3: The Chase (Garth Brooks)

Album: The Chase
Artist: Garth Brooks
Year: 1992

1. We Shall Be Free
2. Somewhere Other Than the Night
3. Mr. Right
4. Every Now and Then
5. Walkin’ After Midnight
6. Dixie Chicken
7. Learning to Live Again
8. That Summer
9. Night Rider’s Lament
10. Face to Face

In the middle of an amazing run where he had multiple albums on the charts and never stopped touring, Garth Brooks released what is still his best album.  A fairly dark album as far as country music goes, The Chase includes some pretty heavy themes with the exception of Mr. Right, which is a short jingle about Garth professing his undying love for a woman, but is totally okay with just sex if she’s down with that.

We Shall Be Free is an anthem for civil rights, and something rarely heard on country radio. It even implied equal rights for homosexuals. Of course, we’d learn on his next album that his version of equal rights doesn’t extend to poor people, but it’s still a pretty good anthem. Somewhere Other Than the Night is a classic Brooks ballad about specific characters rather than ciphers that anyone can identify with. Every Now and Then is another song about Brooks pining for an old flame despite being married (see: Unanswered Prayers), but this one avoids being preachy and has a very pretty melody.

The next two songs are covers. Garth’s version of Walkin’ After Midnight doesn’t hold a candle to Patsy Cline’s, but it’s nice and inoffensive.  Dixie Chicken is a cover of a 1973 Little Feat song about a guy who meets the woman of his dreams and lavishes her only to find out (in deliciously subtle fashion) that he’s about the hundredth guy who’s fallen for her.

Learning to Live Again is my favorite country song hands down. A touching, painful song about a guy with severe depression trying to force himself to socialize again by going on a double date. It doesn’t tie everything up in a pretty bow and echoes the experiences of many in a similar emotional state.

That Summer is the most popular song from the album, reminiscent of Maggie Mae, but incredibly ham-fisted. It tries to be subtle with all the sexual innuendo but I’d much rather hear a real story about these two people without all the dress-up.

Night Rider’s Lament is a tribute to the cowboy lifestyle where Garth takes his shot at yodeling and does a fine job.  Face to Face wraps things up with the album’s darkest song about bullying, rape, and hate. It’s a cold song, and I’m glad Garth did it, but it feels a bit out of place as the final song on an album.

As Garth’s home life went to hell his songwriting sputtered as well, though it may have been coincidence. Nevertheless, his later albums are mixed with a few brilliant songs and a lot of unimaginative trash. His final album, Scarecrow, released in 2001, was a slight improvement and I’m looking forward to if and when he ever records again. He committed to not recording and touring until he raised his daughters, and his last one is finishing up high school, so maybe soon. Though, I wonder if the second best selling artist of all time has anything left in the tank.

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