june 2008

Mark Chesnutt
Lofton Creek Records

The unfortunate irony afflicting the careers of country artists of Mark Chesnutt’s generation is that mainstream country radio has abandoned them as it did the generation preceding theirs (George Strait being a notable exception). No matter. A lot of those artists are still making wonderful music, Chesnutt included. In fact, Rollin’ With the Flow is so good it’s fair to say this smart, sensitive singer has rarely been better than he is here, or had a stronger batch of songs to work with. Like the wry, easygoing, reflective title tune made immortal by Charlie Rich and reprised to a tee here in a lilting, string-enriched arrangement bolstering Chesnutt’s deceptively laid-back vocal, Rollin’ With the Flow proceeds at an unhurried pace through easygoing but lyrically rich shuffles such as “Things To Do In Wichita,” a vivid account of a man trying to reclaim his lost love set to a brisk but low-key arrangement punctuated by gentle commentaries from churchy piano, pedal steel and fiddle, with a catchy, descending twin-guitar riff throughout; and the silky love ballad, “When You Love Her Like Crazy,” in a classic soundscape of cooing harmony vocals, crying pedal steel, twangy guitar and a discreet string section laying on some yearning emotion. Which is not to suggest Chesnutt’s gone soft, mind you. “(Come On In) The Whiskey’s Fine” is a funky workout extolling the pleasures of the drink, driven by a herky-jerky rhythm, electric guitar lines that alternately sputter and wail, and a bluesy, boisterous harp, which push Chesnutt’s sly, beckoning vocal. The forthright stomp, bruising electric guitar, honky tonk piano and rumbling vocal entreaties of “If The Devil Brought You Roses” mark it as a classic southern rock-styled come-on. Chesnutt’s expressive baritone is at its emotive best, though, on a song he co-wrote in honor of his late father, “Man In the Mirror,” a ballad contrasting the man his dad was with the man looking back at him in the mirror today, and appreciating the depth of values he learned and can pass on to his own progeny. It has a beautiful, understated tug about it, with lovely harmonies and a heart-tugging pedal steel snaking its way through the melody lines. Whether stepping out or looking back, this fine singer delivers a raft of memorable performances here, always credible, always engaging, always aiming for the heart and, as always, hitting his mark dead on. –David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
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Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024