My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Tradition Lives’

81s3+w6kLmL._SX522_It’s been more than six years since Mark Chesnutt’s last full-length album and more than eight since his last collection of original material. His latest effort, Tradition Lives, which became available last week, reportedly took about three years to record. The long drawn-out process of producing new music has apparently paid off, resulting in the strongest album of Chesnutt’s post-major label career.

The title is self-explanatory. The biggest hit of Chesnutt’s career was his cover of Aerosmith’s pop ballad “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”, but that song was not typical of his music and it ultimately resulted in his departure from MCA Records. He had been reluctant to record the song and flat out refused to comply when the label wanted more of the same. After leaving MCA, he recorded one album for Columbia and has been releasing music on a variety of independent labels since 2004.

Although Mark has remained true to his roots, he hasn’t always had access to great material as an indie artist. That is decidedly not the case with this album. The current single “Oughta Miss Me By Now” is a bit of a dud but the remaining twelve tracks are all top notch. None of them sound like anything that is currently on country radio today; they sound very much like the songs Mark sang in his commercial heyday. They are traditional but not dated and the material sounds fresh.

Fiddle and steel are plentiful throughout the album. There are quite a few uptempo honky-tonkers from the opening track “I’ve Got a Quarter In My Pocket”, “Neither Did I” and “Never Been To Texas”, but the ballads are the tracks that really shine. I particularly liked “Is It Still Cheating”, a Randy Houser/Jamey Johnson/Jerrod Niemann song in which the protagonist knows his wife is cheating on him but doesn’t care because it gives him time to pursue his own extramarital affair. I can’t decide if I like this one or “So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” better. The latter was written by newcomer William Michael Morgan and Chesnutt’s producer Jimmy Ritchey. In the aftermath of a broken marriage, the protagonist confronts the cause of the breakup — which at first appears to be another woman, but is later revealed to be the bottle:

It’s time to go our separate ways
Been goin’ through hell from all the hell we’ve raised
There comes a day to turn the page
So tonight I’m pourin’ you out on the floor
So you can’t hurt me anymore

Both of these songs are examples of the substance that used to be a hallmark of country music, but has been sadly lacking in recent years. “What I Heard” also falls into that category. It’s another break-up tale, but in this one Chesnutt refuses to accept that it’s really over and is convinced that his soon-to-be-ex will come crawling back.

Chesnutt steps out of his comfort zone for one number: “Hot”, a jazzy number written by Don Poythress and Wynn Varble. It’s not the strongest song on the album, but it’s not bad and Mark deserves credit for the creative stretch.

The album closes with an quiet number featuring only Mark’s vocal and Jimmy Ritchey on acoustic guitar. “There Won’t Be Another Now” was written by Red Lane and originally recorded by Merle Haggard. Mark’s rendition is meant to be a tribute to both recently departed legends, ending the album on a poignant note.

Tradition Lives is one the best albums I’ve heard this year; I highly recommend it.

Grade: A

8 responses to “Album Review: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Tradition Lives’

  1. Paul W Dennis July 15, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Wonderful album, probably his best in over a decade. I liked everything on the album, even “Oughta Miss Me By Now” which I do not regard as a dud, although it isn’t one of the albums stronger songs. Agree with the A rating you gave it

  2. luckyoldsun July 16, 2016 at 1:52 am

    The title is a little ham-handed. “Tradition lives” is something that the listener should feel on his own upon hearing the album. If they have to tell you, then it spoils part of the discovery.
    But I’m glad Mark has a new album. To my mind, Chesnutt, along with Aaron Tippin–when he wasn’t acting the buffoon–were the best of the ’90s “neo-traditionalist” honkytonk singers. Can’t wait to hear it.

    • Ken July 17, 2016 at 10:02 am

      Here’s a bulletin (also known as Marketing 101) Before anyone can “discover” something they must first purchase it. A descriptive title is a helpful component of that. For a traditional country album the title is well chosen. Mark was alerting consumers to the content of his new album. Well done. Ham handed? Your contention is ridiculous!

      And Mark never acted the buffoon either. Where on earth do you come up with this absurd stuff?

      • luckyoldsun July 18, 2016 at 9:37 am

        Hey, they could have called Randy Travis’s first album “Tradition Lives” instead of “Storms of Life.” I doubt that that title would have been as effective. The “acting the buffoon” was a reference to Tippin. I’d guess most people got it. But thanks for your comment. Always enjoy your astute perceptiveness and your openness to discussion on those rare times that I hear from you.

        • Ken July 18, 2016 at 10:14 pm

          Perhaps if your comments were more accurate & succinct you wouldn’t have to be called out so often. And in case you haven’t picked up on it, most of your posts are ignored.

  3. Andrew July 16, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Easily the best album of the year so far and it has me even more excited to see Mark live next week.

  4. Pingback: Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2016 | My Kind of Country

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