Clint Black – Purposefully Black
Clint Black is back! Much vaunted as one of country music’s biggest stars of the 80s and 90s, Black brings On Purpose, his first all-new studio album in a decade. Black’s twenty-first album overall, this marks his first since 2005’s Drinkin’ Songs and Other Logic.
The 14-track album, recorded at Black’s own studio in Nashville compiles a strikingly diverse group of his self-produced songs. The lilting ‘You Still Get to Me’ marks Black’s third duet with his wife, actor Lisa Hartman Black. Ballads like ‘Only One Way to Live,’ ‘Stay Gone,’ ‘Breathing Air’ and ‘Last Day’ have never cut deeper, while his merry, clever ‘Beer’ and ‘Better and Worse’ are among the most wry and chipper songs he has crafted. ‘Time For That,’ ‘Doing It Now For Love’ and ‘Summertime Song’ are catchy examples of how groove-soaked his music can be. ‘Calling It News’ is a wry, topical statement, while ‘The Trouble’ contains a curious Australian reference.
It has always my contention that, had Clint Black not surfaced at the same time as the cataclysmic comet that was Garth Brooks, he would have been a household name. His music outclassed everything that came before it, with sophistocated arrangements and clever lyrics that raised the bar bigtime. While his status may lag a tad by comparison, he’s still sold over 20 million albums and had two dozen No1 hits – all written by him.
Killin’ Time is still a benchmark country album for formidably strong songs and no fillers. It marked a shift in the industry, and saw Black hailed as envoy to the more traditional sounds of country, but it was heavily laden with jazz influence in both timing and instrumentation, lots of swing, and very snappy phrasing. Released while Black was still an unknown Texas-based artist and writer, Killin’ Time boasted five #1 hits – unprecedented from a debut album in any genre – and won Black a collection of awards that just about excluded anyone else winning anything except Female vocal: Country Music Association Horizon Award, Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year, American Music Awards Favorite New Male Country Artist, Academy of Country Music Best New Male Vocalist, Academy of Country Music Best Male Vocalist, Academy of Country Music Album of the Year (Killin’ Time), and Academy of Country Music Single of the Year (‘A Better Man’).
Never before have I begun an interview by confessing to the subject that he is the only artist in my long, not so illustrious career, of whom I have been a fully paid-up, card-carrying fan! It’s true – in 1990 I joined Clint Black’s fan club to receive information (‘post’ was snail mail then people) on follow up releases to his seminal debut album, Killin’ Time.
Then, even more bizarrely, in a cleaning blitz last weekend, at the bottom of a storage trunk, I unearthed the long-forgotten constituents of my entire 80’s country T-shirt collection – one Vince Gill, one Highwaymen and TWO Clint Black …genuine vintage garments in as-new condition! Never been worn…
My alarming admissions didn’t faze Mr Black, who was genuinely amused, utterly charming and mightily impressed with the fact he was talking to me “tomorrow!” (USA time)
Of the album’s title Black says, “On Purpose comes from a line in the song ‘Better and Worse.’ It represents my attitude towards life, in that it’s never easy to ‘go your own way’, but the rewards are greater when you follow your heart. Not preaching, but gently advising the road less travelled – but with honour and integrity. Perhaps the resonance of truth and reason is quieted by decades. A reputation for the wrong reasons is less inspiring when you’re too old to be wild and have dialled back to mild!”
There is something of the philosopher/father figure in all your song themes – they dig a deeper channel and almost promise a brighter outcome for doing the ‘right’ thing; a payoff for being true whether it be in love or life in general?
“Well I am 53yrs old and I think I’ve sung about everything, and at this stage of my life I’m searching for something to enrich myself and others and try to speak to those bigger issues, and if you’ve been around in this world you have a better chance of knowing what matters most – but its still fun to sing about beer!!
…continued in Country Update Issue 80