Considering that he's an artist so closely associated with "new" country, the most striking thing about Clint Black's latest album is how old-fashioned it sounds. At every turn there's a barrage of fiddles, dobros and honky-tonk pianos. At a time when too many country folk are fleeing from pedal-steel guitars in the mad scramble for that pop-crossover line, Black continues to keep the traditional flame burning bright.
Of course, as a lyricist he has long been at the forefront of change in country music. From his very first hit, 1989's "A Better Man"—in which a failed relationship is viewed as a positive growth experience—Black has been challenging many of country's longest-standing male-female myths. That continues here with "Half the Man," on which Black proudly notes that "I'm what she's made of me/ She's half the man I am," and with "A Bad Goodbye," his two-sides-to-every-love-story hit duet with Wynonna.
Still, the strength of the album stems from Black's sturdy belief in the power of that old boot-scootin' country twang. Few stars bestow their sidemen with as much instrumental space as Black does. When you hear such seasoned pros as dobroist Jerry Douglas and fiddler Stuart Duncan rambling with wild abandon on the Western-swinging "I'll Take Texas," or the breathless "Tuckered Out," you realize that for artists like Black, old-fashioned can easily hold its own against new-fangled. (RCA)