Tag Archives: Tracy Byrd

100 Greatest Men: #68. Mark Chesnutt

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Even among the new traditionalists of the early nineties, Mark Chesnutt stood out as a traditionalist, bringing pure country to the radio dial for more than a decade.

Chesnutt was born into a musical family, as the son of singer Bob Chesnutt.   Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, he quickly became a fixture on the local country music scene.   His dad encouraged the music bug, and while still in his early twenties, he was already recording for local independent labels.  His debut album, Doing My Country Thing, was released in 1988 on Axbar Records.

Chesnutt headlined at the Beaumont club Cutter’s, a joint that would also launch the career of Tracy Byrd.   His growing popularity garnered buzz in Nashville, and he landed a recording contract with MCA.   He was a big hit right out of the gate, scoring a top five hit with the now-classic weeper, “Too Cold at Home.”

Chesnutt’s album of the same title went platinum, and featured an additional four top ten hits.   His next two releases extended his streak to twelve consecutive top ten hits, including several #1 singles.  One of those chart-toppers was a cover of the fairly obscure Hank Wililams Jr. single, “I’ll Think of Something.”   Chesnutt’s musical knowledge helped him flesh out many of his studio albums with lesser-known tracks from classic country artists.

The industry recognized Chesnutt’s talent with the CMA Horizon Award in 1993, and radio remained firmly on board throughout the next few years.  As the genre moved toward a more crossover sound, Chesnutt remained firmly planted in traditional country music, releasing classic singles like “Almost Goodbye”, “Thank God For Believers”, and “Goin’ Through the Big D.”

His last big hit was a surprising one: a cover of the Aerosmith pop hit, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”   Even with strings, however, the end result was more classic Nashville sound than anything close to pop.

After departing MCA, Chesnutt had a brief stint on Columbia.   Since the mid-2000’s, he’s scored a handful of radio hits on independent labels, the most recent being a top thirty cover of Charlie Rich’s “Rollin’ With the Flow.”   He received astonishing critical acclaim for his 2004 set, Savin’ the Honky Tonk, and has earned good notices for his 2010 cover album, Outlaw.

Chesnutt is still touring actively, and his most recent release is Live From the Big “D”, a concert set recorded in Dallas.

Essential Singles:

  • T00 Cold at Home, 1990
  • I’ll Think of Something, 1992
  • Bubba Shot the Jukebox, 1992
  • Almost Goodbye, 1993
  • Thank God for Believers, 1997

Essential Albums:

  • Too Cold at Home, 1990
  • Longnecks and Short Stories, 1992
  • Almost Goodbye, 1993
  • Wings, 1995
  • Savin’ the Honky Tonk, 2004

Next: #67. Steve Wariner

Previous: #69. Travis Tritt

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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Single Review: Justin Moore, “Bait a Hook”

That’s it.  I’m done.

This is the last time I’m going to review a country pride song.

I have nothing left to say.  From now on, I’m turning a song like this off thirty seconds in, and I’m never going to pay it any attention again.

But since it is the last time, let me say it just one more time:

You don’t have to be a blathering idiot to be country.

You can be intelligent.

You can talk about the charms and limitations of the southern youth experience, like Hal Ketchum did in  “Small Town Saturday Night.”

You can let us know that you know why “(Margie’s at) The Lincoln Park Inn”, spotlighting all the moral ambiguities and complexities lurking underneath the surface of suburban America.

You can even do a list song intelligently, as Tom T. Hall proved over, and over, and over again.

You can celebrate the rural without diminishing the urban, trusting that the commonality of the human experience transcends the boundaries of geography.

Justin Moore, you’re making Tracy Byrd at his silliest seem brilliant in retrospect.

Drivel like this is making me hate country music, and I love, love, love country music.

No more for me.  I refuse.

Written by Rhett Akins, Justin Moore, and Jeremy Stover

Grade: F

Listen:  Bait a Hook

 

 

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Single Review: Easton Corbin, “I Can’t Love You Back”

Any song that starts with a guitar melody so eerily reminiscent of Rosanne Cash’s “Blue Moon With Heartache” is going to reel me in right away.  Throw in an understated production that recalls early Alan Jackson, and the fact that Corbin is an actual country singer instead of just a country personality, and things get even better.

The song is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. Like so many great country ballads, someone who’s been left alone because a relationship failed can relate to it just as well as someone who has been left alone because they’re a widow.  On the verses, Corbin sounds so good that he could’ve sent this to radio in 1992 and stood tall among the Mark Chesnutts and Collin Rayes of that time.

But there’s a big flaw, and that’s his over-singing in the choruses.  Remember how John Michael Montgomery strained his voice when he wanted to show intense emotion?  He’s doing that, with less impressive results.  It’s not enough to sink the record, of course. There are so many strong elements that even a weak delivery in some parts can’t stop it from being a good record.  But it does keep it from being truly great.

Written by Carson Chamberlain, Clinton Daniels, and Jeff Hyde

Grade: B

Listen: I Can’t Love You Back

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400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #350-326

A few should’ve been hits are mixed in with genuine smashes as the countdown continues.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #350-#326

#350
How Do I Live
Trisha Yearwood
1997  |  Peak: #2

Listen

When Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes released dueling versions of this song in 1997, it was apparently a wake up call to country listeners: “Hey, wait a minute. Trisha Yearwood is an amazing singer!”  She elevates “How Do I Live” beyond its movie theme nature by adding layers of subtlety and nuance to the typical Diane Warren template. – Kevin Coyne

#349
Boot Scootin’ Boogie
Brooks & Dunn
1992  |  Peak: #1

Listen

I don’t claim to have any real knowledge of what it’s like to spend a night at the liveliest of honky-tonks, but I’ll be darned if this song doesn’t make me feel like I do. Because “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” isn’t really about a specific place where people go, and it isn’t even about the boogie itself; it’s about the universal thrill of busting out of the work week, kicking back and dancing your troubles away. From start to finish, Brooks & Dunn’s performance is a twangy blast of exhilaration, and that’s a feeling we can all relate to – outlaws, in-laws, crooks and straights alike. – Tara Seetharam

#348
Don’t Take Her She’s All I Got
Tracy Byrd
1997  |  Peak: #4

Listen

Just a damn catchy trad country sing-a-long. It was good fun when Johnny Paycheck had the original hit with it, and lost none of its steam when Tracy Byrd resurrected it for a new audience twenty-six years later. – Dan Milliken Continue reading

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

180 Flatts Melt

#180
“These Days”
Rascal Flatts
2002
Peak: #1

It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam

179 Ashton

#179
“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Ashton Shepherd
2007
Peak: #20

Like a wide-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken Continue reading

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The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #40-#31

thumbs downThe banality continues. Read Part 1 here.

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #40-#31

#40
Kenny Chesney & George Strait, “Shiftwork”

A stab at the working class blues still ends up on a tropical island by the third verse.

#39
Anita Cochran featuring The Voice of Conway Twitty, “(I Wanna Hear) A Cheatin’ Song”

In which a duet is formed from beyond the grave by chopping up bits and pieces of old Conway Twitty songs and reassembling them word by word.

#38
Billy Dean, “Let Them Be Little”

Thirty seconds in and you’ll be headed to your dentist for a cavity filling.

#37
Montgomery Gentry, “She Couldn’t Change Me”

Sorry boys, but “some hip-hop mess” would be a great improvement over this hillbilly trainwreck.

#36
Sarah Johns, “The One in the Middle”

Does anybody really need this gesture explained to them for four minutes? The whole point of using it is so you don’t have to talk to the person.

#35
Chuck Wicks, “Stealing Cinderella”

It’s hard to believe that you’re stealing Cinderella when you sing like you’re looking for Prince Charming.

#34
Faith Hill, “The Way You Love Me”

If my wife could only grant me one wish, and she actually chose for me to see the way that I kiss, I’d grant her divorce papers in return.

#33
Tracy Byrd, “Drinkin’ Bone”

Why come up with something original when you can just corrupt a nursery rhyme?

#32
Jo Dee Messina, “Biker Chick”

She’s not just any plain old biker chick. She’s a biker chick chick, a biker chick chick.

#31
Buddy Jewell, “This Ain’t Mexico”

You think he’s mad now? Wait until he gets to heaven and finds out God chose Pablo and Juanita to help pour out the rain.

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Tracy Byrd Starter Kit

tracy-byrd1One of the side effects of the nineties boom was that every Nashville label started looking for young male acts that looked good in a Stetson and could sing with an accent.

The end result was that some solid talent was discovered a bit too early, before they’d fully refined themselves into artists. Tracy Byrd’s a great example of this. Only 25 years old when his first single went to radio, Byrd had been plucked from the Beaumont, Texas music scene that had groomed Mark Chesnutt.

Byrd’s hit material from the nineties was reflective of what the B-list hat acts recorded during that era, though his vocal charm helped him elevate middling songs from time to time. He also turned in a few gems, with his music getting far more consistent as he entered his thirties.

His last studio album, 2006’s Different Things, was excellent, but radio had already moved on to the new twentysomethings at that point, artists who will probably be making better music a decade from now and being overlooked for the new, new twentysomethings.

Ten Essential Tracks:

“Holdin’ Heaven”
from the 1993 album Tracy Byrd

When surprisingly strong sales greeted the release of Byrd’s debut album, radio jumped on board. This catchy tune briefly knocked Garth’s “Ain’t Goin Down” out of the top spot, though Brooks would return to #1 a week later.

“Watermelon Crawl”
from the 1994 album No Ordinary Man

The line dance craze taken to its absolutely goofiest extreme. This is as representative of the early nineties as it gets.

“The Keeper of the Stars”
from the 1994 album No Ordinary Man

This romantic ballad was the surprise winner of Song of the Year at the 1995 ACM awards.

“Walkin’ to Jerusalem”
from the 1995 album Love Lessons

One of the craziest choruses to hit country radio sounds like a Mideast geography lesson taking a detour through southern America.

“Don’t Take Her She’s All I Got”
from the 1996 album Big Love

There’s no question that Tracy Byrd knows his country music history, and he effectively revived this Johnny Paycheck classic for the nineties.

“I Wanna Feel That Way Again”
from the 1998 album I’m From the Country

You can hear that Byrd is beginning to mature and settle in to his voice. He wouldn’t have been able to deliver this as well on earlier albums.

“Put Your Hand in Mine”
from the 1999 album It’s About Time

Another mature record that deals with a father and son relationship being strained by the tensions between father and mother.

“Just Let Me Be in Love”
from the 2001 album Ten Rounds

A warm and romantic love song with a Spanish flavor. By this record, he’s almost an entirely different singer than the guy who once sang “Watermelon Crawl.”

“Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo”
from the 2001 album Ten Rounds

Two decades after Shelly West spiked sales of the titular drink, Byrd topped the charts with this entertaining track.

“Cheapest Motel”
from the 2006 album Different Things

A roving husband pays a far higher price in the end than the motel clerk charged him.

Two Hidden Treasures:

“Someone To Give My Love To”
from the 1993 album Tracy Byrd

Early evidence of Byrd’s affection for Johnny Paycheck surfaced with this cover featured on his first album. Despite only reaching #42, it helped stimulate sales of his debut set.

“Different Things”
from the 2006 album Different Things

It’s a shame that Byrd’s success and talent peaked in different decades. Nearly every track on his 2006 album, including the title cut, would make radio sound a whole lot better.

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