My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Gregg Brown

Album Review: Travis Tritt – ‘The Restless Kind’

the restless kindAfter the Greatest Hits album, 1996’s The Restless Kind denotes a new start of sorts, with long term producer Gregg Brown dropped for veteran rock producer Don Was, with Tritt also getting a co-production credit. The pairing does a pretty good job, and the general feel of the album is not that far removed from Tritt’s usual style, except that the harmonica is more prominent than the steel guitar. Travis wrote or co-wrote seven of the songs, and friend and tour partner Marty Stuart also contributed.

The first single, ‘More Than You’ll Ever Know’ is a very well sung but not particularly interesting ballad of devotion to a wife. The album’s biggest hit, it peaked at #3.

It was followed by ‘Where Corn Don’t Grow’, which made it to #6. Written by Roger Murrah and Mark Alan Springer, it had originally been recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1990, and is an excellent story song about a country boy who has to find out the hard way how hard city life is.

‘She’s Going Home With Me’ and ‘Still In Love With You’ both peaked in the 20s, and are equally forgettable mid-tempo numbers.

Sent to radio in between those two, the much better ‘Helping Me Get Over You’ did creep into the top 20 but should have done better. It is a sensitive ballad Tritt wrote and sings with Lari White about a couple both struggling to move on with new partners. An excellent vocal from Tritt is matched by White’s distinctive voice.

My favorite non-single (and a clear missed opportunity) is the ballad ‘Did You Fall Far Enough’, written by Tritt with Troy Seals. The protagonist is wracked with doubt for no clear reason:

You’ve given me no cause to doubt you
And I know passion burns in your heart
But does that same fire keep on burning
In the hours that we spend apart?

If you knew the question that burns in my mind
Then you know why I worry so much
I can’t help but wonder when we fell in love
Sweetheart, did you fall far enough?
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Mark O’Connor’s beautiful fiddle winds through the song, and with Travis’s excellent vocal, helps to make this a real highlight.

‘Sack Full Of Stones’ is the best of the three songs here co-written by Marty Stuart, a somber breakup song with a fine vocal. ‘Draggin’ My Heart Around’ is a pretty good chugging Marty Stuart/Paul Kennerley song typical of what Stuart was doing at that period, with a strong groove and the Desert Rose Band’s Herb Pedersen on high harmony. The less successful ‘Double Trouble’ is a self-indulgent buddy duet with Stuart with a silly story of two friends accidentally dating the same girl, which the pair wrote with Kennerley. Stuart also plays electric guitar throughout the album.

‘Back Up Against The Wall’ is pure Southern rock/outlaw, and while it is catchy and enthusiastically performed, I was entirely unconvinced by the hardboiled jailbreak story. A meaty version of the title track, an uptempo number penned by Michael Henderson which has been recorded by a number of other artists, including Highway 101 and Trisha Yearwood, is pretty good. The romantic commitment of ‘More Than You’ll Ever Know’ is quite a nice ballad benefitting from a sincerely delivered vocal and attractive folky harmonica-led arrangement.

Overall, this is a fairly solid album with a couple of high spots. It’s worth picking up especially at cheap used copy prices.

Grade: B+

Album Review – Travis Tritt – ‘Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof’ (plus ‘Take It Easy’ and the new tracks included on ‘Greatest Hits: From The Beginning’)

TenfeettallandbulletproofIn the mist of the double platinum success of T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Travis Tritt appeared on the tribute album Common Thread: Songs of The Eagles in which he tackled their debut single “Take It Easy.” Tritt took his version to #21 in late 1993, and it’s very good. Through the music video reunited the band, since they’d had a falling out in the early 1980s.This led to their 1994 comeback and Hell Freezes Over album and tour. Tritt’s version of the song is his most heard single on country radio to this day.

He got back to business in March 1994, releasing the self-penned ballad “Foolish Pride” (it became Tritt’s fourth #1 hit) to kick off his Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof album, another double platinum success. The track is a masterpiece, dissecting both sides of a couple’s painful breakup. I especially adore how Tritt really digs deep into the man’s feelings in the second verse:

He relives every word they spoke in anger

He walks the floor and punches out the wall

To apologize to her would be so simple

But instead he cries I’ll be damned if I’ll crawl

If he loses her he’s lost his best friend

And that’s more then just a lover can provide

So he wrestles with emotions that defeat him

Chalk another love lost up to foolish pride

Growing up I’d always disliked the black and white video for the song because I just didn’t understand the ghost-like aspects director Gustavo Garzon brought to the proceedings. Now that I’ve come to appreciate the song outside the video context, it’s become my favorite single of Tritt’s to date.

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Album Review: Travis Tritt – ‘T-R-O-U-B-L-E’

Travis TrittIn the early 1990s, the major Nashville labels signed a seemingly endless string of cookie-cutter male artists that became known as “hat acts.” Travis Tritt was a notable exception. Not only did he not look like his contemporaries, he was less restricted by the musical boundaries of the era, offering up a healthy dose of Southern rock with more traditional country fare.

T-R-O-U-B-L-E was his third album for Warner Bros., released in the summer of 1992. Like his two previous albums, it was produced by Gregg Brown. It produced five singles, beginning with the blue collar anthem “Lord Have Mercy On The Working Man”, which featured a chorus of guest artists including Brooks & Dunn, T. Graham Brown, George Jones, Little Texas, Dana McVicker, Tanya Tucker, and Porter Wagoner. The Kostas-penned tune, unlike the cliched “I’m country” songs that plague the airwaves today, paints a sympathetic picture of the protagonist and makes him someone to which the listener can relate. It reached #5 on the Billboard country singles chart, and was followed by the #1 hit “Can I Trust You With My Heart”, a song he co-wrote with Stewart Harris. Tritt has always been a strong, if somewhat underrated ballad singer and nowhere is that more evident than on this song, which shows his more vulnerable side.

The pace changes dramatically with the uptempo title track, which was a cover of a 1975 Elvis Presley single. Travis does the song justice, but it has never been one of my favorites. It was somewhat surprising to learn that it only peaked at #13, since it seemed to me that it was overplayed on the radio. “Looking Out For Number One”, a kiss-off number in the vein of “Here’s A Quarter, Find Someone Who Cares”, is much better. In no uncertain terms, Travis announces that no longer will he be anyone’s doormat. This is another one of his own compositions, co-written with Troy Seals. Surprisingly, it only reached #11. The final single, “Worth Every Mile”, which he also wrote, only reached #30, possibly due to a lack of promotional push by the label. It deserved to chart higher.

Also quite good are the Marty Stuart number “A Hundred Years From Now” and the self-penned “Blue Collar Man”, on which he revisits the working class theme again, this time with a more Southern rock arrangement. Less enjoyable is the bluesy “Leave My Girl Alone”, a cover of a Stevie Ray Vaughan hit that closes the album. Clocking in at just under nine minutes, it is self-indulgent and overly long. But even though it is not to my personal tastes, Tritt deserves credit for pushing the envelope. It’s hard to imagine any of the other top male acts from the era trying to tackle this number.

Though T-R-O-U-B-L-E contains many fine cuts, I’m not much of a Southern rock fan so it makes for a somewhat uneven listening experience. However, it is worth seeking out a cheap copy if you don’t already own a copy.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Travis Tritt – ‘It’s All About To Change’

it's all about to changeTravis Tritt’s second album was released in May 1991, and is along the same lines as its predecessor, with the same producer, Gregg Brown. It was, however, a step up in quality and consistency.

The lead single, ‘Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)’ is a fabulous kissoff song with plenty of attitude, which is one of the seven songs here written by Tritt and is one of my favorites of his. There is a more traditional feel to this structurally than with much of his material, although the full production gives it added radio-friendly impact. It peaked at #2 on Billboard.

The excellent ballad ‘Anymore’, which Travis wrote with Jill Collucci, was the second single, and made it all the way to the top. The lyrics have the opposite emotion to that of ‘Here’s A Quarter’, with the protagonist surrendering to his feelings after a period in denial of the pain he is suffering at the failure of a relationship, finally admitting,
I can’t keep pretending I don’t love you anymore

The song allowed Tritt to show a more subtle side to his vocals, and is one of the finest recordings of his career, with delicately understated production. Backing vocals come from Dana McVicker, a former Capitol artist who never made a breakthrough, and they add a sweet edge.

His first of several career duets with Marty Stuart (recorded prior to their first tour together) is the singalong honky tonker ‘The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’’, a Stuart co-write with Ronny Scaife. It’s a solid song which I like a lot, although Tritt’s full blooded vocal is the best thing about this #2 hit.

It was back to the ballads with the album’s final single, #4 hit ‘Nothing Short Of Dying’. A wistful song about the pain of lost love with some mournful fiddle and steel supporting the regretful vocal, this is another great track and the most traditional country of the singles.

Although it wasn’t a single, the blazing up-tempo ‘Bible Belt (featuring rock band Little Feat) garnered a lot of attention when an alternate version was recorded for the movie My Cousin Vinny, with new lyrics fitting the film’s plot. The original is better, and is one of Tritt’s most memorable recordings with its dramatic tale of an adulterous preacher brought down by “the flames of passion” following an affair with the choir leader, based on a true story. Travis warns the couple they will have to “answer to the Lord and the Bible Belt”, although in fact they run away to Vegas together, apparently never to be seen in Georgia again. The Southern rock/country arrangement is genuinely exciting with pounding piano and a choir bringing in gospel elements suited to teh subject.

On the up-tempo side, I also liked ‘Don’t Give Your Heart To A Rambler’, a classic bluegrass number written by Jimmie Skinner unexpectedly given a Southern rock style makeover which works surprisingly well. I was less impressed by closer ‘Homesick’, an obscure Southern rock cover which is a self-indulgent rocker more about the groove than anything else, but it is the only track I didn’t like on an otherwise outstanding album.

The title track is a fine ballad in classic country style, with a sincere, believable vocal about a man who has had enough of the woman he has loved treating him badly and is ready for a new start.

‘If Hell Had A Jukebox’ is another great hurting ballad, written by Travis with Lee Rogers. This time the protagonist’s ex responds to a pitiful plea for her return by telling him to go you-know-where. Travis replies,

Honey, if Hell had a jukebox
And the Devil kept it full of hurtin’ songs
You could find me there this evening…

I don’t see how the fires below
Where you wanted me to go
Could be worse than the hell I’m living here on earth

The gentle ballad ‘Someone For Me’ (written by Tritt with Stewart Harris) is a lonely man’s wistful longing for love, and another fine song, with a subtle string arrangement.

With triple platinum status, this remains Travis Tritt’s best selling album, and it is also my personal favorite. There is a wide variety of tempos and styles, but the quality is almost all very high indeed. Used copies can be found extremely cheaply, and are well worth tracking down.

Grade: A+

Album Review: Tanya Tucker – ‘Complicated’

TanyaTuckerComplicatedRainy walks, a midnight talk, dance me on your feet
Hold me close, don’t let go, all I’ll ever need
Is a single rose, a kiss hello, that smile upon your face
The tender way, you say my name takes my breath away
Little things

The first single released from Tanya Tucker’s 1997 album, Complicated, was the romantic ‘Little Things’ which finds the singer appreciating all the small things her man does for her like walking with her in the rain and making her laugh.  It climbed to the #9 position on the country charts and is Tucker’s last appearance in the top 10 to date.  A second single and my favorite from the album was ‘Ridin’ Out the Heartache’. The tune is another of the countless ‘leaving in a car’ songs that dotted the country charts a decade ago.  This catchy tune about driving south in a ’66 Chevrolet stalled at #45 and no subsequent singles were released.  Despite being one the top 10-played artists on country radio in 1996, the next would prove to be Tanya’s last successful year with radio.

It’s worth mentioning that Tanya sued Capitol Records in 1998 for $300,000.  The suit – which reportedly began when Capitol refused to finance a music video for the second single – centered on the label’s lack of promotion for the album and accused the label of focusing all its efforts on another artist.  The suit never named the other artist, but Garth Brooks had just the year before orchestrated a takeover at the label, ousting long-time chief Scott Hendricks for Pat Quigley, said to be hand-picked by Brooks.  Tucker also asked to be let out of her contract with Capitol.

In Tanya’s defense, she did turn in a quality album to the label, plenty worth promoting.  Just after the first two tracks, which are the two singles, comes the melancholy ‘It Hurts Like Love’.  This is followed by the swinging ‘I Don’t Believe That’s How You Feel’, written by Harlan Howard and Kostas, it’s a forgive-me number done up in Cajun style.  ‘By The Way’ makes use of the double-entendre.  The verses begin each statement with ‘by the way’ using the phrase as a opening to each observation.  Then in the chorus, it’s used to tell how the singer assures her man she knows he loves her ‘by the way you smile’.

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