Ty Herndon

Right About Now

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Country singer Ty Herndon is back in the studio after a six-year break. Yeah, there was a Christmas record a couple of years back, but this is the first time the Meridian, Mississippi wonder has done an honest to goodness modern country record in nearly seven years. Herndon hit the charts and the road in a fury during the mid-'90s, and his demons hit back hard. Right: Herndon had a hellhound on his trail. Right About Now is one of those records that a man makes when he feels he has everything to prove. On the Jackson/Titan independent label (which is distributed by Fontana), Herndon lays out 11 new songs with help from songwriters like producer Darrell Brown, Keith Urban, Jess Cates, Beth Nielsen Chapman and others. The opener, written by Brown, Radney Foster, and Urban is a downtempo modern country rocker turned personal anthem. Herndon's voice is not only unchanged from his missing years, it's stronger, his phrasing is tighter and more expressive, and his manner of handling a song is entirely his own. "You Still Own Me" opens with a fiddle and a banjo and a shuffling snare. It's modern country at its best. This is one of those tracks that if the radio programmers have guts and his label can come up with the cash for a video (Trey Fanjoy should direct it, if there's any justice) it's all but a guaranteed hit. This is the kind of song that Sara Evans can pull off without a lot of trouble, but few male singers can make it seem so easy. Herndon has soul and plenty of it. You can hear the gospel in his voice, his love of the old country songs, but his delivery is thoroughly contemporary. And dig the slippery backbone delivery in John Mallory's and Marcus Hummon's "Love Revival." This is as fine a mid-tempo country love song as there is. It is both prayer and anthem, a statement of purpose, a declaration of commitment and a plea to be met in the middle. "Mercy Line" is a downright soul tune that comes right out of the strut and groove of Memphis in the Stax era-but sung by a true country singer. But hell, Herndon can sing anything he wants. Here is an other surefire hit if the label can get down and push radio programmers ears inside it. This is one of those tracks that folks will be turning up and could cross over. If it were Jennifer Nettles singing it, there would be no discussion, but there are few male vocalists who have the necessary muscle and sensitivity to pull this one off. In sum, Right About Now is a monster of a record, period, comeback or no. Herndon re-enters the scene more talented and far more mature than he left it. It's time for Nashville -- and the rest country music's faithful -- to sit up, listen and take notice that a real master has returned. Right About Now is solid, top to bottom. Welcome back Ty.

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