Review – Brett Eldredge’s “Somethin’ I’m Good At”

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Sleepy. Boring. Sappy. Three words that sum up some of Brett Eldredge’s most recent singles. While Eldredge was one of the many who indulged in and gained fame from chasing bro country, you certainly wouldn’t put him amongst the group’s worst offenders. Not only does he have a solid voice, he’s really played it safe most of his career. You look at his singles from his sophomore album Illinois and they’re closer to Chris Young than they are to say Luke Bryan. So I would say the biggest complaint about Eldredge up to this point has been really not standing out and producing boring, forgettable songs. This is almost worse than bro country because when you fail to stand out, you tend to get lost in the shuffle really quick. Eldredge seemed to wisely pick up on this too, as the promotion for his new single “Somethin’ I’m Good At” promised more “tempo” and a song that’s more reflective of his zany personality he displays on social media. And after listening to this song these claims are very much true. It’s a stark contrast to previous singles, as this song is bubbly, upbeat and fun from the start. It’s quite refreshing. The song is about a guy not being a good at a lot and really just being an overall klutz, based off of Eldredge’s self-admitted personality. Despite all of these things he can’t do though, he is good at making his love smile. Sure this is a little cheesy on paper, but the song tactfully has a playful and light air about it. It’s just a fun anthem for the dorky, lovable loser. For some this might be too cute and I can see the song wearing thin after a lot of listens. But for me this song hits just right. I enjoy the message it sends and it’s the kind of laid back, loose song we need in a cynical world. Eldredge finally releases a song that suits him and lets his personality shine. There’s a great sense genuineness that shines through on “Somethin’ I’m Good At” that makes it really easy to enjoy.

Grade: 7/10

 

Recommend? – Yes

Written by Brett Eldredge and Tom Douglas

Review – Keith Urban & Eric Church’s “Raise ‘Em Up”

Collaborations have been quite popular in the world of mainstream country music in the past couple of years. There have been a lot if you sit down and think about it. Among the collaborations you have Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan collaborating on “This Is How We Roll,” Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore coming together on “Small Town Throwdown” and Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood on “Somethin’ Bad” to name a few popular ones.

None of those collaborations impressed me because quite frankly they all sucked. The latter one really disappointed me, while the other two weren’t huge surprises. So when I heard Keith Urban and Eric Church collaborated on a new single, I was intrigued. Sure I’m not the biggest fan of either of these guys’ work, but I respect their talent and I felt there was potential with this pairing. So without further ado let’s look at “Raise ‘Em Up.”

The song begins with an acoustic guitar, which is omnipresent throughout the entirety of the song. This is combined with some typical modern country production to give the song a vibrant and upbeat attitude. The song can fly by if you don’t pay attention. While the instrumentation isn’t my exact cup of tea, I really don’t have any qualms with it. It’s solid, radio friendly and respects the roots of country sound for the most part. This is a pop country sound that works for me.

As for the song itself, it’s quite interesting. The phrase “raise ’em up” means a variety of things in the song, from raising a beer in celebration to raising your own kids. Regardless of whatever the meaning is at that moment in the song, they’re all going for the same feeling of down-to-earth, everyday life. It’s a sentimental, feel good song that is supposed to relate to the everyday man as they drive down the road on the way to work. I think for most listeners the song will be an accomplishment in this aspect.

For me personally, it appealed a little bit in the emotional aspect. For the most part though, I just can’t get into this song because it’s simply doesn’t go far enough. It would have been better if it was longer and told more of a story. Instead it just uses vague and at times clichéd themes, similar to most nostalgia/sentimental songs that have come out in recent memory. This is on the writers of “Raise ‘Em Up,” which are Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele. I have no problem if a song uses just a few clichés if it feels like it belongs instead of being forced. Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown” is a perfect example of this. Also the pandering lines towards the troops made me cringe a little and those definitely felt forced.

As for the decision of pairing Keith Urban and Eric Church, I think this was a great choice. I thought their voices went really well together and it sounded natural. This song really fits Church well because this type of song is right in his wheelhouse and most of his popular songs are similar to “Raise ‘Em Up” in terms of theme and tempo. Urban didn’t try to over sing in this song either, which in my opinion has ruined some of his songs. The only issue I had with the vocals in this song were at the end with the “Ohhhhhs” being echoed over and over. This space could have been better utilized improving the story and theme of the song. Other than that I thought the vocal performances of Church and Urban were solid.

I honestly don’t know how to feel about “Raise ‘Em Up.” It’s certainly not a bad song, but it’s not a great song either. I mean if it came on the radio I wouldn’t start singing along, but I would have no problem listening to it. I think most listeners’ perception of this song will be based on how big of a fan they are of Urban and Church. Their fans should like this song, while the rest of us are kind of confused on how to feel about it. The song has been nominated for the 2015 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, so hence the timing of this song being released as a single. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t have a lot of success on the charts. These two each have a dedicated fan base that will really rally a lot of support behind it. So it you’re a fan of one of these artists, check out “Raise ‘Em Up.” If you’re not, then you won’t miss anything.

Grade: 6.5/10

Album Review – Kenny Chesney’s The Big Revival

For the last 10 years or so I think everyone could sum up Kenny Chesney’s albums with two words: beach songs. And they’re exactly right. After starting out as a traditional country artist, Chesney made one successful beach album and realized that he could make a killing putting out Jimmy Buffett type songs. He then felt the need to put out several more of these albums, with each one pissing off critics more and more. We all know he’s capable of more than beach songs, so when he showed more seriousness for his new album, The Big Revival, I was looking forward to hearing a new sound from Chesney other than reggae and cool island breezes. Let me just say this before I start reviewing the songs on this album. This is probably the least beach sounding album he’s put out in several years, but that doesn’t mean the side of Chesney I dislike doesn’t come out on this album. He does however put out a few surprising good songs.

The Best Songs on the Album

The two best songs on this album are at the end of it. The first is “Don’t It,” a song about experiencing disappointment in life and how these experiences make you stronger from them. His vocals are great and the instrumentation is perfect for a soft song like this one. It’s just an acoustic guitar and Chesney’s voice. This it the kind of song that makes me like Chesney. Another song that makes me like him is “If This Bus Could Talk.” It’s a song about the sentimental meaning of a family bus that Chesney has grown up with his whole life and has seen many memories over the years. The inclusion of the piano alongside the guitar in this song is great, making it a real solid country song with good vocals and instrumentation. This song is supposed to create a nostalgic feeling and I think it will for many listeners.

Another song I think stands out and not just for its controversial theme is “The Big Revival,” the opening track on this album. The song is about a church where the pastor apparently tests people’s faith in God by having them hold a copperhead snake. Now some people may be offended by this ridiculous ritual because it paints this church to be a cult almost. But here’s why I’m not offended by it (I’m a Christian by the way). I don’t think this song is being serious in any way. Do you really go into a Chesney album expecting a lot of seriousness? If you do, you’ve apparently missed his last ten beach albums. I think it’s actually a fun song with a really catchy beat that actually talks about a theme you normally don’t see in mainstream country music. If there’s one thing I don’t like about this song it’s the echoes at the beginning of the song. I’m more offended by this more than the theme. I think this is a rock country song with strong instrumentation.

The Worst Songs on the Album

Chesney would be a solid country artist if he could put out an entire album of songs like the ones I point out above. But Chesney just can’t help himself and goes back to his old tropes that have made him famous. He doesn’t necessarily go back to the beach, but rather the party atmosphere. You may be able to infer its at the beach, but that’s up to you the listener. There’s one song title that stood out like a giant sore thumb when I was perusing the title tracks on this album and that’s “Beer Can Chicken.” It’s about what you would expect from a song with this ridiculous title. The song isn’t horribly offensive, but rather it’s just full of a long list of clichés you’re used to hearing in Chesney’s radio hits. The lyrics are very bland, but the instrumentation is solid. Based on this I think this song would probably do great on radio because I think this is the type of song that mainstream country fans eat right up. Think of it as a watered down version of Zac Brown Band’s “Toes.”

The other song on the album that is just down right bad is “Rock Bottom.” The song is about a man who has hit rock bottom in his life and he’s bouncing back by partying of course because that’s what normal people do according to mainstream country music. This is the kind of song that makes you hate Chesney because once again it’s a song filled with party clichés, including a reference to AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” further proving country music’s desperate attempt to be hair metal from the late 80s (I know AC/DC didn’t really do hair metal, but remember mainstream country music doesn’t work with logic). Just like “Beer Can Chicken” the lyrics are bland and repetitive. This is a song that also gets really irritating after repeated listens, so I would advise you to only listen to this song once if you’re morbidly interested in bad music.

The Rest of the Album

The remainder of the songs on this album hover around average to above average. Just like the first two singles from this album, “American Kids” and “Flora Bama,” “Til It’s Gone” is a decent song with just decent lyrics. The theme isn’t real clear and the instrumentation is just there. All three are songs that I have a “shrug my shoulders” attitude towards. I can take them or leave them. “Drink It Up” is an obvious drinking song of course. It has decent electric guitar play and is definitely more of a rock song than a country song. The theme has been done to death, but it’s doesn’t feel that cliché really. It’s a fun song that is completely harmless, but it’s a little boring. Another song along this same vein is “Save It for a Rainy Day.” The song is about a man who is getting over a broken relationship and trying to keep positive in the face of his heartbreak. He wants to save his tears for a rainy day. The song is above average and has a good message I guess. The lyrics are a little cliché and almost makes it come off in the same way “Rock Bottom” does, but it narrowly avoids this image.

One other song I feel is decent is Chesney’s duet with Grace Potter on “Wild Child.” Now is this a duet like you would hear on a Shovels & Rope album that would blow your socks away? Absolutely not, but I’ve always appreciated Chesney including the talented Potter on his albums. It’s a love ballad about a man’s crush who’s a free spirit that can’t be held down for too long. Chesney doesn’t have the greatest and most dynamic voice, but I thought they were good enough here alongside a talented vocalist like Potter. It’s a soft song with nice instrumentation.

Overall Thoughts

Kenny Chesney definitely took his songs in a more rock direction on this album, something I’m completely fine with. It’s working well for Zac Brown Band right now and I think it works at times for Chesney on The Big Revival. Although Chesney is no where near the talent of Zac Brown Band and he doesn’t have Dave Grohl to work with. I also have to point out that this album is only 11 songs long, so I applaud Chesney for hitting the perfect album length and not making it an absurd songs length (I’m looking at you Tim McGraw, Lee Brice and Miranda Lambert). In this album’s bright spots the songwriting was actually solid. The best song on the album, “Don’t It,” was written by Chase McGill and Brent Cobb (third time this month Cobb has appeared in a review and I’ve praised his songwriting). The other song that has great songwriting is “If This Bus Could Talk,” which was written by Chesney and Tom Douglas. Chesney helped write four songs on this album (the other three are “Wild Child,” “Flora Bama” and “Beer Can Chicken”). In this album’s low spots, the songwriting was pretty bad. For some reason Chesney couldn’t fully escape the hokey and cliché lyrics that have earned criticism from people for years. I must say though the instrumentation on this album is really good and probably the best on a Chesney album since his early days.

This is a step in the right direction for Chesney, but there’s just too much holding this album back from being classified as good and really he had nowhere to go but up after his last album Life On A Rock. It surprised me with the amount of quality songs though (only three songs) and I give him credit for getting away from the beach for the most part. This album is worth a listen if you’re a country audiophile like me, but I definitely can’t recommend it.

Grade: 4.5/10

Review – Tim McGraw’s “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”

The Tim McGraw of the past and the Tim McGraw of the present are certainly contrasting compared to each other. The past McGraw was part of the pop country explosion of the late 90s and early 2000s, but he produced many traditional hits too. “Live Like You Were Dying” was one of my favorite songs I enjoyed listening to on radio growing up. Sure he produced a bad song here and there, but you really couldn’t complain too much about the guy. Then there’s current Tim McGraw, who has done nothing but produce sub par music (“Southern Voice”) or just complete garbage (“Lookin’ For That Girl” and “Highway Don’t Care”). For the very first ever review on Country Perspective I looked at his single “City Lights.”  It was improvement, but still mediocre. It was encouraging though that there wasn’t any auto tune present and felt like a step back to his past songs. Does he continue his improvement with “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”?

Yes, in fact he does. The song is about a man and his wife not being able to afford the city life anymore nor are they enjoying the fast paced lifestyle happening around them. It makes the man think about to his life growing up back in his hometown (back at mama’s) and how simple life was for him. Both continue to reminisce about this lifestyle throughout song until the end when they decide to pack everything up and head back home where they feel like they belong. It tells a story and evokes feelings of nostalgia. It’s a throwback to McGraw’s good years, making this song quite appropriate.

His wife and fellow country artist Faith Hill also joins on the album. I’ve never been the biggest fan of her work, but I thought she sounded good on the song and she provided a little more to the song with her contribution. McGraw’s voice shines in this song and it perplexes me that he still used auto tune on some of his recent songs. His voice is great and it should be the focal point in all of his songs, not electronic sounds coming out of a machine. The instrumentation is light in this song and that provides a calming mood for the song. It’s mostly the acoustic guitar and some light drum machine playing in the background. Lyrically it’s solid all the way through. It does a good job of not being a checklist song and rehashing the usual lines you hear on mainstream country radio today. They could be a little better, but I’m not going to complain. This song is also family friendly. Kudos to writers Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele.

“Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” is a nice rebound for Tim McGraw in my eyes. This is the kind of music I want to hear from him more often. Stay away from the popular trends and act your age. Keep the instrumentation lighter and let your voice shine. McGraw does both in this song. It was seventh on the Billboard Hot Country Songs top ten chart last week, making it one of the few good ones on the list. This also proves that McGraw fans weren’t happy with his new direction he took and appreciate that he went back to this roots. I’m also appreciative. Now he just needs to keep this up and continue to produce good country music. It’ll be interesting to see what approach he takes for his new upcoming album.

Grade: 8/10