If I Could Go Back (M.O.D. Record Label)

Missouri's Billy Yates is best known as a songwriter, having penned tunes for George Jones, Kenny Chesney and Sara Evans. But with his second album, Billy makes clear that his smart, traditional-minded material sounds just as great coming straight from the source.

On If I Could Go Back, Billy takes time-tested country themes and makes them fresh again. For example, there are countless country songs about tragic, early deaths -- but in "A Better Place," Billy sings from the point of view of a dead man still bitter at the reluctant target of his affections: She's standing there crying, like she's dying to hold me/Too bad, she waited too late. On the other hand, perhaps the most irresistible cut here is "Daddy Had A Cardiac And Mama's Got A Cadillac," an uproarious reminder that not every death is so tragic for everyone.

I won't apologize for what I am, Billy sings on the album's kickoff cut, the aptly titled "Too Country And Proud Of It." Anyone who hears his new album will agree that there's no need.

(If I Could Go Back is currently available only at billyyates.com -- autographed by Billy himself.)

-- Chris Neal

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