Saturday, November 13, 2010

Everything He’s Cracked Up To Be

Uncle Kracker
Happy Hour

All superheroes have a sidekick: he’s there to perform essential tasks that fall beneath the dignity of the big guy; serve as the but of jokes; and his diminutive stature and/or lack of English and/or maturity make his big buddy look better. He usually gets stiffed with a more comical version of the superhero’s costume, and never gets the girl.

Uncle Kracker has long been Kid Rock’s sidekick, and to be sure, his career has been allowed to flourish slowly under his more flamboyant papa’s large wing. His first album, Doublewide, sounded more like a Kid Rock record he was given so much primo mic time. The one song that doesn’t have his master’s voice all over it is “Follow Me,” the hit that lit up the radio and brought Uncle Kracker to our attention. (Dig the cameos!) It is a mellow, happy-sounding plea to a girl to jump ship and take up housekeeping with the singer; it’s so upbeat though that you have to listen hard to hear that the lyrics are a bit strong.

Uncle Kracker’s new album, Happy Hour, is full of songs like that: you get the impression that this is one easygoing dude who flicks life’s annoyances (“My Girlfriend” turns out to be a lesbian / girlfriend pisses off to Hollywood (“I Hate California”) / girlfriend is a “Hot Mess” etc.) off his shoulder like so much dust. He’s riding along in his Cutlass Supreme singing “It’s Good To Be Me” with a “Smile.” He’s like the anti-Eminem, a Detroit boy who sees the sunny side of life.

He was marketed as a white rapper back in the day (when Kid Rock was rocking it Big Pimp style) but that is clearly not where his musical heart is. Nowadays he can be found on Country radio, though why this record qualifies as a country album God only knows. It’s a pop record, let’s be clear. Uncle Kracker makes lovely pop songs: there’s nothing on here that will hurt your ears.

He’s outgrown the whole sidekick gig. This can be seen in the video for “It’s Good To Be Me” where he and Kid Rock go for a ride and Mr. Rock takes shotgun: the message is clear: Uncle Kracker is in the driver’s seat. Indeed, he’s branched out lately with a popular duet with Kenny Chesney ("When The Sun Goes Down"), and he pulled up on Jason Aldean’s tour, which will have given him a great deal of play with the country crowd.

An interesting highlight of this album is the Bob Seger cover of “Mainstreet,” which sounds for all the world like the original. It’s as if Kracker got up at karaoke and completely demolished the competition. This has become a bit of a tradition; check out his version of “Drift Away” too (Dobie Gray!).

Personally, I’m glad he’s back; he ain’t the best singer out there; he ain’t the most good-looking; he ain’t the most charismatic. But he’s good at being himself, which makes any hour listening to this record a happy one. 

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