Photos - Uncle Kracker - Sept. 29, 2002, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Indianapolis, IN
Official Site
Review - Nov. 19, Seagate Arena, Toledo, OH
For Uncle Kracker’s second album, there was little hype and what seemed to be no real definitive plan to market it. Maybe they thought the success of his debut, or his recognition as the DJ for Kid Rock would help. But after listening to No Stranger to Shame, I just think there is no where to market the full album. Uncle Kracker’s country-to-rap influenced sophomore release is all over the radio dial. But it seems that almost every song could be a single on some sort of radio station.

With Kid Rock, and now with his second record, no one can dispute Uncle Kracker’s writing ability. He has a knack of writing hooks and riffs that strike a chord with a radio-friendly America, but at the same time, he can add just enough gin to the juice to give it an edge.

Now, on tour with The Counting Crows, Uncle Kracker was able to try his hand at winning a crowd over live, rather than through the stereos in houses, trailers and cars. It’s here that Uncle Kracker still has much improvement to make. But touring as a front man is not an easy gig, and when you spend 9 months a year behind the turntables with one of the greatest stage presence in rock, it’s got to be tough to switch gears. Uncle Kracker just looks straight out intimidated in stage, like he isn’t sure all these people singing along to his music are here to see him. Musically, he and the band sounded great, but whether its nerves or inexperience, once Uncle Kracker learns to play his music live, he will be headlining arenas on his own.

I remember the first time hearing Uncle Kracker was on Howard Stern when he and Kid Rock were promoting his first record, Double Wide. He had a single out entitled “Yea, Yea Yea” that never really went anywhere. Although the song had a catchy hook and beat, for whatever reason, at that time, it didn’t resonate with the audience. It was at least six months later that “Follow Me” hit the airwaves like a lightening bolt, and from then on, Uncle Kracker’s name was out there, and a lot of fans buying that single had no clue that he was a co-writer with Kid Rock. Maybe it was being left to his own devices that fans were able to flock to Uncle Kracker. When associated with Kid Rock, a certain sound and harshness was expected, but this was the Yin to the Yang. Listing songwriters like Edwin McCain and an influence and friend is what makes Uncle Kracker so special in songwriting. His voice is not that of an angel. Truth be told; it’s well, almost bad. But like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and other great songwriters, it’s the songs that are so good, and the vocals and music are secondary.

That is what makes Uncle Kracker be successful live even though his voice and motions are deficient. Anyone who hasn’t seen Uncle Kracker live may not even want to. His music is made to be listened to. A live show does not enhance his music, unlike Kid Rock, Aerosmith, and well, any other mega-live band. But for those that like good song writing and just want to experience it live, then that’s who ought to head to see Uncle Kracker.

He has great Southern charm story-telling capabilities. Listening to Uncle Kracker is like sitting on a porch in poor Mississippi, sitting on a rocker, sipping lemonade with shaved ice and hearing someone’s granpappy tell a story. It’s comfortable insightful, full of color and has no righteous undertones or grand message. Just something to tell on a hot day with a cold drink to pass the time.

In fact, it’s time to grab some lemonade now. “Thunderhead Hawkins” is playing on his web site. Got to watch time pass me by.

Interview - From 2001
EM: I read that most of this CD was written on the back of a tour bus. How do you feel about the final product and was the tight writing schedule a factor in the final recording?
UK:Well, we had a lot of time, but at the same time, it was like we didn’t have any time. But with the overall record, I am completely happy with the overall (record). I mean, during the recording process, I was like, ‘Maybe we should do this or maybe we should do this.’ But by the time is was done, it was like, ‘You know what, I’m happy with everything. I’m happy with the overall.”

EM: What’s it like being on the opposite side of the coin. Before, as Kid Rock’s DJ, you were somewhat in the background and now you are out doing the whole interview circuit, promoting your own record?
UK: It’s a little creepier. Before, sitting in the back, all the eyes were on Bob (Kid Rock). It was almost like you couldn’t do any wrong in the background. Now, being up front, it’s like everybody is staring at you instead. With the interviews or the shows, if somebody messes up, you look like the bad guy. So it’s a little creepy going from that to that.

EM: You are finishing up at the end of February (2001) with the Kid Rock tour, are you planning to hit the road on the Uncle Kracker tour?
UK: Oh yea! Come March (2001), we are hitting the road. In the middle of the Kid Rock set, we break it down into two Uncle Kracker songs, so I get to do some of my own thing at the same time.

EM: How has the feedback been on your CD? I am sure you have talked to some fans at the shows. What was their response?
UK: Well, some people were definitely disappointed. They were expecting a Kid Rock, Jr. record. And I guess we couldn’t just do it, we couldn’t just do it. But overall, the response has been pretty positive. Except for the few that are like, ‘Man, that fucking sucks, man. You don’t sound like Kid Rock at all.’ People were a little surprised that I didn’t come sounding like him. People were expecting me to be a replica. They were expecting me to be Kid Rock, Jr. but we couldn’t do it, We’d have got murdered. You know what I’m saying?

EM: It would have been easy for you to come out at sound like Kid Rock and ride the coattails. But it took some balls to do your own thing, don’t you think?
UK: I just thought if I was going to sell records and start selling records, I would have to disassociate myself. I couldn’t do it. There was no way I could do a Kid Rock, Jr. record. Not that I couldn’t do it. Because that stuff is easy for us to do. But I could do something different. This record is more me. This record is more laid back. It’s like a James Taylor meets early ETMD. It’s just more me. It’s more laid back. I don’t get uptight about anything, I don’t bounce off the ceilings or anything. I am a pretty laid back guy.

EM: From the front jacket picture to the end of the CD booklet, the photos have a total “laid back” atmosphere. Obviously, that was planned.
UK: Yep. The whole CD booklet is like that. You are not waiting for anything to happen. It’s, what do they call that, monotone.

EM: So, you got the video out now.
UK: Yea, we get a lot of VH-1 play. The new one, Follow Me, it doing pretty good on VH-1.

EM: The first single, “Yea Yea Yea,” came out but didn’t really take off like “Follow Me.”
UK: Yea, we did a video with Kid Rock and Jackie Chan since they used it for Shanghai Noon. And now they got it to where you rent the DVD or buy the CD and the Yea Yea Yea video is on there. They tied the video in with that movie, so we did kind of a Spaghetti Western theme with me and Jackie Chan and Old Wilson. It came out, but that single didn’t do much for me. It was pretty stagnant. I was shocked, I thought it was gonna do something.

EM: It’s gotta be tough. As soon as you come of tour with Kid Rock, you go back out on your own.
UK: Yea, it’s tough, but you can’t make any money sitting at home and you can’t sell a lot or records either. I am looking forward to it. Because the only thing you can do as a recording artist to promote yourself is to go on the road. That is the only thing you can do to help yourself.

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