Rodney Atkins has come a long way over the course of his last few albums. After party hits like "These Are My People" and "If You're Goin' Through Hell" off of the album named for the latter, and then "15 Minutes" off of his "It's America" album, Atkins has matured, both emotionally and lyrically. His new album, "Take A Back Road" still has fun, but Atkins has mellowed out, learned from life, and is ready to share what he has learned with anyone that will listen.
The album kicks off with the title track. "Take A Back Road" is about a situation we have all been in. Rodney finds himself in a rush hour traffic jam, when King George [Strait] comes on the radio with an old hit and he finally gets fed up with not moving. He does not care that it is the long way, he wants to move, so it is time to hit the dirt country roads. The only thing that he would allow to slow him down? A tractor. The catchy tune is enough to warrant Atkins his sixth career #1. The video is below:
No matter what album you listen to, it is clear that Atkins is about his family. The next two songs, "He's Mine" and "Family" show that, no matter what, family is family. "He's Mine" is a lesson many fathers could learn: love your son whether he is being good or bad. It is not without reasoning, either. Rodney explains that, chances are, he is a chip off the old block: "He's mine/ That one/ Got a wild haired side and then some/ It's no surprise what he's done/ He's every last bit of my old man's son/ If you knew me then there'd be no question in your mind/ You'd know he's mine". "Family" is an upbeat song about a family reunion, and the amusement of it all: "A few new babies/ Same ol' crazies/ I've known them my whole life and they still amaze me/ Don't get to choose them/ But you'd hate to lose them/ You gotta love them/ 'Cause they're your family"
The album is in no shortage of advice either. Between "The Corner" and, later on, "Tips" and "Lifelines", Atkins dishes out what he has learned over the course of his life in generous helpings. "Feet" is a slightly odd addition to this family of songs, talking about how he and his wife may not go to sleep without resolving their anger, but they always let each other know they are still there by touching feet, even with their backs to each other. "She's A Girl" rounds out this list by explaining that, oftentimes, a woman's behavior is inexplicable, other than writing it off with "she's a girl, ain't she?"
If Atkins is full of advice, he is also not afraid to admit that he does not have EVERYTHING figured out. "She'd Rather Fight" shows (in a comical way) that despite being married, he still does not quite understand women. After a day of fishing, Atkins is ready to get home and get it on, but his wife is not a happy camper. "She ain't as happy as I am to be home/ If looks could kill I'd be cold as a stone/ I'm already ready, to kiss and make up/ Looks like tonight I'm outta luck/ 'Cause she'd rather fight than you know what".
"Cabin In The Woods", "Just Wanna Rock N' Roll" make up my least favorite, and probably most forgettable duo of the album. They sound like they were split from the same song.
"Growing Up Like That" is an upbeat song about how lucky he was growing up. At first listen, the song was did not stand out, but the catchy beat and rhythm of the lyrics make the song enjoyable. Rounding out the album is the first single, "Farmer's Daughter". The song is a fun one about a kid working on a farm and eventually falling in love with the title character. It is one of the most enjoyable songs on the album, leaving the listener with a positive feeling towards the record in general. Here is a bonus second music video, for "Farmer's Daughter":
As I mentioned, it is clear that Rodney Atkins has matured over the course of his last three albums. It is noticeable in his tone as well as the lyrics. Unlike most country artists, Atkins does not saturate us with his music by releasing an album every year (this is his fourth album in the last eight years, and first since March 2009), leaving his music to be enjoyed for a long time. "Take A Back Road" is not his strongest effort, but it is one that I will keep coming back to over the next couple of years. 7.5/10
Later this week, I will review the debut album from American Idol winner Scotty McCreery.