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Uncle Kracker Looking Forward To "Happy Hour"

Of the Oakland Press

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Uncle Kracker has no plans to, as the song says, drift away. But he’s become “more than frustrated” at his inability to put out some new music.

It’s not the Harrison Township-based singer’s fault. The former disc jockey and hypeman in Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band turned in his fourth album, “Happy Hour,” to his label, Atlantic Records, a year ago. Since then, there’s been management changes and scheduling issues and issues involving what Kracker (real name Matt Shafer) calls “just the marketplace in general.”

A possible release this fall was effectively harpooned by high-priority Atlantic releases by James Blunt, matchbox twenty and especially Kid Rock’s chart-topping “Rock N Roll Jesus.”

“There’s no quick turnarounds anymore,” laments Kracker, 33. The upshot is that the album likely isn’t coming out before mid-2008, so there’s been a noted lack of joy around “Happy Hour.”

“It’s awful,” Kracker, who will play his annual Thanksgiving night concert on Thursday at the Emerald Theatre in Mount Clemens, says of the situation. “But they’ve reassured me that it’s got nothing to do with anything other than the marketplace. Maybe there’s some behind-thescenes stuff that I don’t know about, but I’ll take them at their word.

“It’s just a different day and age in music. They need time to set the album up and blah, blah, blah. They don’t want to screw it up.”

Kracker — whose last album, “72 & Sunny,” came out in 2004 — has managed to be productive in the interim. He took advantage of a friendship and working relationship with country star Kenny Chesney (their 2004 duet “When the Sun Comes Up” topped the country charts) to be a special guest on his tours in 2005 and 2006. Kracker also toured in his own right and is continuing to work on new songs for “Happy Hour” in Nashville with producer and co-writer Mike Bradford.

Things did, however, come to a screeching halt in August, which Kracker was arrested in North Carolina and accused of criminal sexual assault for allegedly touching a 26-year-old woman inappropriately in a club. He eventually pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge for which he received a year’s probation and a $1,500 fan and was ordered to undergo alcohol counseling.

Kracker still feels “railroaded” by the incident but says the plea bargain was the quickest way to put it behind him. The bad publicity cost him a couple of high-profile gigs in the metro area — at the Detroit Grand Prix and at the city of Warren’s 50th anniversary celebration — but he says that “I’ve seen the dust settling already” and doesn’t expect the incident to have a longterm effect on his career.

So he’s happily back to focusing on “Happy Hour,” an album he says hearkens back to the sound of his solo debut, 2000’s “Double Wide.”

“It sounds like the record that would have come out before that one,” Kracker explains. “There’s some discoey sounding stuff, more soul-sounding stuff, not so much rap but more of a popsoul thing.

“If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve done this one first.”

The album’s uptempo title track is a duet with Leo Sayer, best known for his chart-topping 1976 hit “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”

“It sounds like some old ‘Love Boat’ ... really disco,” Kracker says. “It’s a fun track. Somebody suggested Leo Sayer at the time, and we were all like, ‘Oh, that’d be sweet,’ and somebody actually called and made it happen.

“So he’s singing all over it, and it sounds like something out of the ’70s.”

Other titles slated for “Happy Hour” include “Must’ve Been,” “Some People Want,” “Memory Lane,” “Vegas Baby,” a rap track called “Money Never Let Me Down” and a gospeltinged ballad called “I’m Not Leavin’.” But Kracker has been taking advantage of the delay to do some more recording with Bradford, and it may be a slightly different “Happy Hour” that finally emerges next year.

“If I can come up with a few better (songs), I can swap ’em out or change ’em or whatever,” he says. “I’m not gonna touch the good ones, but there’s some on there I can beat. I figure if I’ve got time, why not go in and beat ’em. In the end, it’s better if it’s better, right?”

Uncle Kracker, Dirty Americans, Danny D, Class Three Overbite and JTX perform Thursday (Nov. 22) at the Emerald Theatre, 31 N. Walnut St., Mount Clemens. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call (586) 913-1920 or visit www.emeraldtheatre.com.

Web Site: www.emeraldtheatre.com

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