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Tracy Byrd

Love Lessons – 1995 (MCA)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Tracy Byrd

Too often an artist debuts with an exceptional album, only to fade with his second or third, but Tracy Byrd has improved with every disc he has released. Sure, this one has its overblown dance song, "Honky-Tonk Dancing Machine," to duplicate the success of "Watermelon Crawl," and its sensitive ballad, "Love Lessons," a seemingly surefire hit that, like "Keeper of the Stars," should make women swoon. Byrd shines, however, on two songs that don't revert to any tried-and-true formula. "Heaven in My Woman's Eyes," written by Byrd's guitarist Mark Nesler, is a stripped-down gem that could have been right at home on a Merle Haggard album 20 years ago, and the Nesler-Byrd collaboration "Down on the Bottom" is full of swampy, Louisiana imagery that is complemented by Tony Brown's creative production. On these songs, as on most of the album, Byrd restrains the hiccups that used to mark the end of each line and instead reveals a new, smoother vocal maturity. His progress gives fans everyreason to expect something even better next time out.