Back when I was beginning to explore other artists in country music I stumbled upon “All In Good Time” by Marcus Hummon. The simple singer-songwriter artwork on the cover got me to give him a shot. In time I found out that Marcus had written the only Alabama song that has ever gotten me. That song was “The Cheap Seats” and it’s still one of the best baseball songs ever written. Marcus also wrote songs and hits for other artists around the 1995 release of this record (I distinctly remember it being one of that year’s first releases). Although I never heard it, it became the first in a string of CDs where I purchased based on nothing but blind faith and the hope that I liked at least one track. Well, From the folksy opener “Hittin’ The Road” to the redemptive closing track I was stunned. It simply was the best country record I had ever purchased. It remained my favorite CD that year and it is, to this day, in the rotation of my full-album listens on my 80gb iPod.
The previously mentioned “Hittin’ The Road” has the rootsy 70s country-rock feel of current artists like Little Big Town. In the lyrics Marus paints a picture of tough times for a family but as I came to learn in listening to many Marcus Hummon songs over the years, there’s a hopeful chorus about the power of being able to start over. Honestly, the steady production from Monroe Jones (currently having success with christian/pop/folk artists) really was ahead of the curve. The whole song works on a level that current stars should be mining the song to make it a hit. I certainly could see artists like Emerson Drive, Rascal Flatts, or Josh Gracin recording the song. “God’s Country, USA” really paints a loving portrait of the ‘barely-on-the-map’ towns that are scattered throughout the country.
Tim McGraw wasn’t the first to mine this record for a single (that distinction belongs to Doug Stone, more on that later), but he was the first to score a huge hit. When I say huge I mean a multi-week chart topper. I loved what Tim did with “One of These Days” (the fact that he just sang the song and left it as it was) but I am still partial to Marcus’ original version. I just love the way the melody rolls out and how Marcus just sings the song over graceful piano and oboe and viola notes, not an electronic string section that McGraw featured. “Honky Tonk Mona Lisa” is the song that Doug Stone recorded and actually released as a single. While he sang it in a less silky vocal style than of his big ballad hits, it failed to do much. Thus Marcus too tried to release it as a single but again, the song failed to hit. While it’s a cute song about line dancing, it’s just a hooky, pop filled track that has always been my least favored track on the disc.
Not even many ‘in the know’ in Nashville remember that popular songwriter Jim Collins not only came to Nashville to be a singer but was signed to Arista Nashvile (as was Brett James twice) and even released a single to radio. that single was “The Next Step.” As with many of Marcus’ songs from this time, “Next Step” tells a complete story in a 3 minute song. There’s lots of mandolin, hammond b-3 organ and a steel guitar served as the lead ‘guitar’ in a ‘slide’ kind of way. It’s a little philosopical track that still has a vibrant message/melody that makes me think that it too could be recorded by another artist. “I Do” has a sultry and soft 70′s singer-songwriter vibe to it that also could lend itself well to a Rascal Flatts record.
As with any record from the mid-1990′s, Marcus tried to keep one foot in the ‘traditional’ fold along with his obvious pop influences (as any kid rasied in places like Kenya and Washington, DC among others should). “Virginia Reelin’” Is the first in a couple of tracks here that does just that. And while a decent enough song, it’s Andrea Zonn’s fiddling that keeps the track a goin’. “Somebody’s Leavin’” is a stone-country ballad that is chock full of steel guitar moans and aches. The instrument was made for lyrical songs like this. It’s the kind of song that aches to be sung by a country sanger like Gene Watson or, for a more current artist, Joe Nichols.
From the moment I heard “Bless The Broken Road” I knew that it was one of the best songs I had ever heard. As far as love songs go, it’s one of the greatest ever written. The fact that four other artists recorded the song before Rascal Flatts scored big with it is an absolute shocker (Melodie Crittenden scored her only country hit with a Top 30 rendition in 1998 only later to be asked to sing the song for Christian act Selah in 2005, scoring a big hit). Other artists who recorded it include co-writer Jeff Hanna‘s band Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (on “Acoustic“) and Sons of the Desert (for their never released second sony record). Marcus’ own verion is still my favorite take of it (it was the first version I heard) with more piano and steel guitar setting the melody up for the poetic lyric. To be fair, I don’t hate Rascal Flatts nearly as much as many critics do, in fact I’ve always liked the trio, but they did get a tad bombastic with the song. Still, their version gave Marcus a lot of money and recognition along with a well-deserved Grammy.
Marcus next turns up the honky-tonk factor with some progressive fiddle-laced (from Rob Hajacos) tracks. “As The Crow Flies” has a bit of greasy, New Orleans funk to it while “Bridges Over Blue” has more of a worldly pop vibe to it, particularly the Celtic-inspired chorus. The album closer is the title track, “All In Good Time.” Evoking the soft folk-pop of Cat Stevens, Marcus sings, in his soft emotive tenor, of a man who rebels against the notion of being forced into doing something he’s not ready to do: “This is my life, all that I’ve got, all that is mine, I’ll do what I Do, say what I say, all in good time.” It’s a stunning and stark track with a strong theme about living your life and that, in the end, there’s always time to get baptised and blessed with God’s love.
With that great song, Marcus Hummon completed his only major label-released record. After that, Marcus has self-released many albums that have served, as many of Bruce Robison‘s records do, as well-made demo’s for the ‘who’s-who’ of Nashville artists to mine from. “All In Good Time” had a fitting title as it features two of Marcus’ most well-known hits, recorded two and ten years after they were released on this record. Marcus Hummon is a great songwriter with a strong voice who also happens to be one of the most creative people in Nashville. Not only is he an in-demand songwriter, he’s also a playright, poet and artist. If you are a fan of great country music, you should check this record out. After Rascal Flatts’ hit, Sony issued it to iTunes and other digital stores, making the album very easy to attain (now if they’d only do that with other lesser-known artists too).