Amongst the glut of faux traditionalists that populated the country airwaves during the nineties, there was one voice that cut right through the clutter, such was its raw verve and unabashed authenticity. Aaron Tippin sings with pure country conviction about the invisible Americans, giving voice to the working men and women who seem to have vanished from the collective national consciousness.
In truth, Tippin was their last great champion, scoring radio hits with such anthems as “I Got it Honest”, “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” and “Working Man’s Ph.D.” So it seems fitting that he has returned with a concept album that celebrates the American trucker, collecting most of the high-profile road songs in country music history, but also including some low-profile gems that give In Overdrive greater depth and resonance.
One of the reasons the album works so well is that Tippin sounds like he could conceivably be a truck driver. He restores the “little white pills” to “Six Days on the Road” that Sawyer Brown censored on their hit cover, the distance between the narrator and the character is completely eliminated on his version of Alabama’s “Roll On”, and all the Urban Cowboy sheen is completely decimated when he tears into “Drivin’ My Life Away.”
But while the vibrant takes on the overly familiar material are entertaining, the album’s strongest moments come with the more obscure tunes. Two of the best are in a humorous vain, with “Chicken Truck” venting about being caught behind the title on the road, and the “not-“Convoy’-but-kinda-better” CB radio romp “White Knight.”
In Overdrive peaks with Tippin’s nuanced reading of “Prisoner of the Highway”, which explores the paradox of being imprisoned by the freedom of the road. The album’s theme comes to a fitting close with “Drivin’ Fool”, a heartfelt prayer for a smooth run and a safe return home.
The actual final track, “Drill Here, Drill Now”, is an awkward addendum. Tippin’s pitch for more oil drilling in America feels out of place and a bit forced, even coming from a singer who was able to make “East Bound and Down” sound completely natural on the same album.
But that’s a minor gripe about a surprisingly effective concept album. It won’t get the same plaudits that have been showered on recent concept albums by Ralph Stanley, Kathy Mattea, and Patty Loveless, but even at the peak of his commercial success, Tippin flew just under the radar, despite being one of the most distinctive stylists of his time. But if you’re hitting the road anytime soon, I suggest taking In Overdrive with you. You’ll rediscover an old friend and get where you’re going a little bit faster.
I really, really enjoy this album, which is a surprise because Tippin has been hit and miss for me over the years. The album, aside from the last track, really sounds authentic. I even think he’s improved upon many of these songs. I think this will be one of the underrated albums of the year.
I wonder if it ever occurred for him to cover Del Reeves’ 1965 smash “The Girl On The Billboard” or Buck Owens’ “Truck Drivin’ Man”
Girl on the Billboard and Truck Drivin’ Man are both on there. Two omissions – “Convoy” (thank goodness) and “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” (would love to hear his spin on that one!)
I just picked up 5 albums today (Wynonna, Pat Green, Jake Owen, Dierks Bently, and Aaron Tippin’s latest) and have yet to listen to any of them. seeing this review give me great confidence that this should be good.
Aaron WAS a truck driver, he told me himself (in an Interview I really need to get posted).
Terrific review. I wouldn’t normally take interest in an Aaron Tippin release at all, but you’ve definitely convinced me to check this out!
I agree with this review! I love love love love this album (and Aaron Tippin)! I think “Drivin’ Fool” is my fav on the entire album.
It’s been a long time since anyone other than Dale Watson has given the truck driving songs sub-genre an honest take. I have yet to find this CD, but I will as Tippin as been a reliable troubadour for the working man
Reading this review reminded me of how much I miss the days when artists such as Dave Dudley, Dick Curless and Red Simpson would receive radio airplay
I have always been a Tipping fan and just seeing him in person proved to be an impressionable experience. He is a country loving ,good ,decent person. he put abike together while singing on stage and handed it over to the Marines for toys for tots.He was at a campground in the middle of no where S.C. and stayed until all pictuers and autos were signed.Judging by the size of the croud and ticket prices i would guess it probally costed him and band to come other than benetfit them.Hope him the best.