The medical needs of his primary musical partner gave John Rich an opening to record his second solo album.
Rich tells Billboard.com that in late 2007, Big Kenny Alphin, his partner in Big & Rich, asked for 18 months off the road in order to address the lingering effects of a neck injury he suffered when his car was struck by a drunk driver in 2001. "That's a long time (off) for me," says Rich, who releases "Son of a Preacher Man," his first solo album since 2006's "Underneath the Same Moon, on Tuesday (March 24).
"I had a lot of songs I'd written that would never be on a Big & Rich record," he notes, "'cause they're too personal to me -- songs about my dad, songs about my family, songs about personal views I have. So I took that 18 months and went and recorded a solo project."
Some of the tracks on Rich's "Son of Preacher Man" date back a decade, he says, and many mine his upbringing for inspiration. "When your dad's a preacher and you have a song on the radio called 'Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,' that makes for an interesting conversation," Rich says with a laugh.
But there's no joking around on the album's first single, "Shuttin' Detroit Down," which is currently No. 13 on the Top Country Songs chart and takes a decidedly populist look at the current U.S. financial crisis and government attempts to deal with it.
"The reason I wrote the song was not politically motivated," says Rich, who co-wrote the tune in January with John Anderson and filmed a video for it last week. "It was written as an outraged American, outraged at the government for giving massive sums of our money to people that misused it. I think when you say, 'His pension plan's been cut in half and he can't afford to die,' that's about as hard-core truth as it gets. People are feeling that way all over. As a tax-paying American I take offense to it. As a country songwriter, I wrote a song about it...and I used Detroit as the emblem for all hard-working Americans."
Rich plans to play "Shuttin' Detroit Down" and other songs from "Son of Preacher Man" when Big & Rich return to the road this summer. "I think I'll play two to three of them," Rich says. "People are coming there to see Big and Rich. We'll just see how it goes, see how the fans are digging it and adjust from there -- they may want more of the solo stuff, for all I know."