As a member of the so-called “Class of ’89,” the name given to the new crop of soon-to-be-superstar country acts who all released their debut that year, Clint Black was an early shoo-in for class valedictorian, based on the remarkable out-of-the-chute success of his debut album, Killin’ Time. The set earned platinum status on January 23rd, 1990, 25 years ago today.
Of the album’s five singles released, the first four — “A Better Man,” “Killin’ Time,” “Walkin’ Away” and “Nobody’s Home” — all reached Number One on the country chart, while the fifth, “Nothing’s News,” stalled at Number Three. By the time that single was issued, the album was already a year old. But what a year it had been. Named Album of the Year by the Academy of Country Music, Killin’ Time also helped Black earn the CMA’s Horizon (Best New Artist) award for 1989. A year later, he was the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year. By 1991, he’d already scored nine Top Ten hits.
In her Rolling Stone review at the time, writer Holly Gleason characterized the Killin’ Time LP as “a lean, hard country record, where fiddles slide in and out, pedal steel guitars swell up for punctuation and the backbeat is meant for dance floors” and noted that Black himself didn’t fit neatly into any particular category as a country performer. Although his 1989 classmates included Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Garth Brooks, Black certainly distinguished himself as one of the more successful “hat acts” of the era.
That said, the Killin’ Time LP cover itself is a rarity, as it is the only one of Black’s RCA studio albums in which he’s not wearing his signature cowboy hat (he is, however, holding it in his hands).