June 16 1998
If "It Must Be Love" isn't a No. 1 smash for Ty Herndon, then something's wrong. The infectious track from his third album has all the necessary elements for hitdom, from the convincing Herndon vocals and direct lyrics about the emotional rush of finding a new love, to the crisp production and memorable melody. It's a surefire success - and it isn't even the first single.
That honor goes to the pure country story-song of "A Man Holdin' On (To A Woman Lettin' Go)," a moving tale of men giving up women in their lives.
Ty is blessed with a clear, strong voice that he uses to good effect on upbeat contemporary country such as the ringing a "Big Time Dreamer" and "Somewhere A Lover." He's also effective on the wistful optimism of the title track and smooth emotion of "The Only Way I Know" and gentle social commentary of "Tears In God's Eyes."
His first two albums have gone gold, and this set has the potential to exceed those sales honors. Good songs and good singing are the secret to his earlier success, and Ty continues in that tradition here.
May 10, 1998
In praise of great product -- Ty Herndon's third release
In the music business, commercially released collections of songs are not referred to as albums. Neither are they known as CDs, cassettes or (where in the world have you been?) records or LPs. They are called product. That's right. Product. Often with all the comfortable predictability-- and just as much excitement -- as canned soup.
But Ty Herndon, one of country's most bankable newer artists, and his latest release, "Big Hopes," show the Nashville hit machine at its most finely tuned.
So I come today not as an eloquently waxing wise guy, intent on trashing the rich and famous, but rather to stand in praise of great product. "Big Hopes," Herndon's third release, takes him from the green room straight to prime-time, center-stage, and will surely end this year as one of country's best offerings.
Herndon has the perfect voice for the new millennium: country, but rich rather than twangy, with just enough edginess to let you know rock was also part of his raising.
In production and performance, Herndon strikes a perfect balance between traditional and "new" country. Fans of early Eagles and Jackson Browne -- if they can deal with steel guitars and a southern accent -- should find plenty here to bond with. And longtime country listeners will find an affinity with Herndon's reverence for the roots of the genre.
Herndon and his producers have assembled 11 uniformly strong songs filled with insight, emotion and enough hooks to land a school of sea bass. In their sensitive hands, radio-ready, go-for-the-gold catchiness becomes, if not a virtue, at least a guilty pleasure. And lyrics that count substance an asset equal to craftsmanship elevate everything far above the ear candy usually associated with easy accessibility.
The album's first single, "A Man Holdin' On (To a Woman Lettin' Go)," is an achingly poignant ballad that's already making a rapid ascent up the charts. And the title song -- another of what should be a cascade of big hits -- turns I-who-have-nothing clichés on their ear with a sincerity that melts cynicism on contact.
"Hands of a Working Man" is an authentic, blue-collar anthem, worthy of Merle Haggard and any of country's bygone champions of the old-fashioned American work ethic. With elegant simplicity, "The Only Way I Know" in another era would have been well-suited to Roy Orbison or the Everly Brothers.
Herndon is a good looking guy, clearly imaged to set female hearts a-flutter. I have no problem with that at all. All I've ever asked is for great songs to go with the styling. And they're here, back-to-back.
Ty Herndon is the whole package, and just one of a growing number of artists proving that the imprimatur of commercialism does not have to lead to stale music. If this continues, it could become hard for a country critic to find so much to complain about.
And that would suit me just fine.
"...Herndon is a singer with enormous talent, and when he lands the right song, he can add miles to its emotional impact...Finally here's an album that showcases Herndon's talents with consistent material, and he delivers with a firm conviction. Quite possibly, he has turned an artistic corner."
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