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Mad dog mean, proclaims the sign on the Nashville recording studio's door. Just before entering, Tracy Byrd grins and his longtime bud Mark Chesnutt chuckles. They're here to record their first-ever duet, "A Good Way To Get On My Bad Side," and they know exactly what the sign means.
Inside the studio, they're greeted by 50 more signs. Everywhere they look - mad dog mean. On the studio walls - mad dog mean. On the glass control booth - mad dog mean. They notice that if they want to make a call, there's a sign by the phone. And they're not surprised when they glance into the bathroom. mad dog mean awaits them even when nature calls!
"We had dinner last night with our producer, Billy Joe Walker Jr., and he said he wanted us to be Mad Dog Mean when we got in the studio to sing this duet," confides Tracy. "So the signs are about the gritty attitude he wants, and they're also a signal that we're about to have a lot of fun cranking out some real country music."
As the studio musicians set up, Tracy and Mark take their places in the vocal booth. "When we started looking for a song for us to sing," continues Tracy, "we wanted something rowdy that said what we would say and felt like we feel about a lot of things. We wanted to do a man's song."
And, boy did they!
"A Good Way To Get On My Bad Side," the debut single from Tracy's as-yet-untitled new album, is nothing less than a harmonious salute to country testosterone. And it lets Tracy and Mark take swings at some things that rub them the wrong way, musically and otherwise.
"With this tune, Aaron Tippin's 'Kiss This,' songs by Montgomery Gentry and a few others, country music is gonna be fun again," acknowledges Mark. "That's really got me fired up."
The studio musicians run through the duet a couple of times. Then Tracy and Mark get Mad Dog Mean and let 'er rip.
They feed off each other's energy. In two takes, they're finished.
"We always knew we sounded good together onstage," explains Tracy, "but in the studio this song came off so easy, so natural."
Tracy and Mark waited 15 years to record together. For their first time in the studio, they were able to capture the live, loose feeling of the many nights, formally and informally, when they shared stages and microphones throughout the years.
And they reaffirmed their personal tastes. Case in point: Tracy's favorite lines of the song:
I like Van Halen and I like George Jones
Charlie Daniels and the Rolling Stones
And Bocephus when he rocks and rolls
Still kills me
Mark says some of his lines address the kind of music he doesn't like:
Ought to be a law against cowboy rap
And all that boy-band crap
A little sissy in a cowboy hat ain't country
"Some people might get mad at that," he admits, "but I think a lot of people would really like to see some of the edge come back to country music."
Mark's got that edge in mind as he considers signing with a new record company, having parted with MCA Records several months ago. But he's in no hurry.
"I've talked with a few labels in town," he admits, "but I'm not going to jump onto any label right now."
It is no surprise the duet with his Texas pal holds a special place in Tracy's heart. But he is also plenty excited about the other songs on his new album, set for a June release.
" '10 Rounds With Jose Cuervo' could well be the second single," reveals Tracy,
citing the song's great audience response. The good-time song takes a lighthearted look at how one, two or many rounds of Jose Cuervo tequila can change a person's outlook.
And he says "Somebody's Dream" has strong potential as a single. "It's one of the best-written songs I've ever heard. It's a killer story song that has this great up-tempo groove to it."
Tracy and Mark will definitely be uptempo this year as they perform concerts together to promote their duet.
"We've been performing together, one way or another, for 15 years," recalls Tracy. "I started going out to see Mark perform and sitting in with him for a couple of songs. And I'd end up doing about two sets. It basically gave him a night off." Tracy laughs, then tacks on: "Mark would go drink beer and chase women - and I'd do his job for him."
Mark emphasizes everything he did while Tracy was performing for him went down during his "young, single and havin'-a-good-time days."
The two Texans are definitely having a good time now. And they would love for their new single to lead to a duet album.
"I don't at all mean to put Mark and me in the same category with Waylon and Willie," declares Tracy, "but I think this could turn into us doing a lot of duets like they did. That would be the best."