My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Tracy Lawrence

Week ending 12/14/13: #1 singles this week in country music history

Mitchell+Torok+111141953 (Sales): There Stands The Glass — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1953 (Jukebox): Caribbean — Mitchell Torok (Abbott)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know — Davis Sisters (RCA)

1963: Love’s Gonna Live Here — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1973: The Most Beautiful Girl — Charlie Rich (Epic)

1983: Tell Me A Lie — Janie Fricke (Columbia)

1993: My Second Home — Tracy Lawrence (Atlantic)

2003: I Love This Bar — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2013: Stay — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

2013 (Airplay): Sunny and 75Joe Nichols (Red Bow)

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Find Out Who Your Friends Are’

Album Review – Tracy Lawrence – ‘The Singer’

tracylawrence_singerFive years after scoring a comeback #1 in “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” and two years after a detour into Christian music, Tracy Lawrence returned with an album of all new material, The Singer. His third release for Independent label Rocky Comfort; it was Lawrence’s first album not to produce any hits.

The album was preceded by the title track, a semi-autobiographical fiddle heavy tune about the hardships in Lawrence’s life:

There’s a few things they might say

At the mention of my name

The saint, the sinner, the hopeless dreamer

Lord I just hope they don’t forget

The singer

The second and final single was the somewhat dumb “Pills,” that had a solid production by inane lyrics about different uses for the titular substance. Neither single charted.

I fully expected to hear Lawrence pander to radio trends on The Singer but surprisingly he kept the proceedings clean and country. Mid-tempo shuffle “Roswell and Monroe” tells the story of a woman’s alluring beauty, and it’s quite good. “Saving Savannah,” an “Independence Day” like number about a brother and sister is perfectly sinister and has an appropriately dark production to match.

Mandolin ballad “Tender Enough” is an example of how Lawrence’s sound has evolved. The track borrows heavily from Rascal Flatts tunes like “I Melt” and “My Wish,” and while Lawrence’s twang is a bit grating, the song works well. “Hard Times” is Lawrence’s attempt at being timely, and he fails because the subject matter sounds a bit dated even two years later. A Merle Haggard protest song this is not.

“Whole Lotta Me” opens like a hybrid of “Is That A Tear” and Rick Trevino’s excellent “Learning As You Go,” and it’s a good song, but nothing truly great. He rebounds on “Jealousy,” a neo-traditional ballad that proves he’s still got it twenty years after his debut. The album closes with new versions of “Paint Me A Birmingham” and “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” that are solid, but bring nothing new to either track.

Overall The Singer is a much better album than I expected it to be. The nasally aspects of Lawrence’s voice are still an issue for me and at times he seems like he’s trying too hard to be a country singer. But the material is solid although a tad underwhelming. If you’re a die-hard Tracy Lawrence fan than this album will appeal, for the rest of us it isn’t essential listening, but worth seeking out.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘If I Don’t Make It Back’

Classic Rewind – Tracy Lawrence – ‘Paint Me A Birmingham’

RIP Buck Moore, one of the writers of this song, who died recently.

Classic Rewind – Tracy Lawrence, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan – ‘Time Marches On’

A rare moment of good taste from two modern superstars:

Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘For The Love’

forthelove2004’s Strong was Tracy Lawrence’s one and only album for DreamWorks Nashville, which shut down operations in 2005, leaving Tracy and several other artists without a record deal. Two years later Tracy returned with For The Love, released on his own Rocky Comfort Records imprint. Though it was not quite up to the standard of his early work for Atlantic, For The Love was a marked improvement over his more recent releases. He teamed up with a new co-producer, Julian King, although his old friend Flip Anderson shared production credits on a couple of tracks.

The first single “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” was originally released in late 2006, where it struggled to crack the Top 40. An alternate version featuring guest vocals from Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney was released the following January, and their star power helped to propel the record to #1. It was Lawrence’s first chart-topper since “Time Marches On” reached #1 more than a decade earlier. The record is noteworthy as the slowest-climbing #1 in the history of the Billboard country singles chart. Both the original solo version and the remixed version featuring McGraw and Chesney are included on the album.

Regrettably, Tracy’s chart resurgence was short-lived, as he was unable to come up with a blockbuster follow-up to “Find Out Who Your Friends Are”. The Hallmark-esque ballad “Til I Was A Daddy Too” was released as the second single, only reached #32, and the rather enjoyable don’t-get-above-your-raising tune “You Can’t Hide Redneck” petered out at #56.

The rest of the album is hit-or-miss. The title track is a true dud that is reminsicent of the type of barely-country drivel Kenny Chesney regularly serves up. Brad Arnold of the rock band 3 Doors Down is a guest vocalist. Both the lyrics and Tracy’s voice sound forced on “Just Like Her” and the well-meaning (and also Hallmarky) “As Easy As Our Blessings” is rather dull. For the most part, these songs make up the first half of the album. By the time the fifth track was over, I was really feeling disappointed, but fortunately things improve significantly beginnining with the sixth track, “Speed of Flight” which was written by Tracy and is reminiscent of his early 90s work. The Western swing flavored “You’re Why God Made Me” sounds like something George Strait might have released in the 80s, and along with the Texas dance hall number “Just Like That”, is one of the two best tracks on the album.

A mixed bag overall, For The Love is a better album than I was expecting, marred only by a few mediocre songs. The good songs outnumber the weaker ones, however, so it’s worth the modest cash outlay to get a used copy.

Grade: B

Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Strong’

strongHaving left his label after the latest downturn in his fortunes, Tracy signed to Dreamworks where he was reunited with old producer James Stroud (and new label head) for 2004’s Strong. He didn’t write any of the material himself, but the result was a much better record than his last couple of efforts, and rather more successful commercially, at least to start with.

The wistfully beautiful ‘Paint Me A Birmingham’, previously recorded by the underrated Ken Mellons, was a comeback hit for Tracy, reaching #4. The cheerfully philosophical ‘It’s All How You Look At It’ was less successful, although it did sneak into the top 40; it is pleasant enough but a bit bland. The fun honky tonker ‘Sawdust On Her Halo’ is pretty good, but was sadly not a big hit with radio.

The title track is a paean to a single mother’s hard work, and comes across as a bit pandering because the woman in it is a cipher; she doesn’t really live as an individual character rather than a stereotype. The more downbeat and much more interesting (at least in its first half) ‘Bobby Darwin’s Daughter’ is a sensitive story song about a woman trapped in an unsatisfactory life, and longing for the innocence of her own childhood, when

She’d ask where God came from
Instead of wondering where He’s been

The second half of the song is a little more predictable, when she regains her faith when she is nearly killed in an accident and her remorseful and formerly neglectful husband remembers he loves her after all. It was written by Larry Boone, Paul Nelson, and Rick Huckaby. The nostalgic ‘When Daddy Was A Strong Man’ also tenderly recalls childhood.

The thoughtful ‘Stones’ has a pretty, delicate melody and sensitive vocal interpretation of its lyric about the passing of time. ‘Everywhere But Hollywood’ is quite a good song contrasting reality with fantasy, written by Bobby Pinson, Jimmy Ritchey and Jason Sellers.

The leaving song ‘A Far Cry From You’ is one of the album’s few heartbreak numbers, and is very good. Also sad, but in more dramatic fashion, the protagonist of ‘The Questionnaire’ discovers the true state of his marriage when he finds an old women’s magazine where his wife has filled in a questionnaire on the subject remorselessly ranging over his various failings and her unhappiness, and ending with the devastating answer to “Do you still love him?”. We can guess the answer isn’t yes by his petulant “damn that questionnaire”. It is slightly over-produced but is a neatly crafted song.

‘What The Flames Feel Like’ brings more of a Southern rock edge, and is convincingly performed, while the mid-tempo ‘Think Of Me’ reminds the listener of the role of those who keep them safe by willingly going into danger themselves.

As Tracy was not able to sustain the success of the initial single, sales faltered, and Dreamworks dropped him after the record had run its course. However this was definitely a return to form, and is worth picking up. Subsequently, Tracy moved to Mercury (his last major-label deal), but they released only a hits package with the two new songs not doing well enough as singles to keep him on the label.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘If The World Had A Front Porch’

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Texas Tornado’

Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Tracy Lawrence’

tracy lawrenceAs the new millennium dawned, Tracy’s career hit another roadblock, this time one which was not self-inflicted: his label, Atlantic, closed its doors. He was transferred to sister label Warner Brothers for 2001’s self-titled release, but the move was not a longterm success. Tracy produced the album with longtime collaborator Flip Anderson, and there are no real surprises on offer.

I really like the single ‘Life Don’t Have To Be So Hard’, an encomium to a more relaxed way of life, set to a catchy melody. Unfortunately country radio was less enamored, and the song barely crept into the top 40. ‘What A Memory’, the only other single before Tracy departed Warner Bros, did even more poorly, although it is another fine song. A tearjerking ballad about a loving mother who dies far too young, it was written by Jeff Bates and Kenny Beard, and I found it moving.

The overriding theme on the album is one of maturity, learning from one’s mistakes and looking back with varying degrees of amusement and regret on the follies of youth.

‘I Won All The Battles’ is an excellent song, which Tracy wrote with Larry Boone and Paul Nelson. The protagonist realises too late that insisting to his wife he was right all the time was ultimately the cause of losing her love. It is by far the best of Tracy’s co-writes on this record. ‘Whole Lot Of Lettin’ Go’, from the same partnership, is quite a nice ballad about the lasting effects of an old flame, while love song ‘Meant To Be’ is lyrically rather bland, although it is nicely sung and played and has quite an attractive melody. ‘She Loved The Devil Out Of Me’, the last of Tracy’s co-writes, is a pleasant mid-tempo on a well-worn theme, which I enjoyed well enough despite its lack of originality. Alison Brown’s banjo works well on this and also backs up ‘God’s Green Earth’, written by Monty Criswell and Billy Yates. The latter sounds cheerful and perky, belying a heartbreak lyric.

‘It’s Hard To Be An Outlaw’ (written by Bobby Pinson, Larry Boone and Paul Nelson) takes a more jaundiced approach to the theme of a wild young man whose woman tries to “get the devil out of” him. In this case she has failed and walked away, and the protagonist has to face reality on his own:

I wouldn’t change
And now she’s gone I’m just not the same
It’s hard to be an outlaw
Outrun or outdraw
The laws of life that you once could ignore
It’s a desperate desperado
Who can’t see through his sorrow
What he was runnin’ from or runnin’ for
Oh, it’s hard to be an outlaw
When you’re not wanted anymore
There was nowhere left to turn to
But back to my old self
“I’m living like there’s no tomorrow”
Now meant somethin’ else
The trails I used to live to blaze
Are winding up dead ends
With a voice inside my head
Reminding me what could have been
I was wild as the wind
As cold as they come,
Thinkin’ I was cool
Now looking back,
Lookin’ at a fool

The up-tempo ‘Crawlin’ Again’ (written by Kenny Beard and Michael White) is a semi-ironic mumber comparing a man’s helplessness in the face of a woman’s power to reverting to infancy:

I’m back on the bottle, cryin’ out loud
I need holding and I need it now
Someone to rock me and then tug me in
It takes a mama 20 years to make a boy a man
Another woman 20 seconds to have him crawling again

It’s quite an entertaining song, which might have been a good choice for a single.

‘Getting Back Up’(written by Pinson with Marla Cannon-Goodman) is a downbeat ballad about coping with the failure of a relationship with a somewhat traditional feel. Some nice fiddle opens the otherwise rather uninteresting jazz-inflected ‘It’s Got You All Over It’.

The slightly-too sweet ‘That Was Us’ (written by Tony Lane and Craig Wiseman) looks back fondly on the narrator’s time as one of a group of wild teenagers who make mischief in their small town but whose good hearts are revealed in the final verse, when they make real amends. It was later recorded by Randy Travis on one of his religious records.

This is a serviceable and perfectly listenable record. It is currently out of print, but available digitally and as a CD-R from Amazon, and cheap used copies are also around. It’s worth picking up if you can get it at a moderate price.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind – Tracy Lawrence – ‘Renegades, Rebels and Rogues’

Classic Rewind – Tracy Lawrence – ‘Today’s Lonely Fool’

Album Review: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Lessons Learned’

lessons learnedTracy Lawrence’s career suffered a setback in late 1997 when his wife of nine months filed domestic abuse charges against him. Around the same time his singles “The Coast Is Clear” and “While You Sleep” tanked at country radio. Tracy took some time off to sort out his personal problems and did not release another album until 2000. It was not an ideal time to be off the charts; the late 90s saw a dramatic shift away from traditional country music and the careers of many artists who had enjoyed their breakthroughs in the late 80s and early 90s began to cool. Like many others, Tracy had begun to embrace a more pop-oriented sound, beginning with 1997’s The Coast Is Clear, a trend that would continue with 2000’s Lessons Learned. It’s possible that Tracy’s personal problems and absence from the radio airwaves made him and his co-producers Flip Anderson and Butch Carr reluctant to take too many creative risks. The play-it-safe strategy temporarily reversed his chart decline, but unfortunately Lessons Learned is one of his less interesting efforts. The steel guitar, though still present, often takes a back seat to rock-and-roll guitar riffs, and on several tracks Tracy seems to be deliberately toning down the twang in his voice.

The title track, which Tracy co-wrote with Larry Boone and Paul Nelson peaked at #3, returning him to the Top 10 for the the first time in nearly three years and taking him to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first and only time. The record is a solid effort and one of the better tracks on the album, but not as memorable as some of Tracy’s earlier hits. “Lessons Learned” was followed by the pedestrian “Lonely”, on which Tracy’s voice sounds rather rough, as if he’d spent too many hours in the studio when the track was cut. I’m not sure I’d even recognize his voice if I hadn’t already known who the singer was. It failed to achieve the same level of success as “Lessons Learned”, topping out at #18. The third and final single “Unforgiven”, which finds Tracy engaging in some navel-gazing in the aftermath of a failed relationship, acknowledging his shortcomings but unable to comprehend why his ex can’t forgive him. It’s a good song, marred by some slightly heavy handed production near the end. Its success on the charts was likely undermined by behind-the-scenes drama at the label; Atlantic was in the process of shutting down its Nashville division at the time. “Unforgiven”, which stalled at #35,and Tracy’s contract was transferred to Atlantic’s sister label Warner Bros.

The rest of the album is rather hit-or-miss. “Steps” and the two Lawrence co-writes “The Holes That He Dug” and “Long Wet Kiss” are throwaways, and “Just You And Me” is an over the top synthesizer-laden ballad that sounds out of place with the rest of the album. On the other hand, the more traditional “From The Inside Out” and “The Man I Was” are both excellent. The remaining tracks fall somewhere in between — not terrible but not particularly memorable either. Although Lessons Learned is not his best work, it is worth the small expenditure to obtain a used copy.

Grade: B-

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘If The Good Die Young’

Album Review – Tracy Lawrence – ‘The Coast Is Clear’

CoastisclearTracy Lawrence continued with his usual team of Flip Anderson and Don Cook when he entered the studio to record his fifth album The Coast Is Clear, released in early 1997. Sans his trademark mustache and mullet, Lawrence updated his sound to fit the changing tides at radio with varying results.

Lead single “Better Man, Better Off” was Lawrence’s most progressive to date with muscular guitars and crashing drums framing his twangy vocal. The results paid off, with the track just missing the top of the charts. Second single “How A Cowgirl Says Goodbye” hit #4 and remains one of my favorite of his songs to date. Both, though, are equally excellent.

The next three singles didn’t fare as well and were the first of Lawrence’s career to miss the top fifteen. The title track, an effecting yet boring traditional ballad, peaked at #26. Somewhat dated (would’ve worked better in 1995) mid-tempo rocker “One Step Ahead of the Storm” became Lawrence’s first single not to chart, and excellent final single “While You Sleep” petered out at #46.

“Any Minute Now” is an excellent uptempo number, and the kind of song that hits my country music sweet spot. I also enjoy “Hit The Ground Crawlin,’” a mid-tempo honky-tonker and above average drinking song. The sinister vibe and excellent use of fiddle elevate “As Lonesome As It Gets” while “In A Moment of Weakness” works thanks to its tasteful traditional production and Lawrence’s beautifully confident vocal. The only song I didn’t care for was “Livin’ In Black and White,” an island theme number complete with steel drums and a somewhat clichéd lyric.

As a whole The Coast Is Clear didn’t do enough to match the updated sound of “Better Man, Better Off” so while it’s an enjoyable listen, it isn’t the ripe radio fodder Lawrence needed to keep his career afloat. His voice also sounds terribly nasally throughout, which dampens my enjoyment of the project, but at least the material is very, very good.

Grade: B 

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Up To Him’

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Can’t Break It To My Heart’

Album Review – Tracy Lawrence – ‘Time Marches On’

51ikhsAYYjL._SY300_It was business as usual when Tracy Lawrence brought Don Cook and Flip Anderson into the studio with him to record his fourth album Time Marches On. A mix of traditional ballads and uptempo shuffles, the album fit squarely within the popular trends of 1996 and thus scored four huge top five hits.

Lawrence followed the excellent “If The World Had A Front Porch,” with another equally wonderful tune “If You Love Me.” Written by Paul Nelson and Tom Shapiro, the piano-led ballad represents everything I love about country music from that era (“If You Love Me” hit radio in December 1995) – clean tasteful production and nice twangy vocals. Given that ballads are a tough sell I’m surprised the track peaked at #4, which is more than deserved.

Bobby Braddock’s classic “Time Marches On,” a multi-generational story of a family living through the 1960s and beyond, was the second single and Lawrence’s biggest hit yet, peaking at #1 for three weeks. It’s one of my favorite country singles of all-time, and a good representation of what country music means to me.

Lawrence was on fire, deservedly so, and could seemingly get anything up the charts. “Stars Over Texas,” a ballad he co-wrote with Nelson and Larry Boone, came next and soared to #2. He clearly knew what he was doing because “Stars Over Texas” is a fabulous song with a nice traditional arrangement. I’m not surprised radio would play it, just that it would catch on enough to hit #2. Like “If You Love Me” the track warranted all the airplay it received.

Fourth and final single was the upbeat “Is That A Tear,” which featured a wonderful dose of fiddle throughout. The track was perfect for country radio and peaked at #2. The music video was also a trip, featuring Lawrence in a caper complete with car chases (he in a stolen taxi cab) and a prominent role by his then wife who would later accuse him of, among other allegations, domestic battery.

If Atlantic Records wanted to stretch the project to five singles, which was unheard of in those days, “Speed of a Fool,” co-written by Boone and Nelson, was a good candidate. The upbeat rocker boasts a wonderful mid-90s arrangement complete with a good helping of fiddle and steel guitar. The track is a favorite, and fits right in my sweet spot.

“Excitable Boy” is a throwaway rocker reminiscent of Joe Diffie’s music at the time, but suffers from a spastic arrangement and weird half singing/half-whispering vocal from Lawrence. He’s clearly going for an effect here, but he doesn’t reach it. Boone, Nelson, and Lawrence teamed up for “What We Give” and like their other collaborations on the album, it’s excellent. The song’s another upbeat rocker, but I love the ribbons of steel thrown in to add some sunny touches to the arrangement.

The can-do-no-wrong team of Boone and Nelson teamed up with Anderson for “A Different Man,” another upbeat tune that makes for a wonderful album track. The production is far too loud, and could stand a lot more breathing room, but other than that, it’s a very good song. Lawrence joined Boone and Nelson again to write (can you see a pattern here?) yet another winning track, “Somewhere Between The Moon and You.” It’s excellent but lacks the commercial sheen of “Stars Over Texas” so I can easily see why the latter was the ballad chosen instead. “I Know That Hurt By Heart” is just okay.

Time Marches On is very similar to Pam Tillis’ 1994 release Sweetheart’s Dance in that it’s a very radio friendly effort that’s also an artistic powerhouse. Except for two songs (“Excitable Boy” and “I Know That Hurt By Heart”) the project is near flawless, and a fine representation of the mid-90s sound in country music. Although the album is out of print (I bought mine around it’s original release), cheap copies are available, and well worth seeking out.

Grade: A+ 

Classic Rewind: Tracy Lawrence – ‘Alibis’