In the very title of 2016's Tradition Lives, Mark Chesnutt wears his allegiance proudly: he's not concerned about the present, he's determined to keep old-time country alive. That doesn't mean that Tradition Lives consists of nothing but hardwood honky tonk tunes, although the album has a fair share of those to be sure: "Lonely Ain't the Only Game in Town" and "Never Been to Texas" are the kind of songs that would feel comfortable in any beer joint south of the Red River. Chesnutt surrounds these songs with softer tunes, ones that echo the smoother sounds of the '80s and early '90s, the time when the Texan first started to gain some traction. These cuts aren't pop so much as they are soft and elastic, demonstrating how Chesnutt can lean into a lyric, and they also benefit from the aesthetic that ties together the whole of Tradition Lives. Throughout the album, Chesnutt keeps things simple, spare, and easy, keeping the focus on the song and the instrumental interplay -- the very things that make for great country, of which this is proudly part of that long tradition.
Tradition Lives Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine