Album Review: Lionel Richie - Tuskegee
By: Matt Bjorke
In just one hour with HSN the past couple of days, Lionel Richie sold more than 20,000 copies of Tuskegee before it even hits the market. His mini-concert certainly helped draw people in but the appearance proved what we have thought since listening to Tuskegee. Great songs are great songs, no matter what ‘genre’ they were written for. Tuskegee is a collection of 13 duets with some of the best contemporary and legendary country singers. The songs on the record are all classic songs Lionel originally wrote for his own career and in the case of “Lady,” a song he wrote for (and sings here with) Kenny Rogers.
The record is a strong recording with most of the songs striking a chord with audiences. “You Are” is a duet with Blake Shelton and is as sweet sounding and romantic as it always has sounded but it does sound refreshed on this record while “Say You, Say Me” from Jason Aldean works as well too and one thing that’s immediate from this record is that Lionel Richie could have quite a successful career going forward as a modern country stylist if he wanted to. He may be in his early 60s now but that voice has only gotten better as the years have moved on and he proves this with his duet with Darius Rucker, “Stuck On You.” Here’s a song that could and should be a hit country single. It’s that strong. Both vocal performances are home runs while the harmonies are just brilliant.
Little Big Town tackles “Deep River Woman” and as usual, they bring their elegant and intricate harmonies to the occasion and the song just benefits from this arrangement and vocal harmonies. Kenny Chesney duets with “My Love,” while Willie Nelson effortlessly joins Lionel on an sterling rendition of “Easy” (like Sunday morning). Rascal Flatts’ participation on this album isn’t surprising but their choice to do “Dancing On The Ceiling” but they managed to ‘flatts’ it the way they did with “Life Is A Highway” and as perhaps the most ‘pop’ act in mainstream country music the past decade, the paring here makes a lot of sense.
Lionel’s “Hello” has become an internet meme through the past year or so and it’s now a striking, laid-back acoustic duet with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles that just shows off how powerful simple melodies and lyrics can be when given passionate performances. “Sail On” has a lyric and melody that is purely country music to begin with so it was a natural for the inclusion of the song here. The current single from the project (and now an AC Radio hit) is “Endless Love,” a duet with Shania Twain that manages to be better than the original, over-the-top version with Diana Ross and that’s likely because of Shania’s understated vocal style.
When the record comes to an end, it’s easy to see how this album can and likely will be nominated for many awards come award season. The CMA should find much to like about this project from an “Album of the Year” standpoint and it’s certainly one of the best albums of the year so far. And that’s all because of great songs never grow old. Add in stellar performances and we have a fantastic album that is deserving of the 20,000 units sold via HSN in just one hour. Look for this record to sell and to sell very, very well.