It's been three years since Curb recording artist Rodney Atkins  has released a new studio album, and he's well aware of this fact.
"It's been a long time between albums," Atkins said in an interview for Billboard.com. "We did a project for Cracker Barrel a little while back, but it was not a whole new album. I can't express how happy I am to get this out." His last studio disc, "It's America," was released in 2008.
With the release of "Take A Back Road," Atkins is striking while the mettle is hot. The title track and first single is spending a second week atop the Top Country Songs chart. There's nobody more grateful for the feat than Atkins.
"I don't take it for granted, I will tell you that," he says. "This was the fastest moving song on the charts we've ever had - and with the number of downloads, you just count your blessings."
"Take A Back Road" took a while to grow on Atkins -- but not that long. "The first time I heard the work tape that Rhett Akins and Luke Laird made on the song -- they said they just made it in their office when they wrote the song - it had a little kick pattern happening. As soon as the song was over, you start to catch some of the cool little rhymes, and I wanted to hear it again, and again. I realized the song was taking me somewhere while I was driving down the road. First, you think it's just a ditty, a summertime jam, but there's more to it than that."
The audience has reacted the same way, according to the singer, as he says it has made an instant impact. "Playing those songs live, and living in a download world, they can get it as soon as they can hear it. The song's released on a Monday, you're coming to town on a Wednesday, that market starts playing the song a little extra, people start hearing the song, and Boom…they've got it. They know the words, and it changes your show. I'll never forget when we started playing the song, and it had been out a little bit when we started it playing it live, they knew every single word."
A track on "Take A Back Road" that could be looked at as a sequel to one of his previous hits is "He's Mine." That little boy I'm singing about from 'Watching You,' -- my four year old who said a four letter word, turned ten this week. The song is one of the edgiest things I've ever cut. I think we blew up an amp. It's really about unconditional love."
Atkins, who has racked up eight top ten singles - with six going to the top of the chart, has a great track record at picking songs his fans have been able to. He feels he has done so with the material on Take A Back Road. One departure of sorts for the Tennessee native that he feels will make a likewise impact with fans is the love song "Feet."
"For me, it's about finding songs that are real. It's really hard to find a love song that is real. That's when you really strike a chord with somebody, when you dig in deep and grab a hold. I've always felt that advice of 'Don't let the sun set on an argument' is pretty open-ended. It's easy to look at a sunset, and think 'Joy, Joy, Happy, Happy,' but there's more to that saying. It's usually when it's dark that you get into it, and times get darker. That hard headedness is what makes people stick it out and work through it. There are so many levels inside of that song, but it's so simple. It's just one of songs that's real."
Keeping it real is important to Atkins. "I don't take a second for granted of the honor of representing country music. You owe it to this town, to the guys that have inspired you and influenced you to be here to get to do this, you've got to set the bar high. That's the challenge, and I love the challenge. That's why you want to make sure you have an album where they get their money's worth, and you get to keep doing it."
Rodney starts a fall tour with Darius Rucker on Thursday in Glen Falls, NY.
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