Album Review – Cody Jinks’ ‘I’m Not the Devil’

Cody Jinks I'm Not the Devil

Combine the steel guitars and fiddles with Cody Jinks’ honest, heartfelt writing and a baritone twang, and you’ll find just about every factor that exemplifies what hardcore country fans look for in traditional country music. Jinks’ 2015 Adobe Sessions introduced him to a slew of fans, and now Jinks is on the road with Whitey Morgan, bringing hardcore, traditional country music to fans across the nation. And there’s absolutely no doubt that Cody Jinks’ new album I’m Not the Devil is not only traditional country, but will be one of the better traditional country albums of the year. Every song on the album is undeniably country, and Jinks truly digs deep with his approach to the songwriting, opening up his soul and struggles for the world to hear.

The ring of a steel guitar runs through the speakers as “The Same” kicks off the album. Jinks takes a subtle, yet effective approach while singing about catching up with an old flame. She pops up rather unexpectedly and strikes up a small talk conversation. While she has moved on after the end, he hints to her that his feelings haven’t changed much. Following is what can truly be described as the album’s theme with “I’m Not the Devil.” It was one of the last songs written and recorded for the album and “I’m Not the Devil” fit as the album name because it’s message permeates throughout the rest of the album. “I’m not the devil you think that I am. It ain’t no excuse, but I’m just a man. I slipped and I fell and got out of hand, but I’m not the devil you think that I am.” Many of the album’s songs deal with a man’s internal struggle between right and wrong, angels vs. demons, God vs. the Devil: coping with past mistakes and trying to move forward in a more positive way.

Cody Jinks relies on religious imagery to help tell these stories. “No Guarantees” opens up with Jinks talking about his religious upbringing. With childlike naivety, he believes reading the Bible and knowing Jesus’ words are enough to keep temptations at bay. But the reality is there are demons and temptations in his life, and it takes action and effort from a person to battle them. One thing I like about I’m Not the Devil is how Cody Jinks balances ballads with more upbeat country songs, while making the melodies work with the written material. “No Guarantees” is one of the faster tracks on the album, but it doesn’t take away from Jinks’ words and message.

“No Words” is an honest confession from a husband to his wife. He understands that he hasn’t been the best person and has made mistakes, drank too much, and not treated her well. He sees how she continues to stand beside him and not lose faith, and her devotion encourages him. He vows to be better and show her the same love. It’s a well written, touching, honest love song. “Give All You Can” is the longest song on the album, and brings out a load of passion from Jinks. From the quiet combo of a steel guitar and piano, the song evolves and grows into a musical crescendo over the five minutes. Referencing his dark places and tortured soul and being encouraged by Matthew 5, Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Jinks realizes that life needs to be lived with purpose and meaning. One mark of a great song is how it’s indescribable in what makes it great. That’s what you have with “Give All You Can”; words don’t do it justice.

“She’s All Mine” is a lighthearted love song with a simple upbeat rhythm. Jinks sings lyrics praising the great qualities in his wife, and how much he appreciates her presence in his life. Since I’m Not the Devil has such a heavy, dark mood, the song is a nice break in the mold. With that said, though, “She’s All Mine” also stands out because the writing is rather simple and unimaginative. It’s repetitive and doesn’t really have the same kind of depth as the rest of the album. The song works in the view of the album as a whole, but it doesn’t have much meat standing alone.

Cody Jinks sings of life on the road with the next couple of songs. “The Way I Am” seems to touch on feelings of doubt and frustration. “I wish I enjoyed what makes my living, did what I do with a willing hand. Some would run, but that ain’t like me. So I’ll just dream and keep on being the way I am” Jinks sings in the second stanza. It’s easy to listen to a song like this and jump to conclusions without any context, but the song is honest look at life and responsibility. And I’m sure all singers, at one point or another, get a feeling of being stuck in a rut or putting in blood, sweat, and tears without seeing the desired results. But Jinks counters this with the honky tonk foot stomper “Chase That Song.” The song uses several metaphors to describe rolling from town to town and setting up for a rowdy country show. “Chase That Song” is a rollicking good time.

Perhaps the darkest song on the album comes from the aptly named “Heavy Load.” Jinks said he wrote the song out of exhaustion, and it touches on feeling stuck, frustrated, carrying a heavy load of regret and mistakes. The outlaw-like production of the song keeps it darker, as Jinks goes so far to quote some end-of-the-world like Bible verses from Revelation during the song’s bridge. Despite how heavy the song is, “Heavy Load” is well produced and put together. “Grey” is an acoustic soul-searching song. Simply him and his guitar, Jinks sings about trying to rediscover the passion and trying to relight the fire in life.

Cody Jinks explores youthful innocence over a few songs. With “Church at Gaylor Creek,” Jinks thinks back to his church back home, and ponders how far he’s gone away from those days as a kid. He’s a man who has sinned and lived life differently than his family growing up, but times have changed and affected him. The song is Jinks looking back at his innocent years when he’s not being blinded by the mistakes of neon lights and whiskey. And with “Vampires,” Jinks, a father of two, sings of trying to protect his own children and their youthful innocence from the world. As time goes on, dreams may die and it get’s harder and harder to keep the protective veil over your children. Jinks compares himself and his efforts to Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield. I’m Not the Devil concludes with the loud, biting “Hand Me Down.” It’s a song where Jinks rattles off his frustration with politicians, Wall Street, the news, and many other things in today’s culture that don’t really sit well with him. The people trying to hand down their opinions, propaganda, and bullshit, trying to get Jinks and others to think like them instead of for themselves. It’s a repetitive song that doesn’t really dig into any item with much detail, but Jinks doesn’t hide how pissed he feels about it.

With a heavy hand, Cody Jinks hits you hard with I’m Not the Devil. The brutally honest self-reflection provides for some well-written songs. Cody Jinks unlocks his heart and puts his soul on display for everyone to see: his doubts, his frustrations, his missteps, and his love are cast into the light with nothing stopping them. Jinks expresses his vulnerability with thoughtfulness and tells his story with conviction. At times it may get too heavy, and at 13 songs the album feels a bit repetitive at places. But make no mistake, I’m Not the Devil is a great country album. Cody Jinks continues to make a name for himself as a country singer, and this album will do nothing but add more fuel to drive Jinks forward as a country star fans can proudly look toward.

Grade: 9/10

Album Review – Kelsey Waldon’s ‘I’ve Got A Way’

Kelsey Waldon I've Got A Way

“I’ve always said that, if George Jones sang on a disco song, I think it’d still be country. If it’s a part of who you are, it’s a part of who you are.” Rising country artist Kelsey Waldon is responsible for this quote and it’s one of the first things you’ll see if you visit her site. It’s the kind of remark I’ve heard numerous country artists say. Some can back this up, while others are blowing smoke. And I can assure you Kelsey Waldon is someone who can back it up with her music. Waldon burst onto people’s radars with her debut album The Gold Mine in 2014. It received lots of critical acclaim and put her on the map amongst independent country fans. She’s a student of the genre and when you hear her voice, it’s undoubtedly made to sing country songs. While she may not have the hype and coverage of other major independent country artists, I can confidently say she’s one of the best up and coming artists in the genre. Waldon is one of country music’s best kept secrets. She returns with her sophomore album I’ve Got A Way, produced by Michael Rinne (who also produced The Gold Mine). I think though after people hear this album she won’t be much of a secret any longer because talent and music like this does not go unnoticed.

Prominent pedal steel guitar plays in “Dirty Old Town.” It really continues throughout the song and really the whole album. That’s a pretty good sign you’re listening to a fantastic country record. The song is about holding onto your dreams and goals when living in a less than desirable environment, a dirty old small town. Waldon stays in this same determined vein on “All By Myself.” She takes on the relationship impositions by society and sings about how she can be just fine by herself and out of a relationship. It’s a gritty, no-holds barred song about how a woman doesn’t need a man in her life to be herself. This is not so much a woman empowerment anthem, but more telling society norms to piss off. “You Can Have It” is another song where Waldon tells people to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. She also sings about how you have to be a bigger person nowadays with more negative people in the world and learn to be content with yourself. In an election year, this feels pretty timely.

The quick hitting “False King” is one of my personal favorites on I’ve Got A Way. It’s a somewhat subtle commentary on mainstream country, as Waldon not so lightly skewers the approach of these artists. She sings of doing it right and not letting the jealousy of their fame and fortune not get to her. The hook of the song is brilliant, as Waldon stingingly sings, “Well you can’t place the crown on the head of a clown and then hope that he turns out to be a king.” While the country protest song is played out, this one comes from an honest place and that’s where the best music comes from. The waltzing “Don’t Hurt The Ones (Who’ve Loved You The Most)” sees Waldon slowing it down and showing a more subdued side. The song is about how no matter how far you go in life and the places you go, don’t forget about and don’t hurt your loved ones who will always be there for you. It’s a heartfelt message accompanied by some great steel guitar play. These are the humbling themes that need to be sung about more in country music.

“I’d Rather Go On” is your classic country breakup song. While it’s a theme all country fans have heard endlessly, Waldon puts a lot of emotion behind the song and I found it easy to connect with upon the first listen. A song doesn’t have to be complicated for it to be great and this is a perfect example. Waldon covers Vern and Rex Gosdin’s “There Must Be A Someone” next. I can say it’s one of the more depressing songs I’ve heard this year. But this isn’t a bad thing. Quite the contrary, as it’s refreshing to listen to after hearing all the bubblegum, fantasy-based songs on radio. This is a song about feeling alone in life and feeling abandoned by your friends. You feel desperate to find someone you can turn to and connect with to ward off the feeling of darkness and share a bond. It’s human to want a sense of togetherness and this song captures this darkly honest feeling with aplomb.

Waldon swings it back to the positive side on “Let’s Pretend.” It’s about seeking forgiveness for your mistakes and acknowledging that sometimes life doesn’t go the way you would like it. Instead of running from though, you should embrace them and take responsibility. In the end you can then turn a negative situation into a positive one, which seems to be the overwhelming message of the song. Regardless, Waldon once again captures the feelings and situations of real life. “Life Moves Slow” is another song where Waldon sings of getting away from the harshness of real life. She relishes being able to get away from the fast-paced, hustle and bustle of reality to places where life moves slow and allows her to take it all in. It’s one of the lighter-hearted songs on the album, although it’s a nice reprieve after many moments of emotional heaviness in the album.

Waldon hits another home run with her cover of Bill Monroe’s “Travelin’ Down This Lonesome Road.” This is one of those songs that a review can’t do justice and you need to hear for yourself to truly appreciate it. It’s a true outlaw song about heartbreak and living the lonesome life that fits Kelsey Waldon perfectly. The gritty steel guitars ring throughout this song and Waldon delivers her best vocal performance on the album. It was a fantastic choice by Waldon to cover this song, as it brings out the absolute best in her. I’ve Got A Way ends with “The Heartbreak.” It’s a somber tune about the emotional toll the end of a relationship can have on a person. But it also highlights the positives that can come from it, allowing you to learn and become who you are today. While this pain may really hurt, in the end it can shape your life for the better. This song will be an emotional bomb for anyone who has experienced heartbreak. I don’t think you could end this album with a more excellent song.

There’s not much else to say about Kelsey Waldon’s I’ve Got A Way. It’s an amazing album that is 110% country goodness. You simply have to hear it for yourself. This album has no bells or whistles about it. It doesn’t rely on trends and clichés in its songwriting. This is three chords and the truth right here. The instrumentation and production couldn’t be more well-arranged on each song and Waldon just belts it on each track. The songwriting is forthright, honest and cutting. It’s one of the best albums I’ve listened to this year and it will be a strong contender for Country Perspective’s 2016 Album of the Year. If you haven’t heard this album yet, you need to hear it. I’ve Got A Way excels in every area and every song. You can’t get a country album much better than this one.

Grade: 10/10

Album Review – Western Centuries’ ‘Weight of the World’

Western Centuries Weight of the World

I want to say something right up front with this review and that’s I wish I had reviewed this sooner. Western Centuries is an up and coming roots rock country group that a lot more people need to be familiar with. The group is composed of Cahalen Morrison, Jim Miller, Ethan Lawton, Rusty Blake and Dan Lowinger. Each of them come from uniquely different backgrounds and they mix them together to create quite the compelling sound. The three lead vocalists of the group in particular really bring something different to the table, as Miller was the co-founder of Donna the Buffalo, Morrison has a country background and Lawton is a punk rock songwriter. On paper this doesn’t sound like it’s that harmonious, but trusts me once you hear this group on their new album Weight of the World, it sounds absolutely brilliant.

The album’s title track welcomes us in with a heavy dose of pedal steel guitar. It’s a great precursor to the stellar instrumentation that is featured throughout this album. The naturally upbeat “Double or Nothing” is easy to find yourself tapping your feet along with as you listen. The song is about two former lovers calling each other up to get back together, only for them to spend the night together. One of them leaves the next morning and they’re right back to being lonely again. While Western Centuries say they’re a mixture of roots rock and country, there’s a lot of moments just stone cold country like on “Knocking ‘em Down.” It’s just an all-around solid tune that wouldn’t sound out of place in the heydays of country music. “What Will They Say About Us Now?” tackles relationships and having to deal with everyone around you. A couple “paints the town” and live their relationship while they know their friends and family around them whisper about them. They both wonder what everyone will say about them after what they’ve done now. It’s a great take on dealing with nosey people and dealing with outside voices.

One of my favorites on Weight of the World is “Philosophers and Fools.” It’s a classic heartbreak song that brilliantly describes the fall and aftermath of a failed relationship. As the group points out in the song, “a seamless love is the construct of philosophers and fools.” It’s one of the most refreshing and honest takes I’ve heard on love in a song in quite some time. The quieter and downtrodden “Sadder Day” follows. This song focuses on the word play between the phrase “sadder day” and Saturday. The song is about how every Saturday is another sad day for a man who’s down and blue and drinks his sorrow away. He tries the best he can to get over his broken heart, but he just can’t. From the lyrics to the instrumentation, this song has everything that you want in a drinking song.

One of the things Western Centuries captures so well on this album is that warm, classic feel of country songs of yesteryear and is perhaps showcased at it’s best on “In My Cups.” This is a more upbeat drinking song and upon the first listen the song feels like a long-lost friend you’ve just rediscovered. These are the best type of songs because you can instantly connect before you even get through the first listen of it. “Hallucinations” sees a relationship seesawing between over with and back on again. Every time this man thinks his woman has left him she’s back in his sight again, making him question if he’s hallucinating. He could be, but it’s up to you the listener to decide. Either way a hallucination is a perfect way to describe someone trying to get over heartbreak.

Western Centuries makes an ode to loving drinking with “Off the Shelf.” Don’t hear too many songs about being in love with drinking, do you? That’s what makes the opening to this song intriguing because you think it’s about a woman until it’s revealed to be the bottle. It’s pretty clever songwriting by the group and features some fantastic instrumentation to boot. The instrumentation continues to shine on “The Long Game.” If there’s one thing you won’t hear me complain about on this album it’s the instrumentation, as I find it be damn near perfect on each song. Western Centuries addresses urbanization and the love of rural life on “The Old You.” It’s about a man driving out to the countryside to see what’s left of it and bask in its greatness. It reminded him of whom he used to be, thanks to his rediscovery of the little bit of countryside still left. It’s a song that makes you ponder about your own little community you may have grown up in or still live in today. The romantic approach to the rural lifestyle in this song is something I know I can appreciate. Weight of the World ends with the rocking “Rock Salt.” Featuring plenty of fiddle throughout, it’s yet another foot stomper on an album full of them. The harmonies really shine on this song and it really puts a nice stamp on a fun album.

From the album cover to each and every song throughout, Weight of the World is a true throwback album. It’s an album that harkens you back to the golden days of country and roots music from decades before. The rich vocals and instrumentation blend together seamlessly. This album hooked me in from the first listen and made me wish I had reviewed it sooner. It’s something that I think any fan of country and roots music can come to appreciate. Western Centuries is one of the most talented groups I’ve come across in country music this year and if you don’t know them yet, you need to change that by listening to Weight of the World.

Grade: 8/10

Song Review – Cody Jinks’ “I’m Not the Devil”

Cody Jinks I'm Not the Devil

In 2015 a great crop of fresh faces in country and Americana arose on many people’s radars. Hands down one of the best artists to emerge amongst this group was Cody Jinks. While it was his fourth album, Jinks’ 2015 album Adobe Sessions felt like the awaited breaking out of the next big star in the independent country scene. The album is full of traditional country, plenty of steel guitar and ballads on life and love. It was released in January, which worried me that people would overlook it and forget about it as the year progressed. That definitely wasn’t an issue, as you the readers reminded me throughout the year how much you enjoyed the album. So now Jinks is prepared to release the follow-up album on August 12, titled I’m Not the Devil. The album title track was just released though and it picks up right where Adobe Sessions left off.

A few sobering guitar licks play in the song as Jinks utters off the first line, “I’m not the devil you think that I am.” It’s a dark song where Jinks sings of a man who is ruminating over the mistakes he’s made in his life and a loved one he has hurt with his actions. He argues he’s not the devil and that he’s just a man who’s made mistakes, although he says that’s no excuse. He vows that he will change and try to make amends. I imagine once we hear the entire album this song will sound even better, but just alone it shows the kind of emotion behind Jinks’ music. Jinks wrote the song with fellow traditional country artist Ward Davis, as he told Rolling Stone in an interview:

“The album was pretty much done. The album title had been decided. On a hunch, I flew my buddy Ward Davis out to the studio to take a stab at writing together. A few hours after he arrived and an incredible amount of beer consumed, we were recording ‘I’m Not the Devil’ and in turn renaming the album.”

This song along with the rest of the album was recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, Texas. If that name “Sonic Ranch” rings a bell, that’s because this is where Jinks’ buddy and touring mate Whitey Morgan recorded his 2015 album of the same name. That album of course was one of the year’s best. If I’m Not the Devil is as great as that album, then I for one am excited to hear it. “I’m Not the Devil” is an example of why so many independent country fans are flocking to Jinks. The instrumentation and production are arranged very well and complements the lyrics perfectly. It’s the perfect teaser to get people excited. There are a lot of traditional country artists this year experimenting and drifting from the traditional sound (which hasn’t been entirely bad). Cody Jinks on the other hand is sticking to the genre’s roots and making fantastic, pure country music.

(Also that cover art is amazing!)

Grade: 9/10

Album Review – Jon Pardi’s ‘California Sunrise’

Jon Pardi California Sunrise

When it comes to quality of music from major label country artists this year, it’s been disappointing to say the least. To be more blunt, it’s been pretty mediocre and surprisingly boring. That sums up about 90% of the album releases I’ve heard from major label country artists this year. I can tell many share this sentiment, so when fans saw Jon Pardi was releasing his sophomore album California Sunrise, it became one of the most anticipated albums this year. After all Pardi is one of the few major label artists willing to keep it country with music. His current single and the lead single of the album, “Head Over Boots” is one of the most traditional songs at radio right now. Outside of Chris Stapleton, Pardi perhaps best represents the hopes and aspirations of traditional country fans hoping radio goes back to the sound. So with the hype in mind, does California Sunrise live up to the expectations? Well it depends on what exactly you expected out of the album and you’ll know what I mean by this by the end of the review.

Pardi begins the album with “Out of Style.” From the title I was expecting a song about how traditional country is considered out of style, but instead it’s about Pardi trekking to Nashville and learning how to write songs. The song elaborates further about how singing about how cold beers and complaining about the nine to five Monday through Friday lifestyle will never go out of style. It’s a longer song than what you’re accustomed to hearing from mainstream artists, as it allows Pardi and the band to show off their instrumentation. It’s a solid song, despite being a tad cliché. This is followed by the more traditionally arranged “Cowboy Hat.” And when I say traditionally arranged, there’s pedal steel guitar and fiddles throughout. The song itself is a love song, as Pardi sings of the love he has for his woman and how he loves seeing her in nothing but his cowboy hat. The whole song reminds me of something you would hear on country radio in the 90s (good or bad depending on your outlook on that era). I find it to be one of the best on the album and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a single for Pardi, as I think it could be a hit.

I could see it as the follow-up to “Head Over Boots” even, which follows on the album. I gave my thoughts on Pardi’s first career top ten hit last year and I still thoroughly enjoy the song. From my original review: It opens with the sounds of an acoustic guitar and steel guitar. These are the main instruments used throughout the song, with some fiddles sprinkled in too. It’s country through and through. The song itself is a love ballad, which is proving to be a strong suit for Pardi. In a way this song kind of reminds me of Brad Paisley’s “We Danced,” a solid love song that isn’t some all-time classic, but a feel good song that anyone can enjoy.

“Night Shift” sees Pardi singing of the working class man. The song is about a man who works several hours a week, but he looks forward to the “night shift” with his wife in bed. On the surface this seems like an overtly sexual jam that has plagued country radio recently. But really it comes off as sentimental and plays to the blue-collar sensibility of work hard, play harder. Not to mention there’s plenty of fiddle. This theme continues with “Can’t Turn You Down,” as we see the man in the song calling up his woman to meet up with her and later go back to his place for a romantic night. While the lyrics get a little stereotypical millennial-y with lines like “a phone call turns into a what’s up what’s up,” it’s a good song with a nice melody.

The album up to this point has been mostly good, but it starts to take a turn in the other direction with “Dirt on My Boots.” With one of the co-writers being Jesse Frasure (the other two writers being Rhett Akins and Ashley Gorley), I’m not surprised because he’s helped write his share of bad music. Right away there’s a noticeable drum loop that gives the song a dance club beat, clearly trying to create some adult contemporary appeal. Yet there’s a steady presence of a fiddle too. The song itself is about a farmer after a long day cleaning up to go to town with his girl for a night of dancing and fun. This song is one of three clear moments on this album of what I would call label meddling. Despite the pop leanings of this song, I don’t dislike it too much due to the fiddle play, Pardi’s charisma in his delivery and the hard to deny catchiness of the lyrics.

The best song hands down on California Sunrise is “She Ain’t In It.” Sounding like something straight off a classic Alan Jackson album, Pardi sings of his broken heart and how it’s prevented from going out and living his life. He’s now ready to do his normal things and go out into crowds, as long as his ex isn’t involved or mentioned. Otherwise the heartache will come rushing back. It’s not only the best song on this album, but one of the best I’ve heard this year. Two of the songs I thought of when listening to this song were Sammy Kershaw’s “Politics, Religion & Her,” as well as Garth Brooks’ “Learning To Live Again.” All three capture the feelings of getting over heartbreak perfectly. This could be a career song for Pardi and I truly hope him and his label release this as a single.

Unfortunately, the worst song follows the best song of the album. That would be “All Time High.” It’s a love song with a nauseating amount of clichés and comparisons of love to drugs and getting high that we’ve heard too much in recent years. One line that elicited a groan from me was Pardi singing about how he enjoys his girl turning “his knob” up to 11. I get where songwriters Pardi, Bart Butler and Brice Long are going for here, but the lyrics are just a clunky mess. At least there’s a lot of fiddle in the song I guess. The third and final song clearly involving label meddling is “Heartache on the Dance Floor.” Just like “Dirt on My Boots,” this song has a clear pop dance beat accompanied by fiddles. For a song with heartache in the title, I didn’t expect it to be so upbeat. Out of all the songs on the album, this one confuses me the most. You have this dance beat, but also fiddles and steel guitar. Why couldn’t we just have the latter? Well the obvious answer is the label wanting something pop-y and Pardi having to comply. For a “compromise song,” it’s not terrible.

“Paycheck” is about a man hoping his paycheck will help take his work blues away, as he spends it at the bar. The country rock production combined with the catchy lyrics makes it easy to sing along with. It’s your standard drinking, blue-collar song that is solid, yet unspectacular. “Lucky Tonight” has a more traditional arrangement that dominates the album for the most part. It’s about a man whose woman left him weeks ago and now is trying to rebound in the bar scene and move past her. While the lyrics are a little simplistic and a tad too mainstream, the song is pretty solid to my ears. Not every heartbreak song has to be a complex ballad. The album’s title track brings it to a close, another highlight of this album, only trailing quality-wise to “She Ain’t In It.” The song is about Pardi singing of the love he has for his woman and comparing it the California sunrise he sees back home. It’s nice to see Pardi honor where he’s from, comparing someone he cares for so much to his home that he cares for so much too. Regional pride is something country artists need to embrace more. Despite some rocky songs in the middle, Pardi ends the album on a strong note.

Based on my expectations heading into this album, Jon Pardi delivers a solid album with California Sunrise. I knew going into this album that it wouldn’t be at a level of Chris Stapleton’s Traveller nor would it be stone cold country all the way through because this is an album from a major label and Jon Pardi is still early in his career. I expected some label meddling and there was actually less of it on here than I thought there would be. What did surprise is how almost every song on this album has a combination of fiddle and steel guitar. Instead of focusing on what this album did wrong, I’d rather focus on this because this caught my eye more than the mistakes on it. Pardi clearly wants to make that traditional, early 90s country music and for the most part these songs accomplish this. He also does a good job balancing between serious songs and fun songs. Despite this album’s faults at times, I find California Sunrise to be a very enjoyable, fun album and will go down as one of the best from a major label country artist this year.

Grade: 8/10