Keith Stegall’s production really helps slot Uncle Kracker (Matt Shafer) right next to another artist he produces, Zac Brown Band. Much of what is heard on Midnight Special is something that could work on any of Zac and Company’s records and it’s both a testament to Shafer’s skill as a songwriter/vocalist as it is with Stegall’s ability to help artists find their voices. Each of the tracks on Midnight Special was written or co-written with co-writers like JT Harding, Shane McAnally, Blair Daly, and Scooter Carusoe. The co-writes with these A-list songwriters adds just enough ‘Nashville’ to Kracker’s suburban country and while it’s true that he sings middle of the road country music, it’s refreshingly not exclusively about pick-up trucks, dirt roads and other rural cliches that are often in country, something that’s also evident in the music of Zac Brown Band.
While the whole record is strong, “In Between Disasters” has a jovial spirit that screams summertime radio hit, “Blue Skies” feels like a cousin to Uncle Kracker’s hit cover of “Drift Away,” and “It Is What It Is” is a fantastic duet with Sonia Leigh, an artist signed to Southern Ground Artists. “Who We Are” is another stand out as are “Happy” and “Four Letter Word.” Lead single “Nobody’s Sad On A Saturday Night” was a jovial lead-single that feels ready for a product advertising a good-time party as well.
Midnight Special is a strong late entrant to the contenders for 2012′s albums and it’s an unexpected delight full of laid-back, feel-good heartland country music. Here’s hoping that one or two songs from this record can become hits for Uncle Kracker as the songs here clearly deserve such heavy exposure.