Uncle Kracker is back with the eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2000’s critically acclaimed, RIAA double platinum certified “DOUBLE WIDE” and the Top-3 crossover pop smash, “Follow Me.” “NO STRANGER TO SHAME” sees Detroit’s favorite Uncle continuing to mine his own special blend of down-home soul, funky, groove-tinged hip-hop, and hard-driving rock n’ roll. From the straightforward track “To Think I Used To Love You,” to the classic Memphis Soul of the appropriately titled “Memphis Soul Song,” the collection captures the timeless vibe of Uncle Kracker’s very favorite music – with a substantial helping of his trademark modern magic.
“I like songs that are built to last,” he says. “Instead of writing songs for today, I’m trying to write songs for tomorrow. I want it to sound like it could be from 20 years ago or 20 years from now.”
“NO STRANGER TO SHAME” was recorded in winter 2001/2002, just after Kid Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker returned to America following their acclaimed performance for the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Ramstein, Germany. Though Kid Rock had previously played a role in the writing/production of Kracker’s first album (and, of course, Kracker played an equally significant role in Kid Rock’s enormous success, co-writing some of his biggest hits), on his new record, “NO STRANGER TO SHAME,” Kracker holds the creative reins.
Uncle Kracker enlisted the help of “DOUBLE WIDE” producer Mike Bradford. The two decided to lay down tracks in the loft just upstairs from Uncle Kracker’s attorneys, the law offices of Metry and Metry, located in downtown Mt. Clemens, Michigan. “It’s an amazing space in an old building,” he explains. “Hardwood floors, 14-foot ceilings. We set up a Pro Tools rig and just banged it out.
“It was a perfect spot for recording, plus I love the shock value,” he adds. “This has got to be the first record ever written and recorded above an attorney’s office!”
The prodigiously talented Bradford (known for his work with a stunningly diverse array of artists, from Madonna to Run DMC to the Butthole Surfers,) became Uncle Kracker’s main collaborator. “Bradford’s an incredible producer and an incredible musician,” he says, “and we’re both totally on the same page as far as the kind of music we wanted to make. We were both looking for that classic country-soul vibe that we grew up listening to.”
Among the highlights of “NO STRANGER TO SHAME” is a rollicking version of a country-soul classic we all grew up listening to – Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.” Long a staple of Uncle Kracker’s live sets, the new recording is graced by the smooth baritone vocals of Gray himself.
“It was cool, man,” says Uncle Kracker of the collaboration. “I’ve met a lot of people whose music I absolutely love, and a lot of the time, it’s really disappointing. They don’t sing like they used to sing. Their attitudes are just shot. But Dobie came in, and that guy sings just lik ke yesterday. He hasn’t lost it at all. That was so refreshing.”
The album also sees musical accompaniment from a number of session superstars, including Twisted Brown Trucker keyboardist Jimmie Bones, guitarist Dean Parks (Steely Dan, Neil Diamond), bassist Jimmy Johnson (Randy Newman, James Taylor), and drummer Russ Kunkel, best known for his work on Jackson Browne’s timeless ’70s material. As if that weren’t enough, “NO STRANGER TO SHAME” features a special guest shot from Uncle Kracker’s longtime running buddy, Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath, who lends his distinctive vocal stylings to the album’s title track.
“It was like pulling teeth to get that fucker in the studio,” he laughs. “I was asking him to come down for weeks, then finally I was at a studio in Burbank cutting vocals, and I was like, ‘Dude, you going to come down and do this motherfucker or not?’ I just wanted to have him be a part of this record because he helped me a lot on the first record, from being in my first video to asking me out on the road with Sugar Ray.”
Whether he’s touring as solo artist or with Kid Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker, life on the road has become a given for Uncle Kracker. The poignant “Letter To My Daughters” reflects just how much the endless highway has touched his personal life.
“It sucks, but I’ve missed the majority of their lives,” he says. “The other day I was on the phone with my oldest daughter – she just turned three – and she said, ‘Daddy, do you want to come over?’ It sucks that she would ask that, but she’s not used to me being there at home with her. So this song is kind of like my apology to them. It’s going to be nice when they hear it in a couple of years and know how much I was thinking about them, even though I wasn’t there a whole lot.”
After wrapping up the “NO STRANGER TO SHAME” sessions, Uncle Kracker once again set out on the road with Kid Rock. While out in Los Angeles to film MTV’s Aerosmith: Icon special, Uncle Kracker had a burst of creative spontaneity, resulting in the album’s irresistible first single, “In A Little While.”
“That was the absolute last song we recorded,” Uncle Kracker says. “I was just going to do some mixing and decided, ‘Hey, let’s do a new one!’ I get bored fast.”
The success of “DOUBLE WIDE” was a source of real excitement for Uncle Kracker, though he admits to suffering a bit of the been there-done thats, having just enjoyed a number of similar experiences as part of Kid Rock’s band.
“Doing Leno and Letterman was cool, but in a way, it was like, ‘I did this already,'” he says. “But when ‘Follow Me’ went Top 10 – which is higher than any of the songs I wrote with Kid Rock – man, that was a sweet rush.”
Fuelled by honest emotions and inventive musicality, “NO STRANGER TO SHAME,” firmly establishes Uncle Kracker as a singularly indefinable artist – and you can bet your bottom dollar, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t want to sound corny,” he says, “but at the end of the day, it’s all about the music and making music that you love. It’s real important to me to try not to do what everybody else is doing. I’m just happy that at the end of the sessions, I came out with what I wanted to come out with.”