My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Jimmy Alan Stewart

Album Review: Toby Keith – ‘Toby Keith’

toby keithToby Keith’s debut album in 1993 showcased him not only as an impressive vocalist with a big booming voice, but as a singer-songwriter. He wrote all but two of the songs, and with no recourse to co-writers.

‘Should’ve Been A Cowboy’, the first single, was an immediate, and enduring, success for Toby, speeding to the top of the charts, and becoming the most played song on country radio for the whole decade of the 1990s. Filled with visual imagery and nostalgia for the sanitized old movie and TV Western depictions of a cowboy’s life, it is pleasant listening but the polar opposite of the harsher reality offered in ‘Went For A Ride’, recorded by Radney Foster the previous year.

The contemporary styled ballad ‘He Ain’t Worth Missing’ reached #5, and is earnestly sung, although the keyboards now sound dated. ‘Under The Fall’ is on much the same theme (consoling a lovelorn woman), but is a less well written song.

The last two singles both peaked at #2. The catchy and rocking ‘A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action’ was one of the two non Keith-penned tunes, although it heralds much of his later work. It was written by Keith Hinton and Jimmy Alan Stewart. Stewart also co-wrote (with Chuck Cannon) ‘Some Kinda Good Kinda Hold On Me’(written by Chuck Cannon and Jimmy Alan Stewart), which is up-tempo filler with an effective groove and an extended sax solo.

The final single, ‘Wish I Didn’t Know Now’, with its wounded take on deception and lost love, is my favourite of the singles. Also very good is the breakup ballad ‘Ain’t No Thang’, although I’m mildly irritated by the spelling choice.

‘Valentine’ is an overly forceful ballad which would work better with a subtler, more vulnerable approach (I’m tempted to say with anyone other than Toby Keith singing it). He shows, however, that he is capable of subtlety on ‘Mama Come Quick’, a nicely constructed tune which compares a childhood hurt to the pain of a broken relationship, and pays tribute to a mother’s loving consolation. Very nice.

The closing track, ‘Close But No Guitar’, is a wryly amusing story song which I enjoyed a great deal. The protagonist has been left behind by an old girlfriend who has gone on to make it big in Nashville. He ends up covering her hit songs for pennies in the same old bar they started out in together.

The album reflected the performance of the singles, and was certified platinum. It was a bright start to Toby Keith’s career and stands up reasonably well today

Grade: B+

Album Review: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Wings’

Around the middle of the 1990s Mark Chesnutt’s career began to wind down commercially. Wings, released in 1995, was his first album not to be certified at least gold, but it marks a return to form after the disappointing What A Way To Live, his first for MCA’s sister label Decca. There was a new producer at the helm, Mark Wright being replaced by label boss Tony Brown, and he did a good job with a sympathetic production.

Sadly, however, Mark was beginning to outwear his welcome at radio. It probably didn’t help that some of the less memorable tracks on this album were selected as singles. ‘Trouble’, with its bluesy and apparently radio-friendly groove, performed extremely disappointingly (especially as the lead single for a new release), barely cracking the top 20. The song lacks much melody, and it’s not one of my favourite Chesnutt recordings; but it is mildly notable as an early country cut for its writer, Americana singer-songwriter Todd Snider.

There must have been a sigh of relief all around when ‘It Wouldn’t Hurt To Have Wings’, a sprightly take on the difficulty of getting over someone, which lends the album its title, reached #7 on Billboard. I like this song although it is relatively lightweight. The third and last single, though, the semi-comic tale of an ill-fated night out in the ‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time’, penned by Jimmy Alan Stewart and Scott Miller, was Mark’s biggest flop to date, only just squeezing into the top 40. It changes the pace both in terms of tempo and mood, and is enjoyable enough, but is not really funny enough to work as a comic song.

It was lucky for Mark that ‘It’s a Little Too Late’ (from a hasty Greatest Hits release) brought him back to the top of the charts in 1997 – but he would never again enjoy the consistent streak he had had at the beginning of the 90s. No career lasts forever, but I think the label may have made the wrong choices for singles to promote this album, as there are far stronger songs on the set.

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