Uncle Kracker started playing Thanksgiving night shows in his home town of Mount Clemens just so he’d be home for the holiday. Now it’s become a bona fi de holiday tradition.
Going on its fifth year, Kracker’s concert at the Emerald Theatre is becoming as much of a Detroit area mainstay as America’s Thanksgiving Parade and the annual Detroit Lions game. “It gives everybody something to do on Thanksgiving in Mount Clemens,” says Kracker (real name Matt Shafer), who lives in nearby Clinton Township with his wife, Melanie, and daughters Skylar, 7, Madison, 6, and Troy, 2.
He confesses to some ambivalence about this year’s show, however. It’s not that he minds playing it; in fact, Kracker, 32, anticipates nothing but the usual good and rowdy time.
“I don’t know how people have it in them to eat turkey all day and then come out and pound beer,” he says, “but people sure have that down pat.”
But Kracker, who was the hype man in Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band before releasing his fi rst solo album in 2000, confesses to being dogged by a lack of familiar new material. It’s been more than two years since he released his last album, 2004’s “Seventy Two & Sunny.” His new effort, “Happy Hour,” won’t be out until at least February or March. He’s a bit self-conscious about “not having a new record to put behind the show,” although it does give Kracker and his band a chance to play some stuff they don’t usually play.
He promises there will be some material from the new album, which was delayed by a variety of factors — including touring as country superstar Kenny Chesney’s featured guest this year and Kracker’s own malaise.
“I put out (‘Seventy Two & Sunny’) and did the usual tour for a year,” he says. “When it came time to do the (new) record, I didn’t feel like doing a record, so I didn’t do one. Then a year went by, and the record label’s like, ‘You really got to start a new record now,’ so we went in and did it.
“It was a big gap. There were points where I was sitting around thinking, ‘When are we gonna get back to the Uncle Kracker business?’ ”
Kracker and his longtime producer and co-writer Michael Bradford recorded “Happy Hour” in Nashville, mostly during breaks from the Chesney tour. It features guest performances by Leo Sayer on the title track — which Kracker describes as “ ‘Love Boat’ meets Chic or something like that, like some old disco song” — while Boyz II Men appear on “The One That Got Away.”
“We just kinda went in and had fun — fun in every way, shape or form,” Kracker says. “I’ve had some pretty ballady stuff on the last couple (albums). So we just went in and had fun and made a great, fun pop record.”
While he’s waiting for “Happy Hour’s” release, Kracker expects to “go in and (mess) around” with Kid Rock on his next album. He’s resisting a predicted move into country music; “It seems like everybody’s trying to do that now,” Kracker says, “so I’ll wait for that to slow down or die out.” But he’s hoping that the fans who have seen him perform with Chesney in recent years will want to turn out for “Happy Hour” too.
“I wish his fan base bought my records; I’ll take a quarter of it, really,” Kracker says with a laugh. “I see sales spikes in every city after I play with him, but I don’t know if they’re necessarily there for me.
“But it was still fun to get in front of, I don’t know ... he probably does anywhere from 13 to 20 (thousand a night), and a lot more when we did stadiums that summer. It’s fun to get out in front of them just knowing that maybe there’ll be a couple that you could turn on to something. And hopefully we did.”
Uncle Kracker plays his fifth annual Thanksgiving concert Thursday (November 23rd) at the Emerald Theatre, 31 N. Walnut St., Mt. Clemens. Trent Tomlinson, Danny D and Alex Winston are also on the bill. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call (586) 913-1920 or visit www.emeraldtheatre.com.
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