By John Lindsay –
One of my favorite voices of the 90s and early 2000s has released an album primed for those who have had it with the Bro Country mentality of today’s radio. Beaumont, Texas native Mark Chesnutt is back with an album very aptly entitled “Tradition Lives.” Mark Chesnutt has always had an unapologetic sound grounded in his traditional Texas and country roots. “Tradition Lives” is also unapologetically Mark Chesnutt. Unfortunately given the climate at today’s corporate radio, if you didn’t know it was coming out, you might have missed this gem of true traditional country (or is it Americana? I guess I’ll let the programmers debate that one, since it’s a whole discussion unto itself). This album is reminiscent of the very style that burst Mark onto the scene in the 90s. With blazing fiddles and amped up steel guitar, it lives up to its title and showcases the traditional country sounds of yesterday. From heartbreaking ballads to the bounce of Texas Swing, it’s all here. The lead single and most “radio friendly” tune “Oughta Miss Me By Now” is a catchy comfortable groove that stands the best chance of breaking onto playlists at commercial radio. From there the album harkens back to the days of “Almost Goodbye” with a variety of tempos and heart wrenching lyrics delivered with trademark Chesnutt vocals.
There are traditional country themes, cheating songs, heartbreak songs, Texas shuffle, and swing tunes, and one especially “Hot” number. Standouts include “Is It Still Cheating,” which asks, “If you’re lying next to him, and she’s lying next to me… Is it still cheating?” Then there’s the haunting guitar of “So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore,” a song about the end of a relationship. What first feels like a break up song is actually a song of giving up the bottle that is helping him get over the breakup: “Tonight I’m pouring you out on the floor, so you can’t hurt me anymore.” Just so it’s not all sad songs, here comes the rolling sound of “Look At Me Now,” the slow rolling Texas shuffle “Hot” and the upbeat “If I Had A Quarter.” The classic revenge song “Lonely Ain’t the Only Game In Town” has her out swinging to a scorching Texas steel guitar run. And there is the shot at the state of country today with “Never Been To Texas,” an ode to the music of the Texas honky tonks that you just don’t (and sadly won’t) hear coming out of Nashvegas these days.
My personal fave from this collection is “What I Heard,” a heartfelt story of her leaving and his complete denial of what is happening – all laid over great steel, and lead guitar. “It might have sounded like one word, but that ain’t what I heard…” Denial, Denial, Denial: it’s more than just a river in Egypt.
The collection wraps up with an acoustic song titled “There Won’t Be Another Now,” A song professing a live-in-the-moment message, with lyrics like “There may be another morning, but there won’t be another now.”
For purists and old school country fans, this is a must-have. For the kids and the rockers, maybe not so much… but for those of us who love both (like me) it’s well worth the spin!
Mark is currently out touring in support of #TradtionLives and heading our way in a few days. I, for one, cannot wait. If you’re in South Florida this weekend I’ll see you Saturday Night!