ALBUM REVIEW: Scars That I'll Keep by Tom Cheatham

The Austin, Texas music scene was the homebase of singer-songwriter Tom Cheatham for the last five years or so until his recent move to Dallas. The change of scenery obviously caused a creative explosion within Cheatham that is fully evident on his sophomore album "Scars That I'll Keep," which continues the artist's unique fusion of traditional country and Red Dirt music.
The album begins with the melodic "Empty Heart," which is pure radio ear candy. Cheatham has built on the success of his debut album "Restless Heart," and his vocals have never sounded better.

A harder-edged Cheatham emerges on "Forgiveness," but it is the bluesy title track "Scars That I'll Keep" which is the album's biggest surprise. This track could potentially chart in several radio genres, and it deserves the support of program managers. Likewise, the album's production headed by Erik Herbst (Eli Young Band, Josh Abbott) is stellar.

In many ways, Tom Cheatham is at his best on easy-going, laid back tracks like "Help Me Hold On" which offers a confident vocal from Cheatham that could best be described as John Mellencamp meets Randy Rogers. The song also boasts a memorable melody. A more tender side of the artist emerges on the folk-tinged "Letting Go."

The inspiring "Learn To Live" is a traditional country track that could find a home on mainstream country radio. "One Good Reason" has much of the same charm. The Red Dirt anthem "Tonight" should please concert audiences, and the love song "Angel" will be a favorite of Cheatham's many female fans.

The album ends with a classic Texas country track titled "Lead Me On," and it is by far the project's best song. This cut has a Wade Bowen-esque sound that is fused with other popular Red Dirt elements. Texas radio stations should immediately add "Lead Me On."

"Scars That I'll Keep" is an accomplished album from an up-and-coming Red Dirt artist that deserves to be followed and supported by fans of Texas country. However, Cheatham's appeal is broader than the Texas music market, and he could easily find mainstream country success with his brand of memorable lyrics, tight production and, of course, the right song. "Scars That I'll Keep" is definitely a record you'll want to hold onto.

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