You've Got To Stand For Something -- the powerful debut effort that it is -- is proof that Aaron Tippin has succeeded brilliantly in his self-ordained musical mission. Selections from the LP -- "The Man That Came Between Us," "She Made A Memory Out Of Me," "I Wonder Just How Far It Is Over You," etc -- are imbued with just the right measures or raw-edged pathos, fervor, sadness, humor, and irony. Tippin brings these songs alive with his daunting, exuberant honky-tonk singing style, which echoes with powerful immediacy while paying homage to his heartfelt influences.
The debut single and title song from Tippin's new album, produced by Emory Gordy, Jr., already unleashed a firestorm of praise: Robert K. Oermann in his monthly "Disc Claimer" single review column in Music Row raved, "Aaron Tippin is a star. You read it here first," and Billboard Magazine states, "Tippin's vocals are authentic country pushed to the extreme."
Tippin's fondness for honky-tonk and traditional music is no mere faddish stance of artisitic pose. He is the genuine article. The South Carolina voice brogue (he hails from Travelers Rest, S.C. -- pop. 3,017) is as thick in his voice as sorghum. And he sports a small tattoo of a palemtto tree (a replica of the South Carolina state flag) on his heavily muscled right arm. "I wouldn't be scared to go to church with my sleeves rolled up," he laughs with a trace of mildly defiant pride. "I don't think I'll ever be ashamed of being from South Carolina."
Yet beneath Tippin's raucous laugh, his rowdy sense of humor, and easy-going demeanor, there lurks a steely sense of self-discipline and a rare sense of self-possession that has served him well in both his life and his musical career.  This, after all, is a guy who, by age 15, had gotten his pilot's license, and by age 20 was licensed to fly commercial multi-engine aircraft. This is a guy who, through a rigorous seven-year body-building program added thirty pounds of muscle to his well-sculpted torso, and has since won numerous body building competitions.
"Before I came to Nashville, I'd pursued music locally in the tri-state area of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia," he remembers. "But mostly, I'd been working as a corporate pilot, and studying to get my transport rating to fly big jets.  But then came the energy crunch of the early 1980's, and the major airlines started furloughing pilots, and I saw the writing on the wall. At that point, I was just about to get out of music completely, and go get me a job at the mill and live out the rest of my life down there."
The "there" to which Tippin refers is the mountains, relatively remote "Dark Corner" region of extreme northwest South Carolina in the "front ranks of the Appalachian Mountains," from whence he hails: "It was named the 'Dark Corner' back in the twenties and thirties when there was a lot of bootlegging going on back in there. They say Treasury agents used to go in, and you'd never hear from them again. There are some pretty rowdy hillbillies back there. Most of the guys I grew up with sawed logs or made liquor. Sometimes both."
Tippin recalls that his real moment of musical epiphany came one Christmas in the early 1970's. "One of my buddies got a portable eight-track tape player, but we didn't have any tapes to play in it, except his daddy's tape of Hank, Sr.'s greatest hits. At first, we were makin' sport of it -- hoopin' and hollerin'. But later, I took that tape home and couldn't stop playin' it. I wore it out."
Before long, Tippin was performing locally -- "shoestringin' it, starvin' to death" -- in local bluegrass and country outfits like The Dixie Ridge Runners and Tip & The Darby Hill Band. But music remained a sideline until the bottom dropped out of his planned career in aviation, and out of his personal life, in the form of a divorce. He also began writing songs; a gospel tune that he put together one day while driving a front-end loader eventually came to the attention of prominent Nashville publisher Charlie Monk, who encouraged Tippin to move from South Carolina to Nashville and try his hand. And that's what Tippin did, yet driving back to South Carolina, as he still does, to visit his daughter, now 12.
"For years, every time I flew over Nashville I'd always look down and sorta wonder what they're doin' down there," he recalls with a chuckle. "Finally I ran outa reasons not to come here and get in the pile."
After relocating to Nashville from South Carolina four years ago, Tippin supported himself working the night shift in a rolling mill in Russellville, Kentucky. He would spend his days writing songs and pitching them along Music Row, while sleeping and lifting weights in whatever few hours remained.
Monk, in due time, landed Tippin a place on the songwriting staff of Acuff-Rose publishers. He sang on his own demos, and it eventually got to where, all over town, people were asking -- in Tippin's own words: "Who's this redneck singin' on here? I guess they thought they heard something a little different, ya know."
Tippin, whose original songs have been recorded by Josh Logan, the gospel quartet The Kingsmen, and Mark Collie (he and Collie co-wrote Collie's debut single, "Something With A Ring To It"), has applied the same sense of discipline and determination that he put into piloting and bodybuilding into his musical career.
You've Got To Stand For Something, Tippin's debut album, is, in nearly every way a musical vision fulfilled, an artistic promise delivered -- a rare debut in which a new artist emerges with a bold and resolute sense of confidence, direction, and musical identity.
"Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Sr., Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Lefty...I love those guys; they are my influences," says Tippin, a trace reverence creeping into his voice. "When I sit and listen to music like that, I think that a lot of the greatness that was in that music drifted out and got lost along the way."
"I hope that what I'm doing is bring some of that back into my music," adds the 32-year-old singer. You've Got To Stand For Something features ten original songs crafted and sung in a resolute, masterful, hard country vein. "That's a musical avenue that's had a lot of leaves on it, and we're just sweeping some of 'em away."
You've Got To Stand For Something has all the earmarks of being the first glorious building block in a long, illustrious career.