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Billy Yates - Favorites
By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Taking the lyrics from one of his songs, Billy Yates is country, too country and, what’s more, he’s proud of it. Raised in southern Missouri, in a little town of 1500 called Doniphan, he has been plugging away in Nashville since his arrival in ’87. He’s flirted with big label possibilities as Curb, Columbia and Almo Sounds all expressed early interest, only to let the fire go cold. But Yates didn’t buckle. He overcame disappointment and did what special, ambitious people with a tune inside them do. He started his own label.

As a defiant finger salute to record execs who now probably curse lost opportunity, the former small-town barber ("Daddy was a barber and had always encouraged my brother and I to learn a trade") started M.O.D. Records. The defiance rings on – My Own Damn record label is Yates’ joke at the mainstream. But rather than mope and see the venture as second best, the label is a cause for independent celebration. Without the shackles of a major label, the Grammy-nominated singer and writer has crafted, and, more importantly, won a fair slice of notable European interest (he’s toured there to wide popularity). He’s also had a host of American "names" including George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Sara Evans, Doug Stone and others cut his tunes.

On this "best of" album, it’s fitting one of the cuts on Favorites, "Anywhere But Nashville", tells of a determined talent who chases fame in New York and L.A, only to find that Nashville still rewards those who can deliver. And Yates delivers. Just Ask George Jones.

Life and royalties are good when the Possum records your music. And Yates would know. Jones has recorded four tunes, with the ’92 hit "I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair" and the Grammy nominated "Choices" as memory-makers.

Rockin’ Chair, a 1993 CMA Vocal Event Of The Year, with its caustic stab against age and opportunity shot Jones back into the mid-nineties spotlight:

" I don't need your rockin' chair
Your Geritol or your Medicare
Well I still got Neon in my veins
This grey hair don't mean a thing
I do my rockin' on the stage
You can't put this possum in a cage
My body's old but it ain't impaired
Well I don't need your rockin' chair

You couldn’t pick a much better tune for veteran Jones, except "Choices". The tale of deep introspection and sobering reflection was tailor-made:

"I was tempted
By an early age I found
I liked drinkin'
Oh, and I never turned it down
There were loved ones
But I turned them all away
Now I'm living and dying
With the choices I made"

Now years on, Yates has teamed with Jones and together they bring a reworked and charged "Choices" to Favorites. Emotive, probing and honest – the tune, as it was in its heyday, is a knockout.

But then so is this album.

The collaborative Yates (every one of the 21 tunes on this, his fifth album, is co-written AND just see who he shares ink with) knows instinctively how to work a song. His voice is smooth; his band tight; his lyrics sharp. The album, and believe me when I tell you, comes riddled and value packed with should-be hits and potentials.

Radio has been kind to many of the tracks here – current international release, "Better Every Beer" is included, so too the thigh-slappin’, "Too Country And Proud Of It", and the European chart-climbin’ "Roxanne’s Bayou" all offer repeat play value. "Harmony Man" has done well on European charts, while "The Circus Is Over" is a respectful nod to hero Buck Owens. The humorous "Daddy Had A Cardiac And Mama’s Got A Cadillac" plays with marital honesty for some, and "Alcohol Abuse", a current outing for Pete Schlegal, is Saturday night in a song.

But in the best of traditions, the killer cut, at least to my shell-like ears, is the final track, "Flowers". To be honest, I’d never heard the track before, though it was a minor hit on its release in the late nineties.

The song is crafted, telling and inspirational –you can’t ask much more. From his perch on top of a barstool, a drunk husband decides to drive – the results paint troubled misery in the lyrics.

"I still see you on your knees
Begging me not to drive
But I took away the keys
And made you climb inside
And I would take your place in this field of stones
If I only had to power
Look what it took
For me to finally bring you flowers"

"Look what it took for me to finally bring you flowers" is a chilling metaphor, one that demands a sensitive overhaul of our purposes and actions in our wider lives.

Billy Yates, if the breaks come and they deservedly should, comes primed and ready for his go-round in the neon glow. I, for one, hope he gets it. This album goes a long way to showcase an artist whose time is close.

George Jones offers confirmation at Yates’ web site: 
"When I asked the question, 'Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes', it was before I knew about Billy Yates. When it comes to great country singers and great country songwriters they don't get any better than Billy. I guess you could say the ol' possum is a Billy Yates fan!"

Click on the CD cover to order yours!
1. Better Every Beer 3:13 (Billy Yates/Byron Hill)
2. Choices (a duet with George Jones) 3:54 (Billy Yates/Mike Curtis)
Too Country and Proud Of It 2:35 (Billy Yates/Austin Cunningham)
In The Light Of Day 3:02 (Billy Yates/Melba Montgomery)
5. A Better Place 3:50 (Billy Yates/Trent Tomlinson)
Daddy Had A Cardiac and Mama's Got A Cadillac 3:26 (Billy
    Yates/Craig Wiseman/Rex Wiseman)
Down At The Station 3:44 (Billy Yates/Paul Overstreet)
Me, Marie 2:26 (Billy Yates/Roger Brown)
Daddy's Radio 2:53 (Billy Yates/Chris DuBois)
Smokin' Grass 3:04 (Billy Yates/Shannon Lawson)
Dreaming Out Loud 3:24 (Billy Yates/Michael Woody)
My Infinite Love 3:55 (Billy Yates/Byron Hill/Annette Grossberg)
Anywhere But Nashville 3:42 (Billy Yates/Jeff Stevens)
Roxanne's Bayou 3:04 (Billy Yates/Donnie Lowery)
This Song Doesn't Rock 2:47 (Billy Yates/Dean Miller)
All By My Lonesome 3:27 (Billy Yates/Terry Clayton)
The Circus Is Over 2:56 (Billy Yates/Kris Bergsnes)
Alcohol Abuse 3:15 (Billy Yates/Kim Williams)
The Perfect Woman 3:01 (Billy Yates/Billy Lawson)
Harmony Man 3:41 (Billy Yates/Jeff Stevens)
Flowers 3:06 (Billy Yates/Monty Criswell)

Related Links:
Official Website  

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