My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Marshall Tucker Band

Album Review: Clint Black – ‘D’lectrified’

clintblackClint Black’s swan song for RCA was the first album he produced by himself and arguably his most ambitious. As the title suggests, D’lectrified was recorded entirely with acoustic instruments, but rest assured, it is no quiet, stripped-down unplugged affair. By implementing a variety of instruments not usually used in country music — such as the clarinet, various saxophones and percussion, as well as a string section — he achieves a rich, full sound which causes the listener to sometimes forget that no electric instruments were used.

The album is also a departure from Clint’s usual practice of writing or co-writing every song. There is a great deal of cover material here and his choices are quite eclectic — from The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Bob Away My Blues” which opens the album, to Leon Russell’s “Dixie Lullaby” (done as a duet with Bruce Hornsby) and the novelty tune “Ode To the Galaxy”, which is quite likely the first time a major country music star covered Monty Python. A slightly re-worked version of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” appears as a tribute to Waylon Jennings, whose name is substituted for Hank’s in the title and lyrics. None of these tunes are in the vein of what fans had come to expect from Black, but all of them were quite well done.

The rest of the album is more conventional. Clint’s wife Lisa Hartman Black joined him on the sentimental and AC-leaning “When I Said I Do”, which was the album’s first single. I remember cringing upon learning that Clint’s wife would be his duet partner. I was unaware that she had released four unsuccessful pop albums between 1976 and 1987. Though she was no Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton, she was a better vocalist than I’d expected. Radio loved the record, and it quickly rose to #1. It was Lisa’s first chart-topper and Clint’s last. It also reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s second single was “Been There”, on which Clint is joined by his co-writer Steve Wariner. Released in January 2000, it reached #5, becoming the last Top 10 hit of Clint’s career.

The album’s best track by far is “Love She Can’t Live Without”, a Black co-write with Skip Ewing. It should have been a monster hit, but it stalled at #30. I suspect that with Clint’s contract with RCA about to expire, the label did little to promote the record. The album’s weakest cut is “Harmony”, a duet with co-writer Kenny Loggins. A sappy and syrupy affair that plods along for nearly five and a half minutes, it is the album’s sole dud and quite possibly the worst thing Black ever recorded.

The remainder of D’lectrified consists primarily of re-worked versions of some of Clint’s earlier hits, such as “Burn One Down” and “No Time To Kill”. Both were done in a bluesy, jam-session style, which ironically are quite loud for acoustic recordings and Clint seems to be struggling at times to be heard over the arrangements. Neither holds its own against its original hit version; however, an acoustic guitar-led instrumental version of “Something That We Do”, which appears as a hidden track at the end of the album is quite nice.

Unlike all of Clint’s previous albums, D’lectrified failed to attain platinum status, though it did earn gold certification (his last studio album to do so). After the album was released, Black left RCA to found his own label, Equity Music Group, which was meant to introduce a new business model to the music industry by allowing artists to keep a greater share of the profits they generated. The experiment did not succeed, and neither did any of Clint’s recordings for the fledgling label. D’lectrified, his last truly successful album, was an adventurous project and is worth seeking out.

Grade: A

Album Review: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Heard It In A Love Song’

Mark Chesnutt’s second independent release, the follow-up to 2004’s Savin’ The Honky Tonk, is primarily a collection of remakes of a few well known songs and a handful of obscure ones. Though slightly less cohesive than its predecessor, Heard It In A Love Song allows Chesnutt to shine in a way that his last few major label releases did not.

The title track was a 1977 hit for the Marshall Tucker Band. I was never a big fan of the original version, so I wasn’t expecting to like Mark’s version very much, but after listening to it for the first time I was pleasantly surprised. Though vastly superior to the original, it is still the weakest song in this collection that seems slightly out of place alongside the other songs on the album. Its inclusion was likely a calculated move to garner some radio airplay; so many country radio program directors nowadays come from a pop/rock rather than country background, so remakes of old pop hits are often stand a better chance of making it onto station playlists. Indeed, “Heard It In A Love Song” is the most commercial song in this set; nevertheless it failed to chart when it was released as the album’s first single.

“That Good That Bad”, a pleasant dance-hall number and the only new original song on the album, was released as the second single. Written by Mark along with Roger Springer and Clessie Lee Morrissette, Jr., it is reminiscent of the type of song that appeared on Mark’s major label releases. In fact, it was recorded during Mark’s Thank God For Believers sessions, but left off the album. It too, failed to chart.

“A Hard Secret To Keep”, which had appeared on Savin’ The Honky Tonk, is reprised here in a newly-recorded version. Though it is a good song and Chesnutt’s performance is solid, its inclusion is a bit of a disappointment; Heard It In A Love Song contains a meager — by today’s standards — ten tracks, so recycling a song that appeared just one album earlier is bound to leave the listener feeling a little disappointed.

The remaining seven songs on the album are are remakes of songs made famous, to one degree or another, by other country artists. What sets Heard It In A Love Song apart from other cover albums is its reliance on some obscure material, as well as some well-known classics. Among the more famous songs are “Dreaming My Dreams With You”, which has been recorded countless times by artists such as Collin Raye, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless. Chesnutt’s rendition, however, is surprisingly strong, and is the best version of the song I’ve heard, aside from Waylon Jennings’ original recording. Mark turns in another strong performance on “Apartment #9”,. a Johnny Paycheck-Bobby Austin composition, that is best remembered as the record that resulted when a then-unknown Tammy Wynette knocked on Billy Sherill’s office door and asked for a record deal.

My favorite song on the album is “A Shoulder To Cry On”, an overlooked gem written by Merle Haggard, and recorded by Charley Pride. Pride’s 1973 recording was a #1 hit but it is largely forgotten today. Though Chesnutt’s version cannot compare with the original, it’s nice to see that the song was resurrected and given the opportunity to find a new audience.

“A Day In The Life Of A Fool” was originally recorded by George Jones for Musicor Records, and released in 1972 after Jones had departed the label for Epic. It was a common practice at the time, when an artist switched record companies, for the former label to dig into its archives and release singles to compete with the same artist’s recordings for a new label. This somewhat limited the record’s chart potential; it peaked at #30, and as such is one of the Possum’s most obscure hits. It was worthy of a revival. Covering a George Jones song has got to be an intimidating prospect for any artist, but Mark’s remake, which is somewhat less polished than the original, succeeds nicely.

Another rarity is the Tommy Collins composition “Goodbye Comes Hard To Me”, a decent song that didn’t make as much of an impression on me as the others, probably since I’m unfamiliar with the original. Rounding out the set are covers of Hank Williams Sr and Jr. — the latter’s energetic “You Can’t Find Many Kissers”, and a surprisingly good version of Hank Sr.’s 1949 classic “Lost Highway” which closes out the album.

Heard It In A Love Song may have been a commercial failure — it was the first Mark Chesnutt album since his 1988 independent debut that failed to produce any charting singles — but it is nonetheless one of his most enjoyable, particularly for those who are fed up with the watered-down pop that currently dominates the mainstream country scene.

Grade: A-

It’s out of print in CD form; but is still available with a relatively high price tagfrom third party sellers on Amazon. It is also available digitally from Amazon and iTunes, although, due to licensing restrictions, the digital version of the ablum does not include “That Good That Bad.”

Single Review: Jamey Johnson – ‘Macon’

Jamey Johnson’s long-awaited new single starts off with a somewhat misleading piano intro that gives the impression that “Macon” is one of those pop-infused power ballads that Lonestar and Collin Raye used to turn out regularly in the 90s. But about thirty seconds in, someone seems to have remembered that this is a Jamey Johnson record, and the piano gives way to the pedal steel and acoustic guitar and the song gets underway for real. Suddenly, the polished pop ballad becomes a Southern rock-infused anthem that is one part Waylon Jennings, one part David Allan Coe, and one part Marshall Tucker Band.

The tune is a little light in the lyrics department — Johnson has to get his big rig home to Macon ASAP because the lady in his life has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t want to be left alone too long. That’s pretty much all the song has to say, which is probably a huge advantage from a commercial standpont; there is nothing controversial a la “That Lonesome Song” so country radio has no built-in excuses to ignore Johnson this time around.

“Macon” has a very retro sound, in a 1970s Southern rock sort of way. It’s definitely not traditional and it’s likely that had it been released in the 70s, radio programmers might have deemed it too rock-oriented to fit in with the country radio format. But things have changed considerably at country radio in the past forty years, so it would appear that Johnson has got a decent shot at getting some airplay. He’s managed to craft a record that will satisfy country fans’ nostalgia for some Outlaw music, but more importantly, he’s created one that lacks the blandness and cliches that have fatally flawed so many contemporary country releases.

Written by Jamey Johnson & Kacey Coppola

Grade: A-

“Macon” is available for download at iTunes and Amazon.