Country Jukebox Jury LPs: The Wolfe Brothers and Parmalee

The Wolfe Brothers – Kids on Cassette

The Global Country Artist at the International CMA Awards will be won by one of Sweden’s Jill Johnson, Canada’s Brett Kissel, the Shires from the UK or…The Wolfe Brothers.

The duo’s new album Kids on Cassette was reviewed kindly by James Daykin at Lyric Magazine. The brothers found an audience on the Australian version of the Got Talent brand and have been a fixture over there for a decade, consistently placing albums in the Top 20 and winning CMAA (Australian CMAs) Awards in 2019. Australia’s country scene is enormous and they host Country2Country these days as well, with the McClymonts and Adam Eckersley on par with visiting Americans like Tim McGraw and Kelsea Ballerini.

As with the UK, Nashville has forged a link with Australia through collaborative songwriting. LOCASH appear on the groovy summer jam Startin Something and experienced songwriter Lindsay Rimes, who made the move from Australia to Nashville, can be found in the credits of the energetic single No Brakes and euphoric album closer Time To Be Alive.

There’s plenty to like on the first side, from the bouncy chorus of Anybody Ever, with touches of falsetto, to the perky line ‘I like a lot, you like a little…We can meet in the middle’ of the feelgood tune Something Good’s Gonna Happen and the party song Down Time, where verses full of hard work give way to hard partying (‘some gettin’ loud time…pour some fuel on the fire’) and the wah-wah wigout is epic at the end. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but this would be a perfect set opener.

The second side of the album includes gorgeous melodies on Soundtrack To An Endless Summer and ‘home ain’t’ Home Without You, the universalist Small Town Song (co-written with INXS chap Andrew Farriss) and the carpe diem tune What You Make It. If you’re keeping count, that’s two ‘carpe diem’ tunes. The Wolfe Brothers should seize their moment with a poppy album that is informed by country radio in the USA.

Parmalee – For You

Like Old Dominion, Parmalee are a pop/rock act based in Nashville and are thus considered country. They are best known for their mid-2010s hits Close Your Eyes and Carolina, which were both plodding, and their last album from 2017 saw the likes of Craig Wiseman, Ross Copperman and Tom Douglas in the credits. Here they return to songs written as a band, perhaps worked up in the studio.

The album has two moods: I love you, and I used to love you. Opener Only You sounds like five Ed Sheeran songs squished together, right up to lines like ‘only you can know my scars’. Just The Way is the same song but with added Blanco Brown; it sounds like country radio and justifiably hit the top there as well as hitting number 31 on the Hot 100.

The album continues in its aggressively marketed vein. It’s broad-brush country with very little nuance. There’s Backroad Girl (‘I’m just a hometown boy looking for a backroad girl…diamonds and pearls’) and Greatest Hits, which lists various qualities in the form of music (she’s a bit Motown, a bit rock and a bit country) and introduces Parmalee fans to the poppy rapper Fitz, who sounds like Flo Rida. I’ll Take The Chevy is a rewrite of I’ll Name The Dogs that is shameless in its intention and includes a verse all about mathematics, which proves this album is about counting money.

Inevitably, there are songs where singer Matt Thomas boasts of his fidelity just as Thomas Rhett, Luke Combs, Morgan Evans, Brett Young and so many other singers have made money boasting about. Take your pick from I Do, I See You (which sounds like a vision board), the lighter-than-air Better With You (‘You put the full up in the moon’), Take My Name (‘and make it yours’) and Alone Like That (‘That boy must have been crazy’).

Every song has an Instagram sheen and, just as inevitably, there are down moments too. Matt is regretful on Miss You Now and Forget You (‘hearts break every time love gets broke’), which features expressive, poppy vocals from Avery Anna wailing about ‘stupid mistakes’. The middle eight is strong. I also love the excellent title track (‘Everybody singing along to the song I wrote for you’) but I had to wade through 12 other tracks to get to it. I haven’t been so annoyed by an album since Chris Lane’s lazy effort, which like this album was full of chord loops, declarations of love and aggressive targeting of the 25-44 demographic.

Good luck to the guys but Luke Combs does this sort of thing far better and less blandly.

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