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Gas prices skyrocketing through the roof, lawmakers sending text messages containing photos of their intimate body parts instead of working for their constituents, unemployment reaching ridiculous highs while corporations move their jobs overseas to boost their bottom lines so they can pay their CEOs millions...any day of the week you can open a newspaper or go online and read a headline about one of these or a dozen other disturbing issues.
And like most Americans, Andy Griggs has had enough. So he did the first thing that comes to mind for an artist who gets fired up at the disintegrating state of the country he loves - he took those thoughts and set them to music. With his new single, "Can I Get An Amen," Andy boldly addresses many of the things plenty of Americans are thinking and feeling, while reminding us of the qualities that have always made this country great. And for him, it's not just an excuse used to jump on a bandwagon - it's who he really is at the core of his soul and what he believes with all of his country heart.
"I'm sick of listening to the news, I'll be honest with you," admits Andy. "And that inspired the idea for this song. You remember that Anne Murray song, ‘Sure could use a little good news today'...that's all I hear in my mind, especially the last couple of years, and that song is not about Republican vs. Democrat. Half of my friends are Republicans and the other half are Democrats, but we all agree on some of the same things. We're sick of a lot of things and there's a system that wants us to shut up. That's not what our country was based on. So whether you agree with me or not, still it's your duty as an American to stand up and speak what you believe and that's what "Can I Get An Amen" is about."
The song and sentiment are perfectly timed for Andy as he embarks upon a bold new chapter in his country career. Following his record deal with the independent Montage Music Group, Andy decided to take some time off and really hone in on where his music needed to go next. He began listening, not only to his own inner artistic voice, but to those of the people closest to him as well. He also began writing and gathering new songs -- from both tried-and-true writers and fearless, brand new writers as well. In perhaps the boldest move of all, the award-winning artist of hits like "You Won't Ever Be Lonely," "She's More," and "If Heaven," decided to take the wheel at the production console for the first time ever, producing his new CD and in the process hoping to reveal a whole new side of himself to both fans and radio. For Andy, adding producer to his list of credits was a challenge that not only stirred his blood creatively, but fueled his music with a freshness and vitality he'd been longing to capture for some time now.
"I really did do this my way this time around." Andy explains. "I don't want to sound so cliché because you hear that so much. People say it no matter how they recorded their album. But that is the bottom line - for the first time I went in and produced the dang thing. That's a different seat to sit in. It wasn't that I was dying to jump in that saddle at all. I don't know if I would have had the freedom to solely produce something with RCA records or not, I don't think so. The thing is, there was always a clash... a kind of struggle between me and the producer back then, because the producer was instilled by the label to see this soft side of me. So it was always me trying to get a "Waylon sound" out of this bass guitar vs. them going for a "Journey sound" from the same guitar. There was always that kind of inner struggle there. So this is not something I always wanted to do - it's something I was forced to do. I feel like my soft side's been blown out of proportion a little bit...too many love songs and melodies put out, where labels have tried to make me the ballad guy. But there's more to me than that and I have another side, so I've kind of tried to represent both on this new album."
Not that this Louisiana good ole boy strays too far from the songs and sounds that fans have come to know and love from him. In fact, he pays homage to many of his heroes on record this time around, with nods to Waylon, Hank Sr., and Alabama. A longtime Waylon friend (he & Waylon did a duet "Shine on Me" on Andy's first album "You Won't Ever Be Lonely") and scholar, he tips his hat to the outlaw on "Don't Think Hank Done It This Way," a classic he has performed in concert for and is his all-time Waylon favorite. Andy also brings in some familiar friends to help on the quiet, introspective Alabama classic, "Lady Down On Love," a song he has also loved and performed live for years. "I think most all of us are Alabama fans - I've always looked at "Lady Down On Love" as one of the most timeless ballads...I think if I sang it right now, ¾ of these women right here would start crying. That's the kind of song that they wrote and performed, and the hard part was trying not to cut it like they did, ‘cause there's no way to beat the original. So I thought, ‘How can I do it my own way? How can I do it where it's not blasphemy?' So I decided to get Jeff Bates and Daryle Singletary to come in and do the harmony on it.
"I recorded it simple, just like Randy and those guys did - it's not a big track, not huge production, it just is what it is, and I let the vocals do the work. Sometimes when you're dealing with singers, less is better when it comes to production -- just let the person sing. And that's kind of the way Alabama treated Randy and that's why I brought in Daryle and Jeff. That was me saluting Daryle as one of the best tenor singers and harmony guys that I know and Jeff Bates, my goodness, as a baritone and bass singer, who has a more gravelly, rich tone... that Mississippi mud tone, than Jeff Bates? And I think it turned out great!" says Griggs.
From the opening strains of the call-to-arms rally cry, "Can I Get An Amen," with its hard-driving beat and timely, unflinching, in-your-face lyrics, to the soul-bearing honesty of "Without The Heart" or "Trouble With A Memory," the album will lift you up out of your seat with joy one minute, then flatten you with somber grief the very next, as exemplified on the final cut on the record, the chilling Hank Sr. tune, "Ramblin' Man." The haunting song is also a favorite of Andy's and one he plays often in concert, and he felt it was a fitting end to a project done completely his way, start to finish, in homage to a man who lived his brief life in much the same way.
"That Hank Williams song, he cut it as a waltz...that's one of my most favorite songs of all time. The irony of Hank singing that and dying so young and that last line...he was actually giving a prophetic utterance of his own life. A few years down the road he's buried in Montgomery, and guess what it says on his tombstone...you're a rambling man! You know, the blues has so many lonesome, dying heart, bleeding heart artists - but in country you don't as much...nothing makes you bleed. And to me, Hank Sr. was that in country music. Johnny Cash was cool, but he never made my heart bleed exactly...Waylon was cool, but he didn't make my heart bleed. Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt...cool music, but as far as my heart just aching, and me for some reason I don't know why, but my spirit inside of me almost wants that...my eyes get watery and I want to fight back a tear sometimes when I hear his songs. That's what his music evokes, and has always done for me, and what defines Hank the most in my eyes is "Ramblin' Man." So if you take his whole circle of music that one little dot in the middle would be "Ramblin' Man."
With his new CD BIPOLAR, Andy shows both sides of himself and has in some ways come full circle with his own music as well. It's been a long road from those early days as a fresh-faced newcomer to the path he's treading now through exciting, new uncharted territory, but he's eager and ready to launch this new chapter in his career, and these songs are just the songs to do it with. Like a sweat-soaked Holy Roller preacher in the last hour of a barn-burner Sunday morning service, he's fired up and feeling the spirit more than ever before in his career. Can I get an Amen?
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