After an absence of over six years, a proper new record from Texas country kingpin Pat Green hit the streets this past Friday. Called simply Home, it marks a return to form since we last heard from Green, but it’s not the rootsy, “Screw Nashville,” prodigal son-style record many thought it might be. And it's not anywhere near his best album. But it's exactly the kind of album he needed to make right now.
Back in 2009, What I’m For, Green’s last album for a major label, failed to hit the sales and radio airplay jackpot. More important, it failed to be a decent record. More than any of his previous major label efforts, the Dan Huff-produced (of Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts fame) What I’m For offered up song after song where thick polish and benign lyrics obliterated any hints of character and substance. For the past several years, we’ve been left with the feeling that Green's going out with an overly slick, weak whimper, busying himself by helping open The Rustic in Uptown as part-owner a couple of years ago.
Over the course of 13 tracks, many of which were recorded years ago, Home reveals a genuinely grown-up man who loves his wife, family and the occasional rowdy night of barn burning. Unlike way too many country artists in their 40s, Green seems to know his age. In the greasy, electric roadhouse rocker “Bet Yo Mama,” the narrator creeps dangerously close to Dirty Old Man-status as he compares the object of his desire to her relatives in attractiveness, but it's ultimately a satisfactory, clever, adult song about sex — or the pursuit of sex — rather than just a goofy series of ill-advised pick-up lines.
A pair of other songs, “May the Good Times Never End” featuring Delbert McClinton and slide-guitar hero Lee Roy Parnell, and “Good Night in New Orleans,” a duet with bayou dweller Marc Broussard, see Green bring the good times to us. They work well in the context that men, no matter their age, still love to relive the crazy times, and still look for that one special night when the rules are thrown out. Green pulls them off without sounding like a Top 40 country cartoon character who grabs catfish out of the lake with one hand while the other grips a bottle of Jim Beam.
Speaking of clever songs that could go disastrously wrong in the hands of other artists, Green duets with iconic Texan Lyle Lovett on “Girls in Texas,” where the two down-home fellows offer up (some politically incorrect) observations on women from other states. While these fun-time, flirtatious songs work individually to a certain extent, they really shine in the broader context of Home. Green's vibe with this record is sort of reminiscent of Judd Apatow, who's praised regularly for his ability to blend the sleazy with the heartfelt in movies like Trainwreck and Knocked Up.
For every tongue-in-cheek pick-up line Green offers, he delivers many other warm, authentic ones. For those of us who have kids, or have lived through trying relationships in our adulthood, songs such as “No One Here But Us,” “Break It Back Down” and especially “While I Was Away,” the goosebump-inducing stand-out of the album, penned and originally recorded by McKinney’s Zane Williams, hit us where we cry, laugh, love and think.
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If we were to rank Green’s albums, Home would likely sit a few behind beloved classics George’s Bar or Carry On, and probably his major label debut, Three Days. There are a few songs here that feel a bit generic and cliché, which is the result of several strong-to-quite-strong songs sandwiching weaker ones, like the well-meaning but under-achieving Sheryl Crow duet “Right Now” and the vanilla, slice-of-life track “Life as Good as It Can Be.” Both would’ve fit all too well on Green’s last two major label records.
Overall, the record is firmly entrenched in a rocking, contemporary country sound that more closely resembles Green’s last few records than the acoustically driven dancehall tunes of his first batch of records. That's the way Green wants it, not because of commercial aspirations but because he has come to prefer his country music varied with modern leanings. In interviews leading up to the album’s release, Green admitted he simply prefers songs that rock more than they stroll. For anyone who's seen one of his rambunctious live shows, that should come as no surprise.
Is it a calculated move? Sure it is. So is the title of the record. But for fans who have grown with his music over the last decade and a half, it's a record to raise our glasses to. It's just good to have Pat Green back.