DIARY - 9 AUGUST 2010 - RODNEY ATKINS CD REVIEWS
REVIEW - 2010
IT'S AMERICA (SONY-CURB)
FARMER'S DAUGHTER ROPES RODNEY
still hauling hay and feeding the hogs/and that summer sun has me sweating
like a dog/ so I cool off in the creek/ and she brings me out a glass
of sweet ice tea/ I'm on the tractor and she's on my mind/ and I can't
wait till its quitting time/ and just when I think it can't get no hotter/
I come home to the farmer's daughter." - The Farmer's Daughter
- Marv Green-Rhett Atkins-Ben Hayslip.
have long been vibrant vehicles driving country songs into the psyche
and up the charts.
It worked for acts diverse as Canadian troubadour Fred Eaglesmith, latter
day bluegrass artist Joe Diffie and Tennessee superstar Kenny Chesney.
Fellow Tennessean Rodney Atkins parked A Man On A Tractor on third
album If You're Going Through Hell.
Next Atkins reprised the paddock posse on Friends With Tractors
on his fourth album It's America.
But that wasn't enough.
Another tractor tyro prompted re-release of the big selling album - with
Farmer's Daughter as the bonus track.
The tale of a hired hand falling in love with his boss's daughter was
the perfect fodder for the video sales tool.
And, of course, art imitating life.
Atkins, an orphan with a degree in psychology, chose his real life wife
Tammy Jo to play the object of his love who becomes his wife.
It's smart marketing for the singer who filmed the video near Civil War
town Franklin, south of Nashville.
his idea of heaven/is home sweet home east Tennessee/but for a girl like
you he would pull up roots/and move down the road a piece/ he'll always
take his own sweet time/if you give him a choice, yeah/you can always
tell a country boy." - Tell A Country Boy - Jon Henderson-Neal
Marketing imagery is maximised to separate rural rooted country singers
like Atkins from urban cowboys and cowgirls.
Atkins only wrote three songs on this disc but others were tailored for
the singer who has long resisted pressures to move to Nashville.
Rodney and Tammy Jo live on a farm 130 miles east of Music City so it's
no surprise Tell A Country Boy was chosen as the entrée
The twin fiddles of Larry Franklin and Jonathan Yudkin kick off a tune
augmented by Mike Johnson's pedal steel.
Atkins even uses road guitarist Duane Sciacqua - husband of Oklahoma born
stone country singer Becky Hobbs - in the studio.
His character has no need of city tanning salons - his nape is blessed
by a natural red with no manufactured rouge.
It segues into Atkins originals Chasin' Girls, inspired by his
son and step- daughters - and self-deprecatory celebration of his wife,
life and maker in Got It Good.
Atkins, 41, exploits enjoyment of rural hedonism in the Best Things
and the rollicking 15 Minutes.
And then it's back to bucking the star system in his collaboration with
hit writers Dave Berg and Rivers Rutherford on Simple Things.
The song, inspired by creek bank paternal bonding, was also therapy for
a singer as he escaped the industry on breaks from the rigors of the road.
Yes, he sings of those homegrown staples - dogs, hummingbirds, babies,
family, friends, fishing, oak trees and tyre-swings.
Not what you find in rap, dance or techno.
beside a man from Hollywood, California on a plane/ he said he had rich
and famous friends, he liked dropping names/ I said 'Howdy do, that's
good for you, I dig a lot of those actors/but son you ain't got a thing
on me, see I got friends with tractors." - Friends With Tractors
- Rhett Atkins-Dallas Davidson-Ben Hayslip.
and co-producer Ted Hewitt again exploit the rural-urban gulf in the
fiddle driven Friends With Tractors.
He accentuates the sharp contrast between big city power brokers bravado
and rural camaraderie.
Atkins name checks tractor brands in a sprawling style akin to the
product placement of those Hollyweird directors.
When he sinks his Justins into elite restaurants it resonates way
beyond his neck of the backwoods.
to fancy five star restaurants/ and I left there barely fed/ they charged
me for the water/the butter and the bread/that gourmet meal looked more
to me/like fish bait on a cracker/but I'll stay fat and happy 'cause I
got friends with tractors."
It's a theme he returns to in the soft-core patriotism of Angelo Petraglia-Brett
James title track.
He sets the mood with "it's a high school prom/it's a Springsteen
song/it's a ride in a Chevrolet/it's a man on the moon and fireflies in
Then there's the punchline aimed at Samaritan sympathisers.
"Later on when I got home/ I flipped the TV on/ I saw a little town
that some big Twister tore apart/ people came from miles around/ just
to help their neighbours out/ and I was thinkin' to my self/ I'm so glad
that I live in America."
Cynics might perceive this altruism an idealistic oasis in the harsh reality
of Atkins' mega-materialistic nation and other western societies.
And, of course, vast contrast to reality rooted rural tunes mined by Merle
Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver, David Allan Coe, Johnny Paycheck, Todd Snider,
Waylon and Willie and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
But Atkins is shooting for a younger demographic seeking escape from poverty
Perhaps that's why he closes with twin positive paeans - regret free life
celebration Rockin Of The Cradle and forgiveness fuelled fable
When It's My Time.
This feel good disc ends with the power of healing fishing finale - The
River Just Knows.
A battle scarred military veteran lands a rainbow trout after a long fight.
"He held the fish down in the water/and he coaxed it back to life/
he said 'I'll help you get your wind back/ 'cause you helped me get mine'/and
all I could think to say was 'welcome home.'"
And maybe to Hollywood.
REVIEW - 2006
IF YOU ARE GOING THROUGH HELL (SONY-CURB)
RODNEY ATKINS BEATS DEVIL IN TV HELL
"I had very intention of getting hammered here tonight/ gave my truck
keys to the bar keep/I said don't let me drive tonight/ it's wasted whiskey,
trying to drink you off my mind." - Wasted Whiskey - Rodney Atkins-Ted
has fertile fuel for heartbreak songs.
families adopted him and returned him to a Tennessee orphanage - because
he had a lung infection.
But the third family, who lost a baby to the same illness six month
earlier, raised him in their home at Cumberland Gap near the Virginia-Kentucky
So Atkins, who majored in psychology at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville,
knew how to handle rejection.
When his 1997 self titled debut album sank after just one chart entry
- his original In A Heartbeat - he toiled for another five
In 2002 Atkins scored singles, Sing Along and My Old Man
before big hit Honesty (Write Me a List) in 2003 - title track
of his second album.
Then his third album produced two huge hits If You're Going Through
Hell (Before The Devil Even Knows) and Watching You that
topped U.S. charts for five weeks and lured comedians.
backstage at the Jay Leno Tonight show when he overheard comedian Bill
Maher tell the host "the only use I have for country music is to
make fun of it."
Sounds familiar - for local artists who grin and bear it when forced to
use TV as a surrogate radio here.
Atkins reported Maher, unaware he heard his remarks, "came up and
shook my hand after the show and said, 'I really enjoyed that.' It was
kind of funny, because he got out of there as quick as he could."
Atkins, it would appear, had the last laugh - he co-produced his third
disc If You're Going Through Hell that sold two million plus.
YOU'RE GOING THROUGH HELL
If you're going through hell/ keep on moving, face that fire/ walk right
through it/ you might get out/ before the devil even knows you're there/
yeah, you might get out/ before the devil even knows you're there."
- If You're Going Through Hell - Sam Tate-Annie Tate-Dave Berg.
it's a nice little earner for Atkins who co-wrote six tunes including
About The South, Angel's Hands, ruptured romance ode Invisibly
Shaken and Wasted Whiskey.
But Watching You - a paternal parable splinter from late
Harry Chapin's Cat's In The Cradle - impacts most for Atkins.
Atkins wrote it about five-year-old son, Elijah - the only blood
relative he's ever known.
It's about a boy who learns from watching dad - but not always what
his dad wants him to learn.
then 37, wrote it after pre-school teachers told him Elijah was
serenading his classmates with If You're Going Through Hell.
it wasn't Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy).
of the first times I went courtin' in high school I was met by the girl's
daddy standing out beside the driveway with a .357," Atkins said.
"That's called setting the tone. This is the same man who taught
me how to play guitar.
We'd sit out on their front porch and dip snuff and pick and grin."
Atkins, who lives 130 miles east of Nashville, exploits the virtues of
country living in rural rooted anthems.
Good examples are Rivers Rutherford-Dave Berg entrée These Are
My People and Kent Agee-Michael Lunn cut A Man On A Tractor
with "let me find peace of mind on my own piece of land."
Yes, idyllic bliss - no longer hell.
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