Uncle Kracker finds both pop and country success, set to play 9:30 Club

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Entertainment,Robert Fulton

In speaking with Uncle Kracker, the rock-pop-with-a-dash-of-country star, one gets the sense that he's really, really happy.

"I am," said Matthew Shafer, aka Uncle Kracker, by phone en route to a recording studio in Detroit to put the finishing touches on his upcoming album. "I'm having a ball. I'm ecstatic to be making records and I'm ecstatic to be making records I want to make."

Uncle Kracker performs at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday.

If You Go
Uncle Kracker with Sonia Leigh and Ty Stone
Where: 9:30 Club
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
More info: $25.; 930.com.

Even if you don't know exactly who Uncle Kracker is, there's a chance you're very familiar with a couple of his songs. His 2001 hit "Follow Me" reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is on constant repeat on radio stations from coast to coast; and 2009's "Smile" got plenty of airplay on both country and pop rock outlets.

Uncle Kracker has deftly straddled the line between pop and country with songs like "Smile" and his earlier work with Kenny Chesney. Shafer attributes his appreciation for country music to his father, who blasted the likes of George Jones, Conway Twitty and Patsy Cline while working as a mechanic.

"There was something about old country records that were very soothing," Shafer said. "It's reassuring to me. There's a soothingness about country music. What draws me to it is the familiarity of it."

Uncle Kracker got his start in the mid-'90s playing turntables for friend and ultimately mega-star Kid Rock. In 2000 he released his first solo album "Double Wide," which featured the single "Follow Me" and went platinum.

The target release date for Uncle Kracker's next album, which Shafer said is now titled "Midnight Special," is this May, the follow up to 2009's "Happy Hour." Shafer said that what he's working on is "greasier" than previous work.

"It's less polished than anything I've done before," Shafer said. "It just feels great. I just think greasy is the best word for it, really. It's not a huge departure from anything I've done in the past, but it's significantly different. Sometimes you feel like you write the same record over and over again. It's good that it's different."

With still a couple of months remaining until the next release, Uncle Kracker fans will have to be content with sneak previews at live shows.

"I know everybody always says when they got a new record out, everybody always goes 'hands down the best work I've ever done,'" he added. "Everybody always says that. It is definitely my favorite record for sure. If I never get to make another record, if one never gets released, I'll be happy that I've done this one."

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Robert Fulton

Examiner Correspondent
The Washington Examiner