Rodney Atkins - It's America
Review By: George Peden
Ah, the power of patriotism. In these troubled times, it’s a comfort to know the American dream is alive and well. Just ask Rodney Atkins. Recently settling in, and nicely thank-you, at the pole position on the Billboard country music charts with “It’s America”, the guy who traded a cowboy hat for a baseball cap is quickly increasing the fan base. And he’s doing it with his hand-on-chest nod to apple pie values of friends, family, life and love.
Having scored in 2003 with his Top 5 single Honesty (Write Me A List), 2006 saw Atkins leapfrog the charts with his fan friendly and radio saturated follow-up. “If You’re Going Through Hell” did plenty to establish this Tennessean with the psychology degree. That breakthrough album sold an impressive 1.4 million, with the title cut enjoying the label as the most played country song on radio for the year. If that wasn’t enough, “Watching You” followed the established path, earning most played country tune at radio for 2007. 2007 also saw Atkins claim the CMA’s prestigious “New Artist Of The Year”.
Now, It’s America. With this new album, Atkins delivers 11 tracks of turbo-charged country. It’s an album pumped with rocky and up-tempo cuts. There’s not a downer on the set. The tracks are an even blend of potential singles and tunes that offer reflection and appreciation. The title cut nails it. When Atkins sings: “ It's a high school prom, it's a Springsteen song, it's a ride in a Chevrolet It's a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids sellin' lemonade It's cities and farms, it's open arms, one nation under God It's America,” you immediately relate to the shared understandings of a country unified.
But while the title tune is claiming kudos, a keen listen to the remaining tracks delivers with similar optimism and value. “Got It Good” and “The Best Things,” with its shopping list of the joys and toys for big boys, along with the honest truth of “puttin in a hard days work, comin' home and puttin' on a clean T-shirt,” all add to the enjoyment of “Simple Things”.
There’s some real fun here. When Atkins sings of “Chasin’ Girls, with its lyrical reveal of dating, marriage and kids (girls, what else?), and he sings of having “Friends With Tractors”, well, there’s a male connection easily identified by both genders. An understood laugh, but only to men, comes with the tale of giving up grog and girls, proving to be the hardest “15 Minutes” of any red-blooded life.
Speaking of connections, the closing minutes of the album, the last three tracks, shows a move towards the thoughtful and positive side of country music. As I said above, there’s not a downer on this album, so when Atkins confronts death and left legacies, he does it without draining emotion and wringing sentiment. “ Rockin The Cradle” starts the trilogy. With it’s fiddle-ache opening, the song powers along with a buoyant message of optimism – “I want to live with no excuses, love with no regrets, take the bad with the good and know I did my best.” The song offers a thoughtful fit to “”when It’s My Time”. Telling of a rushed man on his way to somewhere, blocked by a funeral procession of tail-to-tail cars, the delay brings meaning to a hurried life.
“When it's my time to go, the end of my road I hope it looks like this 200 cars stretched out as far as the hearts I touched while I lived And I hope I leave half as much love behind when it's my time.”
The album ends, perfectly, with “The River Just Knows”. The tune, moody and sober, offers metaphorical comparisons in that in stillness, reflection and acceptance, the needed answers often come. “You know the river don’t talk, the river don’t care Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, Don’t know why it is your standin’ there It just flows on by whisperin’ to your soul It’s gonna be alright, the river just knows.”
It’s America is out now on Sony Nashville Records.