TRACY BYRD - The Truth About Men
Here's the truth about Tracy Byrd and The Truth About Men: "Cutting this whole thing had a real fun feeling to it," says the man from Beaumont, Texas. "We've got all these songs, starting with 'The Truth About Men' ... I wouldn't call them all party songs, but they're all fun, they're all celebrating something."
The title track from Byrd's third album on RCA (his ninth overall, beginning with his self-titled MCA debut in 1993) is a hit already. Men and women alike have been singing along with the anthem to gender differences when Tracy performs it live. Andy Griggs, Blake Shelton and Montgomery Gentry join him on the hit record. But there's more fun where that one comes from. Tracy points to "Drinking Bone," "How'd I Wind Up in Jamaica," "Baby Put Your Clothes On," and a rollicking, live version of "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo," captured in El Paso, as evidence that he's back in the good-time niche his fans love best.
"You go back through the years," Tracy says, "with 'Holdin' Heaven,' 'Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,' 'Watermelon Crawl' and 'I'm From the Country'-those kind of songs have always done real well for me."
After an experimental detour on his 1999 release for RCA, It's About Time, Tracy got back to the tried and true for Ten Rounds, issued in 2001. His success with the single "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo" told him his fans craved the upbeat singalongs. "That was in my mind going back into the studio," he says of preparations for The Truth About Men. "I wanted to cut some more fun records. Number one, they seem to work at radio for me. Number two, I tour a lot-I still do 110 dates a year-and I love having those kinds of songs in the show. They just seem to be my niche."
Which is not to say that Byrd has forsaken ballads and songs with emotional depth. This is, after all, the guy who cut one of the most moving ballads of the 1990s, "The Keeper of the Stars." Also on the new disc are the Rodney Crowell slow one "Making Memories of Us"; an anthem to the challenges of single motherhood, "That's What Keeps Her Getting By"; the heart-rending breakup song "When You Go"; and the wistfully romantic "Somewhere I Wanna Go."
Billy Joe Walker, a fellow Texan, again joined Byrd as co-producer, continuing a partnership that began on It's About Time. "He really is a genius when it comes to music," says Byrd of his guitar-playing compadre. "He hears things that I don't hear, that other people don't hear, that other musicians that are playing on the record don't hear."
Sessions for The Truth About Men actually got underway in Los Angeles, where Byrd recorded Crowell's "Making Memories of Us." Working on the West Coast meant that veteran bassist Leland Sklar, known for his work with James Taylor and Jackson Browne among many others, could be part of the proceedings. "There's something about Leland Sklar that's just a little bit more," Tracy says. "The way he approaches a track, and the groove he finds is just different from the other guys. I guess that's why he's so well known and gets so much work. That was my first chance to work with him, and I was just thoroughly impressed." Indeed, when recording resumed in Nashville, Walker and Byrd brought Sklar in for additional sessions.
Byrd also got excited about the songs that came his way for The Truth About Men. Casey Beathard, one of Music Row's hottest tunesmiths (Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems"; Gary Allan's "Right Where I Need to Be") contributed four tunes including "When You Go," co-written by the "Ten Rounds" team-Beathard, Marla Cannon-Goodman and Michael Heeney. Beathard and Heeney came up with a Jimmy Buffett-type, island feel on "How'd I Wind Up in Jamaica."
Paul Overstreet, whose many songwriting credits include Randy Travis' "On the Other Hand," "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Diggin' Up Bones," composed the title track with Tim Johnson and Rory Lee. The groove-driven "Baby Put Your Clothes On" also comes from Overstreet, who wrote it with Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson and veteran songwriter and producer Buddy Cannon.
Casting Griggs, Shelton and Montgomery Gentry as his singing partners for "The Truth About Men," was a no-brainer, Tracy explains. Griggs, remember, sang with Tracy and Mark Chesnutt on "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo." "We're cut from the same cloth, Andy and I," Tracy says. "I'm from southeast Texas, about 20 miles from the Sabine River and Louisiana, and Andy's from up in north Louisiana, up in Monroe. We both immediately found out we love the same things. We go hunting together a lot in the fall."
Shelton is a hunter, too. "I guess Blake and I have been friends for about a year now," Tracy says. "We just became real quick buddies. We did a few shows together, then finally got a chance to spend some time together and get to know each other, and he's just a great country singer."
And then there's Montgomery Gentry-Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry. Tracy met Eddie back in '93, when Tracy and John Michael Montgomery, Eddie's brother, toured together as opening acts for Reba McEntire. "Eddie was out there riding around doing absolutely nothing," Tracy recalls. "I asked him one day what he did, and he said he was the chief satellite operator and whiskey coordinator, or something like that. I didn't even know he sang back then." Tracy met Troy the same year and when Montgomery and Gentry teamed up, they all became friends.
"Tiny Town" about growing up with small-town values, comes from songwriter Keith Stegall, who produced Tracy's very first album and is perhaps best known as producer for Alan Jackson. Tracy says the song captures his own experience growing up in Vidor, Texas. "It's a 'tiny town' to the T," Tracy says of his hometown, "especially back when I grew up there. It's one of those dots on the map; Interstate 10 runs over it. My dad didn't run a station by the railroad tracks, but my mom did sell Avon, and the ice cream man did come through the neighborhood. That song really blew me away the first time I heard it. Most of the country singers I know grew up in small areas like that, rural areas. I think a lot of people can identify with that song, especially in Texas."
Tracy has lived for 16 years in nearby Beaumont, Texas, with his wife, Michelle, a Port Arthur native, and kids Evee, Logan and Jared. He gives back to the community with his annual Tracy Byrd Homecoming Weekend, held on the last weekend in March. A fishing tournament, concert and golf tournament raise money for the Children's Miracle Network; the proceeds have underwritten the Tracy Byrd Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound Care Center at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont.
In addition to his philanthropic activities, Tracy hosts the Mossy Oak's Hunting the Country TV show on ESPN2. "I love making music, and I love this job," he says. "It doesn't feel like one, and never has. I just absolutely still get fidgety and tickled about going in the studio and making records, and about going on stage. It's great to wake up and love your job like that."
--- from the official Tracy Byrd website