‘Tradition Lives’ on in Mark Chesnutt’s New Album
Mark Chesnutt isn't compromising his approach to country music one little bit for his latest album, Tradition Lives. If anything, the veteran country singer is doubling down on traditional country harder than ever with the 12 new tracks.
It hasn't been an especially easy road for traditionalists in recent years.
"There's been times in the last several years when music changed that guys doing what I do seemed to be pushed off in the corner somewhere. And the new guys coming out doin' whatever they're calling country music — I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend anybody, but some of that stuff I hear and see on the awards shows now, I don't know what in the hell that is," Chesnutt tells Taste of Country.
"It's not country music to me. It's not rock 'n' roll for sure, because I'm a big rock 'n' roll fan, too. They're making money at it. For a while they will. But that's their thing, if that's what makes them happy. I was never wanting to chase trends. I was not concerned in the least bit with chasing trends. I always just do what I do."
Chesnutt soared to fame in 1990, when his major label debut album, Too Cold at Home, produced five hit singles, including the title track and "Brother Jukebox," which gave him his first No.1 hit. Seven more No. 1 hits would follow between then and 1998, when he reluctantly covered the Aerosmith hit "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" at his label's request. The song went to No. 1, but a fed up Chesnutt left the label when it turned out they wanted him to record another pop cover.
Some of that stuff I hear and see on the awards shows now, I don't know what in the hell that is.
He's kept busy with a wide variety of recording projects since then, charting again in 2007 with a cover of the Charlie Rich classic "Rollin' With the Flow," and has maintained a steady schedule of tour dates, but support at country radio has been rare in more recent years as country has become more and more assimilated with other genres.
Chesnutt admits there have been some leaner times in there, when he had to scale down and take smaller gigs and opportunities because he wasn't receiving airplay for new material. He calls the internet "the best thing that ever happened to the music business," since artists with an established fan base are now in the position to record whatever material they want and market it directly to their fans.
"Nowadays guys like me, who the major labels in Nashville have completely turned their backs on, we don't need 'em," he says.
He signed to a company in which his longtime producer, Jimmy Ritchey, is part owner for his new album. Chesnutt decided to ignore country radio altogether for Tradition Lives and record an album that speaks directly to the tastes of his core audience.
"I wanted to do another album for years. I've been waiting and wanting to do new songs. I wanted to show the world that I'm not dead, I'm not retired. I haven't slowed down," Chesnutt asserts. "Jimmy Ritchey partnered up with some guys and they formed their own record label. I signed with them, and they said, 'Take your time. Just take your time and get all the songs. We're not going to worry you about it.'"
Nowadays guys like me, who the major labels in Nashville have completely turned their backs on, we don't need 'em.
Tradition Lives took three years to record, and the album features many of the top players in country music, as well as songs from a stellar cast of writers including Monty Criswell, William Michael Morgan, Brett Eldredge and Ritchey. Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Jerrod Niemann collaborated on "Is It Still Cheating," one of the album's strongest tracks. "I've Got a Quarter in My Pocket" and "Oughtta Miss Me by Now" are also standouts, and the album features a bonus track titled "There Won't Be Another Now" which is dedicated to Merle Haggard and to Red Lane, who wrote the song.
Chesnutt is justifiably proud of the album.
"It's country music but it's not dated. It don't sound corny. It's real. There's a lot of emotion in this record," he says, adding with a laugh. "It's nothing like what's on the radio today. I can't emphasize that enough. This is the kind of stuff I've always done. There's no bro-country, there's not anything that sounds like rap. If you've got a CD that came out by me in 1994, that's pretty much what you're gonna get, except hopefully better songs, better sound and an older, hopefully better-singing me."
Tradition Lives is available at iTunes.
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