Like other artists who have paid their dues and already have a built-in fan base, Tracy Byrd has decided to forego the major label route and step out on his own. Different Things, Byrd's latest release, is the singer/songwriter's first for his own Blind Mule Records imprint.
Byrd has seen his share of ups and downs during his career. After hitting gold and platinum with MCA Nashville in the early '90s, the Texan found himself without a record deal before decade's end. RCA picked Byrd up, and once again the singer found his groove. The hits continued, most notably 2001's party anthem "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo." While not as big a hit, 2003's "The Truth About Men" kept the wheels on the bus turning. Byrd's tenure with RCA ended with a Greatest Hits package in 2005.
Rather than sign with another major and try to please several levels of label people, Byrd chose to please only one person this time around, himself. Different Things doesn't stretch too far beyond the novelty fare that made Byrd a mid-level act, however. "Better Places Than This" uses a tired old Jimmy Buffett arrangement and a melody that comes dangerously close to the aforementioned "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo." Other than this minor misstep, though, the disc makes for an enjoyable listen.
"Cheapest Motel," the first single, may not exactly be burning up the country charts, but it's as good as anything in the top twenty right now. Subtle organ shading and steel guitar underline the decelerated track's despondent lyrics. "A Cowboy And A Dancer" tells the tale of a dusty rodeo man and a disillusioned stripper who meet and fall in love. Byrd is in great shape vocally; the singer's meaty baritone floats nicely over top a light acoustic arrangement.
The album's title track, "Different Things," is an old-school number with a main character knee deep in sorrow. Haunting electric guitar licks curl around Byrd's pained vocals and quickly dissipate like wisps of cigarette smoke in a ventilated room. "The last thing that I reach for every evening/ Is a woman who I can't reach anymore," Byrd laments.
"She Was Smart" finds Byrd in a rocking mood. A penetrating bass line anchors a throbbing arrangement that includes fast fretted fiddles, bustling B-3 organ, and over-driven electric guitars. The earnest "Before I Die" will appeal to all the dreamers out there. A guy decides to live life to the fullest and enjoy each moment God has given him. Byrd pours his heart and soul into the song's profound lyrics.
With independent labels like Broken Bow, Big Machine, and Toby Keith's Show Dog Records gaining a foothold in the country market place, artists like Tracy Byrd have a serious shot at making it on their own. Different Things is as good as any of Byrd's major label albums.