Album Review: Rodney Atkins - Take A Back Road
By: Matt Bjorke
With a career of extreme highs including a string of Gold-selling #1 singles and a platinum album to the lows of seeing songs that seemingly were perfect for country radio failing to become hits at all, Rodney Atkins has rebounded nicely with the Top 5 hit “Farmer’s Daughter” and his sixth #1 hit “Take A Back Road,” the title track to his fourth Curb album, all of them named after the songs that became hits before the release of the albums (2003’s Honesty, 2006’s Platinum If You’re Going Through Hell, 2009’s It’s America and 2011’s Take A Back Road). And while It’s America was a mostly spotty affair trying to replicate If You’re Going Through Hell, Rodney re-took the reins of his career (like he did with that Platinum album after the spotty Honesty) and it sounds like that’s exactly what he needs to have a successful career as an artist, because he certainly knows what songs work best for himself.
What’s interesting about this album is that it doesn’t sound quite like any of Rodney’s past records and I think that’s exactly what he wanted with Take A Back Road. Because it really seems like Rodney Atkins is showing, dare we say it, artistic growth. Now, don’t take artist this phrase to mean that Rodney Atkins has produced (with co-producer Ted Hewitt) a record that’s not wholly a mainstream record. No, instead what we have is a record full of completely different sonic textures that work together to make the album Rodney Atkins’ most satisfying record to date.
There are fun melodic tunes like “Growing Up Like That” that play on country themes in interesting ways and rather than say country is better than city, the song – one of three written by Rodney and Ted Hewitt on the record – says that “I’m lucky and I didn’t even know it, growing up like that.” The second song on the album, “He’s Mine” takes a southern rock melody to tell a story of a father who proudly tells a neighbor that the hell-raisin’ boy is a spitting image of himself and it may be the most ‘older’ Rodney the album gets outside of the lead single and title track (which has the memorable line “put a little gravel in my travel”).
“Family,” written by Jim Collins and George Teren, recalls something you might hear on a George Strait or Tim McGraw record which is to say that it is a well-written story song about, well, a family and how despite their oddities, ‘you gotta love ‘em, they’re family.” This is a song that should do really well on country radio as it tells a universal story about family that we all can relate to while also being a mid-tempo ballad (which is also unmistakably country). Speaking of George Strait, “The Corner” is a song written by longtime Strait songwriter (and now co-writer) Dean Dillon, his daughter Jessie Jo and Dale Dodson. It’s a song that marries a more ‘rock’ melody to the age-old wisdom a father gives to his son to help the son navigate through his life.
“Cabin In The Woods” is a David Lee Murphy and Jim Collins co-write and if there is any song on this record that sounds like a big hit, it is this one. A mid-tempo ballad from the writers of the #1 Thompson Square hit “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not,” “Cabin In The Woods,” tells a story of a man who wants to go on a romantic getaway for the weekend with the love of his life. Another tune that feels like a hit in waiting is the melodic “Just Wanna Rock N Roll,” a Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins tune that is all about feeling good and that alone makes it feel like a great potential summer radio song.
“Feet” is a song with a strong story concept about a couple who have real issues of the world and with clever lyrics the song tells of the couple’s ‘silly fights’ and other grudges but it shows how despite all of their problems, the couple ‘never go to bed without touching feet.’ It’s just one more example of the growth we find in Rodney Atkins on this album and while we found him a likable everyman before, it’s hard not to take a listen to Take A Back Road and here the birthing of an artist ready to become a superstar-level artist who not only knows how to make a record, but make a damn good record with more than a few potential hits in its arsenal.
Highlight tracks: “Cabin In The Woods,” “He’s Mine,” “ Just Wanna Rock And Roll,”
“Lifelines,” “Feet,” and “Growing Up Like That.”