Clay Walker


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Clay Walker didn't last long at RCA Records -- just one album, 2003's A Few Questions, which found the Texan at his smoothest and poppiest, yet that didn't result in anything more than modest chart success. He parted ways with the label and signed with Curb, releasing Fall in the spring of 2007. Fall doesn't drastically depart from the sound of A Few Questions, but there's a crucial difference: it's produced by Keith Stegall, best known as the man who helmed hits by Alan Jackson. Stegall helps return some hard country to Walker's sound, but he does it with moderation, keeping Walker firmly within a mainstream, crossover sound. The subtle emphasis on pure country gives Fall a backbone A Few Questions lacked. Walker can still stray into sticky sentiment, particularly on ballads like "Love to Be Your Last," but these never get too saccharine (even if they remain awfully sappy at times) thanks to Stegall's simple, unadorned production. It also helps that these pieces of corn are surrounded by livelier material, whether it's the lean, good-hearted "Working Man," the cheerful, Kenny Chesney-styled beach anthem "Mexico," or especially the wry, funny lead single, "'Fore She Was Mama," where Walker discovers his mom's hidden hippie past. At times Fall does sound a bit too well-mannered, but part of Walker's charm as a veteran country singer is that he comes across as a gentleman: he may have fun in the sun, but he doesn't roam; he comes back home to the woman who loves him. The nice thing about Fall is that despite some treacly moments, it captures this character on record -- and it places as much emphasis on the fun as it does the love, so it's his most enjoyable collection in some time.

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