All I can say is, poor Clint Black. He’s always been the underrated member of the “class of ’89,” competing with Garth Brooks and others for attention and popularity even at the height of his career. Now, after ten years without a release from him, his new album, On Purpose, released by Thirty Tigers, was big news–until George Strait came along three days ago and announced a surprise album. Although Clint is in the unfortunate position of being in the shadow of Strait, Thomas Rhett, and even Don Henley, let’s not think of that; rather, let’s celebrate the fact that three good releases came out today to compete with the train wreck that Thomas Rhett has unleashed on the world and stained with the title “country.”
The album opens with “Time For That,” a nice song about taking time for the simple things in life. I notice two things immediately; Clint’s vocals are as great as ever, and this album could have come out in 2002. The former is the best part of the record; the latter is ultimately the worst, as although it is certainly country, and although I like the country from ten years ago, it feels like Clint Black is stuck between appealing to classic country fans and mainstream listeners, thus limiting his market. This wouldn’t be so significant if it wasn’t the first release in ten years–many Clint Black fans were hoping for more of his earlier sound. Next is “Better and Worse,” where Clint Black sings, “I’ve been better, I’ve been worse” and says, “Not everything’s gonna go my way.” This is a good summarization of the album; Clint Black has been better and worse in his career, and this song is made better because it captures Clint’s stage in life and state of mind well. The instrumentation in this song is also fun and decidedly country. “Summertime Song” is a nice ode to songs that we sing along to–it’s a nice song, but nothing really stands out. “One Way to Live” is a nice song about living a life of love and not going through life alone–“I can think of a thousand ways to die, but only one way to live.”
“Doing it Now For Love” feels like a personal song to Clint–he sings about “doing it now for love” instead of money or fame. I think this is Clint’s way of saying this is what he’s doing now: just singing for love and nothing else. “You Still Get to Me” is a nice, bluesy track featuring Clint’s wife Lisa Hartman–it’s probably my favorite track on the album and in an album full of nice, but not outstanding, tracks, this one is a little better. In fact, this bluesy influence is present in places throughout the album, and it’s a direction I am surprised to enjoy from Clint Black. I would be interested to hear more songs with this influence from him in the future–right now it just seems like he’s trying it out and isn’t really sure if he wants to go through with it. “Right on Time” is one of the better songs on the album; here the narrator sings about waiting for the right woman to come along, saying she’ll come “right on time.” He says that until then, “I’d rather just wait here alone.” The instrumentation here is nice, blending electric guitars and fiddles. “Still Calling it News” is another of the better songs–here, Clint calls out the media and politicians in what can only be called a catchy song. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, as Clint is criticizing the headlines and attitudes rather than their viewpoints–“It’s getting pretty old, but they’re still calling it news.”
“Making You Smile” is about a man who thinks his woman is in love with someone else, that there’s someone else “behind that look in your eyes” and “making you smile.” It’s like Zac Brown Band’s “Goodbye in Her Eyes,” but without as much emotion and intensity. It’s still a nice song, but it could have been better. “Stay Gone” is an interesting song which seems to be about dealing with the devil and praying that he will stay gone. Clint’s vocals are really nice in this song, and the rock guitars add some intensity which works well. Next is “Breathing Air,” a love song in which Black is telling the woman that he will be there as long as he is breathing. The rocking song “Beer” is just that: a song about different beers from various places around the world. I could have done without this, as it adds nothing at all to the album. I’ll give it this; it is quite catchy and fun. Next is “The Trouble,” one of the better songs musically and really overall; this is about a woman who is “the kind you wanna run away from, the kind you wanna run into.” The album concludes with “The Last Day,” a nice song about living each day as if it is your last.
All in all, this is a solid album from Clint Black. It’s nothing remarkable–nothing really stood out, and there were no “moments” of awesomeness. However, there was nothing wrong with it either, and I’m glad to see Clint Black making good music again. This feels like a personal record from Clint, and I’m glad that he is back to “doing it now for love.”