In this series, I will present the reviews of big albums reviewed weekly as part of Country Jukebox Jury. You can hear me talk about all types of country – poppy, bluegrass, rock, Texan, Canadian and British – every week at Facebook.com/acountrywayoflife
Kip Moore – Wild World
Kip Moore once scrapped an entire album and has spent his career toeing the line between critical success and returning record label investment. He’s like Eric Church with more of a screw-you attitude. A rocker in the body of a country musician, Wild World includes some Kip Moore songs: She’s Mine and Red White Blue Jean American Dream are both punchy, riff-driven and sung with that grainy voice.
Self-produced, Wild World welcomes writers like Brett James, Luke Dick and David Garcia to the party, as well as Dan Couch who wrote Somethin Bout a Truck. If you don’t know his music, his vocal on opening track Janie Blu will pull you in. There really is nobody like him, a sort of crooning rocker who never overdoes it.
Elsewhere the songs are mature and varied. Slowies and quickies, meditations and songs for relaxation, big singles and album tracks. Southpaw sounds like a smash to me, with a killer chorus and another great vocal, while Fire and Flame is produced immaculately, the better to underscore a really metaphysical song about a ‘reckless heart’. It is anthemic and deserving of huge stadiums. If only Kip played a little bit by the rules, he’d be a superstar. As it is, he is more a cult concern.
The title track is one of the meditative ones which uses the irritating ‘mama said’ motif but is nonetheless excellent; Hey Old Lover drives on, something it shares with Red White Blue Jean American Dream; Grow On You is rifftastic and reminds me of Downtown by Lady Antebellum; ‘a little bit of your love is more than enough’ is a fun love song. The final track is Payin’ Hard, an acoustic driven song played on what sounds like a 12-string. Kip sings about how his life is like a credit card where he buys now, pays later and pays hard. You feel like you’ve met Kip Moore on this album; every track is his and he has so much editorial control.
One issue I have with the album is that it’s very I-IV-V heavy – which means all songs sound quite similar – but that’s rock music’s rudimentary chord pattern so I can’t complain. Attitude gets Kip a long way here and several tracks will land on his Best Of, especially Fire and Flame and the title track. It’s not perfect but it’s relistenable and will convert a few new acolytes to the crowd. 4/5
Brett Eldredge – Sunday Drive
Brett Eldredge was obviously doing what he was told with his last album, so he went away for a year, wrote some songs with Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk and during 2020 he has been dripfeeding them to his fans. I am one of them, I think he’s terrific, with a soulful voice perfect for Christmas classics. Country Buble also looks swarthy and has a dog called Edgar, who was all over his social media channels before he disappeared. Going Away For A While wasn’t just a songtitle of his, it was a necessary step in his life. He’s all about mental health and having good days, as he told Pip at Entertainment Focus in a great interview.
He spoke about capturing the magic of the songs as they were being written in his garage in Illinois. Magnolia is a good place to start, where Brett is having a ball over some rough piano – it sounds like a demo take – as he talks of meeting a girl in ‘the heart of the heartland’. It’s a lot like Beat of the Music but set in the Midwest and not Mexico.
There are ballads, as there always are on a Brett Eldredge album. The classic-sounding Crowd My Mind is gorgeous, set over the same sort of piano found on Kacey Musgraves albums, while the philosophical When I Die is going to be as big as One Mississippi, one of Brett’s best songs. I also applaud the pre-release campaign: Gabrielle was the song with the big push but four other songs, including the poppy Where The Heart Is and the brilliant Sunday Drive, first heard when Brett was on work experience many moons ago, were also pre-released to whet fans’ appetite. Mine was whetted and now satiated.
Sunday Drive is a terrific album, full of joy and excellent vocal prowess. It’s by far his best and a big step forward for an act whose songs have never quite put him into the A List. This album will. Congratulations, Brett, and see you soon. 5/5