One of Music Row's more traditional singers Joe Nichols never-the-less isn't going to rock radio's boat here. Production by Buddy Cannon and Mark Wright (five tracks each) keeps the instrumentation country with steel, banjo, fiddle and accordion all in the mix along side the upfront rhythm section and the massed guitars. The songs come from some of the current crop of approved writers with names like Mark Nesler, Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman, David Lee Murphy, Jim Bevers and Kelly Lovelace - amongst the others - in the writer credits. Songs like Somebody's Mama is a reflection an old flame. It's All Good is another songs that talks of the seemingly de rigueur song check list that these days includes "that old truck" a cold beer, a good woman and a much written about lifestyle. This Ole Boy is a similar 'life is good', laid-back tale of uplifting utopia. No Truck, No Boat, No Girl is the other side of the coin but delivered with equal evocation for better times. The rest of the songs follow a similar direction which may be the message radio wants to spread in troubled times but seems to lack some depth and balance overall. Aside from that Nichols sings these songs with some conviction and possesses a pleasing and purposeful voice and the music has enough of the elements of contemporary country infused in the production that it will please Nichols fans and those who have been reared on what represents mainstream country to a wider audience than you might find on some more traditionally minded independent releases that exist on the fringes. For all that many will enjoy this album that's all good for those that do.
Living up to it's title this is a 10 track primer with tracks taken from five albums and featuring several producers. Nichols has a strong country voice but his material here reflects the more radio friendly aspect of his songs. There is little here for a good vocalist to get his teeth into. The Shape I'm In is about a man holding it together but he lyrics never really progress from the I'm doing alright aspect. Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off has a good vocal from Nichols and is a catchy enough song with some obvious country sound over the aggressive drum and guitar sound but it's a shallow enough ditty. Brokenheartsville follows a similar pattern. Size Matters again plays on the pun, the heart in this case is a man's heart. There are other songs that are undoubtably fun and the fact that they're means they're the ones that got through the radio filter and out into the mainstream. What's A Guy Gotta Do and Cool To Be A Fool are fun songs that show why Nichols has been around long enough to make these albums. The best song written by Harley Allen and Bill Anderson also allows Nichols his best vocal. It's more understated that the other songs and works on a different level. If you are a hardcore fan then it's likely you'll have all the song here but for the casual listener it's a pretty good round up of what Joe Nichols is about and where the mainstream is at over the last few years. It is more country than some and has a vocalist who is obviously someone who has been reared on the classic country mainstream of the likes of Randy Travis.
There may be some things about Joe Nichols that may remind long term country fans of Randy Travis, this is best evidenced by the title track here, a song written by three men who have been around the block a time or two and understand the reality of a country song. That trio is Bill Anderson, Paul Overstreet and Buddy Cannon. Anderson and Cannon contribute another good song, this time written with neo-traditionalist Jamey Johnson. Cheaper Than A Shrink may have been written with the tongues firmly in cheeks. But given that Nichols had substance abuse problems himself may be somewhat an ironic choice but it works. With A Team players and a Music Row production it is country music with mainstream radio play firmly in mind which means there's a lot of polish and perfection at play here. Nichols has a strong voice and with the right songs delivers a credible performance that finds him on of the more traditional artists currently on a major label and Old Things New is a showcase for where that side of the mainstream is right now.