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Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘The Rock’

the rockMany country artists recording a religious album tend to include a fair percentage of hymns and other wellworn gospel tunes. Tracy took the more adventurous path of picking all-new material. The range and quality of the songs, unfortunately, is less ambitious. He produced with Julian Lord, and released the record on his own label, Rocky Comfort Records.

Tracy wrote one song with longtime collaborator Flip Anderson, the opening confessional ‘Dear Lord’, which is okay but comes across more than a little cozily self-satisfied. Tracy’s own past well-publicized misdemeanours would seem to provide him with the real-life experiences to make a convincing job of much meatier material touching on sinners’ salvation.

‘I’m Done’ (written by Steve Seskin and Mike Shamblin) is the closest the album comes to that kind of song, and is much more interesting as a result. Here a troubled narrator decides to change his life around by forgiving his enemies:

Life hit me when I wasn’t looking
It dealt me a hard hand to play
I felt betrayed and forsaken
But I’ve been making the wrong people pay
And I’m done
I’m done

I’ve spent my last night in that prison
Where anger and pride were the bars
Hey, I’m here to tell you
I’m making peace with the past
And I’m not ashamed of my scars
But I’m done

I’m done harbouring grudges and nursing old wounds
Not clinging to grudges and singing the blues
I’m done pointing fingers at everyone else
I’m taking a long hard look at myself
A new day has begun
And I’m done

The production is a bit busier than necessary, but this song has a weight and depth too often lacking elsewhere.

Even better is ‘Up To Him’, a somber song rooted in real life written by David Kent and Tim Johnson, about dealing with hard times and the fear of worse, which is my favourite track. The narrator hedges his bets a little by combining prayer with his own efforts to get a leg up.

Who knows what’s going to happen in the end?
I just work like it’s all up to me
And pray like it’s all up to Him

The song was released as a single, and although it didn’t crack the top 40 did fairly well for a religious song on an independent label, peaking at #47.

The less successful follow-up single, ‘Somebody Who Would Die For You’ briefly narrates the stories of a homeless veteran, a neglected old father, and the victim of a school shooting. It is movingly sung, although the stories are a little disjointed and the strings swamp the arrangement.

‘The Book You Never Read’ slows things down quite nicely, as Tracy takes the voice of the Bible addressing a troubled soul. The similarly anthropomorphic title track is the story of a Savannah church, set to an attractive tune, led into by the churchy strains of an organ; a choir comes in effectively and appropriately on the last chorus and this is nicely done. These are both pretty decent songs.

Of the less memorable material, ‘Jesus Come Talk To Your Children’ also has gospel backing vocals, but is a bit shouty and demanding. ‘Say A Prayer’ is about prayer in difficult situations (alcoholism, cancer) and is clearly sincere, but heavy-handed and sentimental rather than having a clear message. ‘I Know Where Heaven Is’ and ‘Every Prayer’ are pleasant but forgettable.

This isn’t the best religious album I’ve ever heard, but it’s not bad. Used copies are available quite cheaply, so it’s worth picking up if you like Tracy Lawrence and religious material.

Grade: B-