January 27, 2020

Chris Janson – Everybody – Warner Nashville

By Kristi Kates | Sept. 30, 2017

If you’ve heard Janson’s debut album, a good ol’ boy trek through a long list of country-music-subject standbys, then you’ll equally like this set, which includes even more bar-hopping, farming, and blue-collar anthems (Janson’s tunes are often called “bro-country,” for good reason.) There’s nothing especially new here, although Janson is finally showing hints of digging a little deeper; the track “Drunk Girl” isn’t what you’d expect but is instead a cautionary tune for reckless young men. **

Midland – On the Rocks – Big Machine
Touring with the likes of legendary country performers Dwight Yoakam and Willie Nelson gave Midland solid rocks on which to build this collection of tunes inspired by the nostalgic boot-scootin’ country songs of the late ’70s/early ’80s, complete with vintage Nudie Suit shots on the album’s front cover. “Lonely for You Only” is a classic slice of the era, with plenty of twang on both guitar and vocals. Other highlights include “Check Cashin’ Country,” an ode to touring, and the wide open spaces of “Electric Rodeo.” ***

Steve Martin – The Long-Awaited Album – Rounder
Minus ’80s folk-pop singer Edie Brickell, who collaborated with Martin on previous efforts, this set relies on Grammy-winners The Steep Canyon Rangers to accompany Martin on his latest bluegrass excursion, which rolls up in a pickup truck overflowing with banjos. But while much of the set  showcases Martin’s sentimental side and instrumental chops, he also lets his humor through, as best evidenced on “Nights in the Lab,” a warm and witty ditty about romance between scientists. ***

Home Free – Timeless – Columbia
A quintet of a cappella country-western singers isn’t your standard Nashville fare, but Home Free has carved a decent niche for itself, in large part thanks to skilled beatboxer Adam Rupp, who adds an interesting texture to the tracks. This vocal-centric approach works well on more rugged tunes, like covers of “Life is a Highway” and “Man of Constant Sorrow,” but it doesn’t always translate well, such as with the band’s weirdly soulless take on Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill.” ** ½


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