Country Jukebox Jury LP: Logan Mize – Still That Kid

He’s not in Kansas anymore.

I am positive that is how many reviews of Logan’s work have begun. As with plenty of country musicians, he comes from noble stock: Billy Mize, who died in 2017 aged 88, headed over from Kansas to Bakersfield and became a TV star. It propelled him to the charts with songs of his own and writing for other including Dean Martin. He also charted with a cover of Take It Easy by The Eagles.

Logan is Billy’s great-nephew. He spent the 2010s building a following and releasing his debut album in 2017. He made it to Bush Hall in October 2019 for Country Music Week, but his voice almost didn’t as he’d had to cancel one of the UK shows. At the time he was best known on UK country radio for his cover of the Chainsmokers song Something Just Like This, which finds its way onto his second album as a sort of encore. It follows 10 compositions which showcase a quality voice that will sound excellent on country radio, should he want to pursue that avenue.

Still That Kid has been previewed in recent months by several singles. Donovan Woods, a pre-eminent Canadian songwriter, duets on his composition Grew Apart, and at the end of the album Alexandra Kay hops on another version. It’s one of the album’s tunes about breaking up with someone, with a chorus full of familiar reasons why it didn’t work out that will resonate with listeners who went through similar things in their life.

Two Peach Pickers, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip, offer Get Em Together, which is a jaunty song which breaks up the ballads. Clare Dunn is the girl, Logan is the guy, and the pair bring A and B together (groove and record, red wine and whiskey to get ‘tailgate tipsy’, the ‘want to’ and ‘the time’) in the way that Brothers Osborne wanted to bring together ‘the all’ and ‘the night’. It’s Nashville Writers Room by Numbers – enough with Johnny and June!! – though there’s a cute four-bar guitar solo and it’s replayable.

Third Picker Rhett Akins was in the room for I Ain’t Gotta Grow Up. There are two versions of this song, one with rising starlet Willie Jones, so you can choose your own adventure. The song itself will go down well live: Logan wants a ‘good time all night’ and continue a party even after closing time. The sonic bed is very contemporary – Russell Dickerson and Filmore do this sort of thing too – and Willie’s fun verse builds on Logan’s original version. In fact, Logan and Willie could be a good package if they were to come to the UK when the time should arise.

Who Didn’t is a gift from three of the best: Nicolle Galyon, Ashley Gorley and Jimmy Robbins. It frames a list of universal country things: driving around, set up fireworks on July 4, attending to the lawn, ‘cold beer kissin’ and so forth. It’s radio-friendly and good fun, as you’d expect from those three A-List writers. Well done to Logan and his team for picking this one off the shelf. Ditto Hometown, which has a great line about being ‘like a steel guitar in a disco song’ to compare life in a new city to the ‘barefoot stomping ground’ of a hometown, with all the country things surrounding it.

As a songwriter on the Nashville-based Big Yellow Dog music publisher, which houses the likes of Meghan Trainor, Tenille Townes and Daniel Tashian, Logan is aware of the need to take songs off the peg, rather than create a bespoke composition. Thus some of the best technicians in town have cuts on the album.

Randy Montana, growing in reputation by the month, offers Practice Swing, a slice of melancholy about learning to live and love (‘first base first love’ is a good line) and soldier on through all the failures. I wish the baseball metaphor had been extended further, but perhaps that was lost in the edit. Gone Goes On and On is another pick-me-up song. Co-written by the great Josh Kear, who ten years on is still counting the Need You Now money, the bouncy backbeat is at odds with the message of the song: ‘It takes eight hours getting through the first night’ after a breakup.

Along with Davidson, Chris DeStefano offers Slow, which is a three-chord loop (I-III-IV) overlaid with an excellent lyric about love and life and stuff. ‘Do your best, be a friend…Have a drink, take a shot/ Save a little, spend a lot’ is sound advice to live a country way of life, and it is framed as advice from a fellow passenger on a red-eye flight. It’ll be a song to wave your arms in the air to when Logan plays live, and as with the rest of the album it is great to hear organic drums rather than programmed digital ones.

Logan has, in a very old-fashioned way, become a vessel for the work of others on this album. Of 11 tunes, only two are Mize compositions: American Livin’, which kicks off the album, namechecks John Cougar Mellencamp and ticks off a series of small-town vignettes over a middle of the dirt road groove; and the jaunty acoustic ballad Prettiest Girl in the World, where the protagonist needs assurances that she looks pretty. Vulnerability of the female is very topical in country music and I am sure the 18-34 demographic will go wild for this song, and for the rest of the album.

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