For the country music community Mark Chesnutt is as synonymous with traditional country music as George Strait. His sound is one that’s been largely absent from the mainstream radio waves, and the fans have been more than vocal about their concerns of the current trends. However, as if he heard the cries from the dirt roads, cornfields, and small town bars regarding the lack of fiddle and steel guitar, he’s come back with Tradition Lives. And the title speaks for itself.
That traditional sound oozes into your ears from the moment the opener, “I’ve Got a Quarter in My Pocket,” kicks off. It transports you to an old jukebox in an old bar that has the same patrons every weekend, and one of them is choosing between using his last quarter to call his woman to apologize so he can come home or for “another heartbreak song.” It’ll also get your boots tapping.
The album is the perfect soundtrack for a night at the honky tonk. It covers infidelity clarifications on “Is It Still Cheating,” post-breakup revelations on “Neither Did I,” reconnecting with an old love on “You Moved up in Your World,” and how traditional country music is still filling bars in Texas on “Never Been to Texas.”
For any great country singer vocals are essential for a long career, and Chesnutt’s pipes haven’t weakened a bit. This is most notable on songs such as “So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore.” He takes a look at the dark side of alcohol, depicting it as an unhealthy relationship he’s putting an end to. His delivery of the vocals from a first-person viewpoint paints the picture of man pouring out that last drink in return for a better life.
The last song, a cover of Merle Haggard’s “There Won’t Be Another Now,” is arguably Chesnutt’s best performance on the record. It’s just him and a guitar proving that sometimes less is much, much more.
It’s great to have Mark Chesnutt back and doing what he does best. As outside influences continue to expand country music’s sound, it’s important to remember where it all started and that some traditions should never die.