Rodney Atkins - Caught Up in the Country
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Caught Up in the Country (Curb, 2019)

Rodney Atkins

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

Careers don't see as many twists and potholes as the one Rodney Atkins has going - it took him six years between his first charted single just to release an album. While that did modestly well, it was 2006's "If You're Going Through Hell" that really put a crater on the charts: two consecutive singles for a total of eight weeks at number one and a platinum record. The next two recordings came in quick succession with big lead singles, but slow album sales. Domestic strife set in, with a messy divorce and a recovery marriage to talented songstress Rose Falcon. Before 2019, Atkins hadn't released new material in eight years.

Atkins has made his hay by singing new country anthems, with whole albums devoted to trucks and tractors. Those were light and a lot of fun. Overall, despite the catchy title track, "Caught Up in the Country" is not that record. Here Atkins is getting in touch with his emotions, and generally loving his wife to infinity and beyond. When Falcon joins in, it is effective, most so on the duet "Figure You Out (Riddle)."

But the production on this record lathers on layer after layer of polish (generally unnecessarily, because Atkins' voice can pull its own freight). Take the rendition of Jason Isbell's "Cover Me Up." It's lush and lovely, but it feels emotionally disconnected for a very personal song about alcoholism. Even a title that suggests a return to roadhouse rousers like "All My Friends Are Drunk" goes weepy power ballad.

Strong material is present - the closer "Waiting on a Good Day" is more stripped down and packs emotional punch with minimal dressing. "Thank God For You" has big guitars that would keep heads bobbing at a summer night concert. But a better title for this Atkins record would be "Caught Up in My Feelings." It's best played late at night when the wine's made someone a little maudlin or to slow dance around the room with someone you love.

CDs by Rodney Atkins

Caught Up in the Country, 2019 Take a Back Road, 2011 It's America, 2009 If You're Going Through Hell, 2006

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