Country Jukebox Jury EPs: Brian Kelley, Justin Moore and Jameson Rodgers

Brian Kelley – BK’s Wave Pack

These four tracks are BK from Florida Georgia Line’s first attempt to unshackle himself from Tyler ‘Yeah Baby!’ Hubbard, who is the visible, audible figure of the band, the Ronnie to BK’s Kix, the Shay to BK’s Dan, the Harry Styles to BK’s Louis Tomlinson.

Over fully eleven minutes of music, BK sets out his style of music. Beach Cowboy has a suitably sandy sonic bed and lyrics about hanging his hat and ‘yippie-yo kai-yay, it’s your boy BK’. This must be his image, complete with a ‘lassoed margarita’. I like it. Party On The Beach, written with Canaan Smith, is a little too close to Beer Can’t Fix by Thomas Rhett for my liking but it’s aurally pleasant and contains a great word ‘guaran-damn-tee’.

Born in Ormond Beach, Florida, BK was literally Made By The Water, which is a song that is driven by an acoustic guitar riff and mentions hammocks and shade trees in the first couplet. It goes on to namecheck Bob Marley. It is 100% Jake Owen and is another hit from Randy Montana’s pen.

Sunday Service in the Sand is an accurate description of the lyric: BK ‘can’t help but raise my hands’ at the view ‘on a tailgate pew’. You see, God appears at the edge of the water too! A full album of this sort of Luke Bryan-Jake Owen stuff would be welcome. BK is a guy who knows how to market himself, so there’s a music video for all four songs on the EP.

Justin Moore – Straight Outta The Country

Justin was country before his labelmate Thomas Rhett was Country Again. The week before the main Big Machine cash cow puts out a project, Justin is allowed to get Straight Outta The Country with an EP. We Didn’t Have Much is racing up the radio airplay charts to support its release, and the song is represented by a band and an acoustic version. It’s basically Meanwhile Back At Mama’s crossed with The House That Built Me, which means it’ll be a number one some time in early summer.

Elsewhere, the Rhett Akins co-write Hearing Things (‘that are calling me home’) lists rural signposts in a chorus that he must have written 200 times before. Justin is assailed by static on the radio, tyres on gravel, the sway of pine trees in the wind and water on the riverbank. It’s country for sure. Rhett was also in the room for the breakup ballad You Keep Getting Me Drunk (‘Your kiss ain’t here to get me high’), which has an uncredited female vocalist whose name I would love to know.

Justin co-wrote She Ain’t Mine No More, a heartbreak song with some luscious chords and pedal steel, and More Than Me, which is a Thomas Rhett-type acoustic lullaby about hope and love and fatherhood. There is a track on TR’s new album, out next week, called To The Guys Who Date My Daughters; it just looks like a marketing ploy when two Big Machine acts are doing it.

Consecutive Days Alive is a nice spin on those signs at construction sites that celebrate a lack of accidents. It sounds like a Brad Paisley or Luke Combs song, since the hook is that by living another day Justin has broken his ‘record’.

Fortunately the EP’s title track is traditional muscular rockin’ country that sounds like a beer commercial. Hardy co-wrote it. I’ve stumbled upon a Facebook group called Oddly Specific Playlists and I would be delighted to organise a whole album of this type of ‘Here’s to the Workin’ Man’ country song: Luke Combs has a few, Aldean has one or two. This just sounds like pastiche, especially the three bars of spoken word guff in the middle.

Jameson Rodgers – In It For The Money EP

You know Cole Swindell? Jameson Rodgers is the same product. In 2018 he first released Some Girls, a song co-written by Hardy a long time ago that Jameson long coveted. It became his first number one and means he must follow it up with more songs. In the modern way it isn’t an album but an EP/mini-album. Current smash Cold Beer Calling My Name is three chords and the Combs (Luke Combs) and the song Good Dogs, debuted at the Opry, is three chords and the dog. Do you remember how many chords Some Girls has? I don’t make the rules, I just notice them.

The EP’s title track is Jameson’s life in a song, full of paying rent, carrying a guitar, getting ‘this far’ and playing songs for big crowds rather than the riches and rewards. Instead of I-VI-IV or VI-IV-I it’s grounded by a chorus with I-VII-IV and it sounds very contemporary. Rolling Rock Rolling Stones is a tribute to Mick’n’Keef, and I recommend a shot (rather than a sip of beer) every time a Stones hit (Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman, You Can’t Always Get What You Want) is namechecked. It sounds like a commercial or a songwriting exercise rather than a song. It’s driven by two chords rather than three, so it’s different from the four songs that come before it.

The two that follow are both ballads. When You Think of Mississippi (Jameson’s from that state) is a reminiscin’ ballad that every new artist writes which here rhymes ‘magnolia’ with ‘let me hold ya’. Desert is a piece of country philosophy that every new artist writes which here notes that ‘the cold and the rain and the pain don’t last forever’ and you need the lows to appreciate the highs. It’ll be a ‘serious moment’ of a Jameson Rodgers set and it’s the best song of a varied set where the songs sometimes have four chords.

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