Tracy’s debut album in 1991 was a solid example of the neotraditional sound which was sweeping country music at the time. Smoothly produced by James Stroud, this album epitomizes the style, mixing traditional country with plenty of fiddle and steel with a radio friendly feel. Tracy was only 23, but had a natural country voice and sounds mature and confident beyond his years.
The title track, written by Elbert West, was the record’s lead single, and perhaps helped by the publicity of Tracy’s shooting, it raced to #1. A sincere and believable vocal sells an excellent song about a man who offers to let his ex take all their material possessions, as nothing matters as much as his broken heart,
The regretful ballad ‘Today’s Lonely Fool’ (written by Kenny Beard and Stan Paul Davis ) reached #3, and is another fine song in classic country style, with the jealous husband learning from his mistakes and begging for a second chance.
The enjoyable up-tempo ‘Runnin’ Behind’ is a young man’s cheerful response to living on the edge, with not enough money or time. It peaked at #4.
It was followed by my favorite of the singles, which approached the same hard times theme from a more mature angle, and became Tracy’s fourth top 10 hit. ‘Somebody Paints The Wall’ had previously been recorded by Curb artist Josh Logan and (as ‘Somebody Always Paints The Wall’) by George Jones, on the album which also contained the original (and best) version of ‘Ol’ Red’. The song is a wry look at living with regular financial disaster, but with a loved one standing by him, the protagonist is going to be okay, even though
The day my ship came in I was waiting for a train
The rival versions are both more downbeat, with George Jones having the most emotional depth and melancholic feel, and Lawrence does come across a little lightweight in comparison, but it is still very good.
Tracy wrote two songs on the album. ‘Dancin’ To Sweet Seventeen’ is a surprisingly convincing song from the viewpoint of a jaded 30-something clinging to dreams of a high school romance. His other composition was a co-write with Elbert West. The protagonist of the fiddle-led lament ‘Froze Over’ bemoans losing his “angel”, who
Swore she’d love me til Hell froze over
Well, Hell just froze over tonight
There are another couple of ballads with appealing melodies. ‘Between Us’ is a pleasant love song, while ‘April’s Fool’ is another sad song about a man hopelessly in love.
The tongue-in-cheek hillbilly ode to ‘Paris, Tennessee’ as a romantic destination is quite entertaining, with banked backing vocals giving the up-tempo romp a breezy feel. It was later recorded by a pre-beach Kenny Chesney on the latter’s All I Need To Know, with a virtually identical arrangement.
In the closing ‘I Hope Heaven Has A Honky Tonk’ , the protagonist is hoping for an afterlife
Like Texas on a Saturday night,
With, of course, some live country music. Bob Wills is said to be present in person, but Hank Williams only on the divine jukebox; one hope this isn’t a comment about the likely destination of the latter.
It is easy to find cheap used copies of this promising debut album, and it’s worthwhile doing so.