It is becoming a familiar way to launch a new artist to the mainstream. Remember Hardy’s Hixtape, where he roped in loads of acts, and the recent EP from Jimmie Allen, Bettie James? The same trick is pulled here. I wonder what Lathan thinks as an act that the only way he can be palatable to a new audience is to lumber him with seven other artists. This is the country equivalent of putting Sam Smith on a Disclosure song or Tom Grennan or (seriously) an uncredited Yola on a Chase & Status tune.
Following five independent EPs, Colombia Nashville have taken the chance on Lathan, given that there needs to be black faces in country music on pain of irrelevance. I recently read a piece that opened with a line about Nashville being a ten-year town because you can look at the top 40 exactly ten years before and see what Nashville is doing ten years hence. This is why In His Hands, a song featuring Lauren Alaina, sounds like BOB and Hayley from Paramore singing about Airplanes.
We’ve heard the forgettable Tyler Hubbard collaboration My Way, and the anaemic Matt Stell duet Over Yonder is similarly blah. Will people really buy this sort of music rather than listen to Post Malone or Drake? Or even Kane Brown, who is missing from this set of seven very white acts. Or Jimmie Allen, who shares a manager with Lathan (Ash Bowers).
RaeLynn is on Roots, which is caught between hiphop and rock. I want more guitars and more drums, although Lathan’s rap is convincing and full of praise for his lady, a girl ‘with some roots raised in a small town’, as RaeLynn sings. All over this project is the ‘Hey! Hey!’ backbeat, processed tinny drums and the ad-libbed intros, giving it a dull uniformity when listened to all at once.
Lauren and Dustin Lynch were on Hardy’s project and return for Lathan’s. Way Out Here is the type of song Dustin has written before, and he sings about how people in rural areas ‘work a little harder…I found me out here with you’. Russell Dickerson sings the chorus on Gotta Be God, which comes ‘from the soul’ but is in no way soulful. High Valley are also Christians and the brothers pop up on Runaway Train. God gets a mention in the first verse and the chorus has a nagging melody too, but the production slathers all the vocals in gloop. I hope to hear some live versions which promote a messy project.
I know Lathan is a Christian and this is an interesting attempt at making the Lord less churchy. Perhaps a Sunday service would be improved by a Lathan Warlick set. The song My Dawgs, which Lathan has all to himself, is about love and loyalty. Going by streams, his song Tellem That Im Comin (sic) is his biggest by far, even though it’s barely a song, just a load of platitudes over a minimal beat and some pitch-shifted vocals. Also popular is We’ll Get Through, which opens with a line about falling and getting back up sung over some rain FX.
I’m not sure what Colombia are trying to do but I feel very pessimistic about Lathan Warlick’s place in the country marketplace. Yet it amplifies the message and nobody else is doing this sort of thing, a kind of red dirt trap.