My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Fred Rogers

Album Review: Clint Black – ‘On Purpose’

711Wx-StaxL._SX522_In the seven years since we last heard new music from Clint Black (and ten since his last full album), the country music landscape has changed beyond recognition. Last week’s On Purpose is unlikely to garner much love from country radio, but Black’s return is surely something to celebrate for those of us who became castaways during the sea change in commercial tastes.

Black has made good use of his long hiatus. He wrote or co-wrote all of the album’s 14 tracks. The album has reunited him with his longtime co–producer James Stroud and while the final product doesn’t outdo anything that they did in the past, it more than holds it own against Black’s impressive back catalog. Black sounds as energetic and enthusiastic as he did back in 1989, and his voice is as good as ever. There are no huge artistic stretches; the album sounds exactly like something he would have released back in his commercial heyday, and I suspect that most fans will be more than OK with that. Clint was never quite the traditionalist he was given credit for, but his sound was always firmly rooted in country music, with fiddles, steel and harmonica on prominent display. There also was — and still is — a good deal of fancy electric guitar work, but not the heavy-handed arena rock-type that has become all too common in recent years. There is no pandering to current commercial tastes, just vintage Clint Black from start to finish.

Black’s old songwriting partner Hayden Nicholas co-wrote three of the album’s tracks: “Doing It Now For Love”, the catchy “Calling It News” — which laments the same old, same old dominating the headlines, and the excellent poignant ballad “The Last Day”, which finds an elderly couple reminiscing about the past, well aware that time is starting to run out. Frank Rogers co-wrote three tracks, including the current single “Time For That” and the excellent ballad “Breathing Air”, which is a lot more interesting than the title suggests. The tender love ballad is my favorite track on the album.

Steve Wariner shares co-writing credits on two tracks: “One Way to Live” is quite good but “Right on Time” is rather forgettable. The legendary Bill Anderson collaborated with Clint and Bob DiPiero for the album’s sole party song “Beer”, which ought to serve as an example to the bro-country crowd that drinking songs can still have intelligent lyrics. Big & Rich provide the background vocals.

I have a pet peeve about artists who, after long breaks between albums, include a remake of an older song on their comeback collections. I was, therefore, slightly disappointed to see a new version of “You Still Get To Me”, Clint’s 2008 duet with his wife Lisa Hartman Black, on the track listing. It’s bluesier than the original, but it seems like an unnecessary remake. However, the album contains a generous 14 tracks, so it’s a minor complaint at best.

While On Purpose may not break any new ground, it is sure to please Clint’s old fans, who hopefully will support it so it can overcome the inevitable lack of radio support.

Grade: A-

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Album Review: Brad Paisley – ‘Time Well Wasted’

Following a successful tour with Terri Clark and Reba McEntire in 2005, Brad Paisley released his fourth album, Time Well Wasted, which in addition to producing three more #1 hit singles, was named Album of the Year by both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music in 2006. It follows the same winning formula of combining traditional country music and comedy that made Mud On The Tires a commercial success. It also features some marquis name guest artists such as Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Bill Anderson and Little Jimmy Dickens. Like its predecessors, Time Well Wasted was produced by Fred Rogers, with Chris DuBois acting as executive producer.

The advance single was Brad’s own composition “Alcohol”. Once a staple at country radio, drinking songs have more or less fallen victim to the political correctness movement, and there was indeed a backlash against this party anthem for what critics claimed glamorized alcohol abuse. Most people, however, just viewed the song for what it was: a tongue-in-cheek party tune. The minor controversy did little to impede the record’s success on the charts. It reached #4 and also earned gold certification for digital sales exceeding 500,000 downloads.

Brad’s 2003 marriage to Kimberly Williams has been the apparent inspiration for a number of his songs that revolve around the theme of domestic bliss. There a few such offerings here, both humorous — “The World” — and serious — “Waitin’ On A Woman”, “She’s Everything”, and “Rainin’ You”. Both “The World” and “She’s Everything” reached #1, as did a re-recorded version of “Waitin’ On A Woman” when it was eventually released as part of Brad’s next two albums 5th Gear and the mostly instrumental Play. Brad’s vocal limitations are apparent on the album cut “Rainin’ You”, and to a lesser extent on “She’s Everything”, one of Paisley’s least traditional sounding singles to date. It was, however, the most successful single from the album, earning platinum certification for more than one million digital sales.

Even the happiest relationships have their rough patches, as we see in the tracks “I’ll Take You Back”, which is sort of an opposite-sex point of view version of Sara Evans’ “Cheatin'”, and the cleverly written “Flowers” in which Brad is an erring husband or boyfriend trying to make amends by repeatedly sending his wife or girlfriend roses, which are immediately trashed upon receipt, prompting the question:

” … How many flowers have to die
Before you give this love another try?
I’ve asked you to forgive me at least nine dozen times,
Tell me, how many flowers have to die?”

Paisley is joined by labelmate Alan Jackson for a rendition of Guy Clark and Darrell Scott’s “Out In The Parking Lot”, which finds the protagonists avoiding a cover charge at a club by drinking “Old Crow Whiskey and hot 7-Up” in their truck. The lyrics are a bit lightweight, but it’s a fun song and the two sound good together.

Dolly Parton joins Brad for the masterpiece “When I Get Where I’m Goin'”, the highlight of the album. The spiritually-themed song was released as the album’s second single. Perhaps they were seeking redemption following the release of “Alcohol”, but whatever the reason, the result was the finest single release of Brad’s career. It’s often labeled a duet, but technically it is not; Parton serves strictly in a secondary role proving harmony vocals, but because it was a credited performance, she gained some bragging rights when the record hit #1 in March 2006, making her the oldest female performer (at age 60) to ever top the Billboard country singles chart. Like its predecessor “Alcohol”, “When I Get Where I’m Going” earned gold certification.

The final musical track on the album is the title track, on which Brad once again sings about another one his passions — fishing. This is followed by the comedy sketch “Cornography” featuring Dolly Parton and The Kung Pao Buckeroos (Bill Anderson, George Jones, and Little Jimmy Dickens), in a follow-up to a similar sketch from Mud On The Tires. The sketch is followed by a number of hidden outtake tracks. These routines are mildly amusing but they do tend to wear thin with repeated listenings. Luckily they are placed at the end of the album where they can be easily skipped.

Brad is credited as a writer or co-writer on nine of the album’s fifteen music tracks. The wise decision to include some submissions from outside songwriters, makes Time Well Wasted a stronger collection than some of Brad’s other albums. It reached #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and sold in excess of two million copies. It remains my favorite album in the Paisley catalog.

Grade: A


Time Well Wasted
is readily available from online merchants such as Amazon and iTunes.

Single Review: Josh Turner – ‘All Over Me’

The title of Josh Turner’s latest single suggests that it is a ballad about someone lamenting over an ex-lover who has moved on, but judging a song by its title proves to be a mistake, at least as far as this rollicking, upbeat tune is concerned. In the opening line, we are told that the weather forecast is “for a hot one”, so Turner decides that a day on the water is called for. He instructs his girlfriend to grab her shades, string bikini and Coppertone 45 and join him for a day of boating and an evening by the campfire. Though the destination is a spot down by the river underneath a sycamore tree, the imagery of sunglasses, swimsuits and sunscreen conjures up associations with the beach,. This is entirely appropriate, since this release was clearly timed to be ascending the charts by summertime.

The second single from Turner’s Haywire album was produced by Fred Rogers and written by Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, and Ben Hayslip. It opens with some honkytonk-style piano and drums, which set it apart from much of the bland fare that will be surrounding it on the radio airwaves. The piano and drums are quickly joined by the electric guitar with some banjo thrown into the mix much later in the song. The intent seems to be to make the record sound contemporary without sacrificing its country identity. In that respect it works, but the guitar riffs are somewhat overbearing. Instead of gradually building up in intensity, which is the usual practice, the listener is hit over the head with them near the beginning of the song.

In the long term, ‘All Over Me’ is unlikely to be remembered as a standout entry in Turner’s catalog, but in the short term, it’s a fun, lighthearted summer song that is enjoyable to listen to, despite the slightly heavy-handed production.

Grade: B

‘All Over Me’ is available for download at iTunes and Amazon.