Clay Walker

A Few Questions

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Clay Walker never was a superstar, but he scored consistently on the country singles chart throughout the '90s. Once the new millennium started, he hit a bit of a rough patch with 2001's Say No More, which became his first album to not spawn a Top Ten hit -- which may or may not have been a side effect of it being his last album for Giant. Following its release, Walker headed for RCA and debuted on his new label in the fall of 2003 with A Few Questions, a record that certainly does raise a few questions about what Walker is doing as his career enters a second decade. Though he still sports a big black hat on the front cover, this is hardly the sound of a new traditionalist -- it's the sound of the well-styled, hunky dude in a sweater that appears on the back cover. It seems that Walker got scared at the lack of success of Say No More and now has no compunction about being seen as a Nashville country-pop guy. Even when the dobros and fiddles are hauled out for "Countrified," it's for a Shania-styled chant-along, and they're soon buried underneath the twang of nu-country guitars, anyway, to move it firmly into the realm of pop-country. And that would be A Few Questions in a nutshell if only it had a little more country to it. Instead, from the moment the title track kicks off the album, it's clear that Walker no longer toes a new traditionalist line, and this ballad-heavy record lays on the sentiment real heavy, whether it's in a string of love songs, the assertion that "Jesus Was a Country Boy" ("swimmin' in the river/fishin' for his dinner"), or the claim that no matter what our differences are in this country, "Everybody Needs Love" (although it's clear by the way he sneers "sushi" in his verse on California that he's none too fond of the Left Coast). Though fans of his first few records will view this makeover with disdain, Walker's new style doesn't not fit him -- he's comfortable and outgoing in these new clothes, and the record is pleasant enough, even if it doesn't have much personality. Then again, it's not supposed to -- it's supposed to ease Walker onto contemporary radio once again by sounding like everything else on the radio. On that level, A Few Questions is a great success, but at its core, it just doesn't feel like a Clay Walker album, even if it is likely the start of the second phase of Walker's career, the phase where he is no longer a new traditionalist and is now an unabashed radio guy. Fans can make up their minds accordingly.

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