Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tractors Are Cool

Imagine for a moment: standing deep within the woods at a log cabin. You inhale and smell the familiar scent of trees with the sound of a creek running behind you. Family and friends surround you. Your significant other tells your son to stop harassing his siblings, and your grandfather sits on the porch in his rocking chair with you by his side, telling you the secret of life. Imagine that and you can imagine the themes of Take a Back Road, Rodney Atkins’ newest album. To some that will sound like a stereotypical country album, but for country lovers, this record will add some new songs to the Favorites playlist.

“Take a Back Road,” the title track from Atkins’ fourth studio album, hit #1 upon release, making it his sixth #1 single but this album has a different feel to it than his previous ones and shows some artistic growth. Rather than relying on mostly fun-loving country anthems, Atkins focuses more on intimate love songs.

“Feet” tells the story of a typical couple, going through the usual fights. Someone always says not to go to bed angry, but what couple actually follows that advice? In the chorus, Atkins sings, “We’ll go to bed, butting heads and tugging sheets, but we never fall asleep without touching feet.” This song explores the small allowances each person makes in the moments before falling asleep, just to let the other know that they won’t leave. The soft guitar instrumentation allows Atkins’ vocals to take precedent and vocal harmonies come in during the refrain to give the song a fuller sound.

“The Corner” starts out with only percussion and Atkins speaking. An electric guitar comes in once he starts singing, highlighting impressive skills on guitar as well as his vocals. “The Corner” records a continuous string of conversations between a father and son with the kind of advice we have all heard: don’t drive too fast, think before you speak, call your mother while you still can. As Atkins sings “I’ve been around the block enough to know what’s ‘round the corner,” he leaves you believing what he says and wanting to follow his guidance.

Something about a harmonica just gives country songs that much more character. In “Family,” the third track on Take a Back Road, a harmonica gives the song a homey feel. Most people understand the slight dread of going to a family reunion, when you realize that you have to see those crazy family members that you only see every three years or so. This is what “Family” is about. You can’t choose your family, but most people would never change a thing about them, no matter how crazy they may be. Atkins sings this song with a sincerity that anyone can relate to when thinking about their own relatives. Interestingly enough, Atkins was adopted into his family.

“Take a Back Road” becomes the country anthem that fans have grown to expect from Atkins. On past albums, this song would have been one of at least three, but on this record, it stands alone. Anyone who grew up in a small town understands. Sitting in your car, stuck in traffic in the city, can make anyone angry. So instead of dealing with the interstate system, Atkins decides that he needs “a curvin’, windin’, twistin’ dusty path to nowhere.” While a lot of people will agree that they would love to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while, only the hardcore country kids will agree that “if I’m gonna hit a traffic jam, well, it better be a tractor, man.”

Not a lot of artists these days have a company claiming to be “the official tractor of (insert artist’s name here.)” Rodney Atkins does. Inside the cover of his album, you find an insert from Massey Ferguson, the official tractor of Rodney Atkins, proving that he will always be a country boy at heart. Which just happens to be exactly why his fans love him.

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