My Kind of Country

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

Retro Album Reviews: Joe Nichols – ‘Real Things’, and Tracy Lawrence – ‘For The Love’

for the loveBack in the days writing for the 9513 Blog, I would post occasional reviews on Amazon. We are republishing updated versions of some of those reviews here.


Other than Brad Paisley, I cannot think of another of the current Nashville acts that has as good a grasp on what is or isn’t country music than Joe Nichols. This album simply is a delight from start to finish.

The opening track “Real Things” sets a nice placemat for the current single “Another Side of You” (currently a top 25 and rising). For this album Nichols has tapped the cream of Nashville’s songwriting community for good songs. Only one old song was selected for the album and that is the late Blaze Foley’s classic “If I Could Only Fly” performed here as a duet with Lee Ann Womack and with the legendary John Hughey on steel guitar (Paul Franklin plays steel on the remaining tracks where steel is used). All of the material is top-flight and my only fear was that it may prove “too country” for today’s wimpy country radio.

The copy of the CD I purchased has a 14th track on it, a wry song titled “When I’m Hurtin'” in which a country singer apologizes to the audience that the only time he really sings well is you know when. This song is easily a 5 star effort and should have been released as a single.

Grade: A


Among the younger singers, Tracy Lawrence has the best pure country voice this side of John Anderson and Randy Travis. Like previous efforts, this CD has two or three cuts that are merely okay, and the rest are terrific. My favorite songs is “Til I Was a Daddy Too” , as meaningful a song as you will ever encounter. “You Can’t Hide Redneck” is a fun romp and “Rock and A Soft Place is another highlight. Such is the vocal prowess of Tracy Lawrence that his solo cut of “Find out Who Your Friends Are” is considerably better than the cut on which he is joined by Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, both lesser vocal talents. I love this disc, an early nominee for CD of The Year honors.

Grade: A+

11 responses to “Retro Album Reviews: Joe Nichols – ‘Real Things’, and Tracy Lawrence – ‘For The Love’

  1. luckyoldsun August 16, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    I don’t think that time bears out that McGraw and Chesney are lesser vocal talents to Lawrence.
    There’s also a back-story that gave a special poignancy to the collaborative version of “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.” Lawrence, had had some incidents involving alcohol, violence, and women that resulted in his being suspended by his major label and sent into a wilderness of sorts. In fact, several of his later albums and singles–“Lessons Learned,” “Unforgiven,”–seemed to be barely veiled allusions–whether apologetic or defiant–to his personal struggles.

    “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” was another of those–and Lawrence had had only one hit record in the previous five years when it was issued. When McGraw and Chesney–who were super-hot at the time–expressed their support for Tracy by adding their vocals to his single, it made the message of the song quite literal–and propelled the record to #1!

    • Ken August 17, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Paul is correct that time HAS borne out that Tracy Lawrence IS INDEED a superior vocal talent to both McGraw and Chesney. Tracy has a rich deep full voice while McGraw’s is thin and whiney. In live performances McGraw frequently veers off-key. Vocals for his recordings require a LOT of studio manipulation. Chesney is slightly better than McGraw but he too has limitations. To Chesney’s credit he selects songs that fit his limited range and masks his vocal shortcomings. Clearly on his worst day Lawrence out-sings both of them.

      • Paul W Dennis August 17, 2016 at 11:41 am

        I’ve seen Tim McGraw twice, once with wife Faith Hill, and once as a headliner. The Tim & Faith show from about fifteen years ago at the Bob Carr in Orlando was quite disappointing. The opening act, the Warren Brothers, put on an excellent set. Tim & Faith basically mailed it in and Tim did have problems that night keeping pitch.

        The second time I saw Tim was about five years later and he sounded terrible. I guess auto-tune was invented with Tim McGraw in mind

        I’ve never seen Kenny Chesney live but he is good at picking songs that fit his vocal range and his recordings are all at least decent. .

        • wiley16350 August 23, 2016 at 7:11 am

          I have seen Chesney live twice in the last 2 years and he puts on a really good show. His voice is just as good live as it is on record. I would agree that it is because he doesn’t go out of his comfort zone and sings songs that suit his vocals.

        • luckyoldsun August 24, 2016 at 8:21 pm

          Chesney is a good singer.
          And what singer sings songs that don’t suit his range?
          I never heard Ernest Tubb try to yodel like Roy Rogers or Johnny Cash try to sing “Rocky Mountain High” a la John Denver.

        • Ken August 25, 2016 at 8:36 am

          Chesney is a good singer.
          And what singer sings songs that don’t suit his range?
          I never heard Ernest Tubb try to yodel like Roy Rogers or Johnny Cash try to sing “Rocky Mountain High” a la John Denver.

          Your initial post disagreed that McGraw & Chesney are NOT lesser vocal talents compared to Tracy Lawrence. Now you’re stating that Chesney is merely a “good” singer and you’re drawing comparisons to Ernest Tubb & Johnny Cash. Clearly Tubb and Cash were very distinctive STYLISTS with a limited vocal range. Both usually selected songs that fit their vocal range and style. Not saying that Tubb & Cash were not great performers but their vocal abilities were not at the level of Marty Robbins or Ray Price. There’s a difference between singers that HAVE to choose certain songs to fit their range and those that can sing a wide variety of material. I’m not clear what you’re trying to state at this point.

          By the way early in his career Ernest Tubb did yodel. He idolized Jimmie Rodgers and included this song on a his first session for the Bluebird label in 1936 as a tribute to his hero.

      • luckyoldsun August 17, 2016 at 6:13 pm

        OK. If you SAY it–and in CAPITAL LETTERS!–that makes it SO.
        I stand CORRECTED.

  2. Tyler Pappas August 18, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Ken, why do you hate Luckyoldsun so much? Like why do you both argue with each other so much? It seems like if one of you posts a comment the other posts a what seems angry comment stating that they are wrong.

    • Ken August 19, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Don’t hate him. Don’t know him. But his comments are consistently inaccurate or completely untrue. He continually posts assertions that make no sense at all or are not connected to reality or the facts. Whenever his off-base comments are challenged he often expresses anger or sarcasm at those that contradict his obvious nonsense. However he is unable to cite facts to support his contentions. The internet is inundated with incorrect info. Most folks would rather not engage in a site that exists just to perpetuate myths and inaccuracies. Clearly the dedicated and excellent writing staff here works very hard to present accurate analysis and intelligent commentary about country music past and present. I support their efforts and will continue to thoughtfully challenge posted comments that are not based in fact or reality.

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts.

    • luckyoldsun August 19, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks for your comments. And I always think of Milt Pappas, an ornery sort and a very good–if not quite H-o-F– MLB pitcher.

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