My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Amanda Martin

Album Review: Clinton Gregory – ‘Too Much Ain’t Enough’

Virginia-born fifth generation fiddler Clinton Gregory made a modest splash in the early 90s as an independent artist who nonetheless gained some airplay. His best remembered song is probably 1991’s top 30 hit ‘If It Weren’t For Country Music (I’d Go Crazy)’. It’s over 15 years since we have heard anything from him, so this unheralded release came out of the blue. He has found a new home on indie label Melody Roundup, which is basically a music publisher whose first CD release this is. The company’s catalog provides the songs, and luckily they are of a uniformly high standard.

Clinton’s sweet tenor and lovely fiddle playing are as good as ever, and his song selection is stellar, if leaning towards the downbeat. The production (by Gregory himself with publisher Jamie Creasy) is tasteful and restrained, with Clinton playing fiddle on eight of the twelve tracks.

‘Too Country For Nashville’ recalls the Nashville of the early 1980s, back when Randy Travis was “washing pots and pans”, when Clinton first came to town. He complains about the lack of any alternative destination for a country songwriter; after all,

You say I’m too country for Nashville
You could be right, these days that may be so
But if I’m too country for Nashville
Where in the hell would you like me to go?

Some may point out that he forgets the Texas option when dismissing the likes of New York, LA and Muscle Shoals as alternatives, but that would take away the point of the song.

A single earlier this year, ‘Bridges’, written by Gary Hannan and Marty Brown paints the picture of a selfish jerk whose woman is dealing with the fallout and having to apologize for his bad behaviour. The man is clearly not worth her self-sacrificial behaviour, and clearly she’s going to reach the end of her patience eventually:

Sometimes she hates how much she still loves him
He’s slowly burning bridges
Faster than she can build them

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Album Review: Trace Adkins – ‘X’

By 2008 I had lost a lot of faith in Trace Adkins as an artist. But then he released the mistitled X (it is the Roman number 10, and was supposedly to mark this as his 10th release – but they only reached that number if you count greatest hits compilations).

The first single, the gospel-inflected ‘Muddy Water’ presents a troubled sinner seeking renewal in baptism. It’s a bit more heavily produced than necessary, but largely enjoyable although it peaked just outside the top 20. There is room for some sheer frivolity when a jaundiced Trace, just divorced, decides next time he might as well ‘Marry For Money’, in a humorous song written by Dave Turnbull and Jimmy Melton. This did a little better on the charts, reaching #14, the same peak as the rather more serious ‘All I Ask For Anymore’. ‘All I Ask For Anymore’ (written by Casey Beathard and Tim James) is a mature reflection on the changing desires that come with growing up, from shallow youthful selfishness to a grown man’s concerns for his wife and children. Trace delivers perhaps the finest pure vocal performance of his career supported by a swelling string arrangement. The similarly themed ‘Happy To Be Here’ (written by Jason Matthews, Jim McCormick and Mike Mobley) is a bit too heavily produced but not bad.

Two of the songs are outright modern classics. ‘Til The Last Shot’s Fired’ was not a single, but gained some attention when Trace sang it live at the ACM award show. A superb song by Rob Crosby and Doug Johnson, this explores the sacrifice of soldiers who have died, mostly in vain, starting with a Confederate soldier falling outside Nashville in the Civil War, and taking us through Omaha Beach on D-Day, Vietnam and Afghanistan:

Say a prayer for peace
For every fallen son
Set my spirit free
Let me lay down my gun
Sweet mother Mary, I’m so tired
But I can’t come home
Til the last shot’s fired

Trace’s vocal is perfectly understated and conveys the sense of defeat which imbues the song’s longing for an end to conflict. The West Point choir joins the chorus at the end, embodying the unresting souls of their predecessors, but they sound perhaps just a little too rehearsed and polite for the part they are playing.

If anything, the bleak look at alcoholism and denial penned by Larry Cordle and Amanda Martin, ‘Sometimes A Man Takes A Drink’, is even better as it remorselessly catalogs a man’s battle with alcohol, with the alcohol winning:

Sometimes a man takes a drink
So he can just throw his head back and laugh
At the things he can’t change
Like the bills he can’t pay
And all of those ghosts from the past
It’s the crutch he leans on
When things have gone wrong
Life didn’t turn out like he planned
Sometimes a man takes a drink
Oh but sometimes a drink takes the man

This is a masterpiece, with a superb vocal from Trace (who has had his own issues with drinking in the past).

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