HMG Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/04/2000
Dallas Wayne is the stereotypical country artist - namely, a big man with a big voice. On first glance, he appears to be the kind of man whom you wouldn't want to cross in a bar fight, yet you have to wonder if there isn't a soft, "teddy bear" side to the man.
I worried about what I would think of Wayne's debut CD, Big Thinkin', and whether he would show up on my doorstep one morning to do a Texas two-step on my spine if I didn't have nice things to say about the disc.
Luckily for me, Wayne's new disc is so solid that I have nothing to fear. Big Thinkin' is such an impressive album that some people might be surprised to discover that this is indeed Wayne's debut disc.
Of course, Wayne has the scars of years of life on the road that have helped to shape the sound on Big Thinkin' - and there's nothing that will help shape your sound than sharpening it on stage. Take that experience, the assistance of producer and co-songwriter Robbie Fulks, 12 incredible songs and a wonderful mixture of deep thinking and a sense of humor, and you have Wayne in a nutshell.
Wayne's down-to-earth lyrics and portrayals of life as it really is helps to make the songs on Big Thinkin' stand out all the more as being something special in an already crowded field. Yes, there are still the songs which sing about pain and heartbreak, such as "Rock Bottom, Pop. 1" and "Old 45's", but there is a freshness about Wayne's approach to the material that doesn't make it seem like he's re-treading on tired, old ground.
And yet, there is a tongue-in-cheek approach that Wayne takes to his music as well. "If That's Country" dares to take a stab at the more popular form of country music that has found popularity among the masses... and even refers to Garth Brooks (or, more correctly, his alter ego). Likewise, you have to smile when you hear a song like "We Never Killed Each Other (But Didn't We Try?)". (Memo to Pete Levin: Here's another one to add to your list of humorous country song titles.)
Wayne proves himself to be a storyteller who is at the top of his game when you hear songs like "Coldwater, Tennessee," "The Only Way To Die" and "Raelene Wheeler". Wayne is doing everything on this disc so well, that you truly believe the guy could put a restaurant menu to music and make it sound great.
In one sense, I marvel at what Wayne has accomplished with just one CD, and it makes me wonder what further surprises he has in store for his soon-to-be-large legion of fans. One also has to wonder if he will be able to live up to the expectations that people will have once they fall in love with this material. But I guess we'll worry about that when Wayne does release album number two.
Big Thinkin' is more than an album title; it's a statement that boldly claims there's a new force to be dealt with in country music. And that force has a name: Dallas Wayne. This is easily one of the best discs I've listened to all year.