I always thought Tracy Byrd was an underrated talent. Perhaps it was because he happened to come along at a time when there was plenty of stiff competition from other up-and-comers or maybe too many quasi-novelty songs like “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo” and “The Truth About Men” (both of which I enjoyed) caused him to not be taken seriously by some. But whatever the reason, he never quite broke out from the pack. He can and does easily outsing all of the current crop of male country singers, and listening to him now it’s hard to imagine that he was ever considered a second-tier talent.
It’s also hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since he released an album. All American Texan is his first collection of all new material since 2006’s Different Things, and only his second album of his post-major label career. The independent release is pretty much in the same vein as his major label work, but it is arguably more substantive since it lacks the novelty elements. It sounds a lot like his 90s work, but manages to avoid sounding retro. Instead it just makes the listener wish that the major label artists would get back to making this kind of music. It has no EDM, no R&B vibes, no handclaps, and no bro-country clichés about tailgating in cornfields. It’s not that the album doesn’t have its lighthearted moments; neither the title track nor “Texas Truck” has particularly substantive lyrics, but both are enjoyable tunes. The former has a Bakersfield feel to it, while the latter is a Western swing number. I’m not sure what a Texas truck is, though, or how it is different from the trucks people drive in other state. The fiddle and steel solos more than make up for that minor complaint, though.
Perhaps the highlight of the album is “It’s About The Pain” in which Tracy can’t resist taking some jabs at the music industry:
It ain’t about being pretty, fat or skinny
And it sure as hell ain’t about your age
It’s about the songs and it’s about the pain.
True country music is a white man’s blues
When you’re hurtin’, it will hurt right along with you
It can’t be faked, it can’t be produced
It makes no promise about gold records, awards and fame
But if you live through it, it’s about the pain.
The album also contains some very nice ballads, including “Before I Die” which finds Byrd going through his bucket list of things he wants to do while he still can, and some spiritually themed songs such as “Only Jesus”, “Shame to Grace” and “Take It to the Bank”. The album’s one outlier is “Don’t Be In a Hurry”, which is somewhat less traditional than the rest of the album. It’s opening notes took me back to my early childhood as it struck me as highly reminiscent of the old Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds pop hit “Don’t Pull Your Love”. It’s a bit of a stretch for Byrd but it’s not so far out of his comfort zone that it feels out of place on the album.
I wasn’t able to find any songwriter or musician credits anywhere online and without even an indie label to promote it, this self-release is unfortunately likely to linger in obscurity. And that is a shame, because the material is quite good, far stronger than what I was expecting. The album cover art is horrendous and cheap looking, but the music itself is likely to strike a chord with those who enjoyed Byrd’s major label albums.