My Kind of Country

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

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Album Review – Aaron Tippin – ‘What This Country Needs’

CountryneedsChange was afoot for Aaron Tippin in 1998. His tenure at RCA Nashville ended in 1997 and Lyric Street Records quickly signed him in early 1998. He went to work on a new album, and released What This Country Needs in October. Tippin co-produced the project along with Pat McMakin, marking their first time working together.

He previewed the album with Mark Nesler and Tony Martin’s “For You, I Will,” which peaked at #6. A love song, it succeeds on a pleasant mid-tempo production featuring a nice dose of fiddle and steel. It’s a fairly middle of the road song at best, and Tippin’s somewhat disengaged vocal is partly to blame. But I do really enjoy the production.

Subsequent singles didn’t fair as well. The neo-traditional “I’m Leaving” hit #17 and is quite good, although his vocal is too gruff and out of place. Piano and steel ballad “Her” peaked at #33 and overall is much better than its predecessors, especially vocally, although the track isn’t anything overly special. The in your face title track, a Tippin co-write with Donny Kees, hit #47. Somewhat clever play on words the track isn’t talking about America (like the opening lines suggest), but the country genre’s move in a poppier direction:

‘Cause what this country needs

Is a little more steel guitar

And put a little fiddle right in the middle

Straight out of a Texas bar

And give us a song, we can all sing along

From sea to shining sea

Be proud of it and always love it

That’s what this country needs

Tippin may get his point across, but the track is no “Murder On Music Row.” The rock production is too jarring for a song about reconnecting with traditional sounds. He mostly sticks with those traditional sounds on the remaining tracks, with “Don’t Stop (We’re Just Getting Started)” leading the pack. By 1998 this line dance ready barroom romper was a bit dated, but the drenching of steel helps it rise above the pack.  The same classic elements bring the excellent “Somewhere Under The Rainbow” to life.

“I Didn’t Come This Far (Just to Walk Away)” is a favorite track of mine because I really enjoy both the melody and overall country feel. Same goes for “Back When I Knew Everything” and “Sweetwater,” two barroom anthems. The honky-tonk production and twang-y guitars are excellent additions to the songs. The remaining tracks, “Nothing Compares to Loving You” and “You’re The Only Reason For Me” are the only clunkers suffering from being too loud and far too adult contemporary, respectively, for my tastes.

Overall, What This Country Needs is just an okay album – nothing terrible yet nothing outstanding (none of the songs are particularly memorable in any significant way). My main issue with the project is Tippin himself – he sounds neither comfortable nor confident and gives spotty vocals throughout. He’s proven he can be strong enough on somewhat traditional material, but he hardly brings any of those goods here.

Grade: C