1988's Still Holdin On was the first release since the break-up of the original band in 1983.  It had been a five year span since the last release Greetings From South Carolina.  Eagerly awaited by MTB fans, this CD released on Polygram Records seemed to lack a direction and is unlike any release by the band, before or since.

        Produced by Larry Butler, it would be his first, last, and only time working with the band. As the first MTB release to be recorded in Nashville, primarily by studio musicians and without songs written by the band, it adds up to "Music City" music that lacks the trademark Tucker sound.

        Fortunately for Tucker fans, Doug Gray's vocals and Jerry Eubanks' flute and sax are familiar favorites on the CD, and with all things considered, the album ultimately overcomes its pitfalls.  Most of the songs are slower than usual Tucker fare, as a result Doug's voice stands out like never before.

        The CD kicks off with "Dancin' Shoes," an upbeat tune about the day-to-day drudgery of working 9-to-5 and the release that dancing brings. "Keeping The Love Alive" is the first of many ballads on the album and is a story about a couple trying to hold on to their romance.  "Once You Get The Feel of It" was released as a single and reached the Top 40 on country radio.  It's about coming of age and the letting go of inhibitions.  "Still Holdin On" is the stand-out cut on the album.  In amny ways it is reminiscent of "Herad It In a Love Song" - both lyrically and muscially.  Jerry's flute and the piano give the song a familiar sound that makes it as comfortable as an old flannel shirt.  The song is about a man sesoned by the years who eflects back on his youth.  Although he doesn't "spring back like I used to" he confides, "I'm still holdin' on to my crazy dreams."  Neither lost love nor age has broken his optimism.  The song would sound at home on any Tucker album, as if Toy write it himself.  It could be the sequesl to "Love Song."

        The next track, "Dangerous Road," features a country-pickin guitar that wraps itself around lyrics that count the casualties of love.  "Hangin Out In Smoky Places" - another country Top 40 hit for the band- is a cry-in-your beer ramble about a broken hearted soul.  "I'm Glad It's Gone" is a subtle song about seeing the bright side in the aftermath of relationships. Carrying on in this vein is "Why Did You Lie," whose tempo moves from upbeat to sullen and back again

        "The Same Old Moon" is another stand-out song that Doug sings in a slow, soulful tempo that exemplifies his awesome prowess as a singer.  Jerry's reflective sax seems to reverberate straight to the heart.  Keyboards enhance the mood that takes you to a moonlit night by the lake, and the bittersweet reminiscing of youthful love and a daddy's advice to his heartbroken son.  The song slowly fades as Eubanks' sax and back-up singers lull you off to dreamland.

        The disc ends with a romp written by prodigious Nashville tunesmith Bob McDill titled "Why Didn't I Think of That."  As throughout most of the album it is sung through the perspective of a man that's learned from his mistakes just a love too late.  It was later recorded and released as a single with much success by Doug Stone.

        Unfortunately the band's newcomers, Rusty Milner, Stuart Sawanlund, Tim Lawter and Ace Allen didn't have a chance to showcase their songwriting and musical talents as they would on later albums.  Doug and Jerry knew what they were doing when they asked these guys to join the band - they are gifted and talented.  Apparently, the record label didn't agree, and perhaps that's why the band only recorded one album for them. 

        For Marshall Tucker fans, it's fortunate that Gray and Eubanks stuck to their guns in future releases to insist that The Marshall Tucker Band record songs written and performed by the quintet themselves.  It's the way Marshall Tucker music was meant to be.

 


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