Those of us that miss the country music of yesteryear should find a lot of kinship in Mark Chesnutt’s 14th and latest LP, fittingly titled Outlaw, due later this month on Saguaro Road Records. Hearkening back to the freewheeling days of Waylon, Willie and Cash, Outlaw is a brawny, bow-legged collection of a dozen country throwbacks. Sure enough cuts by Waylon and Willie are tackled, as are ditties by Kristofferson, Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver. Produced by the ever capable Pete Anderson, who has worked with Dwight Yoakam, Roy Orbison and Michelle Shocked to name a few, the disc is carefree and crisp, and chock full of enough beer-swilling good cheer to keep listeners hooting and hollering for days.
From the raucous David Allan Coe treat “Need A Little Time Off For Bad Behavior,” to the bleary eyed Willie Nelson tune “Bloody Mary Morning,” Outlaw is one of the most enjoyable 40 minutes of country music released this year. For all its many peaks, the one most worth coming back to is the poignant “A Couple More Years,’ a duet with the criminally underrated Amber Digby.
Though Chesnutt is on a far smaller label than his heyday in the 90s and while he hasn’t graced the charts in more than a decade, Outlaw is as strong a collection as any he’s released in the last 10 years. To that point, producer Anderson has gone on record as saying there are no better vocalists currently recording music that can compare to Chesnutt. For someone with the credentials of Anderson to say such a thing is a stirring testament to this body of work.
Twenty-plus years into a career spent honing neotraditionalist country music, the native Texan has indeed hit his best stride. With his trademark full-throated vocals and a charisma and confidence not felt since 1999’s I Dont Want To Miss a Thing, this is the sound of an artist reemerging and redefining himself. And while there not may be a bonafide Top 10 smash in the bunch, there’s enough boots and brawn to find comfort from new and old fans alike.
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