Tracy Lawrence,
(DreamWorks, 2004)

Strong shows that Tracy Lawrence is getting older. In this industry, "older" often equates with "weaker" -- but not in Lawrence's case. If anything, the wine cliche about aging applies. His musical style is maturing, becoming more and more consistent.

Lawrence usually didn't fit into the "immature" category but often skirted the realm of bad-boy country music. Well, this time around, he shows that he's definitely matured and is staying strong in continuing to develop his own style.

While the album as a whole is successful, there are some tracks that deserve the spotlight. The leading track, "It's All How You Look at It," offers a nice perspective on defining life's successes. It establishes the maturity theme carried throughout the album, especially in its lyrics about making the right choices. Another song, "Stones," has a mature insight in its combination of sentimentality and symbolism. The lyrics convey beautiful imagery and suggest the role stones play over the course of our lives. "Everywhere but Hollywood" is a testimonial about appreciating the real life that's all around us.

Seemingly to show not ALL the tracks have a serious side, there's "Sawdust on Her Halo," a fun honky-tonk song about how even the best-behaved people can still cut loose every now and then. Drums by Shannon Forest provide a nice accent -- "kickin' up" -- on Lawrence's vocals.

The oddball track of the album is probably the most popular one. "Paint Me a Birmingham" is getting a lot of radio play, but it's really not the best song on the album. It's a decent tune, but it seems kind of generic. It doesn't really fit in with the theme that's carried through most of the album's other songs. The writing credits for the other songs have the same names popping up, but the writers for "Paint Me a Birmingham" don't show up anywhere else. Unfortunately, that lends credence towards this being a marketing-pushed studio track and further proves its oddball status.

In a market over-populated with aging kickin'-it-up bad-boy rebels singing about their latest wild time, it's refreshing to hear a country performer that not only embraces having a family and gaining maturity, but intertwines those themes throughout his album. Strong is an apt description of Tracy Lawrence the performer as well as his latest work.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 9 October 2004

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