You can't fake the "real deal." Most of today's country stars are carrying on the "just-folks" images of their ancestors. But with Aaron Tippin, it goes beyond image. This true working-class hero has forged a career built on plain honesty, musical integrity, and everyday humility. With his debut album for Lyric Street Records, What This Country Needs, Tippin reclaims a territory that is his and his alone -- plain, unvarnished, genuine emotion to the accompaniment of fiddle and steel guitar.
If you label this a "comeback," you're way out of touch. For Aaron Tippin has the kind of career that other artists dream about.  In the hearts of his fanatically-devoted followers, Aaron Tippin has never been away.
His albums routinely become gold records whether or not he has a Top-10 hit on the charts. During the three years since his last studio project, audiences have continued to pack his live shows. When Playgirl magazine polled its readers in 1998 about the music star they'd most like to see in it pages, Aaron Tippin's name was at the top of the list even though he hadn't had a big hit since 1995. Clearly, this is more than your "flavor of the month" music maker. This man is the "real deal."
What This Country Needs is a collection that capitalizes on the artist's longtime commitment to the straightforward truth of country music at it finest. In the past, he has celebrated his blue-collar roots, romped through roadhouse anthems, sung of workingmen's dignity and moaned the honky-tonk blues. What This Country Needs is about love -- Aaron Tippin style.
"This is a time in my life when a lot of things have happened that have to do with love and family," says the muscular singer-songwriter. "But this album isn't about about mush. It's a blue-collar love thing. I wanted realism in these songs, true feelings, things that everybody in this country can relate to."
Tippin married his wife Thea in 1995. Last December, they welcomed a baby boy named Teddy into their lives. Charla, Aaron's 20-yer-old daughter from his first marriage, completes the household in rural DeKalb County, TN. She is a student at Tennessee Tech.
What This Country Needs is infused with the former honky-tonk wild man's newfound feelings for hearth and home. "For You I Will," the collection's first single and video, radiates warmth and tenderness. "Her," "Don't Stop," and "I Didn't Come This Far" mine the emotions of fidelity, giving selflessly and making romance endure.
But this isn't some Pollyanna we're hearing. That is, after all, Aaron Tippin. "Somewhere Under The Rainbow" isn't upper-class suburban bliss. It's about finding love and peace on the poor side of town. "Nothing Compares To Loving You" roars with a passionate fire. And "I'm Leaving" is one of those great country songs that so vividly portrays the time when things just don't work out. Whether basking in the rhythmic groove of "Sweetwater," delivering the inspirational lyrics to "You're The Only Reason For Me," dishing up the older-and-wiser message of "Back When I Knew Everything," or bawling the back-to-basics manifesto of "What This Country Needs," Aaron Tippin is in peak form on his 1998 album.
"Most people in the music industry don't even know who they are selling records to," says Tippin. "I think I do. I have just kept right on touring. The crowds dropped off just a little bit. But for a guy who was off the radio as long as I was, it wasn't nearly as much as you would think it would be. It goes to show you that my 'keep on swinging' attitude is worth something. It don't mean that much in the music industry, but it does to the people that come to watch the shows."
"I feel I've formed a good relationship with my fans. I believe in great entertainment. That's my job. That's what I'm supposed to do when I make a record or when I put on a show. But I don't put that 'entertainer' suit on until I hit the stage. Before that, I do my very best to be no different than my neighbors."
When he was a kid in the mountains of South Carolina, Aaron Tippin had a country-music "conversion" experience. While his peers were listening to arena rock bands, he became passionate about traditional country sounds. Tippin began performing in local honky-tonks in the 1970s. When his teenage marriage fizzled, he decided to pursue music with a vengenance.
He competed on the Nashville Network's You Can Be A Star TV talent contest in 1986, landed a song-publishing contract, and moved to Music City in 1987. Always a focused and purposeful man, Tippin created a work routine that was Spartan in its intensity. He took up competitive weight lifting, eventually building his frame to a 47-inch chest and 16-inch biceps. He worked the midnight shift at a factory in Kentucky, commuted to Music Row to write songs, did his late-afternoon strength training, went to bed, got up and did the whole routine over again, day after day. The dedication paid off. He began winning barbell competitions. Charley Pride, David Ball, The Kingsmen, The Mid-South Boys, Mark Collie, and others began to record his songs.
Tippin performed his first Nashvile nightclub show in 1990. It earned him a recording contract with RCA Records. A string of million-selling albums and concert dates with superstars such as Brooks & Dunn, Reba McIntire, and Hank Williams Jr. made him one of the most memorable country personalities of the '90s. For five consecutive years he performed before more than a million people annually, always with the same message -- an honest man with an abiding love of honest country music. In his appearances, Tippin invariably communicated the heart of a poet, the zeal of an evangelist, the humor of the class clown, and the soul of a gladiator.
Enthusiastic fans wore hard hats to the shows, sang along with gusto, and cheered his hardcore country crusade. Tippin bucked the trend of dance-club ditties, nursey-rhyme lyrics, and phony-cowboy costuming. His hits sounded like no one else -- "You've Got To Stand For Something," "There Ain't Nothin' Wrong With The Radio," "My Blue Angel," Working Man's PhD," "That's As Close As I'll Get To Loving You," "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way," and the like formed a body of work that is totally individual and in direct contrast to the sound-alike records that have characterized his era.
"My musical philosophy is pretty simple," he says. "I don't care what is hip and what is cool. I just pick out what I think is the truth and I pursue it."
Aaron Tippin has sold more than four million records, scored six top-10 hit singles and had five No. 1 videos on CMT. When Lyric Street Records signed him earlier this year, Tippin was ready to deliver the goods once again. He co-produced What This Country Needs with Pat McMakin and scoured the streets of Music Row for songs that say exactly what is in his heart.
"You know what? This record is already successful as far as I'm concerned. It's got that same innocence that I had when I first went into the recording studio. It has got the best songs I could write and find. It already is successful, because we did something that way it's supposed to be done. I am a happy man."