My Kind of Country

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

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Album Review – Aaron Tippin – ‘Stars & Stripes’

220px-TippinstripesDuring the sessions for People Like Us Aaron Tippin had a song that for whatever reason was kept off the project. When the album’s final single finished charting, it was just as the nation was gripping with the attacks of September 11. As the story goes, he now new the song was meant for a greater purpose.

In the wake of the attacks Tippin recorded and rushed released the song – “When The Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” – to radio and retail. The track was released as a CD single, accompanied by “You’ve Got to Stand For Something” as the B-side. The excellent number, co-written by Tippin, is one of my three favorite of his singles (along with “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” and “That’s As Close As I’ll Get To Loving You”). I’m still upset it only peaked at #2 as it deserved to be a chart-topper.

It would be a whole year before Tippin would include that track on a full-length project. He would release his eighth studio record (and third for Lyric Street Records) on Sept 10, 2002 again co-produced by Mike Bradley and Biff Watson. Tippin would name the release Stars and Stripes although it wasn’t a full-on patriotic album as the title and cover art suggest ever so misleadingly.

The second (but first official) single from this set was another duet with his wife Thea. Their co-written “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow” was a far more cohesive duet than their last pairing and just a wonderful song. Mrs. Tippin’s voice may lean towards adult contemporary, but she’s a gifted singer in her own right. It only peaked at #35, which is disappointing seeing as it had the potential of being as big as Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black’s “When I Said I Do” two years prior. Two other singles, the disastrously progressive “I’ll Take Love Over Money” and downright juvenile “If Her Lovin’ Don’t Kill Me” hit like the duds they are, peaking outside the top 30.

He slightly recovered on some of the remaining tracks, most notably “I Believed,” which went on to be the title track of an album that was shelved in 2005. The track reinforces the Americana theme of the project:

And the closer that I looked within

The further I could see

And I really didn’t have much other choice

So, I believed

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is subpar at best. Only “At The End of The Day” is even up to his standards. Tippin spends too much time trying to appeal to the tastes of radio thus degrading his sound with progressive beats and licks that are beneath even him. The project is so widely uneven it feels more like a hodgepodge than a cohesive whole. But I guess I should’ve taken my cue from the overly patriotic packaging that represents little to nothing of what’s inside.

Grade: C 

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Album Review – Aaron Tippin – ‘People Like Us’

TippinpeopleBy the turn of the century, Aaron Tippin was fading into obscurity. His What This Country Needs album didn’t yield any career defining singles and he hadn’t scored a major hit in more than five years. For his second album for Lyric Street, he got the career jolt he was looking for.

An argument between him and his wife Thea birthed the stoke of luck he needed. Muscular revenge anthem “Kiss This” brought Tippin one of his most significant career singles, complete with a perfectly biting lyric:

Why don’t you kiss, kiss this

And I don’t mean on my rosy red lips

Me and you, we’re through

And there’s only one thing left for you to do

You just come on over here one last time

Pucker up and close yours eyes

And kiss this goodbye

“Kiss This” may have everything to do with rock, and I can see where some may deem it distasteful, but for me it works. Tippin gives beautifully confident vocal that works in favor of his unique styling and I love the track’s biting edge.

The success of “Kiss This” pushed Tippin’s People Like Us album into the top 5, marking it the highest charting record of his career. Unfortunately for Tippin, the commercial success of the project ends there.

The similarly sounding title track, which wouldn’t have been out of place on any of Tippin’s earlier work, only managed to squeak into the top 20 where it peaked at #17. A third single, the excellent fiddle-laden ballad “Always Was” petered out at #40.

Given the progressive nature of “Kiss This,” I fully expected People Like Us to lean more in that vein, but co-producers Mike Bradley and Biff Watson keep the record fairly traditional. “And I Love You” has wonderful fiddle riffs even if the lyric is a bit generic, “I’d be Afraid of Losing You” is an excellent country shuffle (written by Mark Collie and Leslie Satcher), “Lost” has a nice early-2000s style honky-tonk beat and lyric, and “Every Now and Then (I Wish Then Was Now)” makes more use of fiddle to give it ear catching appeal.

He slicks up the proceedings again on “Big Boy Toys,” and in the context of the album, it would’ve made a worthy single choice. The track, which Tippin co-wrote with Buddy Brock, isn’t great but it works for his aesthetic and brings out a nice tone in his voice. Same goes for “The Night Shift,” which recalls “Girl on the Billboard” era Del Reeves thanks to Tippin’s somewhat deadpan delivery. He also does well on the twangy “Twenty-Nine and Holding.”

Tippin closes People Like Us collaborating with his wife on the tender “The Best Love We Ever Made.” It’s good, but hearing him trying to pull of tenderness with his gruff voice is kind of laughable. He may be a sweet husband and father, but that doesn’t translate through his vocal on this song.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the decidedly country arrangements on People Like Us as I had anticipated an amped up rockfest. He doesn’t really hit on anything revelatory with any of the songs here (apart from “Kiss This”) but he gives it a nice valiant effort. People Like Us is a solid, if somewhat unspectacular album.

Grade: B