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Uncle Kracker - Double Wide Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 June 2000
ImageLava Records
performance 7
sound 5
released 2000

Even before he was a staple of MTV and alternative radio, Kid Rock would boast about his prowess as a businessman and how he turned a $10,000 investment into over $100,000 in one year, selling homemade records through his label Top Dog Records. Now backed by Lava/Atlantic, the label that brought him to the masses and helped him sell over seven million copies of his ‘Devil Without a Cause’ CD, Kid Rock has been given the green light to produce just about anything he wants on his Top Dog label. Uncle Kracker aka Matt Shafer, the DJ in Kid Rock’s band Twisted Brown Trucker and also the co-writer of much of Kid Rock’s music, has been given a shot at releasing his own album on Top Dog Records. Strangely, this lo-fi country/metal/rap album, recorded on the bands tour bus, in hotel rooms and parking lots across the county, will appeal to music fans that like Lynyrd Skynyrd as much as they appreciate Run-DMC.
To really enjoy this album, it helps to know the history of how it was recorded. In the album’s liner notes, Uncle Cracker has listed the hotels, complete with actual room numbers, where the album was mixed. If you didn’t know the circumstances of the album’s creation before listening to it, you’d probably storm back to the music store and ask for a refund on what sounds like a glorified demo. It doesn’t sound like they put a boom box in the middle of the room and just started jamming, but it certainly isn’t a polished record with big production values. To get an idea of how most of the songs on the album sound, imagine combining Kid Rock’s song "Cowboy" with his country ballad "Only God Knows Why," then dubbing them onto an ADAT tape and making a few generations of copies. Mostly based around drum machine beats and twangy Stratocaster guitar riffs, the guitars have a thin Tascam four-track sound. It’s a small price to pay for not spending money in a big studio and having the convenience of recording on the tour bus.

I got the feeling that some of the tracks were written very quickly, almost improvised, with the help of some Jack Daniels, yet I was surprised to find out that the shock factor is pretty low on this album compared to Kid Rock’s records. Despite the explicit lyric warning on the album cover, there aren’t as many lyrics about pimps, ho’s and raising hell that one would expect on a Kid Rock-produced album. The vibe is much more laid-back honkytonk than XXX-rated rap. The songwriting is a little cheesy, with numbers such as "What ‘Chu Lookin’ At?," "Who’s Your Uncle" and "Aces & 8’s," but it’s still fun to listen to these tracks.

The album’s first single "Yeah Yeah Yeah" happens to be the most solid track here. Although the title sounds pretty lame, it is a tight cut with a huge hook and surprisingly good harmony on the backing vocals. It is also the best-sounding track on the album, which leads me to believe that Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker secretly went into the studio and put some finishing touches on this track before taking it to the radio. If I’m wrong and this song was done completely on the road, then kudos to them.

At the beginning of the album, Kid Rock and Kracker perform a skit that depicts them riding the rails across the country. Kid Rock gives Kracker some advice on how to handle the fortune and fame if his album becomes huge. In a very cocky move, Kid Rock also lets Kracker know that even if the album tanks, it doesn’t matter, because he’s already made enough money to hook his friends up forever. Lava Records may be taking a risk at overexposing people to the Kid Rock sound and posse, but it seems as if Kid Rock knows this and goes against the grain anyway. He didn’t get anywhere by listening to critics and the upcoming album from Kid Rock’s foul-mouthed three-foot-nine-inch-tall sidekick Joe C could possibly be the greatest album ever released. Or it could hit the bargain bins just as fast. It should be fun to find out.

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