If Chris Cagle were nothing more than a man who lives life at full-speed, taking corners on two wheels, he would still be one of country music's more interesting characters. There aren't many in the industry who can put passion and energy on stage or on record the way he can. But a man doesn't go gold with his first two albums and produce seven hits--including four Top Tens--on nothing more than bravado. Chris's secret weapon lies in his ability to rope the whirlwind, to capture its motion and emotion with his pen and his voice. It is, as Wordsworth said, where emotion is recalled in tranquility that poetry is created, and it is there that Chris's untamed spirit becomes art.
The two sides of Cagle's compelling psyche come together beautifully on his third album, Anywhere But Here, a collection that crystallizes the promise of the first two and takes him another big step forward. Its first single, "Miss Me Baby," is four minutes of raw drama sung with a nuanced intensity that announces Chris's growing maturity as a vocalist. It also represents the eighth time he has hit the Top 40 with a song he has written or co-written.
The album captures a renewed Chris, back from vocal rest and a period of intense introspection, reflecting on the complex emotions to be found in living a modern life in the spotlight. He knew early in the recording process that he and co-producer Rob Wright had found something special.
"I had gone back to the studio where I did my first album," he says. "Same musicians, same engineer, everything. We were doing 'Miss Me Baby' and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, we really do have something.' It was like the first time I heard 'Laredo' after we mixed it and I thought, 'I've got a shot.'"
Chris is convinced that his long period of enforced vocal rest--something his restless spirit found nearly intolerable at the time--have left him in a better place vocally.
"The one thing that has changed with this record over the last two," he says, "is the dynamic of the vocal. I'm not just singing hard at everything. I've been learning, listening to people like Conway Twitty, and there were times recording things when I'd think, 'Yeah, that's natural. That's what you want.'"
That new sense of control comes through in songs like "Maria," a sultry and powerful look at passionate love, "I Was Made For You" and "You Still Do That To Me," songs that celebrate lasting love, and "Anywhere But Here," where every note catalogs the lyric's pain.
On the rowdier side, there is "Hey Y'all," a flat-out rocker about the joys of outdoor partying, "Might Wanna Think About It," which finds the tough-minded Texan staking out his territory in the modern-day battles over rights and obligations, and "Wanted Dead Or Alive," a fresh reading of the '80s-era Bon Jovi classic. There is also "Wal-Mart Parking Lot," a quintessential small-town tale of coming of age at this generation's equivalent of the town square. The song helps anchor an album's worth of real life sung by one of the country artists most able to turn reality into memorable music.
"I've got a lot of high hopes for this record," he says. "I tried to make music that was better without necessarily making it different because I love the music that I've made in the past."