Uncle Kracker still tweaking 'Happy Hour'


DETROIT -- A "more than frustrated" Uncle Kracker has been doing some more recording for his long-delayed fourth album, "Happy Hour," which he turned in a full year ago but likely won't come out before the middle of 2008.

"While I have time and I'm sitting around, I've been in the studio doing stuff," Kracker tells Billboard.com. "I'm not gonna touch the good (songs). But there's some on there I can beat. I figure if I've got time, why not go in and beat 'em. In the end, it's better."

Kracker has been working on "Happy Hour" in Nashville with his longtime producer and co-writer Michael Bradford. He says the album hearkens back to the sound of his solo debut, 2000's "Double Wide," and even "sounds like the record that would have come out before that one. There's some disco-y sounding stuff, more soul-sounding stuff, not so much rap but more of a pop-soul thing." The album's uptempo title track is a duet with Leo Sayer.

Kracker (real name: Matt Shafer) says executives at Atlantic Records have cited "marketplace" considerations -- including a desire to properly set up the release -- as a reason for holding up "Happy Hour." He knew that this year's fourth quarter would be unlikely, with priority releases by James Blunt, matchbox twenty and especially Kracker's good pal and former employer Kid Rock.

"Between those three records alone," Kracker says, "I had nothing to do but wait in line." The label has mentioned an early June release for "Happy Hour" but hasn't set an exact date yet.

Kracker, meanwhile, has been laying low since agreeing to a plea bargain for misdemeanor assault stemming from an August incident at a nightclub in Cary, N.C. After initially facing criminal sexual assault charges, he was fined $1,500, given a year's probation and ordered to undergo alcohol counseling.

Publicity from the incident cost him two high-profile concerts in his hometown of Detroit, but Kracker doesn't think there will be long-term consequences. "I've seen the dust settling already," he says. "I think the immediate attention, the bell was rung there. But long term ... no, not really. I'm not completely happy that I didn't go to trial, but I'm glad it's over and behind me."