Clay Walker with Special Guest Tracy Byrd
BOX - $38.00
GRANDSTAND - $33.00
Can Clay Walker deliver? That’s the question, and he’s not afraid of it. In fact, he’s positioned himself to answer it squarely – one way or another – this year. With new creative and business teams and a deep well of hard-earned wisdom, Walker relishes the challenge. “I’ve prepared myself for this moment in my career – mentally, physically and artistically,” he says. “I’ve never been more ready.”
In a sense, the question is absurd for a recording artist, songwriter and entertainer with 31 charted singles, a dozen No. 1s, four platinum albums and decades of performances to his credit. Titles spanning 15 years and still receiving strong airplay include “Live Until I Die,” “Dreaming With My Eyes Open,” “This Woman And This Man,” “Hypnotize The Moon,” “Rumor Has It,” “Then What,” “The Chain Of Love,” “I Can’t Sleep” and “She Won’t Be Lonely Long.”
Walker’s still robust touring schedule – 80 shows last year – continues to fuel interest in his releases, most recently the 76-song compilation Clay Walker – The Complete Albums 1993-2002. Among them is the chart-topper “If I Could Make A Living,” which just celebrated the 25th anniversary of reaching its airplay peak, despite its singer showing no slippage in his celebrated matinee idol looks and megawatt smile. Meanwhile, Walker’s native Texas continues to be a centerpiece, whether it’s performing the National Anthem at the 2019 World Series in Houston, or giving back at February 2020’s Basin Strong concert benefiting victims and families of the recent shootings in Odessa.
Nevertheless, country music and the sounds embraced by radio audiences don’t wait on anyone. As Walker well knows. “I’ve heard all of the different attacks on country across time,” he says. “Complaints about how the music changed. I went back and listened to a lot of stuff from the ’80s – all the DX7 keyboards that came into the genre sounded so much alike. It was like some dumbed-down version of Chicago. It reminded me this is just the evolution of music, and it’s continuing.”
Walker, for one, is not complaining. He’s embracing … by working with many of the format’s top songwriters. “The style at radio right now is unique, but these writers really do approach it just like great writers from the past. When they get the hook, they try to point every line to that idea. That’s just great writing, and great writing never changes. Through this process I’ve found I absolutely can fit into this format. I can have a hell of a lot more hits.”
Often overlooked in Walker’s career has been the balance he’s had between writing his own material – much of it solo, including many of his biggest hits – and recording undeniable songs from outside writers. “As much as I love writing and would love to write every song, it’s not a smart move in most cases for an artist to write every song they record,” he says. “Let the music lead – get the better songs, however they come.”
Another way Walker is putting the music out front is an organic approach to production. “The combination we’re looking for is great writers who already are great producers or have the potential to record something that sounds like a master. In that sense, you’re actually writing the song in more of a complete way, as opposed to handing a demo to someone else and expecting them to make something out of it.”
The workmanlike approach to his craft and genuine humility point to a mindset he carries into the other major aspect of being an artist: live performances. “The biggest thrill for an entertainer is seeing that crowd – waiting, hoping, excited,” he explains. “Everyone is for you. They want you to sound great and put on the show of your life. You’ve got everything going for you before you even get onstage, so the only thing that can possibly hold you back is you. If that doesn’t get you revved up, you’re in the wrong business.”
Beyond years of experience in the spotlight, Walker remains a student. “I saw Van Morrison in Nashville last year,” he explains. “Sitting in the sixth row, I watched him do a 75-minute show at 69 or 70 years old. He never spoke, he just sang and his voice was crystal-clear. Pristine. It was like he was a conductor with the band and nobody missed a note. It sounded exactly like Van Morrison. I was in complete awe.
“I know exactly how hard it is to do that,” he continues. “The sound an artist hears onstage is nowhere near perfect – maybe at 30% of the quality the audience hears. I saw Boz Scaggs at the Ryman and, like Van Morrison, he never even hinted – not once – at sound problems. The entire show was seamless. No dead space. The communication onstage was so superior I couldn’t even tell how they were counting-in to songs. That’s mastery.
“What’s so exhilarating is you can’t stop, go back and re-sing a line you messed up,” he says. “Every word, every line counts in real time. Hanging over that edge with every note and nailing it? I stepped off the bus for a show in Houston – just stepped off the bus – and got chill bumps all over me, all the way to my scalp, anticipating that feeling. I’ve got chill bumps right now just thinking about it.
“That lets you know you’re doing what you were born to do, you still love it more than anything. And that’s the challenge I face every day. If I’m not onstage, on that edge, doing it in real time, then I’m working toward it. Constantly. And I’m lucky enough to have a lot of good people around me – onstage, in production, management – who understand the bar that’s set and how important it is to meet that challenge every time.”
Can Clay Walker deliver? Is he afraid of the question? Hardly. “If I had to lay out my ambition, it’s to become a master at what I do,” he says. “I’m a long ways from it, but that’s exciting as well because there’s a lot of road left.”
Tracy Byrd became a household name on the Country Music Scene in 1993 when his third single, called “Holdin’ Heaven”, off of his MCA Records, self-titled debut album, hit #1 on the Billboard Country Charts. The Album also included the remake hit of Johnny Paycheck’s “Someone to Give my Love to” cementing Byrd as a Traditional Country Troubadour!! The Debut Album went on to be certified Gold, a award signifying sales in excess of 500,000 copies.
Byrd’s second project, “No Ordinary Man”, kept building on the momentum the first album created, the first radio single from it called “Lifestyle’s of the Not so Rich and Famous” reached #4, followed by another top five hit, “The First Step”, then with the release of the smash, chart topping hit “Watermelon Crawl” the second album crossed the half million sales mark and certified Gold. The release of the 4th and last single on this project moved Byrd to the top of both the Billboard Album and Singles charts. The song was called “The Keeper of the Star’s” and it shot to #1 on the singles charts and pushed the album to Double Platinum Status, which certifies sales of over 2 Million Copies. “The Keeper of the Star’s” won Academy of Country Music’s “Song of the Year” award in 1995. A Keeper Year for Tracy Byrd for sure.
His third studio Album, “Love Lesson” is one of Tracy’s favorites. It included the title track, another top five hit single for Byrd, also included were the top 15 singles, “Walking to Jerusalem” and “Heaven in My Woman’s Eyes”, Byrd’s personal favorite. A 4th top 15 single was released called “4 to 1 in Atlanta” which Byrd performed Live on the David Letterman Show. The “Love Lesson’s” album also reached sales of 500,000 copies certifying Gold.
“Big Love” became Byrd’s fourth studio album with it’s release in the fall of 1996. It spawned two more top five singles with the release of the title track and “Don’t Take Her She’s All I’ve Got” The Video’s of both of these songs reached the top of CMT’s Video Chart’s and also earned Byrd his first TNN Television Special titled “Tracy Byrd’s Big Love” on which Byrd invited guest’s Johnny Paycheck, Mark Chesnutt, and Asleep at the Wheel. The Album “Big Love” became Tracy’s Fourth consecutive Studio Album to be Certified Gold. Tracy said that this meant more to him than anything because he knew Fan’s weren’t just listening to his hit songs on the radio, they were laying down their hard earned money to own a copy of their own and that was flattering.
The fifth project on MCA was titled, “I’m From the Country” and it contained the title track a fun, party song stating what most fan’s already knew, that Tracy Byrd was from the Country and sang Country Music. The CD also contained a Beautiful Ballad called “I Wanna Feel That Way Again” Both of these single’s reached the Top Five on the Charts. It was at this same time that TNN Outdoors recruited Byrd as the TV Host of their Weekend Outdoor Broadcast. Tracy, a well known outdoorsman, was perfect for the job and continued his hosting responsibilities for three years.
At this point in his career, Tracy Byrd, was looking for a change in labels, but still was under contract with MCA Records who were preparing a release of “Keepers: Greatest Hit’s” containing all the hit’s from Byrd’s catalog of songs. The album quickly earned another Gold Record award for Byrd but he was trying to persuade MCA to let him out of his contract so he could pursue a different direction. MCA finally allowed Byrd out of his contract and he quickly signed with RCA Records and got to work on a new project, “It’s About Time”, that would be released in November of 1999 and would reach the top 10 quickly with the single “Put Your Hand In Mine” Byrd has said that this album is the most Traditional Album he ever released and therefore his favorite.
Next came “The Truth About Men”, which first released the title track which was a comedic look at what Men are really like, it was a team effort with Tracy’s buddies Blake Shelton, Andy Griggs, and Troy and Eddie of Montgomery Gentry lending their talents to the song and the video. This Album also released the top five smash “The Drinkin’ Bone” which became a crowd favorite sing along song. Tracy Byrd crossed into the new Millineum with the release of his Album “10 Rounds” It took off on the release of a duet with his longtime hometown buddy and hero Mark Chesnutt. The song was called “A Good Way to get on my Bad Side” and was a milestone for Byrd to finally get to record with his good friend. Then came the release of the party song of the year, “10 Rounds with Jose Cuervo” which shot to the top of the Billboard Charts to notch Byrd’s third #1 single. He also hit the top 10 with his spanish guitar flared “Just Let Me be in Love”.
Byrd was then moved to BNA Records, the sister label of RCA, and they released his second greatest hits project, another feat that not many artists experience, two Greatest hits projects!!! It debuted in the top five of the album charts and became Byrd’s sixth Gold Album, and sent him to over 6 Million Records Sold!!! Byrd then left the major label and released an album on his own, appropriately titled, “Different Things” Although this project was not commercially successful, it garnered Byrd his highest Critical acclaim of his career with Billboard magazine choosing it as one of their Top 10 Country Albums of the Year!!!
Through all of these years Byrd became a promoter favorite on the road, performing over 4000 exciting shows across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia from 1992 until 2009! He then say’s he needed a break to take care of himself and his most precious thing, his family, wife Michelle, daugter Evee, and son’s Logan and Jared, who had taken a backseat to his career for year’s. He did not perform from 2010-2013, but in 2014 he got back to the music with a new band and a new found sobriety and love of the thing he enjoys so much. Say’s Byrd, “These day’s my life has great balance, with my music being a part of it, not all of it. I can honestly say I have never enjoyed it more!!”
Byrd went back in the studio in June of 2016 and started work on his first project in 10 years. Recorded completely in Tyler, Texas at Rosewood Studios, that album is appropriately titled, All American Texan, which is exactly what he is and has always been. This album features 8 tracks written by Byrd, a fact he is very proud of. The album was released in October of 2016 and has been very well received by his fans and critics alike.