Neal McCoy

Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride

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A moment of reflection will reveal that Charley Pride is a natural idol for Neal McCoy. A trailblazing traditionalist of the '60s and '70s, Pride broke the color barrier for popular country music -- there had been African-American country singers long before him; Ray Charles blurred the boundaries between country and soul a few years before him, and Pride had peers like Stoney Edwards, but Charley was the first black country superstar -- due in part to his easy, friendly way with a song. McCoy has a similar amiable way with a tune and, as a singer of Filipino descent, he bucked country tradition even as he adhered to it. Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride puts all this into relief while also being quite a good listen in its own right. As a traditionalist paying respect to a traditionalist, McCoy doesn't play around with the arrangements in the slightest -- he even seems indebted to the sound of Pride's recordings, not the early ones of the '60s but the gleaming overproductions of the late '70s and early '80s -- but these are terrific songs performed well, by both McCoy and his guests Raul Malo (who is on "I'm Just Me"), Darius Rucker ("Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'"), and Trace Adkins ("Roll On Mississippi"). There's almost a funhouse mirror quality here, with McCoy looking back on Pride who was looking back on Hank Williams (the presence of "Kaw-Liga" underscores this), but that's part of the appeal of Pride: each bygone era it salutes is worth celebrating.

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