Tracy Lawrence portrait Tracy Lawrence is kind of a poster child for modern "hat-act" country stars -- his music flips back and forth between robust neo-traditional honky-tonk and slower, sappier ballads and romantic material. Sometimes he's too prefab, and sometimes he nails the country vibe right on the head. Here's a quick look at his work...

Discography - Best-Ofs

Tracy Lawrence "The Best Of Tracy Lawrence" (Atlantic, 1998)
(Various producers)

A satisfying collection, gathering Lawrence's chart hits from 1991-98. Some choice material, and a couple of duds... The good stuff includes songs like "Time Marches On," "Is That A Tear," and "Her Old Stomping Ground." I can't help liking this guy... he's just such an amiable, uncomplicated, likeably formulaic kinda fellow!

Tracy Lawrence "Then And Now: The Hits Collection" (Mercury Nashville, 2005)

Tracy Lawrence "The Very Best Of Tracy Lawrence" (WEA/Rhino, 2007)

Discography - Albums

Tracy Lawrence "Sticks And Stones" (Atlantic, 1991)
(Produced by James Stroud)

Tracy Lawrence "Alibis" (Atlantic, 1993)
(Produced by James Stroud)

Settling comfortably into his role as the new John Anderson, Lawrence croons sweetly over a smooth, pleasantly poppy formula. This album has four of his biggest early hits -- "Can't Break It To My Heart," "Alibis," "If The Good Die Young" and the clever little boozin' ballad, "My Second Home" -- with another half-dozen tunes that alternate between so-so would-be hits and deliciously rich honkytonkers. All in all, a fine set of commercialized hard country tunes. Recommended.

Tracy Lawrence "I See It Now" (Atlantic, 1994)
(Produced by Flip Anderson, Tracy Lawrence & James Stroud)

Likeable, though kinda generic, soft-edged hat-act country. He scored several career hits off of this album, but his success had definitely caught up to him by now, and the studio producers had definitely tamed him. Pretty much every song on here feels too controlled and safe, and not all that clever or thoughtfulÉ Even the much-deserved duet with John Anderson, "Hillbilly With A Heartache," starts out with great promise -- they sound great together -- but the backing instrumental tracks are pretty trite and by-the-numbers. I did like "As Any Fool Can See" and "I'd Give Anything To Be Your Everything Again," but even they are a little too "perfect" sounding; Lawrence seems like an artist who'd really benefit from letting a few rough edges show, and this is possibly my least favorite of his records.

Tracy Lawrence "Live" (Atlantic, 1995)
(Produced by Flip Anderson & Tracy Lawrence)

The arrangements are fairly standard-issue, but I sure like his voice. The songs are still nicely constructed, but probably work better in the studio versions. Still, it's fun to hear some fan shout out, "We luuvv you, Tracy!!" He loves you, too, honey!

Tracy Lawrence "Time Marches On" (Atlantic, 1996)
(Produced by Flip Anderson, Don Cook & Tracy Lawrence)

The title track is pretty good, in a high-concept kinda way (the changes of an all-American family seen through the decades, starting in the 1950s and moving through the present day...) The rest of the album is a little slick and overly placid; even the "rowdy" southern-rockish numbers seem pretty by-the-numbers. Definitely not his best album, but still has a couple of fun tunes.

Tracy Lawrence "The Coast Is Clear" (Atlantic, 1997)
(Produced by Flip Anderson, Don Cook & Tracy Lawrence)

This disc has its moments, but overall feels a bit perfunctory and bland. Hard country fans can take solace in songs like "I Hit The Ground Crawling," which is slick, but still not bad. But even from a commercial perspective, this leaves a bit to be desired -- and this was reflected in Tracy's slide off the charts... Better than some, but not really all that exciting.

Tracy Lawrence "Lessons Learned" (Atlantic, 2000)
(Produced by Flip Anderson Butch Carr & Tracy Lawrence)

A fairly rote, unsubtle, and formulaic album, with Lawrence displaying too little individuality or independence from the smooth Southern rock ballads niche that had been carved out for him. The opening tracks are too abrasive, and the rest of the album too bland, to really hold my attention. I liked a couple of tracks, particularly "The Man I Was" and "From Here To Kingdom Come," but mostly Lawrence just doesn't seem like his own man on this disc. If you already owned best-of packages by Travis Tritt or the Bellamy Brothers, why would you need this album as well?

Tracy Lawrence "Tracy Lawrence" (Warner/Atlantic, 2001)
(Produced by Flip Anderson & Tracy Lawrence)

A Music City dude who sticks pretty closely to a hard country vibe -- which is to say, a Nashviller whose whole album I can listen to without having my blood pressure rise too high. He's poppy and calculated, but Lawrence mainly follows in the traditionalist path laid down by John Anderson and Randy Travis. He also traffics in the broadest, most archetypal knee-jerk sentiments -- small town memories, good hearted women who save ne'er-do-well boyfriends, outlaw wanderlust, etc. The most shameless song on here -- and I mean that as a compliment -- is "What A Memory," in which Mama's dying wish is that her boy should get a guitar, so he can follow his dreams as a musician... well, you see where this is headed... Still, slick as he is, Tracy Lawrence is a pretty listenable Top 40 artist... Worth checking out.

Tracy Lawrence "Strong" (Dreamworks, 2004)
(Produced by James Stroud)

A surprisingly weak album for a guy I still consider to be a ray of hope for the neotrad scene. This poppish outing strains at the edges on almost all the tracks. "Sawdust On Her Halo" is a fun shuffle tune, but the rest of the album is a mishmash of electric guitars, by-rote string arrangements and iffy lyrics: very few of these songs have readily identifiable themes, much less a catchy chorus. And the closing number, "The Questionnaire," make you wonder what the hell has gone wrong with this guy. Particularly disappointing in light of how good his last album was.

Tracy Lawrence "For The Love" (Rocky Comfort, 2007)

Tracy Lawrence "All Wrapped Up In Christmas" (Rocky Comfort, 2007)

Tracy Lawrence "The Rock" (Rocky Comfort, 2009)
(Produced by Tracy Lawrence & Julian King)

Hat-act hero Tracy Lawrence has gone indie, starting his own label and doing what few Top Forty singers do anymore: he's put out an all-gospel country album. And it's pretty darn good. It's a work of its times, too -- Lawrence keeps the production style and the sensitive-roughneck attitude that his fans are used to, and applied it to gospel-themed lyrics, thinking about Jesus while standing over the barbeque grill. Several of these guitar-heavy nuggets sound just like his regular old radio hits, and indeed if you heard 'em on the air, it might take you a while to figure out the religious themes. Others are more direct, some shamelessly sentimental, and all seem quite sincere. Although tossing a gospel tune or two onto a mainstream album has become pretty commonplace, the country gospel album haas become kind of a lost art form on modern-day Nashville, replaced by Christmas albums and shout-outs to God in the liner notes. Lawrence is both bold and triumphant in this effort -- it's an album that will hold up pretty well in years to come.

Tracy Lawrence "The Singer" (LMG, 2011)

Tracy Lawrence "Headlights, Taillights And Radios" (Lawrence Music Group, 2013)



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