Mark Chesnutt Tradition Lives Review

Mark Chesnutt videosThe whole album is soaked in Fiddle and twangy Steel Guitar sounds…

by A. Michael Uhlmann

 

How can you not like a new album that starts out with a shuffle tune?  The “Tradition Lives,” Mark Chesnutt’s first album with original material in eight years, does exactly that with the opener “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket.”

The whole album is soaked in Fiddle and twangy Steel Guitar sounds, and solid picked, not “screaming” guitar licks that celebrate the traditional sounds of the late 80’s and early 90’s before Garth-ification and Bro-ness destroyed Nashville. Staying true to the tradition, Chesnutt explains on his website, how he and Ritchey met in about 2005 and while they are still working together:  “He and I hooked up at a time when not a lot of people had a lot of faith in me anymore because I stayed ‘country’ when the industry was going the other way. I needed somebody like Jimmy who really believed in my kind of country music.”

To my delight, even most of the songwriters are seasoned pros or artists themselves who stick closer to the old image-invoking form of songwriting. Billy Yates (who was nominated for a Grammy for his song “Choices” done by George Jones) and John Ludowitz (several Gary Allan cuts) penned the opener “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket” which Allan actually recorded on his 1998 album “I Belong To You.” A first single “Oughta Miss Me By Now” was just released on youTube and that’s how I found out about the “good news” that tradition is still alive. The single was written by Tony Ramey, who had Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raiit, Doug Stone cuts and Trey Matthews, who co-penned the killer cheating song “Cheapest Motel” for Tracy Byrd. And together they came up with a “beautiful” love gone wrong song. Even though their is no contact at all anymore, he still has that little glimmer of hope, that she will be back:

“As bad as I’m hurting, she oughta miss me by now”

(John Ludowitz, Billy Yates)

 

Subtle, stretching notes over several syllables, Mark Chesnutt is a crooner of the old guard and makes us all realize how we miss the old phrasing in country songs. It was about the story and the singing and not about the over-top arrangement, the hip-hop infused cadence and AutoTune. Glad that the “Tradition Lives.”

The powerhouse trio of Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and as a surprise Jerrod Nieman came up with another great ode to unfaithfulness “Is It Still Cheating.” Talking about Jamey, his co-producer Dan Dodson (with Buddy Cannon) for the Hank Cochran tribute album “Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran” got together with songwriting legend Curly Putnam and Brett Eldredge and the team came up with “You Moved Up In Your World.” Don Poythress, a Country & Christian writer, best known for his CMA & ACM “Song of the Year” nominated “A Little More Country Than That” (co-written with Wynn Varble and a number-one hit for Easton Corbin) has four songs on the album, “Hot” another co-write with Varble and three he co-wrote with “Tradition Lives” producer Jimmy Ritchey. On two “Look at Me Now” and “Losing You All Over Again” Blaine Larsen was the co-writer, on the shuffle “Lonely Ain’t The Only Game in Town” Donald Skaggs was the third writer. Producer Ritchey can be found as a songwriter on two more compositions “Neither Did I”  and “So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore”, the first a co-write with Monty Criswell and Tim Mensy, who had two Chesnutt cuts before with “I Just Wanted You To Know” and “She Dreams” and the other song with Roger Springer and William Michael Morgan, whose new Warner Brothers album Ritchie also produced. Springer, who had a couple of singles out in the 90’s, can also be found on the only track Mark Chesnutt helped co-write “Never Been To Texas.” The two were joined by Slugger Morisette, who already celebrated a number-one hit success with another Chesnutt single “It’s A Little Too Late.” Mark’s current acoustic guitar player, Cary Stone and songwriter extraordinaire Byron Hill (among many “Fool Hearted Memory” by George Strait and “Born Country” by Alabama), brought a 17 year old tune to the table called “What I Heard.”

As a Bonus track there is a tribute to Merle Haggard and the late NSAI-Hall of Fame singer/songwriter Red Lane (“Silver Wings”, “Fightin’ Side Of Me”) who passed away roughly a year ago.  “There Won’t Be Another Now” written by Lane was recorded by Haggard twice and can be found on his 1978 album “I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall” and 1985’s “Kern River.”  Says Mark: “A few years back, Jimmy Ritchey and I were at his home studio at about 2AM, talking about ‘the Hag’ and his influence on us, and we thought it would be nice to add this song to the album as a tribute to him and to Red Lane, it’s just me with Jimmy on guitar. I hope fans enjoy it.”

To hear samples of all the songs on “Tradition Lives” watch the following video sampler:

 

Song List

1. “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket” (John Ludowitz, Billy Yates)
2. “Is It Still Cheating” (Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Jerrod Nieman)
3. “Lonely Ain’t The Only Game in Town” (Jimmy Ritchey, Donald Poythress, Donald Skaggs)
4. “Oughta Miss Me By Now” (Tony Ramey, Trey Matthews)
5. “Neither Did I” (Jimmy Ritchey, Tim Menzies, Monty Criswell)
6. “So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” (Jimmy Ritchey, Roger Springer, William Michael Morgan)
7. “You Moved Up In Your World” (Dale Dodson, Brett Eldredge, Curly Putnam)
8. “Look at Me Now” (Jimmy Ritchey, Don Poythress, Blaine Larsen)
9. “Losing You All Over Again” (Jimmy Ritchey, Don Poythress, Blaine Larsen)
10. “Never Been to Texas” (Mark Chesnutt, Roger Springer, Slugger Morisette)
11. “What I Heard” (Cary Stone, Byron Hill)
12. “Hot” (Donald Poythress, Wynn Varble)
13. “There Won’t Be Another Now (Tribute to the Hag)” (Bonus track) (Red Lane)

It’s good to hear that Mark, a “Horizon Award” winner in 1993 is back with his 15th album and I’m looking forward on hearing the full one when it comes out on July 8th, Autographed copies can be pre-ordered before the officila launch on July 8th through Mark Chesnutt’s merchandising website.- for tour and other information visit his regular website.

 

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