Clint’s second album for Equity was to be his last full length album to date. It was a return to form, and to more traditional sounds. However, it was not very successful commercially, with none of the singles charting within the top 40. Clint produced, and as usual, he wrote every song, mostly with confrere Hayden Nicholas, and his band provided the backings.
Steve Wariner co-wrote and guests on electric guitar on the title track, which is definitely a standout, with a bright up-tempo mod belying the sadness as Clint advises a diet of classic country music washed down with whiskey as a cure for a broken heart. There are liberal references to both singers and songs to pick up on, and I really enjoyed this track:
It’s a good life here in the nightlife, bathin’ in the neon glow
The bartender, me and the kings of country playin’ everything we know
The Red Headed Stranger’s smoking, he burned a hole in his guitar
And I’m drowning in a whiskey river, Lord, that’s running right through this bar
Clint himself sounds thoroughly energized and committed here, and sets the tone for an album full of drinking songs.
‘A Big One’ is another gem in the same vein, with a catchy barroom singalong vibe, which Clint wrote with Tim Nichols. He cheerfully points the finger of blame for his drinking at his ex:
I only need one good reason to keep on drinkin’
(You can guess what, or who, that is.)
He also takes refuge in the bottle in the sad but less memorable ballad ‘Thinkin’ Of You’. Western swing ballad ‘I Don’t Wanna Tell You’ has the protagonist stopping off for a beer while putting off that conversation about leaving, while the steel-laced ‘Longnecks & Rednecks’ is an upbeat paean to honky tonks and beer drunk from the bottle.
The very traditional shuffle ‘Heartaches’ compares physical ailments with emotional ones, with Clint begging the doctor for an intravenous injection of “something strong” to help with the pain in his heart .
‘Too Much Rock’ complains a little too obliquely about the state of country music:
I’m gonna put down this hoe and pick up my guitar
Plant some seeds down on Music Row
But it seems like this old town is a lot like on the farm
I keep plantin’, nothin’ ever seems to grow
His heart is in the right place, but the song doesn’t feel focussed.
The minor-keyed Western number ‘Code Of The West’ looks back with a wistful nostalgia to the black and white morality of old cowboy movies, which is earnest but cliche’d. The cowboy theme is more successful in the valedictory ‘Go It Alone’, a subtle farewell to an old friend.
The pessimistic ‘Rainbow In The Rain’ is also good:
There’s no such thing as old forgotten memories
No such thing as only one to blame
And I’m not one who’ll never see the forest for the trees
But I can’t find a rainbow in the rain
‘Back Home In Heaven’ is a touching song about coping with bereavement, inspired by the death of cowriter Hayden Nicholas’s mother. Little Big Town contribute (not very prominent) backing vocals, and it had a special resonance for them too, as it was Kimberly Schlapman’s first recording session after the tragically early death of her first husband. The soothing, pretty melody and sweetly inspirational lyrics work well together, and this is one of my favorites on the album.
The only real mis-step is the silly ‘Undercover Cowboy’, about a sleazy would-be lothario preying on women in bars.
Clint Black’s music can be hit and miss, and having not enjoyed the album prior to this one, I passed on it when it originally came out. Catching up for this review has been a pleasant surprise. Overall, while not in Killin’ Time territory, this is a very good album which stands among Clint’s better efforts. The limited promotion due to being on Clint’s own, now defunct, label, means it may have slipped through the cracks for many, but it’s definitely worth tracking down.