Travis Tritt

My Honky Tonk History

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It's difficult to believe that Travis Tritt has been kicking it from Nash Vegas for nearly 15 years. For most of that time, Tritt has been remarkably consistent. He has espoused his own vision of outlaw country since the beginning. While marketed as one of the first "new traditionalists" and then refashioned as a progenitor of "young country," Tritt has followed his own redneck way throughout and for the most part made the records he wanted to make. My Honky Tonk History, is another chapter, though this one rocks pretty hard. Co-produced with Billy Joe Walker, Tritt assembled a stellar cast of pickers -- including Reggie Young, Pat Buchanan, Brent Mason, Pig Robbins, and Eric Darken in a very large cast for this date -- as well as some special guests. The title track opens the set with a rollicking firebrand and burning electric guitars all but covering a lone banjo that stands in for tradition. It's a juxtaposition that works, since Tritt's celebration of a hungry life of hustling is timeless. "Too Far to Turn Around," is a bluesy dobro-fueled ballad that is lean and mean, with Gretchen Wilson (one of the song's three writers) guesting on backing vocals. The intro to "What Say You," feels like a track off John Mellencamp's Lonesome Jubilee, but perhaps that's because Mellencamp duets with Tritt here on this working-class anthem. It's easily the best cut on the set, and the two singers are particularly suited to one another as electric guitars, mandolins, fiddles, a B-3, and Béla Fleck's banjo crisscross in a swirl of rocking country-soul. Honky tonk music proper enters the fray in Philip Claypool's "Circus Leaving Town," a modern take on the music that made the careers of George Jones and Ray Price. Texas R&B meets the country bar's sawdust floor in "Monkey Around," written by Delbert McClinton, Benmont Tench, and Gary Nicholson. It's greasy, raucous, and freewheeling with killer piano lines by Robbins. Of the ballads, slick as it is, Tritt and Marty Stuart's "We've Had It All," works well. Tritt brings the emotion in the tune right upfront and sings with conviction and grace, but the whining pedal steel in "Small Doses" makes the slow step of this low-down country tearjerker really stand out. Tritt's protagonist is a man on a barstool talking to himself, trying to buoy his courage to face the empty space left by a long-gone lover. In all, My Honky Tonk History is a solid, sure-voiced outing from an enduring and committed artist. Bravo.

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