Here’s to early ’90s country and all of the black hats and poppy tunes that came out of Nashville then.
Alan Jackson is back on an American tour, while Garth Brooks is playing four stadium shows in Ireland in July (fueling hope that the megastar is ready for a long-awaited tour of the U.S.).
And then there’s Clint Black, who is also back on the road. Black was right there at the top of the charts with Brooks and Jackson when country exploded.
“I remember very well what it was like then,” Black says. “It was a very good period for me.”
Very good? Black, 52, who will perform Thursday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, was a monster. His debut album, “Killin’ Time,” was released in 1989 and yielded five No. 1 hits on the Billboard country charts.
Like “Killin’ Time,” later albums – 1990’s “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” 1992’s “The Hard Way,” 1993’s “No Time To Kill,” 1994’s “One Emotion” and 1997’s “Nothin’ But the Taillights” – went platinum.
“It was a much different time than today,” Black says. “My record company (RCA) wanted a new album every year. It was a grind.”
‘A songwriter first’
Unlike many of his peers, Black is an inveterate writer. He penned his hits himself or with gifted collaborator Hayden Nicholas, who is also his bandleader.
“I always thought of myself as a songwriter first,” Black says. “That’s not how Nashville works, especially when I was starting out. You’re a performer or a songwriter, and I was always both.”
Few could take umbrage with Black for all that writing, since he has penned some terrific songs that made him a huge part of the country renaissance. His talent and work ethic are undeniable. But after a solid decade of recording and touring, Black took a break. when his wife, actress Lisa Hartman, gave birth to their daughter Lily in 2001.
“The timing was right,” Black says. “I know some people never go away. Their career means more than anything, but not everyone thinks that way.”
Back to work
Black’s break from recording lasted until his 2004 album “Spend My Time” dropped. Then in 2005, Black released “Drinkin’ Songs and Other Logic,” which he described as a “barroom, honky-tonk kind of album.” In 2013, in a partnership with Cracker Barrel restaurants, Black released “When I Said I Do,” an impressive collection of love songs that included three new tracks.
Black never has to pen another song or release another album, thanks to his prolific output and huge success during the ’90s – but he isn’t likely to give up creating.
“I have a lot to choose from, but I still love to write,” Black says. “I could just sing all of the old songs, but it’s tough to do when you’re compelled to write.”