If You’re Going Through Hell

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Performance

Reviewer

Bob Smithouser
Jeremy Lees

Album Review

Pro-Social Content

Atkins’ heartfelt songs about family find him laying down the law to boys wanting to date his daughter (“Cleaning This Gun”), and humbled to learn that his young son is studying how he eats, talks and prays (“Watching You”). References to the good Lord appear throughout. “Angel’s Hands” suggests that God is grieved and loved ones get hurt when people persist in destructive choices. Perspective is the key to peace of mind for a weary dad (“A Man on a Tractor”). The title cut urges listeners to forge ahead and not let trials overwhelm them. A visit home on “In the Middle” yields fond memories and a renewed appreciation for being part of a small town characterized by “open hearts and unlocked doors.” That affection for country culture is also central to “These Are My People” and “About the South,” however …

Objectionable Content

… Those two tracks betray a moral dichotomy. In one breath Atkins is recalling church softball games or saying, “We believe the Book of John.” In the next he’s getting nostalgic about smoking stolen cigarettes, “major[ing] in beer and girls” and “bustin’ our a–es.” Among the things he loves “About the South” are “hayloft lovin’,” coed skinny-dipping and Jack Daniel’s. Alcohol flows on “These Are My People” and “Wasted Whiskey.”

Summary Advisory

A telling lyric states, “It ain’t always pretty but it’s real.” Indeed, three unattractive songs approve of irresponsible, good-ol’-boy carousing. The rest of Atkins’ If You’re Going Through Hell is as good as real gets.

Bob Smithouser
Jeremy Lees
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