee, Danny Mayo, and Karen Staley) CMA Song of the Year that fall.
The single version of “Keeper of the Stars” was different from the one featured on No Ordinary Man. Byrd re-recorded the track because he felt he sang it better in a lower key. This second version, the one he sang in concert, was also used in the accompanying music video for the song. Byrd would re-record the song again in 2001 when he was signed to RCA Records.
The remainder of No Ordinary Man focused heavily on uptempo numbers no different than the majority of the singles. “Right About Now” and “Pink Flamingos” are throwaway filler while “You Just Don’t Know How Good You’ve Got It” is noticeable only because Crutchfield gave it a honky-tonk arrangement not far removed from Alan Jackson’s classic style.
The remaining two – the title track and “Redneck Roses” are Byrd co-writes. The title track is a convincing cowboy number not far removed from Mark Chesnutt’s trademark style while “Redneck Roses” is the album’s lone neotraditional number and an excellent one at that.
With two million copies sold, No Ordinary Man reversed Byrd’s commercial fortunes by planting him squarely within the line dance craze and the fever surrounding rockin’ honky-tonkers. Unfortunately that sound doesn’t make for a great listening experience as the album lacked the lyrical and sonic verity needed to help it stand above the fray. But as a commercial product it couldn’t have been much hotter or more successful.