Review: Mark McKinney "Middle America"

Mark McKinney's debut album "Get It On" was one of the best Texas country albums of the last few years. And let's be honest, most sophomore albums just don't quite cut it. But fans of the Big Spring, Texas native can rest easy, because "Middle America" is McKinney's best album yet. In fact, this new Red Dirt classic is going to be devoured like steak at the Sizzler by hardworking men and women not just in middle America, but up and down each coast and east and west of the Mississippi.

On the album cover, Mark McKinney looks every bit the Texas country star he's become, and "Middle America" shows his significant maturity as an artist. "Get It On" had four well-received country chart singles and "Middle America" could have more.

The album begins with the ferocious"On The Run," which is a classic southern rock anthem that could find a home on mainstream radio stations that spin Kid Rock records. "On The Run" is really the story of Mark McKinney's life over the last few years as a "twenty-first century cowboy on the run" who often wishes he was back home.

The current single "Middle America" is a rockin' Texas country track that discusses the hard economic times facing blue collar men and women. "Trouble" is the hardest rockin' cut on the album, and the instrumentation from the band deserves special mention. "When You Get A Chance" offers hope for people having tough times and encourages people to make the most of a good opportunity.

The biggest surprises of the album are Mark McKinney's masterful country ballads. "Long Night Coming On" has a passionate intensity that is heightened by McKinney's authentic country voice that builds to a rousing crescendo at the end of the track. The production is flawless, and Mark McKinney has never sounded better. "Long Night Coming On" could be a mainstream Top 10 country hit. "Sleeping Alone Tonight" should also find chart success and offers a memorable chorus and superb lyrics.

"County Line" featuring Kevin Fowler is a whole lot of fun, because Fowler and McKinney have a good musical chemistry and sound like old friends having a good time. "Wasting Time" is a breezy song that should be released as a single next spring, and it could be a radio favorite during the summer of 2010.

The best song on "Middle America" is "As Good As It Gets." Mark McKinney fires on all cylinders in this mid-tempo Texas country gem with a terrific melody. Fans will also enjoy "Safe Place To Be Me," and "Highly Recommended" will be a popular, upbeat concert tune.

The eleven songs on "Middle America" represent a significant achievement for Mark McKinney, because he and his country music friends have crafted an album that will stand the test of time. If you want a good gift for the country boys and girls in your life, grab a few copies of Mark McKinney's new album. It can be your own country music stimulus package that's destined to lift the spirits of the fine folks in middle America and beyond.