I have always liked Clay Walker as a performer and admired his courage in pursuing his career in the face of adversity, in the form of multiple sclerosis which was diagnosed in 1996 when Clay was twenty-seven years old.
A similar fate befell country superstar Donna Fargo in 1978, definitely affecting her career; however, by 1996 significant progress had been made in the treatment of the illness, so that Clay was not forced to restrict his live appearances to the same extent that Fargo had been forced to do. Accordingly his career surged on, seemingly without missing a beat (although there were lifestyle and dietary changes that Walker made in combating his illness).
Fall was released in April 2007, on Asylum/Curb records, nearly four years after his previous album, A Few Questions, was released on RCA. Clay had signed with Asylum/Curb in July 2005 but, following its usual pattern, it took until February 2007, before the label got round to issuing any new music on Clay.
That brings us to the current album with the first single release being the humorous “‘Fore She Was Mama”. The song tells the story of a ten year old boy who discovers a “box of forget-me-nots” (or old memorabilia) in his parents’ closet.
There was one of her, flippin’ the bird
Sittin’ on a Harley
And a few with some hairy hippie dude
Turns out his name was Charlie
Her hair, her clothes, her drinkin’, smokin’
Had us boys confused
I’ll never forget the day us nosy kids got introduced…
To mama ‘fore she was mama
In a string bikini, in Tijuana
Won’t admit she smoked marijuana
But I saw mama ‘fore she was mama
I was stunned to find that this song only made #21 on Billboard’s country charts, since the song received very heavy airplay throughout most of the southeastern USA. In fact I know of four radio stations where the song soared to #1 on the local survey. The song was Clay’s first chart record since 2004.
Track two is the title track, which was the second single released. “Fall” would return Clay to the top ten reaching #5. The song is a nice mid-tempo ballad which the narrator offers moral support to a partner who has had a bad day. The song might have had crossover potential, but Curb released a pop version of the song by Kimberly Locke, another artist signed to Curb, thus killing Clay’s shot at a crossover hit.
Hold up, there you go again
Puttin’ on that smile again
Even though I know you’ve had a bad day
Doin’ this and doin’ that
Always puttin’ yourself last
A whole lotta give and not enough take
But you can only be strong so long before you break
So fall, go on and fall apart
Fall into these arms of mine
I’ll catch you every time you fall
Go on and lose it all
Every doubt, every fear, every worry, every tear
I’m right here
Released ten years earlier, the third track “Workin’ Man” would have made a good single. Unfortunately by 2007, country radio was looking for music more in line with the schlock being produced by Rascal Flatts or Jason Aldean.
He slips on his warn out jeans
She buttons up his shirt
A sleepy smile and a goodbye kiss
And he’s up and off to work
He puts in a forty hour week
But she’s on his mind full-time
And he’ll give it everything he’s got
And he’s all her’s at five
‘Cause he’s a workin’ man
He don’t mind workin’ overtime
For the trust and the touch of a woman
Come rain or shine
“Miami and Me“ is a mid-tempo song about a love that couldn’t be
Meet her in Miami
Conversation turned to wine
We talked and we talked
Yeah we hit it off, just fine
Stayed down by the water
Slept beneath the stars
We laughed and we danced
Made love in the sand
I held her in my arms
But I couldn’t make her stay
California called her away
And tonight the moon turned as blue as the sea
And she left Miami and me
Track five, “She Likes It In The Morning” is a lovely slow ballad that proved to be the third and final single released from the album. For reasons I will never understand, the song died at #43.
And she likes it in the morning
And I run my fingers through her hair
And she smiles when I call her darling
She looks like a angel laying there
And she wants me in the evening
To listen close to how she feels
She needs to know I need her
And Heaven knows I always will
‘Cause she loves me every single day and night
And she says we are everything that’s good in her life
She says she loves me more than anything on earth
And that’s almost as much as I love her
Track six “Mexico” is an up-tempo island-vibe track that makes for a good album track. Ditto for track seven “You’re My Witness”, a gentle ballad.
Track eight “Average Joe” is a mid-tempo ballad about the average Joes in any town. The lyrics are a bit of a laundry list, but the song has a nice melody and the song hangs together well
I don’t mind working
I don’t mind drinking
When I need to unwind
And I like listening to a
Country song on a Friday night
I’m a welder in the shop downtown
The drywaller in your brand new house
Yeah I’m your Average Joe
I’m the guy that fixed your van
I’m the painter
I’m your concrete man
Yeah I’m your Average Joe
Track nine, “It Ain’t Pretty (But It’s Beautiful)”, is a tender ballad about, well, various things including appreciating the good things in our lives
Got home and told my wife bout what I’d seen
She grabbed her purse, took me by the hand and said come with me
We drove around until we found the three of them
I wondered who was blessing who when they got in
We bought them food and clothes and drove to a toy store
And the little girl said I don’t need a brand new doll
As she hugged the broken armless one they found before
She said this one needs me more
She ain’t pretty, but she’s beautiful
She ain’t perfect, but she’s wonderful
She might be broken, but she’s lovable
She ain’t pretty, but she’s beautiful
Track ten, “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” features the late great Freddy Fender in a duet with Clay. The song was a country and pop #1 in 1974. This would prove to be Freddy’s last recording before his death on October 14, 2006. The duet comes off very well and it is nice to know that Freddy’s last recording was a really good one.
The album closes with a pair of nice ballads in “I’d Love To Be Your Last” and “I Hate Nights Like This”.
My friend Brady Vercher of the 9513 blog gave this album three stars and most reviewers at the time of the release had this at 3 to 3.5 stars. My review on Amazon (4/19/2007) was as follows:
“Clay’s first album of new material in several years delivers the solid country sound that one has come to expect from Clay. The first single “‘Fore She Was Mama” received considerable airplay, and seems to hold up well upon repeated listening. I am surprised that “Mama” topped out on Billboard at around 21, because its appeal in the Sunshine State was considerably stronger than that. If radio stations still maintained their own charts, I would expect that this would have been a top five song on stations throughout the Southeastern and Southwestern parts of the USA, perhaps tanking north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The album features a nice mix of slow and up-tempo songs. One of the slower songs “It Ain’t Pretty (But It’s Beautiful)” is a bit maudlin, but for me it’s the best song on the album. Another highlight is Clay’s recording of “Before The Last Teardrop Falls”, a duet with the late Freddy Fender. Freddy’s death isn’t acknowledged anywhere in the CD booklet, but I’m pretty sure it was his last recording.
The current single “Fall” is receiving substantial airplay. I would not have picked it as a single, but I can see where its lyrics would have a strong appeal to female listeners with its strongly supportive message to the wife (or girlfriend).
“Average Joe” is a song that should resonate with many, and it features legendary pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins. Paul Franklin plays steel on all tracks, but several fiddlers share the spotlight on the various tracks (Rob Hajacos, Stuart Duncan, Larry Franklin).
Welcome back Clay – four stars”
My opinion of the album has not changed since then, although I do not regard “It Ain’t Pretty (But It’s Beautiful)” as the best song on the album anymore.
1. “‘Fore She Was Mama”
Casey Beathard, Phil O’Donnell
Sonny LeMaire, Shane Minor, Clay Mills
3. “Workin’ Man” M. Jason Greene, Clay Walker 3:55
4. “Miami and Me” Greene, Walker 4:02
5. “She Likes It in the Morning”
Greene, Walker 3:50
6. “Mexico” Greene, Walker 2:41
7. “You’re My Witness” Greene, Walker 3:38
8. “Average Joe” Ed Hill, Don Poythress, David Frasier 3:09
9. “It Ain’t Pretty (But It’s Beautiful)” Doug Johnson, Nicole Witt, Kim Williams 4:00
10. “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” (duet with Freddy Fender)
Ben Peters, Vivian Keith
11. “I’d Love to Be Your Last” Rivers Rutherford, Annie Tate, Sam Tate 3:24
12. “I Hate Nights Like This” Walker 4:20