Aaron Tippin

What This Country Needs

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For those who always thought Aaron Tippin was wasting that fantastic voice on his many trademark, but somewhat contrived "working-man" anthems, What This Country Needs is the first confirmation of his true potential for greatness. This record, his first after leaving RCA, surpasses his previous work in nearly every respect. His voice is even more sublime than before, sometimes even achieving the extraordinary richness of '70s-era Waylon Jennings. What really make this album a whole different animal, though, are the songs. Tippin's finest moments have always been his heart-on-the-sleeve ballads, like "I Promised You the World" (from 1994's Call of the Wild). There are several excellent tunes in that vein here, particularly the lump-in-the-throat-prompting "I'm Leaving," but even the up-tempo material always smartly avoids the common new-country problem of emphasizing clever turns of phrase over emotional content. The album's production, although replete with honky tonk steel guitars and fiddles, is thoroughly modern without being cheesy. Some songs even sound a little like the best work of the Eagles, except with a truly kick-ass real country singer. Whether it was increased artistic control (Tippin co-produced the album), a new label, or perhaps the birth of his child, something apparently lit a serious fire under Aaron Tippin, as this album stands head and shoulders above anything he recorded prior. Accessible, yet substantial and moving, What This Country Needs is that rare record that should appeal to mainstream country and alt-country lovers alike.

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